In Costa Rica, there are two kinds of waterfalls: those that you have to suffer, sacrifice and walk until you can’t anymore to reach them, and those that you only have to enjoy. Llanos del Cortés is the second kind. It has it all and you just have to follow the sound of the water.
Getting there is not complicated. From Bagaces, it is 6 kilometers going towards Liberia. There is a sign on the left that leads to the site, about another kilometer away. You do not need a 4×4 vehicle or legs of steel. Moreover, it is the perfect place for those who want to leave the car in the parking lot, walk a couple of minutes, contemplate the beauty and enjoy taking a dip in the water.[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuOVytij-AY width:500 align:center autoplay:0]
From the entrance where the sign is, you can hear that the waterfall is impressive, despite the fact that neighbors say it is smaller than normal due to the drought.
The waterfall belongs to the canton of Bagaces, in the Llanos del Cortes community; hence its name. It is part of the Potrero River, which, after falling, carries the water for more than a kilometer. The place is municipal property, so it is a public place and you just have to leave a voluntary contribution.
For now, the Llanos de Cortes Church, the Bagaces School Board and the canton’s Sports Committee take turns each weeks in splitting what is earned by the visits. However, the Municipality is now building an official bus shelter.
Just a few minutes before the tourist attraction closes for the day, children and adults have fun near the water’s edge during an afternoon in May.
According to Janine Atencio, director of the Department of Rural Urban Management of the Municipality of Bagaces, the municipality invested a little more than ¢29 million ($54,700) in building bus shelters and public bathrooms, which will be completed in mid-June. Nonetheless, the services might not be operating for up to five months since they are waiting for permits from Setena to drill a well. Once the bus shelters are completed, the local government will administer the site, but what percentage will go to the community is being determined.
Face-to-Face with Water
There are not many steps that you have to go down to reach the water. It doesn’t even take five minutes, but it could be complicated for someone elderly. Atencio assured that by the end of 2016, they plan to build universal access ways for visitors.
After the steps, your feet touch white sand, like a beach. The sound of water becomes the center of attention and a moist breeze begins to refresh your face. Suddenly, there it is. It is beautiful, strong and also serene.
During the dry summer months, many Guanacaste families visit the waterfall since it is one of the few places where water flows year round.
Without a doubt, it is the gem of Bagaces. It is its trophy. There is no official statistic for its height. Some locals say it is 19 meters (62 feet) high, while others say 21 meters (69 feet). They are not larger-than-life measurements, but the curtains of water drawn on the landscape are more striking than the dimensions.
The entire site is surrounded by greenery. In front of the waterfall, there is a sort of beach area where tourists can put chairs or mats for sunbathing and bring their cooler to spend a nice day with family or friends.
Gerardo Rizo, known as Lalo, is right there. For six years, he has run a stand selling grilled meat, slushies and soft drinks. When first approached, he seems to be scowling, but as you talk with him, you realize that his colorful flowered shirts are not pure coincidence.
“The best thing about being here is that you see the world go by. There are people who come from countries that you would not imagine and they leave delighted with the waterfall. Here on ordinary days, about 300 people can come, but there are days when up to 1,000 come,” Lalo said.
The heat of Guanacaste increases in intensity and I absorb myself in the pool formed at the waterfall. The water is cold on first impact, but then it seduces. The more I walk, the deeper it is. They say that the pool is more than four meters (13 feet) deep.
Floating in the water is like forgetting what is happening in the world. From inside, the water is clear, and although the bottom cannot be seen due to the movement of the waterfall, you can see little fish swimming next to you.
The best part is going under the water. The force pounds your back, relaxing your muscles. Ten minutes under the falling water is equal to one hour of a private massage session. The only recommendation is that if it rained hard the day before, it is not a good idea to get under the water because a log or rock could fall.
The waterfall also generates another pool, which is about a five-minute walk from the big one and many locals dive into it and do somersaults in the air.
About five hours there is long enough to leave with cleaner skin, your back more relaxed and with an inexplicable and sudden sense of relief.