Catarata Narnia is a wonderful waterfall with swimming hole so close to Golfito! Jump in from the rocks!
Or "a" waterfall rather, and of Golfito. But still just as magical as anything in a fantasy book, little-known easy-to-visit Catarata Narnia is one of Costa Rica's "life is good" places to cool off and soak in the nature around you.
You will never truly know where all (or even most) of the waterfalls are in Costa Rica. I have been to the port town of Golfito many times during my stays in nearby Playa Zancudo, and only after almost 2 years, visited the tucked away I-would-go-to-it-every-time-I'm-in-town Catarata Narnia.
Wait a minute, isn't waterfall "cascada" in Spanish? You've been using Duolingo, haven't you? Yep, you are correct but "catarata" is used a lot in Costa Rica and typically refers to a larger waterfall. waterfall = cascada = catarata
Not only close to town, but only a 15 minute walk from where you park, it's an easy trip for a quick dip or to spend the afternoon. You'll have a nice walk in the jungle past the water pumps and pipes that serve the town. So yeah, you get a bit of metal mixed in with your nature walk, but it makes it unique and you get a glimpse of how their water system works.
Then you go along a small stream to get to the wide waterfall with shallow swimming pool beneath, and of course places to jump in from the rocks for those of you not as afraid of the water as I am.
I have to admit that being introduced to a place like this gives me a certain satisfaction of experiencing a real hidden gem. It feels like you are one of very few let in on this special secret.
Ahhh, so nice.
You can visit the waterfall year round, but with the amount of water that comes down in rainy season, the waterfall will be vastly different depending on if you go in wet or dry season. For instance, in January, the heart of the dry season, the stream that crosses the path is barely a trickle and the waterfall itself is about 1/4 of what it is in August (when we went after quite a bit of heavy rainfall). Even in August, the path was muddy in places but the stream was still pretty small. Nothing severe.
The waterfall sits on the property that is part of a protected area containing the natural springs that supply water to the town of Goflito. You pay ₡2,000 per person to the family that lives at the water management building at the entrance. You may have to shout to get them to open the gate for you.
You don't need a guide, but it's helpful to have one of the kids come with you, especially given that you may be the only ones there. The son is a very nice teenager who will show you the way, entertain you with spinning jumps off the waterfall (which he's been doing since he was 9), and would greatly appreciate ₡2,000 or so since Mom keeps the entrance fee. ;)
You can also buy cold drinks (beer even) from the family there and for ₡3,000 you can sit at the picnic table at the nothing-fancy entrance building and enjoy a local casado dish for lunch.
The entrance to the protected area.
Paying for our entry and some cold drinks. That's a group eating at their one table on the patio to the right.
To get there, turn West across from the Deposito (Commercial Duty Free shopping area) at the corner with the police station. It's the road that goes to Playa Cacao (also worth a visit!) and will turn to dirt not long after your turn. At the first intersection, take the road less traveled (to the right). There is one more intersection where you also stay to the right. Watch for wildlife along the way and if you're lucky, a blue morpho butterfly will flit across your path. Park when you come to the blue gate across the road, about 3km from the Deposito.
If you don't have a car or a friend with a car, you can ask a taxi to take you from Goflito although I'm not sure how much they would charge. The road is good but gets muddy in spots during the rainy season.
This is your first turn across from the Deposito. Go on the road on the left in the photo.
The road toward Narnia.
The blue gate.
Park in the area to the left and pay the 2,000 CRC (or $3.50 USD) entry fee to whomever you can find (depends on who is around that day). There are bathrooms at the entrance you can use before you go to the falls.
As soon as you start up the path, you pass the water wheel on the left they have set up to produce electricity for the building. The water shoots out toward their rudimentary soccer pitch, turning the wheel and running the generator.
Be sure to look around. You'll pass by leaf-cutter ant colonies (sampopa) and army ants who clean your house by eating the cockroaches but also pack a mean bite! I guess they'd have to to take down a cockroach!
Here's where you start out toward the trail. The waterwheel natural generator on the left.
Sampopas marching up the once-bright-water-company-blue pipe! Love the leaf-cutter ants.
The 15 minute walk takes you along a wide, mostly flat dirt trail through beautiful jungle, past another huge pump, which the guide can turn on for you to drink "clear" (maybe a little brown) spring water out of the hose.
A well-maintained flat path through the rain forest. Nope, that's not a fallen tree. Here you have one of the water pipes across your path.
Drinking the fresh, or possibly brown, spring water.
It feels like you are one of very few let in on this special secret
After you turn at the waterfall (Catarata) sign, you cross a small stream, then go a bit further and walk up the stream to the right where you quickly come upon the surprisingly large waterfall! It's not impossible to keep your feet dry on the walk, well, maybe it is, so wear appropriate shoes. Ether way, I found it easier to just walk through the water.
Go down the path to the left, toward the catarata.
A little muddy in August.
Down to cross the stream that goes across the path.
Across the stream.
Your choice, along side the stream, or through it. We choose the later.
And here we are!
You made it! Fast, right? Now get in and enjoy! You can walk right in or there is a great place to jump into the pool from the rocks up to the right, across from the waterfall. Or do as our guide did and climb right up the face of the waterfall and jump from there! Sure, a little bit of cool factor there if you are sure-footed.
Or keep it simple and hang out in the water with the small fishes. It's nice and shallow and no rough current to worry about. There aren't a lot of large rocks to lounge on, but we found ourselves wishing we brought snacks and drinks to stay a while. No matter how long you spend, you can take a deep breath, turn your head to the sky into the mist of the cascading water, and feel the gratitude of being in this amazing place.
Climbing up to the right for the first jumping point. Also our guide climbing up the face of the waterfall to jump from there about half-way up!
Me trying my best to be cool and look like I'm enjoying being under the waterfall. LOL
More fun jumping in from the expert!