Tuesday 3/21: A “Top 10 Life Moment”- Nauyaca Waterfall, Dominical + sunsets galore

Day 11 in Costa Rica: Tuesday, 3/21

We were somehow already in the home stretch of the trip by Tuesday the 21st!! 3 full days left, and then a flight home late Friday night.

The plan for Tuesday was to go to Nauyaca Falls, about an hour and 15 minutes south of Manuel Antonio near the small town of Dominical. This is part of the reason I really wanted to have a car available in Costa Rica, to be able to easily do day trips like this.

First, though, tea on the balcony:


The nice thing was, we didn’t have to be there at any certain time. No “tour” or anything to make it to. This is always my preference! I don’t love having tons of time constraints on vacations.

Got ready and packed up things for the day. I had to give a little thought to what to all bring along, because I: a) didn’t want to have extra stuff we’d have to leave unattended in the car but b) didn’t want to have to carry oodles of stuff with us, either. (I knew we’d be hiking part way to the falls.)

We wanted to swim at the falls, so we needed towels and swimsuits (I wore mine under my clothes, and our little microfiber towels fit easily in my bag!), and then also dry clothes for after, etc. Once again, my Aloha bag came in handy, because it’s great for handling anything “wet”.

Wore my comfy flip flops for the drive, and threw my hiking sandals in the trunk

Drive to Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park

There are two options for seeing Nauyaca Falls. (The falls are set way back in, away from any main roads, on private property.)

The “main” option that has been around a long time seemed a little confusing, and potentially extra busy. They had an option to hike 4 km each way on a strenuous hike to the falls (sounded too far to hike both ways!), ride on horseback (maybe okay, but I didn’t think right for our group…), or get a ride in a truck. The truck option seemed good, but it sounded like you had to reserve a certain time in advance, and I didn’t really want to do that.

This newer option, Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park, is not as well known, seemed a little cheaper, and allowed you to just show up and pay on site and go. They had 2 options: 1) “Walk down, get a ride back up” (supposedly a ~45 minute walk) for only $28 per person or 2) get a ride both ways (but would still involve a pretty difficult 10-15 minute hike down to the actual falls) for $38 per person.

The drive to the nature park “office” was pretty slow going! We drove the first hour down on regular paved roads from Manuel Antonio, which was totally fine, but then we had to turn off onto a gravel road.

The GPS said it would be 25 minutes on this road. It was often steep, bumpy, mostly deserted, but beautiful! For a moment I wondered if we were going the right way. Haha. (There were random little homes scattered out there…. I couldn’t imagine living that far out, down not very accessible roads! I mean, we couldn’t go more than like 10 mph due to the road conditions.) Again, three cheers for our trusty SUV! 🙂

Here are a few pictures from that drive. Such gorgeous countryside, though.


Nauyaca Waterfall Nature Park

Finally we made it to the Nature Park office. Out in the middle of nowhere, we came across this nice, new building, with a restaurant patio outside and a game room and new bathrooms! Interesting.


There were some killer views from the patio:

I bought our entrance tickets and we got wristbands. We decided to go with Option 1, “Walk Down, Ride Back”. I figured a 45 minute walk sounded nice, and it stated it was “mostly downhill”. (More on this later, but we semi-regretted this decision. Turns out the advertising was a little bit… “misleading.”)

The guy gave me a map on how to get to the trail to the falls. I had assumed the whole hike would be down trails, but in reality, we would walk most of the way down the same gravel roads we had been driving on (but further on), before reaching the actual trailhead.

Quick photo op from the restaurant area before we started our walk. Side note: Has anyone noticed how Ethan is sprouting up? On our Europe trip last March, so exactly one year ago now, Asher was actually just a smidge taller than Ethan! Now Ethan is significantly taller than Asher.

I love this pic! So nice. 🙂
“Pura vida”. The clouds look a bit more ominous here than they really were.

Then, we set off on our walk. At first it seemed okay, though it was HOT out. No one else was around, so it felt very private, and the views were gorgeous. It was like we were walking through some little rural town, or backcountry, which I guess we were! A unique experience.

Walked past random little homes and farms

A few more from the walk:

The problem here, that is difficult to see in these particular photos, was that most of the walk was indeed downhill. Sounds good, right? Well, kind of. The thing is, much of it was steep downhill…. on loose gravel. It was super slippery! It was very easy to slide or lose our footing. When possible I tried to walk on the grass on the side or something, but it just wasn’t great.

Although, the walk was beautiful and unique, so I’m on the fence if I actually “regret” choosing the walk option. (I suppose we could have seen the same views from the back of the truck, had we taken Option 2 (a ride down both ways)… ). Also, we were stupidly underprepared with the amount of water we had brought along on this very, very hot walk.

Finally got to a sign that pointed to the “catarata”. Thought we were almost there! But, nope.

This led us down a steep trail in the forest, on more gravel… and down many, many big steps that had me thinking quizzically ahead to the return trip back up… lol.

Then we got not to the waterfall, but, to another gravel road! 😩

You can kind of see here how steep this part was.

We ended up getting all split up on this. Ivan and the boys kind of zoomed ahead, unfazed by the gravel, apparently. I stuck with my (little bit more cautious) mom and dad, but then I ended up ahead of them after a while, too. (Though even I legit almost fell down a few times!)

Waiting… didn’t want to get too far ahead, so what to do? I guess take a selfie. 😆

Here they come! 🙂

My mom was NOT A FAN of this particular walk down (due to the slippery gravel)….

Finally, we made it to the actual waterfall trail. I think their “45 minute” estimate for the walk was a bit on the light side… Hmph.

Welcome to the Jungle. haha.

We followed the trail to the Upper Falls viewpoint, first. Beautiful!!!

Upper Nauyaca Falls

The boys and Ivan were somewhere out there on all of those rocks.

Pretty upper falls! See how little the people on the rocks are, to understand the size of the waterfalls.

We didn’t stay too long up there. I knew the Lower Falls were really the main attraction, so we back tracked about 5 minutes down the trail and then took the turn off to the Lower Falls.

First view of them!

Lower Nauyaca Falls


This was just so, so, so beautiful!!! They were absolutely stunning. As usual, the photos just don’t capture the greater dimension of the upper falls cascading down into the lower falls and the rocks and greenery all around… just amazing.

the wide view

The boys and Ivan had somehow made their way from that Upper Falls viewpoint down some other side trail to the Lower Falls, so they had already swum out to the rocks by the time I even got there.

See Asher standing there with his hands in the air:

Ethan in the white shorts

I watched the boys swimming around for a while and took my photos, and then decided I wanted to get in, too. I was dripping with sweat from the walk and the water felt nice and cool (actually quite cold, at first). Besides, when else might I have the chance to swim under a waterfall like this??! This felt like a “must do” situation.

The guy at the office had told me the water was very deep here- 30 feet! Just before I swam out, the boys started climbing up some rocks on the left side and jumping from a ledge over there.


I handed off my phone to Ivan and got in. Here’s me in the white hat, with Ethan. 🙂


The kids were going crazy, because this whole thing was so cool. Not pictured, of course, is the loud RUSHING sound of the waterfall and the spray in the air. I have some fantastic videos!

me swimming out to the falls!

I joined the boys under the main falls and we all climbed up on the rocks.

AMAZING!!!!! I can’t explain how much I loved this experience. There’s me with Asher. I couldn’t help but throw my hands in the air!

It was just incredible!! I was grinning ear to ear out there.

Me + the boys!

Unfortunately, Ivan had developed a bit of an ear infection after our days at the hot springs (probably because he kept dunking his head under the water… they had signs saying you aren’t supposed to go under the water in the hot springs pools, but he did anyway….I don’t think those are chlorinated. The pools with the slides for kids, etc were all freshwater/chlorinated.).

He had picked up some antibiotic drops from a pharmacy in Monteverde (fortunately, antibiotics are not very regulated in Latin America, so you can buy them over the counter, unlike in the U.S. where this is not possible!). His ear was feeling much better by this point, but he was trying to avoid getting it wet. 😦 Sadly, he had to miss out on a lot of the swimming at the falls and mostly stayed on shore, though he did carefully swim out and jump off at least once.

The boys and I swam over to the side and spent some time climbing and jumping from the rock ledges over there. Again, just incredible.

Here are a bunch of shots from that view:

Asher jumping
Ethan doing a crazy jump, haha.

I swam back and got my phone and put it in the waterproof case and then swam back out, to try to get some close ups of the boys jumping.




diving! It was a little higher than it looks, so he surprised me by diving instead of jumping!
And plenty of silly jumps

Not to be outdone, here’s ME!!


This was so exhilarating!! Like I said in the title, I really feel this whole afternoon was a Top 10 Life Moment for me. Being with the boys, the refreshing water, the pounding of the waterfall, the hot sun, the beauty all around us…. It was just the BEST. Please, if you ever go to Costa Rica, put this on your itinerary.

My Dad swam out to the falls too, but didn’t do any jumps.

my Dad! Such a cool shot.
Pic of my Dad swimming out, from my mom’s vantage point where she was waiting.

A couple more neat angles, taken by me while treading water under the falls (which was actually not that easy to do for a long time, since I left my hiking sandals on in case the rocks were slippery….my feet felt a bit heavy in the water!!)


Asher just chilling at the falls:

A no-people shot:

Eventually we swam back to the big rock under the main falls, and got these super cute pictures:

I’ll caption this….. “GLEE” 🙂

We stayed for a very long time and swam and swam and jumped and jumped. It was seriously an absolute blast!!! Please take me back!!!

Ethan, age 14

We were almost ready to go when I realized there were no other people out there at the moment, so I yelled to the boys, “Quick! Let’s go get a picture!!!” (All the other shots under the big falls mostly had at least one other random tourist in them with us.)

Photo credit to Ivan for taking these (he had already dried off and didn’t join us):

A non-hat shot, to hopefully see my face a little better. 🙂

I did take this nice one of him though, before we packed up and left.

Very happy

Then, we had to hike back up. Alllll the stairs, allllll the inclines. Oof.


This part was not great fun, but, we made it. Fortunately, we did NOT need to hike back up the entire gravel route we had walked down. We just had to make it part way to this little shelter, and from there we could call the shuttle truck to come get us. This was very nice! They had showers and clean, newly built changing rooms there and everything.


Waiting for my parents… just relaxing on these big swings!

After that hike and all the swimming, I could have dozed off here VERY easily.

The 4×4 truck came to get us (you can just call the number posted for them to come anytime, but just as we were about to call, the truck showed up with a bunch of people, so we just caught the ride back.)

The boys, who were overjoyed just 30 minutes prior jumping from the waterfall.. now a bit crabby with the intense sun beating down on them…. hahaha.

The ride back was GORGEOUS!! The same route we walked on the way down, but it was nice to just sit there and not have to watch our footing and look around. It was soooo steep though! At times I didn’t think the diesel 4×4 truck was even going to make it! lol! The truck must take a beating driving that road multiple times per day.

Okay, this looks flat, but I swear, it was like straight up for over half the ride on the gravel roads.


From here, we got back to where our SUV was parked, then loaded up and drove back the 25 minutes on the other gravel road before finally getting back to PAVED ROADS! woohoo.

We were all starving, and the plan was to go into nearby Dominical for a late lunch.


I had heard great things about the Fuego Brewery in Dominical, so that’s where we went. VERY cute, very cool place.

A lady walking out as we walked in stopped us and said, “The food is SO GOOD!!” Great to hear! 🙂
Relaxing in some shade felt nice after our strenuous afternoon
Open air walls, awesome jungle views, and very good food and drinks. Really liked this place so much!
cool bar area
chips and guac and smoothies and sun kissed cheeks.

I got this sopa azteca which was spicy and very yummy.

View from our table

Playa Linda

It was late afternoon by this time, getting close to 5:00 already! We really spent a long time at the falls, plus all the drive time.

Ivan and I had been chatting with our very friendly waitress, and asked her which nearby beach she would recommend for sunset. She said one of the best beaches was about 20 minutes north (up the road we had to go back on anyway, toward Manuel Antonio), and called Playa Linda.

We were cutting it close on time before sunset, but I eyeballed the sun in the sky and mentally calculated very scientifically (lol…) that we could make it.

And we did! And it was amazing!! I’m so grateful to the waitress for this suggestion, because I don’t think the beach I had had in mind would have been nearly as beautiful.

This beach was nearly deserted (located down a side street, off the main road, but sort of in the middle of nowhere. Hence much lower trafficked.)

Pinch me, is this real?!

The sunset view direction was amazing, but I also kept rotating my neck the other way, because this view was so pretty, too!!

settling in for sunset

Some great family shots quickly, before we just sat down to enjoy the view:

Me and Ethan
Asher was down by the water….

SUNSET time!!

absolutely stunning

Some casual shots that I like, just hanging around:

Cool one of my parents + the boys 🙂
Ethan (14), Asher (13) + my parents.

Andddddd a few more. Sorry, but I can’t bring myself to delete any, because I just love them all.

50 years of sunset-watching together. ❤

We lingered for a while after the sun went down, and then decided to pack it up, since there really wasn’t anyone else around anymore. We were not overly concerned ever on this trip about safety at all! Never felt unsafe. But being alone in an isolated area does kind of make you a potential target, so we were just mindful of that.

Headed to the car.
Took this just so you can see how nice and close we could park here! A perfect beach. (Although, it seemed tide dependent- we could see the marks in the sand from high tide, and it looked like the beach almost disappears when the tide is up!)

It was dark on our drive back to Manuel Antonio. WHAT A DAY! We got back by maybe 7:30 p.m. or so, and we were all exhausted. The combination of hiking and heat and swimming and driving did us in. We just all lounged around at the Airbnb, and as we had had a very late lunch, we just nibbled on leftover pizza for dinner.

Sitting by the pool

Only a couple of days to go! I was already starting to feel sad about our time in Costa Rica starting to wind down.

3 thoughts on “Tuesday 3/21: A “Top 10 Life Moment”- Nauyaca Waterfall, Dominical + sunsets galore”

  1. What a perfect day, such a paradise. Love all the waterfall pics and the sunset. You look so happy. And Ethan is almost Iva’s height! Wooo! A big man.


    1. And I also love the no rush schedule day on vacations, most of the days I just feel like taking time for each step. Hahaha.. that’s vacation supposed to be right?


  2. “Tea on the balcony” made me think that you were about to spill the gossip and I was soooo confused for a split-second. Ha!

    What an absolutely beautiful outing! I’m so glad it lived up to your expectations. What a lovely day!


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