Love having your own private swimming hole with a beautiful view of a waterfall? Great news! Central America is packed full of them. After spending two months exploring Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Belize, here is our list of the top waterfall hikes in Central America.
Semuc Champey, Guatemala
Semuc Champey is one of Guatemala’s most beautiful natural attractions and makes for one of the best waterfall hikes. Because of difficult accessibility however, it isn’t quite as popular as you might expect. These jaw dropping turquoise pools are located just outside of a small town called Lanquin. Many travellers detour here en route from Flores to Antigua. Getting to Lanquin requires a very long, verrrry bumpy bus ride (picture cramming 12 people into small bus and driving along poorly maintained roads at 30 km/hr… for 7-9 hours) Although this is not unusual when it comes to transportation in Guatemala….the road to Semuc Champey is particularly terrible.
The short waterfall hike takes you up to a view point called “El Mirador”. Here you will find a somewhat questionable viewing deck, with an exceptional birds eye view of the crystal clear pools below. After descending back down to the pools, you can change in the provided stalls and go for a refreshing swim! After visiting Semuc Champey, there’s a local cave called K’an Ba Cave that you can choose to explore or chill out and float down the river.
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Big Rock Waterfall, Belize
Big Rock Waterfall hike is the perfect swimming hole to stop at after touring the ancient ruins of Caracol in the heat. It’s only a short hike from the parking lot and much less touristy than other waterfalls in the area. Although the waterfall isn’t the biggest in Belize, it’s powerful and picturesque. So bask in the sun on one of the many large rocks before cannon balling into the massive swimming hole.
Rio on the Pools and 1,000 Foot Falls are also along this route. Rio on the Pools is worth a stop as they are also beautiful and fun to explore. The local consensus is that driving to the 1,000 Foot Falls is long, slow and not worth the detour. You’re only able to view the falls from a distance and it’s always full of tourists.
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Tiger Fern Waterfall, Belize
The Tiger Fern Waterfall Hike was one of our favourite waterfall hikes while travelling in Belize. It’s located in the Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary which is jam-packed with several other amazing hikes encase you’re interested! The Tiger Fern Waterfall Hike is 4.3 km with 279 m of elevation gain and is easily completed within 2-3 hours.
If you’re staying in Placencia and have your own rental car, this wildlife sanctuary would make for the perfect day trip. The 1 hour drive is full of beautiful scenery and a few great stops; we even managed to break down in a beautiful orange orchard… but that’s a story for another day. The entrance fee for foreigners is $10 and the park closes daily at 5 pm. If you plan on spending the night in the park you will need a special permit.
Related Post: 6 Can`t Miss Things to do in Belize
La Fortuna Waterfall, Costa Rica
Chances are you won’t have this one all to yourself, but it’s absolutely stunning just the same! La Fortuna waterfall hike is a short kilometer and a few hundred stairs from the main entrance. The government has done a great job of preserving the area, although along with that comes a higher entrance fee and more people. Make sure to get here early on a weekday to avoid the crowds!
Getting here is super easy if you have your own rental car but you can also get a taxi from town for around $15 USD. The entrance fee for adults is $18 USD and the park is open from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. If your feeling particularly adventurous, there’s a hike across the road from La Fortuna that will take you up to Cerro Chato Volcano. The hike is muddy, not at all maintained, and very difficult but the volcano lake at the top is well worth the trek!
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Rio Celeste Waterfall, Costa Rica
Like La Fortuna, Rio Celeste waterfall hike is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, waterfall in Costa Rica. The fact that it somehow seems bluer in person than in photos will absolutely blow you away.
However; there are a few important things to know before committing to this waterfall hike. First of all, only 500 people are allowed in the park at a time. Make sure to show up early! Second, the trail can get rutted and muddy at times so plan your footwear /clothing accordingly. Lastly, its bussssy! If you hate crowds and line ups, this might not be the place for you. This waterfall hike is by no means difficult but is 6 km round-trip, so plan approximately 3 hours to complete it.
Los Chorros Waterfall, Costa Rica
Out of all the waterfalls we visited in Costa Rica, Los Chorros was the best experience by far! It’s a 15-minute drive outside of Grecia and makes for a perfect morning waterfall hike. The gentleman that owns the land is very friendly and always there to guide you to the trailhead.
The hike itself is only a few steep kilometres downhill (yes… unfortunately that means a whole lot of uphill on the way back!) Parking and the entrance fee will cost you around $8 USD, so make sure to bring some cash. The best part: if you arrive there early on a weekday you’re likely to have the place to yourself!
Quiqui (Kiki) Waterfall, Panama
Panama is packed so full of incredible waterfall hikes, you could literally spend months touring around all of them. Some are more difficult to see than others, but Quiqui Waterfall is most definitely worth the trip! It’s located about 2 hours outside of David and renting a 4×4 is a must due to multiple stream crossings and extremely rocky roads.
Since no tours run to this waterfall and it is located on private land, tourists are a rare sight. The entry fee is only a few dollars per person and the trail down to the swimming hole is well maintained. The waterfall hike is about a kilometre… make sure to follow the trail under the falls!
Related Posts: Planning a Day Trip to Quiqui Waterfall in Panama
The Lost Waterfalls, Boquete, Panama
Boquete is a beautiful mountain town in Northern Panama with hikes and outdoor activities around every corner. The Lost Waterfalls Trail is among the most popular because of the three jaw-dropping waterfalls you will see along the hike.
The trail head is located about 10 km from town and will be easiest to access by taxi ($7 USD) or the local bus; collectivo ($2-3/person). The entrance fee is around $10 USD which you pay at a booth a few minutes into the hike. If it has rained at all in the few days preceding your hike… prepare yourself for a steep and muddy 3 hours!