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15 Things to Know Before Visiting Uvita Waterfall

15 Things to Know Before Visiting Uvita Waterfall

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If you love chasing waterfalls, you’ll love the Costa Rican town of Uvita!

Uvita is a beach town along the Costa Ballena with stunning wildlife like whales and so many attractions. One of my absolute favorite things to do in Uvita is head into the nearby rainforest and splash around at the Uvita Waterfall.  

Not only is this beautiful waterfall great for cooling off when you’re in the middle of a humid rainforest, it also has a natural slide into a swimming hole. I mean sure, waterparks are great and all, but you can’t beat a slide that’s been carved out by Mother Nature herself!

What’s also great about the Uvita Waterfall – or Catarata Uvita, in Spanish – is that it’s cheap to visit, easily accessible, and a ton of fun. It’s a place you can explore independently, with no need to take a tour. 

So if you find yourself in Uvita, you should definitely check out this amazing natural playground. But before you go, there are some things you should know. So to help you enjoy this fun spot, I’ve created this complete guide to visiting Uvita Waterfall!

1. About Uvita Waterfall 

A lady slides down Uvita waterfall, Costa Rica
Sliding down the waterfall!
Bailey poses for a photo at Uvita Waterfall
The entire area is so beautiful.

Uvita Waterfall is one of the most unique waterfalls in Costa Rica, a country which is known for its diverse and spectacular natural beauty. It’s also sometimes called “Catarata Esmeralda” because of its emerald green waters.

The waterfall is around 10 meters (33 feet) high, so it’s admittedly pretty small. It doesn’t have the grandeur of La Fortuna Waterfall or La Paz waterfalls. However, what makes Uvita Waterfall awesome is that over thousands of years the water flow has smoothed out rocks to form a natural slide. And yes, you can – and should – use this slide to zoom into the swimming hole! 

The rush from gliding down this smooth slide into a pool of water was the highlight of my visit here! And luckily, there’s a ladder you can use to climb to the top of the slide, so you don’t have to worry about clambering up slippery rocks.

I love swimming in natural bodies of water. So I was happy to discover a pretty river downstream from the waterfall with even more swimming holes to explore and jump into.

Uvita Waterfall is surrounded by rainforest, so there’s plenty of shade, and there’s also a butterfly garden nearby, which you can visit on your way in or out if you use the right entrance – more on that in a moment. 

Unlike some of the waterfalls in Costa Rica, you don’t need to trek for hours or drive out into the middle of nowhere to visit Uvita Waterfall – it’s within easy reach of town. 

2. Where is Uvita Waterfall?

Bailey swims in the river pool below Uvita Waterfall in Uvita, Costa Rica
So stunning!
A man jumps from the top of Uvita Waterfall, Uvita
Jump if you dare!

Uvita Waterfall is located in Uvita, in the Puntarenas province in western Costa Rica. It’s about a 4-hour drive from San José, the Costa Rican capital. It’s also close to Marino Ballena National Park (the national park in Uvita.)

One of the great things about the Uvita Waterfall is how easily accessible it is. It’s only 2.6 kilometers (1.6 miles) from Uvita town, or 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the beach. Plus, the two entrances are along a main road, so you don’t need a 4×4 to get there. 

If you need to take a taxi, the ride should only cost you around 3,000 colones ($5 USD), or slightly more if you’re staying by the beach. You could even walk from your hotel in less than an hour if you’re staying in the center of town. 

There are two entrances to the Uvita Waterfall, although the first one is generally more convenient to use.

The first entrance is better if you’re traveling to the waterfall in your own vehicle, because there’s plenty of parking here. The entrance fee here is 2,000 Colones ($3.30 USD) per person, which is slightly more expensive than the second entrance, but you also get to visit the small butterfly garden along the way. The walk to the waterfall from here is easier since the path is flat. There is also a restaurant where you can grab food before or after your walk. 

Update: As of March of 2023 you aren’t allowed to use this entrance as the property no longer has access to it. The butterfly garden and Catarata Esmeralda Uvita were closed in July of 2023.

The second entrance is further uphill, and entry is slightly cheaper at 1,500 Colones ($2.50 USD). The downside is that there’s less parking available and the trail to the falls is much steeper than from the first entrance, with some steps and rugged terrain – although the distance is still pretty short. There’s also a restaurant here, but unfortunately, you can’t visit the butterfly garden.

Unforuntaely with the closer to the easier first entrance you will now have to use the slightly more difficult, yet cheaper option.

3. How long is the Uvita Waterfall Trail?

Bailey walks on a trail at Uvita Waterfall over some slippery rocks
The trail isn’t long, but the upper entrance has steeper parts to it!

Once you get to either entrance, it’s just a short walk through the rainforest to the waterfall – no long hike necessary! You should get there in 5-10 minutes, depending on how fast you walk and whether or not the trail is slippery after rainfall.

As we said above, the trail from the first entrance is flatter and easier than the second, which is steep and rugged in places, so it’s a little faster. Unfortunately though with the first entrance being permanently closed you’re only option is the second. However, you’re not looking at a long trek.

It’s a good idea to wear shoes with decent grip for your walk. There’s no need to wear hiking boots or anything like that, but a sturdy pair of sports shoes will go a long way – no flip flops! 

4. How much does it cost to visit Uvita Waterfall?

Sign at the upper entrance to Uvita Waterfall in Uvita
Sign at the upper entrance to Uvita Waterfall in Uvita
The lower entrance to Uvita Waterfall payment booth
The lower entrance to Uvita Waterfall payment booth

Entry to the Uvita Waterfall costs 1,500 Colones ($2.50 USD) for the upper entrance. As mentioned above, the first lower entrance is no longer accessible so this is your only option.

You can walk there for free, or take a taxi from the town center for 3,000 Colones ($5 USD). The beach is a little further out, so if you’re staying in that area then a taxi will cost you a bit more – roughly 4,000 Colones ($6.60 USD). 

So if you visit Uvita Waterfall the most expensive way possible (i.e. take a taxi alone from the beach and use the first entrance), it will cost you around 6,500 Colones, which is just over $10 USD. 

Some activities in Costa Rica can be really expensive, but this isn’t one of them. So take advantage of this beautiful natural attraction while you’re in Uvita! 

Related Read: On a budget? Check out the best cheap and free things to do in nearby Jaco!

5. When is the best time to visit Uvita Waterfall? 

Bailey swims below Uvita Waterfall in Costa Rica
The water is so refreshing!

Uvita Waterfall is popular with tourists and locals alike, so it’s better to go either early in the morning or later on in the afternoon. If you’re visiting Costa Rica in the dry seasons (one of the best times to visit Costa Rica), then it’ll likely be busier than during the wetter months.

You can go early in the morning to beat the crowds and have time to swim and slide in peace before more visitors begin to arrive. Or you could head there later in the afternoon when people begin to leave. 

Generally though, we recommend going in the morning! There’s something special about starting your day sliding down a waterfall and swimming in the rainforest. Plus, the morning light makes it the best time to get those all-important Instagram photos while the place is quiet and relatively empty.

6. Uvita Waterfall hours

The metal boardwalk at Uvita waterfall
The boardwalk up to the waterfall!
A sign pointing to Uvita Waterfall and the pool area on the trail
The signs on the trail!

Uvita Waterfall is open daily from 8 am – 5 pm, so if you arrange to get to the entrance at 8 am, you can enjoy peace and quiet here before more visitors arrive. In fact, you might even have the whole place to yourself! 

We went at around 10 am and there were a few people there, but it was’t too busy.

7. Is there parking at Uvita Waterfall? 

Parking lot at Uvita Waterfall
The lower entrance parking lot at Uvita Waterfall

Yes, there’s parking at both entrances but since you can no enter from the first entrance you would only need to use it’s parking lot if the parking lot for the second upper level entrance is full.

It would only be a 3 minute walk to get from the lower to the upper level parking lot if you had to.

If you want to park right at the second entrance, it’s definitely better to go at a quieter time of day, closer to opening or closing time. 

8. Can you swim at Uvita Waterfall? 

Daniel swims below Uvita Waterfall

You certainly can! 

You can swim at the base of the waterfall and in the river downstream. The whole river is stunning and other natural swimming pools have formed along its course. There are also platforms that you can jump off of into the water, which is a lot of fun. 

9. Is it safe to slide down Uvita Waterfall?

A lady gets ready to slide down Uvita Waterfall in Costa Rica
Most people get nervous!
A lady slides down the waterfall at Uvita Waterfall
Off she goes!

Yes, lots of people slide down the waterfall every day. We did it, felt totally safe, and had a great time! 

However, this is a natural, not a man-made slide, so it wasn’t exactly designed to adhere to health and safety protocols. As with any activity like this, there are dangers. Plus, the slide is formed along a rock, so there’s a risk of a nasty bump to the head. 

Ultimately, it’s up to you to assess your own personal risk and decide how safe you feel using the slide. However, it’s not a great idea if you have back or mobility problems.

You should be okay climbing up to the top of the waterfall slide since there’s a ladder in place. But again, this is at your own risk.

And if you don’t want to slide down the waterfall, you can always hop into the pool from ground level and still enjoy swimming at the base! 

10. What to bring to Uvita Waterfall 

Bailey walks along the metal boardwalk at the pool of Uvita Waterfall, Costa Rica
Don’t bring your nicest pair of shoes!

Make sure to bring some cash for the entry fee, which is 1,500 Colones ($2.50 USD), depending on which entrance you use. It never hurts to bring a little extra, just in case.

You should also bring a bathing suit, a towel, and some dry clothes to change into after you swim. There are no changing rooms around but you can always duck behind the trees for privacy. 

It’s also a good idea to bring a dry bag to keep your phone and valuables from getting wet. 

You don’t need special hiking boots for the trail, but it’s a good idea to wear your normal sports or running sneakers and avoid anything with an open toe. Basically, closed shoes with a good grip will be fine! 

The waterfall is fairly well-shaded but sunscreen is always a good idea, and you’ll definitely need some insect repellent since the waterfall is inside the rainforest. 

Oh, and last but not least, don’t forget your camera or GoPro! The Uvita Waterfall is beautiful, so you’ll definitely want to capture it – especially if you take the slide!

11. Facilities at Uvita Waterfall 

The toilet at Uvita Waterfall
It doesn’t look that inviting!
Bailey reads the rules on the trail to Uvita Waterfall
There are some rules to read before visiting!

There aren’t many facilities at the Uvita Waterfall, but there’s parking at both entrances even though you can only enter through the second entrance. However, the first entrance has a butterfly garden that you can visit and a restaurant (both have since been closed as of July 2023), while the second entrance also has a restaurant where you can find refreshments and use the toilet. 

There is another toilet along the lower entrance trail near the lower pools. You can see it pictured above. It’s a squatting toilet, so it’s not overly nice, and we avoided it.

It’s important to note there are no garbage cans, so you will need to pack and carry all trash you bring to the waterfall.

12. How long should I spend at Uvita Waterfall?

Bailey walks down to Uvita Waterfall from the upper entrance
I was excited!

An hour or two at the waterfall is more than enough time to enjoy the slide, the natural pools, and the river. Then, you can spend the rest of your day enjoying the other awesome activities that Uvita has to offer, like going to the beach, exploring Marino Ballena National Park, or feasting at a local restaurant

13. Is Uvita Waterfall suitable for kids? 

platform to jump off into the pool
There are platforms to jump off but you can’t see the bottom.
Bailey stands in the river look at Uvita waterfall
The lower pools are calm!

Yes, Uvita waterfall is a family-friendly attraction in Uvita, but I would just have small kids take the trail slow as the trail from the second entance is steep. It’s also best not to let kids use the waterfall slide since it’s a natural rock slide, and there are risks involved. On top of that, watch for currents at the base of the waterfall and maybe take them to the lower pools, which are calmer.

Also, as with any natural attraction in Costa Rica, keep an eye out for local wildlife. Kids are very inquisitive, and the snakes and frogs in Costa Rica are very colorful. This could be a recipe for disaster!

Related Read: If you love nature and wildlife, be sure to visit Manuel Antonio Nationa Park – it’s amazing!

14. Getting to Uvita Waterfall 

The restaurant at the top fo the second entrance of Uvita Waterfall
Our taxi dropped us at the upper entrance and we hiked down!

There are a couple of ways to get to Uvita Waterfall. If you’re staying in town, you can walk from your hotel to the first waterfall entrance in around 45 minutes. However, if you’re staying by the beach, it may be a bit too far to walk. 

If you’ve got your own vehicle for driving around Costa Rica, then it’s easy to drive to Uvita Waterfall. It takes around 5 minutes to drive there from town, or 10 minutes from the beach. You don’t need a 4×4, either – a regular car will do! 

And if you don’t have a rental car, then a taxi to the waterfall is also very cheap – plus, you don’t need to worry about parking! It costs around 3,000 Colones ($5 USD) for a taxi ride from town, or 4,000 Colones ($6.60 USD) from the beach. You can also ask your driver to come back to pick you up after 1-2 hours when you’ve finished swimming.

The route to the waterfall is pretty easy. 

As you drive out of town, in the opposite direction to the beach, head north on the Costanera Sur road. Then turn right on Calle Uvita and follow the road for a kilometer (0.6 miles) before turning right onto Calle Bejuco, which is just opposite Indómitos Café & Bar. Then, keep following the road for about 550 meters (0.3 miles) until you get to the first entrance, or drive a little further uphill if you’d prefer to use the second one. 

15. Is there anything to do near Uvita Waterfall? 

Indómitos Café & Bar food
Photo credit: Indómitos Café & Bar
Indómitos Café & Bar drinks
Photo credit: Indómitos Café & Bar

There are a couple of things to do around Uvita Waterfall – mainly eating and drinking, which suited us perfectly! 

Uvita Beer Garden

Uvita Beer Garden is just across the road from the first waterfall entrance, so of course, we couldn’t resist checking it out after our swim (if you’ve been reading this blog for a while then you’ll know how much we love craft beer!).

This restaurant is open everyday from 11 am to 4 pm and is a wonderful place to have lunch or an early dinner. The garden is also a beautiful place to relax while you sample beers from all over Costa Rica. There are also sandwiches, tacos, and ceviche on offer – after all, swimming does work up an appetite!


Tribu is just down the road from the waterfall and it serves yummy food from all over the world, like Korean-style chicken, barbecue ribs, sandwiches, and delicious fresh smoothies. It’s a laid back spot that’s part of Casa Nativos guesthouse, but you don’t have to stay here to enjoy the restaurant.

Catarata Esmeralda Uvita

Catarata Esmeralda Uvita is an open-air restaurant under a canopy, and it’s just a few minutes walk from the lower waterfall entrance. They serve great, home-style local food, so it’s a nice spot to stop for breakfast or lunch after your swim. 

UPDATE: The restaurant closed as of July 2023

Indómitos Café & Bar

Indómitos is a great veggie and vegan restaurant with amazing fresh juices and smoothies on offer – or if you need a caffeine hit, you can even find the TikTok-famous dalgona coffee (remember that?!). They’ve also got great salads, veggie burgers, and an awesome range of plant-based desserts, like Snickers pie. 

The restaurant is open-air and surrounded by greenery so you can relax and even watch butterflies flitting around as you enjoy your meal. It’s open daily from 11:00 am – 8:30 pm and located on Calle Uvita.

Related Read: Did you know that Uvita is home to one of the best beaches in Costa Rica?! Read about the others!

Where to Stay in Uvita, Costa Rica

lady sits by the pool at one of the best hotels in Uvita - Bungalows Ballena
Enjoying a day by the pool at Bungalows Ballena!

When it comes to choosing the right place to stay in Uvita for you, location is essential. For example, those without a car will most likely want to stay near the national park, whereas those with a vehicle can choose to stay further out. If you would like more info on the different areas, be sure to check out our where to stay in Uvita blog

Below are a few of my favorite hotels in all the different areas around Uvita and in all budgets. 

Hostel Cascada Verde – $

For budget travelers, Hostel Cascada Verde is a top choice. The reviews of this hostel are fantastic. The location is on the inland side of town, meaning it’s a fair walk to the national park. However, it is right across from Uvita Waterfall and Uvita Beer garden in a quiet area surrounded by lush forest. 

Rates start at $20 USD for a one-night stay. You can check availability and make a reservation online here on or here on HostelWorld.

Bungalows Ballena – $$

If you’d prefer to be close to the national park, Bungalows Ballena is only a 1-minute walk from the entrance to the park. This small hotel offers two-bedroom bungalows with full kitchens and bathrooms. It’s perfect for families, and they also have a pool. We stayed here last time we were in town and loved it – having our own little bungalow was convenient and comfortable.

All of the rooms have a patio. There’s also a pool and grill available for guests. Rates begin at $111 USD per night. You can check availability and book online here on

Oxygen Jungle Villas & Spa – $$$

Those looking for luxury have to check out Oxygen Jungle Villas & Spa. This stunning hotel is located in the hills surrounding Uvita and is perfect for those looking for a romantic getaway. The property features spectacular views, an infinity pool, gorgeous rooms, and an included breakfast.

This is one of the most romantic hotels in Costa Rica. Rates typically begin at $429 USD per night. Book online on here.

Getting Around Costa Rica

Bailey with our rental car near Rio Celeste Costa Rica
Our rental car!

How you choose to get around Costa Rica is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make when planning your holiday here! How you do it depends on your budget, travel style, and comfort level. 

Renting a Car

Without a doubt, the number one way to explore Costa Rica is in a rental car. We book rental cars on the Discover Cars website as we have had good experiences with them in the past.

One of the things you need to watch for when renting a car in Costa Rica is the mandatory insurance that the government requires you to have. There are a lot of very cheap rentals that don’t include this mandatory insurance (TPL) in the original booking price, but there are also ones that do. To avoid additional surprise charges when you pick up your rental car, be sure to rent a car that includes the mandatory insurance when you book.

Thankfully, on Discover Cars it’s easy to tell apart the companies that include the mandatory insurance and those that don’t. The trick is you can’t pick any car on their website. In the picture below, you can see this rental car, with pick up in Jaco, includes the TPL. That means the mandatory insurance is included in the price. Any cover you get above that is extra.

Of course, I still suggest getting the full coverage offered by Discover Cars, which covers you even more.

You can browse cars on Discover Cars here.

TPL Cover Costa Rica
TPL Cover Costa Rica

Book Shuttles

If renting a car isn’t in your budget, you don’t feel comfortable driving in Costa Rica, or you just don’t like driving, shuttles are the next best option. There are hundreds of shuttle routes available all over the country, and they are very affordable.

Shuttles in Costa Rica are specifically for tourists and often include pick up and drop off at your selected hotels and airports. The drivers also speak some English, and the vehicles have air conditioning. You’ll also be guaranteed a seat when you book a shuttle (which isn’t the case with the public bus system.)

To get the best price, use the website Bookaway. They compare all the offers and prices of shuttle companies in Costa Rica so you get the best price! Honestly, we have saved so much money using Bookaway! 

You can search for shuttles online on Bookaway here.

Public Bus

Lastly, you can use the public bus system. On short journeys, such as from San Jose to La Fortuna or Uvita to Manuel Antonio, this system is great. However, the longer the journey the more hassle and time spent on a bus. It’s undoubtedly best to save the public bus in Costa Rica for short and straightforward trips!  

The public buses are definitely the cheapest way to get around Costa Rica, but they are not always very reliable and schedules often change without notice and delays are to be expected. The buses can also be very crowded and hot – so just be prepared!

It’s also good to speak some Spanish if you plan on riding the public bus since most drivers and ticket booth operators don’t speak English.

Pura Vida!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie in Corcovado National Park
Thanks for reading!

Uvita Waterfall really is a must-see in this town, especially since it’s so cheap! It’s a super fun way to spend a morning or afternoon and the perfect way to cool off on a hot day. Even though it’s not hard to get to, we hope this blog has helped you feel even more prepared.

If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica, check out my other blogs about the Pacific Coast area! We’ve traveled this country extensively and have also lived here so we know everything from how expensive things are to the best local foods to try. Thanks for reading, and here are some more articles you might like!

Things to know about visiting Nauyaca Waterfalls

Best things to do in Jaco, Costa Rica

Best things to do & guide to visiting Dominical


Tuesday 24th of January 2023

I have a question deep is the water where you are sliding into it? I'm not a great swimmer so need to know if i need a life jacket or if it's not that deep.

Costa Rica Travel Life

Wednesday 25th of January 2023

Hey Felisha,

The waterfall is deep. Far to deep to stand or even touch the bottom unless you really dived down.

I hope this helps