Waterfall Tours in Guanacaste

Llanos de Cortez Waterfall

There are numerous gorgeous waterfalls with guided tours in the area around Liberia and Rincon de la Vieja: about 90 minutes from Casa Las Brisas in Playa Flamingo. Some are relatively easy to access and others are more challenging and would take up most of your day.

*The Llanos de Cortez Waterfall, pictured above, is located near the town of Bagaces, just a half hour south of Liberia and its international airport (LIR). It’s a short drive off the Pan American Highway (Route 1) and less than a two-hour trip from Playa Flamingo and other beach towns in Guanacaste. These majestic falls are also a convenient stop for those traveling from Arenal or Monteverde to those beautiful beaches of Guanacaste’s Gold Coast. 

Another draw of the Llanos de Cortez is that it is relatively easy to access. The parking area, which is just an open lot, gets you very close to the waterfall. From there, it is a short 5 minute hike down.

Once you reach the bottom of the trail, you’ll see why Llanos de Cortez is considered to be one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful waterfalls. The falls are wide and wispy, with thin streams of water tumbling along the mossy rocks. Rocky cliffs are visible through the transparent cascade. To add to the grandeur, thick forest surrounds the falls with many birds and sometimes even monkeys bellowing from the trees.

At the base of the falls is a nice pool that is good for swimming or wading, and there is a sandy area to just hang out and relax. 

*Near Rincon de la Vieja, four waterfalls flow, and all of them have pools where you can swim. Getting to the waterfalls is an adventure on its own – either by hiking or horseback riding. The Hacienda Guachipelin Adventure Center organizes waterfall tours. Below are two waterfall tours depending on your time and level of adventure. 

Victoria Waterfall

Victoria Waterfall
Victoria Waterfall

The 115-foot (35-meter) Victoria Waterfall on the Rio Negro (Black River) is where the river tubing trips start their adventure downriver. The surrounding canyon has unique vegetation and topography, and you can swim in the pool at the waterfall’s base.

How to get there: A 45-minute each-way horseback ride on a scenic trail, and a short, steep descent to the waterfall; or a one hour each-way scenic hike on the same trail.

Oropéndola Waterfall

Oropéndola Waterfall
Oropéndola Waterfall

Located near the Las Pailas entrance to the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, the Oropéndola Waterfall plunges an impressive 82 feet (25 meters) in a beautiful canyon of the Rio Blanco (White River). The sparkling turquoise pool below makes for a refreshing swim.

How to get there: A 45-minute each-way horseback ride on a scenic trail, and short walk to the waterfall; or a 1.5 hour each-way scenic hike; or a 15-minute drive and short walk.

Catarata La Leona Waterfall
Catarata La Leona Waterfall

*If you’re looking for a unique, challenging and adventurous waterfall hike in Costa Rica, then you have to visit Catarata La Leona. La Leona waterfall is a small blue waterfall hidden deep in the canyons and caves of the a gorgeous blue river. It requires hiking through a series of canyons and crossing rivers numerous times.

Catarata La Leona is not big but being hidden inside a cave made it all more special, especially considering we had to swim, climb and trek through the forest and rivers to get there! The Catarata La Leona hike takes around 3 hours total.

 Best Time to Go

Peak dry season (January through April). The paths are dry, there isn’t any mud and no real strong river current. If you go during rainy season, you have to be more prepared for mud and a stronger current. Friends went end of January 2021 and the water level never went over their heads and the current wasn’t strong.

One of our friends went beginning of December, right at the end of the rainy season and she said the road was in awful conditions and the current was incredibly strong. They had to wear lifejackets.

Who Can Do The Catarata La Leona Hike?

As you can tell, this hike is not for the faint of heart which means you can’t be claustrophobic or acrophobic, you need to know how to swim and you need to be in decent shape. The actual distance is not long but it isn’t on a straight forward well maintained path. No ankle or knee problems, you must be able to walk on natural paths.

Luckily, there are several trails the guide can take you. There is the straightforward path that still requires the river crossing a couple times but does not take you through the caves or canyons. We saw a couple groups on this trail, mainly those with kids and older guests. Families can definitely do this tour. They will also give lifejackets to anyone who wants one and to kids and when the current is stronger.

Updated CR Covid Policies (Jan.1, 2022)

Flamingo Rainbow

Keeping you in the loop on current policy updates. Just a heads up in case anyone is not fully vaccinated…Regardless, the Health Pass needs to be completed 48 hours prior to flying to CR. They will issue a QR code which you should save on your phone to show at passport control. To fly back to the US they currently (this could change of course) require a negative Antigen test 24 hours prior to travel. Our concierge can set up a testing service to come to the house to administer to everyone; super convenient. 

ENTRY INTO COSTA RICA 🇨🇷
Everyone must fill out an electronic health survey called the “pase de salud” to obtain a QR code required by airlines and immigration officials.https://salud.go.cr

Travelers do not need to be vaccinated or tested, however un-vaccinated travelers MUST purchase $50,000 Covid Medical Policy, including $2,000 Quarantine Insurance

For the most up to date and current Costa Rica entry requirements; https://www.visitcostarica.com/en/costa-rica/planning-your-trip/entry-requirements


TRAVELING AROUND COSTA RICA
Masks are required indoors and in close contact situations
Business hours limited to 5 am to 10 pm
Business capacities limited to permit social distancing
Vehicle restrictions (does not apply to rental cars, buses or licensed tourist transports) are reduced during the day but continue to limit the availability of uber and personal vehicle sharing like turo.


LEAVING COSTA RICA 
Most countries have restrictions for returning citizens or foreigners traveling from Costa Rica.  Since the large majority of travelers to Costa Rica are from the U.S. those requirements are summarized below.
All U.S. citizens must show proof of a negative antigen Covid test completed 24 hours before boarding a flight to the U.S.

Flamingo Marina Update

Flamingo Marina

Progress continues on the Flamingo Marina. It’s really taking shape and getting closer to opening in January 2022; located in the sheltered inlet of Potrero Bay leading into Flamingo. Casa las Brisas is located just up the hill on the prestigious North Ridge peninsula overlooking beautiful Playa Flamingo. A sport fishing paradise🐬

Baby Sea Turtle Nesting

Arribada at Playa Ostional

Evening falls and the horizon becomes dotted with round figures drawing closer to the coast with help from the motion of the waves. In a matter of minutes, greenish flippers and shells appear, slowly touching the wet sand and starting to dig deep holes with their rear flippers. One after another, Olive Ridley turtles come home and that’s how the “arribada” (Spanish for arrival), or “flota” (fleet), of turtles in Playa Ostional begins.

After leaving the water, the female crawls through the sand to choose a place to dig a hole and deposit; it must be a place with no vegetation and distance from the coast to protect the eggs from the high tide. The turtles dig a hole the size of their body; then, with their hind flippers, take the sand to make a deep hole and elongated shape where they drop their eggs.

After about 60 days of incubation, little turtles move from the sand to the top of the nest with their flippers. They come to the surface when the temperature has dropped, usually at night, as a way to evade predators and the hot sun. The baby turtles wait for the rest to join the group to go out to sea.

Why would a small village tucked away in Guanacaste, Costa Rica receive that visit? It’s difficult for science to explain it. What we do know is that Playa Ostional is one of the last hopes for protecting the Olive Ridley turtle, one of the most endangered species in the world. According to managing biologist for the Ostional Development Association (ADIO), the town is working to avoid their extinction, which would be tragic. Because the beach is not part of a National Park, but a Wildlife Refuge, the community itself prepares the beach to make it a safe place where the turtles can arrive. They have an agreement with the Ministry of Environment to manage the turtle habitat and the legal sale of 1% of the eggs they produce. It is also a huge tourist attraction which provides income for the community as well.

More turtles visit Ostional every year. However, factors beyond the community’s control, such as ocean temperatures and coastal drought, can affect the turtles continuing to come to the community. Climate temperature directly affects these species. The sand needs to be a certain temperature for an equal number of male and female turtles to hatch. If it exceeds 30° C (86° F), only females might hatch or the egg might not hatch altogether. When no males are born, the species population begins to decline due to lack of mating.

The community is confident that their conservation and education efforts will be successful so that these sea turtles will continue to return to the beach where they were hatched, year after year. If you are interested in witnessing this natural phenomenon, Ostional is located about an hour’s drive south of our beach house in Playa Flamingo. They nest throughout the year, but on the Pacific coast it is concentrated from July to November.

Baby Olive Ridley
Baby Olive Ridley

The Flamingo Marina

Marina Construction

Back in the day the Flamingo Marina was the only marina between Acapulco and The Panama Canal.. After its closure in 2003 there had been several proposals, none of which could achieve governmental approval. The green light for the current redevelopment proposal was given in 2018. This has been a greatly anticipated project and construction finally got underway in 2019. 

This area has one of the most famous white sand beaches, good infrastructure, a major international airport, medical clinics, good schools, lots of entertainment and hotels close by. The marina is finally adding back to Flamingo what Flamingo for a very long time has been known for.  Luxury Homes, white and black sand beaches, sport fishing tournaments and a world class marina.

Flamingo Marina Scope:

The Flamingo Marina development includes approximately 175 wet slips, a dry boat storage facility, fueling station, heliport, and two mixed-use retail and residential sites totaling more than 15,000 m2.

By Fall 2021, 134 of the 175 slips should be ready. The target date for completion of Phase 2 is 2023. By then, Marina Flamingo’s developers expect to complete restaurants, shops, a hotel, and a conference center. It’s all “surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the Costa Rican Gold Coast,” says John Matheson, president of F3 Marina. With the assistance of national and local government officials, the Coast Guard, and even the U.S. State Department, the property will be “a true destination marina.”

Marina Rendering
Marina Rendering

How Costa Rica came to be

Satellite Photo of Central America

Three million years ago, Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica, was on the bottom of the ocean, along with the rest of what would become Central America. And then three tectonic plates got into a shoving match. Violent tectonic upheaval forced one above the other, with a third jostling for position, and Central America rose above the waves for the first time between 1 and 3 million years ago.

This created a thin little isthmus between North and South America — an improbable land link that allowed a vast variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects to migrate between North and South America. The first evidence of human settlement in Costa Rica comes from around 12,000 years ago (10,000 BC)

Costa Rica became one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, rivaling central Africa or the heart of the Amazon. Representing just 0.03% of the world’s total landmass, Costa Rica boasts 5% of its biodiversity — meaning that of every 20 creatures on earth, one of them lives here. The collision of two continents became a melting pot for flora and fauna.

Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica: The perfect coastline

In Flamingo, it was our good luck that such a beautiful coastline emerged from the ocean. Flamingo’s most striking feature is the prestigeous North Ridge — a green, steep peninsula about 1 kilometer long, jutting into the Pacific Ocean and pointing like a bony finger at the uninhabited Isla Plata.

North Ridge of Flamingo
North Ridge of Flamingo

The steepness of the hills here didn’t make road-building or home construction easy, but it ensured spectacular ocean views. To the north, the ridge looks out on the picturesque Potrero Bay and Potrero Beach, and to the south, it overlooks Brasilito Bay and Flamingo Beach. Casa Las Brisas is built on the southern facing side of the North Ridge, with commanding views of the mountains and a stunning 180 degree panoramic view of the Pacific, with perfect sunsets every night.

As good fortune would have it, right at the base of this peninsula was a sheltered bay that turned out to be the perfect space to build a marina. A successful marina operated here from the early 1990s until 2003, when it ran afoul of government authorities for disputed reasons. Today a new, state-of-the-art marina is under construction that will be open by the end of 2021 and be welcoming yachts by mid-2022. For more details read my blog post on The Flamingo Marina.

Adapted from an article written for Special Places of Costa Rica by Karl Kahler, author of “Frommer’s Costa Rica 2017”.

Playa Flamingo
Playa Flamingo

Exploring Gold Coast Beaches by Boat

Map of Guanacaste

The best way to explore the many beautiful beaches along The Gold Coast of Guanacaste is by boat. Popular beaches are Hermosa, Coco, Ocotal, Flamingo, Conchal, Grande, Tamarindo, Avellana, Negra, Junquillal, Manzanillo and Ostional. These all have road access, hotels, restaurants, bars and water sport activities which can get busy with tourists during High Season. As you will discover by water, there are literally hundreds of tiny inlets with pristine white sand beaches and crystal clear water. These are often difficult to get to or totally inaccessible by land. 
Fishing boat and sailboat captains know every inch of the shoreline and can take you to remote spots along the coast to their favorite fishing places or ideal snorkeling locations. You can enjoy the quiet beauty of nature and be completely undisturbed by fellow travelers. You can also take a panga to shore to swim and have a private picnic on the beach. 

Playa Dantita

Playa Minas

Diving by the Catalinas

Some of the best diving in Costa Rica is right off the shore of Playa Flamingo at the Catalina Islands. About 3 million years ago the entire area was a huge volcanic crater and the remnants of that crater form a ring of basalt islands that are spectacular dive spots. 
What makes the Catalina’s a favorite among scuba divers is the chance of seeing the pacific giant manta ray. This is the biggest species of Mantas in the world. In addition to mantas, a huge variety of other marine life can be seen; white tip reef sharks, several other species of rays, a few types of turtles, lots of morays, sea snakes, and a plethora of fish.
Less common, but possible, there are sometimes whale sharks, tiger sharks, humpback whales, and in a few instances even orca whales have been spotted in these waters.
During your surface intervals you will be amazed by the devil rays which use the waters around the Catalina Islands as a playground. You will frequently see these creatures launching and flipping several feet out of the water coming down with a splash.
The location of the islands, paired with the currents, the shape and contours of the islets, as well as the depth, make these islands a fantastic spot for large amounts of marine life to gather, and well within recreational diving limits.

Devil Ray

Ridley Turtle

Beautiful Hardwood Trees of Costa Rica

Guanacaste Tree

Costa Rica is divided into seven provinces, or states. Casa Las Brisas is located on the NW Pacific coast in the province of Guanacaste, which is named for the national tree of Costa Rica. The Guanacaste, or Elephant Ear tree (pictured above), is majestic and immense, characterized by it’s spherical crown. Cows, goats and sheep will often be seen lying under it’s shade during the hot, sunny afternoons. History says it was chosen in part to symbolize the protection that the people of Costa Rica receive from their government! The wood’s stunning natural color and grain make it ideal for furniture but it is illegal to cut it without permits. We are proud to have designed a custom front door crafted from this beautiful hardwood as a welcoming entrance to our home.

The Pochote tree is distinguishable by a trunk that is covered in sharp spines that project

Pochote Tree
Pochote Tree

an inch or more, keeping hungry predators from climbing up its trunk. This native tree is cultivated for use as lumber as it grows straight and tall. The wood of the pochote is white as opposed to the dark grains of teak (see below). It is used to make furniture, cabinets and veneers.

The very popular Teak tree is not native to Costa Rica but grows very well

Teak Plantation
Teak Plantation

there, so it is frequently grown on commercial plantations. It is in high demand around the world, so it has become a major export for Costa Rica, attracting a lot of investors. One of the first things I fell in love with when we first looked at Casa Las Brisas was the soaring, beamed teak ceilings in the main room and the main floor Master Suite.

Bamboo
Bamboo

Costa Rica is the country with the largest woody bamboo diversity in Central America. Bamboo is known as the plant of thousand uses. It is versatile, flexible and very strong. It is mostly used in construction, gardening, fishing, furniture and utensils. We found it is ideal as a cane ceiling material. It is harvested, cut, soaked to kill insects, and then dried and treated. The outdoor cane ceilings on the upper terrace and around the pool are all bamboo.

Although mainly used for it’s timber, the Cortez Amarillo, or

Cortez Amarillo Tree
Cortez Amarillo Tree

Golden Trumpet tree, is found all around the grounds of the house and is a spectacular flowering tree in the dry season. It drops it’s leaves and the entire tree turns bright yellow until the flowers fall to the ground, creating a bright yellow glow.

A giant in the rainforest and one of the more unique trees is actually distinguished by it’s

Kapok Tree
Kapok Tree

unusual trunk. The Kapok can grow as much as 13 feet per year and tops out around 200 feet. It has multiple buttresses that sometimes extend 10 feet around its base. It’s wood is lightweight and porous; good for making carvings and canoes. Soaps can be made from it’s oils and other parts of it are used as medicines. Common in Costa Rica, we have also seen it in Brazil, and for indigenous tribes this tree was holy.

There are countless other interesting and beautiful trees but these are a few favorites because many of them are a part of Casa Las Brisas and contribute to the unique beauty of the beach house.

Costa Rica Stands Out As The Best Vacation Destination When Travel Resumes

Family Vacation at Casa Las Brisas

Needless to say, the last few months have been a huge struggle for everyone around the world.  Quarantine at home all alone or with extended family each pose challenges that we have never had to deal with in the past. We have all missed many activities we used to take for granted, and will be ready to embrace again once it is safe to do so. Travel is at the top of the list!

Renowned international media such as Lonely Planet,  Condé Nast Traveler, Matador Network, Canadian Traveler, Profession Voyages, Forbes, El Mundo de España, among others, have highlighted Costa Rica as a destination to consider once the crisis passes. Even Good Morning America highlighted the story of a British family who recreated the Costa Rican rain forest at home after canceling their trip to our country.

Costa Rica is the best country for travelers looking for great experiences. “We are the world leader in nature tourism and the second in adventure tourism, according to the World Economic Forum. The tourist who visits us has a variety of options to do throughout the country. Activities such as canopy zip lining, white water rafting, hiking, surfing and scuba diving are just a few, which are also combined with cultural elements and authentic unique experiences,” said Shirley Calvo, executive director of the National Tourism Chamber (Canatur). This was also reflected in a TripAdvisor ranking in which “Worldwide, Costa Rica proved to be the favorite destination for travel, ranking first in the list of countries”.  – CostaRicaNews.com

When You are Ready to Travel, Casa Las Brisas is Ready for You! Renting a private villa with stunning ocean views is the ideal spot for a family vacation. Having privacy and far less contact with other travelers and staff is a tremendous plus. Balance crowded hotel lobbies, elevators, hotel restaurants and community pool versus having your own spacious vacation home with a huge kitchen, private pool and little to no interaction with others required. Casa Las Brisas is the perfect beach house for your family vacation!

Without a doubt, Costa Rica is a small country that offers big experiences to all. Although we do not know when the social confinement will end, we can assure you that once this period passes, this beautiful country will welcome you with open arms and the warmth and kindness of it’s people.

Playa Flamingo Costa Rica Vacation Home Casa Las Brisas ocean side luxury home.