Free: Libano Waterfall, Costa Rica
Updated: Oct 12, 2019
While doing Workaway on the shores of Lake Arenal, my friend and I heard tell of a FREE beautiful nature activity nearby. . . our ears perked up immediately.
We hitched a ride from our workaway to Tilarán, and from there got a taxi for 3500 colones / $6 USD (talked down from 4,000) to the nearby tiny town of Libano. It was about a 20min winding drive through idyllic farmland. The taxi driver dropped us off in front of a little store in Libano and told us to ask directions to the waterfall from the store. The friendly store owner told us to walk about 1.5km down the road (continuing on road 926 if you look at a map), then right at a sign saying 'Marvillosa' where the road forked. Though the sun was out in full steaming force, we were giddy with the freedom of finally having a day off and we were walking through more pretty farmland so we didn't mind a bit.
As far as the eye could see along the road there were "living fences" - the farmers use live branches from certain species of trees (that can propagate from a cutting) as fence posts. This means eventually each fence post will become a tree... providing shade and shelter to animals in the unnatural cleared areas made by humans, and also planting more trees on earth. It's just one of many genius Costa Rican ideas for sustainability that I've come to love.
We came to the fork after about ten minutes, turned right and kept walking down the paved road until it turned sharply to the right and up the hill (about five more minutes). On the left of the road there was a huge stone entryway, like for a fancy house, except the gate was open and there was nothing but a dirt path on the other side. Found it! The trail was a fun hike through the jungle with just enough incline and decline to make it interesting and work up a sweat for the chilly but refreshing swim! Which we were rewarded with after about ten more minutes of walking.
The waterfall was much grander than I expected - I guess I've grown so accustomed to being charged for seeing nature in Costa Rica that I figured if it was a free waterfall it must be a tiny one. Nope! It was lovely, and we jumped off a high point into the water a few times since the pool was deep (but ALWAYS check depth before you jump into water, it's a real easy way to snap your neck, and it only takes one mistake), which was glorious with the spray of the falling water and sunshine on our faces.
Literally the only tiny mar on all this perfection was experiencing some alarm when we were sunning like lizards on the rocks afterwards, and found that we were not the only ones on the rocks. There were some gigantic fucking spiders hiding in the shadows. I mean the size of my hand gigantic, and though I'm an average sized girl I've been told I have "piano fingers", so yeah, they were pretty big. But to my arachnophobes out there, a) they were pretty thin and spindly, not furry, and b) they didn't make any sudden movements, in fact they didn't move at all. These are the kind of important spider facts that I know some of you will appreciate, so don't let this deter you from an awesome adventure!
Getting back to Tilarán we had two options - call a taxi (if you don't have a Costa Rican number you can ask a Libano shop owner to call one for you) or hitchhike. Being cheapskates we would have chosen hitching, but before we even had a chance to stick our thumbs out, a car stopped. A courteous older cowboy by the name of Julian Gomez politely offered to give us a ride all the way to Tilarán, and we happily accepted! As he carefully drove, we chatted about the countryside we were passing through (he was a local and a proud owner of a hotel nearby), and dancing (he said he was quite the dancer back in the day, but when I asked if he still danced he laughed in disbelief and said he's too much of a viejito "little old man" now).
He pulled over to the curb in Tilarán to drop us off, turned to me in the front seat and grabbed my hand, looking into my eyes and then back at my friend, and said sincerely, "if it was any other weekend, I would invite you girls out for a beer, but I have things to do today. It was such a genuine pleasure to meet you both and give you a ride today, and I hope you will remember me." Well our hearts were naturally melting as we said hasta luego to señor Gomez and a beautiful day in Costa Rican nature.