Updated: Jan 28
When staying at Mangífera hostel, Bajos del Toro is a destination you definitely shouldn’t miss out on. Bajos del Toro is a small farmers commune, just a 50 minute drive away from our doorstep. It’s surrounded by about a dozen of the most beautiful waterfalls, rivers and natural pools that Costa Rica has to offer. The best part about Bajos del Toro is, that it’s not yet widely discovered by the average tourist, which makes your visit a truly unique experience.
Your journey starts already about 20 minutes outside of Grecia town. You’ll soon notice that the crowded main road changes to a smaller, quiet and curvy road that leads you uphill. On the way there, you’ll encounter many wonderful landscapes, including a view of the ash fields of the Poás Volcano:
Once near Bajos del Toro, you’ll notice that there are several signs that will lead you to the entrance of different waterfalls and/or natural pools. Although all worth it, we highlight a couple of them for you. Wherever you choose to go, we’re sure that you’ll have a great time surrounded by the surrealist nature of this magical place.
Catarata del Toro
Catarata del Toro is located just a couple of kilometres outside of Bajos del Toro town. The intensity and diversity of the colours of the scenery surrounding this waterfall are just indescribable. Although the pictures down here can give you an idea of what this place looks like (you must actually see it with your own eyes!), it can't make you feel the overwhelming power of water tumbling down for 180 meter into an old volcanic crater. This place has a Jurassic Park feel. The leaves of a characteristic plant called 'Sombrilla de pobre' (or 'Poor man's umbrella' in English) shown in the pictures are - as you can see - about the size of a human being!
Be aware that the hike down to Catarata del Toro is a challenge. The paths are well maintained, but it does takes some effort to get back to the entrance. Getting all the way down to this unique waterfall is more than worth it though!
A big plus about Catarata del Toro is the garden near the entrance. This garden is full of flowers, squirrels and… beautiful birds! The birds (among them a lot of hummingbirds) come very close to the area where you can sit down and have a coffee. Be aware that you might want to stay more time around Catarata del Toro, its garden and its coffee house. We recommend you to take enough time, so you can fully enjoy your experience around here.
Catarata del Toro: practical information
Catarata del Toro is part of the national park Juan Castro Blanco and is located on private terrain. There is plenty of space to park your car next to the entrance. Foreigners pay $14 entrance fee. Kids and 65+ pay $7. Costa Ricans pay about 4000 Colones. There is a combo-discount for tourists that also want to pay a visit to Cataratas ‘Las Gemelas’ (the twins), also located near Bajos del Toro. A combo-ticket for adults costs $25 and for kids / 65+ $12,50. Be aware that Catarata del Toro is closed on Sundays! Check out the website of Catarata del Toro for the most up-to-date information.
Catarata Río Agrio & Pozo Azul
Another great place to go in Bajos del Toro is Catarata Río Agrio. This place offers a 2 for 1 deal! You won’t only get to know a magnificent waterfall, but also a unique river that, through shaping impressive rock formations, formed natural swimming pools with amazing turquoise water.
We would recommend to let it depend on the weather whether you first visit the waterfall or the natural pools. Since you can swim in the river / natural pools, it’s advisable to choose to go there while it’s still sunny (which is more likely during the morning). Around the waterfall, you’ll get a wet anyway because of the mist that this ‘beast’ is creating while tumbling down for about 100 meters.
While approaching Catarata Río Agrio, you may experience that your eyes get slightly irritated and that you can taste a sour flavour in the air. Since Río Agrio passes very near the slopes of Volcán Poás, the water contains certain minerals that cause this particular taste. Its name ‘Rio Agrio’ wasn’t chosen randomly, it literally means ‘Sour River’. The hike towards Catarata Río Agrio is a lot less intense than the hike to Catarata del Toro, but still you’ll need some physical condition to get there easily. The trail is mostly made out of rocks / stones. Some parts are paved / have man-made stairs. Other parts of the trail can be very muddy (especially during rainy season), so be prepared!
All the effort is well worth it though. The approach to Catarata Río Agrio is just like you are in a fairy tale. The palms, moss, rock formations and finally the powerful waterfall raining down into the river: It’s nature at its best.
What about the natural pools? From the parking lot of Catarata Río Agrio, you’ll be picked up with a car / pick-up that will leave you at the entrance of the natural pools (Pozo Azul) or you can walk for about 20 minutes to the entrance. The walk towards the natural pools is again a bit challenging. A short but steep walk downwards over a well maintained path leads you to an amazing place though…
Get ready to swim and dive! It’s also a great place to sit down on the rocks, take some sun and perhaps have a nice picnic. It’s a natural playground!
Catarata Río Agrio: practical information
As well as Catarata del Toro, the entrance to Catarata Río Agrio is located just a couple of kilometres north of Bajos del Toro town. There is also plenty of space for parking your car. There is a small restaurant where you have to pay the entrance fee. The staff will point you where to go / arrange the pick-up for the natural pools. A combo-ticket for the waterfall and the natural pools costs about $9. This place opens daily from 07:00 – 17:00.
How to get to Bajos del Toro?
Well, the easiest way is to get there by car and to use Waze. Just before you leave Mangífera Hostel, type in ‘Bajos del Toro’ and Waze will get you to Bajos through the nicest roads. You don’t need a 4x4 to get to there. It is advisable to use a high vehicle though. It is possible to get to Bajos in a normal car, but you’ll have to ditch some big holes in the - not so well maintained - road. We advise you to take some extra time to get out of the car on the way to admire the beautiful landscapes that you’ll be passing.
What if you don’t have a (rental) car? Since Bajos del Toro is quite remote, buses don’t run very frequently and you would have to change buses a couple of times. If you’re not tight on your budget, you can choose to get to Bajos by Uber. You’ll have to consider that it’s going to be a pricey ride though: About $55 each way! Maybe you can find a car pool with some other guests that are staying in our hostel.
Bajos del Toro: What to take?
First of all: take your swim shorts and bikinis because you might want to take a dip! Perhaps you want to take a change of clothes and a small towel to dry yourself off after splashing in the water. Many places around Bajos del Toro have toilets or bathrooms where you can change or even take a quick, refreshing shower after bathing in the natural pools / waterfalls.
Especially during the rainy season, you’ll have to consider the possibility to get caught by the rain! Be aware that when it rains in Costa Rica it often poures down like crazy (you can be completely wet within 10 seconds) and that it often comes with thunder and lightning, so be prepared. We always go out with a rain coat and a waterproof bag to protect our electronic devices (mobile phones, camera…), our wallets and other valuables against the rain. To reduce the chance of getting wet, we advise you to go out early (the sun already rises around 5:15 am!). During the dry season it it's very unlikely that you’ll get cold, but during the wet season you can consider to take a sweater or warmer clothes with you.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to protect yourself against the sun (whether it is with sun screen or with protective clothes). Depending on the time of the year, you’ll also find it helpful to protect yourself from mosquitoes or other small insects that are eager to bite. Some clothing brands offer ‘insect bite proof’ fabrics. It’s a great way to protect yourself from getting bitten in a more sustainable and healthier way than to spray insects repellent on your skin. Always check yourself for ticks after a visit in a forestall area.
To hike comfortably around Bajos del Toro, we would advise to wear good hiking shoes or stable sport shoes with good profile on the soles. Another great option is to wear (or to additionally take) are water resistant (hiking) sandals. Also keep in mind that some trails can be really muddy (especially in the rainy season) so your shoes can get pretty dirty!
We personally also really like to take our binoculars. Apart from all this equipment it’s advisable to take water and a nice snack for the road or to have a nice picnic.