Between Heaven and Earth
The Nauyaca Waterfalls are a legend in Costa Rica’s southern zone, one famed for its beauty, its 65-meter drop and most of all for the gracious hospitality of a Costa Rican family that invites visitors into its homestead to enjoy the falls. We decided to journey into the heart of rainforest-covered mountains in search of this legend, found where the Barú River shows spectators the most stunning natural demonstration of waterworks in Costa Rica.
The waterfalls of Braulio Jiménez Rojas, affectionately known as Don Lulo, are located 15 minutes from Playa Dominical and 40 minutes from San Isidro de Pérez Zeledón. When Don Lulu arrived in this area at the tender age of 21 to start a new life with his wife, Ruth Solís Chavarría, he never imagined that his 130-hectare property would become a renowned tourist attraction.
Originally from San Rafael de Esparza, Don Lulo came to the region to work in the fields. However, thanks to his dedication and honesty, he won over his boss’s appreciation, so much so that he offered to sell Don Lulo his farm. Back then, it was worth 16,000 colones (a little over $30). In order to pay it off, Don Lulo had to forfeit a monthly quota of 400 colones (less than a dollar today), which, as he recalls, was just about the cost of a plump pig in those times. Without a doubt, it was a fortune for a humble work hand, especially considering that at that time the daily wage was 5 colones per work shift.
But little by little, with much effort and determination, Don Lulo was able to achieve his dream of having his own farm. He unendingly gives credit for his achievement to God, for having given him the strength and the ability of committing completely to his work.
Once he finally succeeded with his purchase, he proceeded to venture into tourism, and it has been that activity that has kept him and his family busy for the past 18 years. Composed of five children and their corresponding families, including nine grandchildren, Don Lulo’s family has found a means of making a living that also keeps them together. The economic hardships faced in the past, recalls Doña Ruth, today have turned into a happiness that unites them in a shared business and gives tourists an awe-inspiring reason to visit the region of Dominical.
The day begins very early at Don Lulo’s farm, located in a region between the towns of Pérez Zeledón and Dominical, called El Líbano. A group of horses is saddled and stands by the side of the road, waiting for the day’s adventurers to show up and ride them to the farm. Those who prefer to travel the uphill trail via truck may do so, allowing them to enjoy vistas of fields and patches of forests while comfortably seated inside air-conditioned vehicles. At the very tip of the visible horizon line, a distant torrent of rain is spotted falling upon a path of forest below, a prelude of the falls that we are about to encounter.
Nevertheless, the journey still lies ahead.
A 10-minute ride takes us to Don Lulo’s home, where he greets his visitors with a welcoming smile while standing on the patio of his charming wooden house. All his guests gather below a palm-leaf-roofed palapa, where a couple of tables have been placed among a yard bursting with wild flowers. It is absolutely the ideal setting, one where adventurers may regain their composure while enjoying upon fresh cups of coffee, fruits of the season, sweet breads and other maize pastries that fill the air with their homemade scent.
Meanwhile, Rosita, a gorgeous red macaw, and Tuqui, a hyper, multicolored toucan, fly about the fruit trees in the garden.
After breakfast, we continue on with our journey toward the waterfalls, deciding to walk the remaining kilometer and a half up the mountain below a clear and radiant blue sky. The sounds of the falls indicate that we are close, and by this time the trail has turned into a path enchanted by the sounds of birdcalls and the fresh forest air.
Upon reaching the river’s sandy shore, we are left awestruck by the vision of a spectacular 65-meter torrent of water that leaves us feeling like pioneers in a virgin land. No one who has visited the Nauyaca Waterfalls escapes without being amazed at first sight. The nearby gigantic boulders provide the perfect seat from which to observe rock formations sculpted by the water and gaze upon a natural marvel that boasts a 45-meter drop of freefalling water, enhanced by another 20 meters cascading off the rocks.
The most daring of visitors attempt to swim against the current to reach the foot of the falls, while others seem content to simply dive into the foam. Don Lulo’s nephews and sons in law guide visitors to the falls and safeguard their well-being at all times. A small trail leads further up the mountain, leading to a spot from which a view of the impressive 45-meter fall can be fully appreciated.
Later, we take advantage of a natural pool surrounding the falls and go for a swim to relax and refresh. But before long, the time to return to Don Lulo’s house draws near. A succulent lunch, composed of abundant rice, beans, vegetables, meats and salads, awaits us, providing a luxurious ending to a day well spent with nature.
For more information about the waterfall tour, please call 787-8013 or 787-8137, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.cataratasnauyaca.com