Zarcero/El Silencio/cloud forest waterfall hikes
This day trip is one of our favorites.
If you want to take a drive through the Costa Rican countryside to a gentle hike through a cloud forest with multiple waterfalls and a stop at a giant topiary garden along the way, this will fill the bill. Oh and let’s throw in a lovely lunch and/or spa treatment if you’d like. If you haven’t spent time in a cloud forest, you’ll find that the the ecosystem is completely different from rainforests or dry forests. The plants are huge, the endless shades of green are soothing, and the sounds of the singing birds and running water in quintessential Costa Rica. This area, known as Bajos del Toro, is a land of waterfalls it seems, which all run off the side of Poas.
We start the drive en route to Zarcero which is a sweet mountainside town know for it’s amazing topiary gardens. Park along on the roads there and jump out for a quick visit – it’s a fun stop and a great excuse to stretch your legs and get a bit of fresh air. The church that flanks the garden is worth a stop as well with it’s distinctly Costa Rican interior.
Hop back in the car and head towards El Silencio Resort adjacent to Juan Castro Blanco National Park. Be sure to bring shoes to hike in because while the trails are, at least on El Silencio’s grounds, well groomed, it can be slippery at times. Also consider bringing a walking stick if you’ve got one, a light jacket, bathing suit, camera & binoculars (obviously) , and a change of clothes (not required but always good to have an option). You can park on the property of El Silencio to hike the waterfalls on their grounds for which they charge $25/car . Or you can make a reservation ahead of time for anything they offer, like a spa treatment, tour or lunch and the parking is free. It’s a Relais Chateau, so the grounds and buildings are beautiful and the staff is very helpful. In 2018 Conde Nast voted El Silencio the best resort in Central America. there are 3 waterfalls to hike to on their property , plus a fresh water trout pond, plus their own gardens they use for the restaurant. The can also offer you plenty of guided tours if you’d like both on the grounds and off. One of those tours is to the stunning blue waterfalls called Las Gemelas in Bajos del Toro.
If that’s not enough waterfalls for you , then take a 10-15 minute drive from El Silencio to Catarata Del Toro which is Costa Rica’s highest waterfall and drops down into an old volcanic lake. You can take a walk down a self guided stairway seen on this video to the base of the waterfall.