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Top 10 Waterfalls in Central & South America

June 8, 2015 by Michael Eiseman divider image
Angel Falls

There are few things on the planet more mesmerizingly awe-inspiring than a waterfall. What is it about them that draws our collective attention and admiration? Why do travelers cross the world in search of them? Some say the aesthetic beauty invokes a sense of calm, others say the sheer power and magnitude awakens our inquisitive nature, still others claim humans associate waterfalls with clean, fresh water and, as such, with life.

No matter why we’re drawn to these liquid powerhouses, waterfalls seem to tap into our natural curiosity and raw spirit in a way few other natural wonders can.  It’s the reason nearly 12 million tourists descend on Niagara Falls each year and almost one million make the trek to the waterfall that tops our list of the best waterfalls in Central and South America.

Rather than arranging these beauties by popularity, we’ve listed them by height (with the exception of our honorable mention):

Honorable Mention: La Paz | Costa Rica

Height: 37 m

Number of Drops: 1

Longest Drop: 37 m

La Paz WaterfallSituated on the slopes of the Poas Volcano, La Paz Falls and the surrounding gardens are a must see during any trip to Costa Rica’s central highland region. The area’s rich bio diversity, rain forest and cloud forest landscapes are splendid reminder of our human need to get back to nature and unwind.

#10: Salto Grande | Chile

Height: 15 m

Number of Drops: 1

Tallest Drop: 15 m

Salto Grande WaterfallThough not impressive by height alone, this IWC Class 9 waterfall in Torres del Paine National Park pours a staggering volume of glacier-fed water into a powder blue pool below. Renowned for its spectacular beauty, Salto Grande is a photographer’s paradise known for its larger than life personality, rich colors and excellent light.

#9: Iguazu Falls | Argentina & Brazil

Height: 82 m

Number of Drops: 1

Tallest Drop: 64 m

Iguazu FallsOne of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Iquazu Falls system consists of approximately 275 waterfalls along 1.7 miles of the Iguazu River. The largest falls in this IWC Class 9 waterfall, The Devil’s Throat, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has played a starring role in many movies, including Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

#8: Chilasco Falls | Guatamala

Height: 130 m

Number of Drops: 2

Tallest Drop: NA

Chilasco FallsPlunging from the dense, lush emerald green jungle surrounding it, Guatamala’s Chilasco Falls truly are a sight to behold. The short but steep, and often muddy, hike to get there grants travelers panoramic views of the cloud forest, a smaller waterfall, and acres of agricultural fields planted with local vegetables.

#7: Tequendama Falls | Colombia

Height: 139 m

Number of Drops: 1

Tallest Drop: 139 m

Tequendama  FallsJust a short drive from Colombia’s capital city of Bogota, Tequendama Falls is one part sightseeing tour and one part ghostly holiday, making it the most hauntingly beautiful waterfall on our list. Perched aside the stunning falls is the long abandoned Hotel del Salto, once a luxury resort for the rich and famous and now an eerie reminder of days past.

#6: Kaieteur Falls | Guyana

Height: 226 m

Number of Drops: 1

Tallest Drop: 226 m

Kaieteur FallsAn IWC Class 9 waterfall located in Guyana’s Kaieteur National Park, this spectacular cascade is one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world. Remote, pristine and largely untouched, the falls and immediately surrounding rainforest are home to several recently discovered species, making a visit to this waterfall well worth the trek.

#5: Hidden Valley Falls | Belize

Height: 457 m

Number of Drops: 2

Tallest Drop: Unknown

Hidden Valley Falls BelizeAlthough only an IWC Class 3 falls, Hidden Valley (AKA Thousand Foot Falls) tops the list of tallest Central American cascades. This awe-inspiring chute is located in the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve (an area boasting a botanical phenomenon seen nowhere else so near the equator— fir trees). The deep pool at the bottom is a perfect swimming hole for those inclined to hike down.

#4: Cuquenan Falls | Venezuela

Height: 674 m

Number of Drops: 1

Tallest Drop: 674 m

Cuquenan FallsThe second tallest free-leaping waterfall in Venezuela and widely regarded as the 11th highest waterfall in the world, Cuquenan Falls is an IWC Class 3 falls located in the Kukenan Tepui. Picturesque and staggeringly beautiful, these falls take a sheer plunge down the rock face before seemingly disappearing into the side of the mountain—  all visible from the fields below.

#3: Gocta Cataracts | Peru

Height: 771 m

Number of Drops: 2

Tallest Drop: 540 m

Gocta Cataracts Waterfall PeruOnly discovered by the outside world in 2005, this IWC Class 9 waterfall, nestled in the heart of the Amazonian Andes, is the kind of cascade that makes travelers weak in the knees with its jaw-dropping display. The locals say it’s shrouded in mysticism. As such, it took them a long time to begin guiding travelers to the base of the falls. Today, roughly 1 in 5 locals are area guides.

#2: Yumbilla Falls | Peru

Height: 896 m

Number of Drops: 4

Tallest Drop: Unknown

Yumbilla Falls PeruYumbilla is the fifth tallest waterfall in the world, but the volume of water is low in comparison to other world-ranked cascades— which helps explain why it didn’t come to international acclaim until 2007. Located in the Amazonian Andes, it’s difficult to access and even harder to get a full view of; but, those who brave the trek say the beauty of the lush rainforest is more than worth it.

#1: Angel Falls | Venezuela

Height: 979 m

Number of Drops: 2

Tallest Drop: 807 m

Angel FallsNamed for adventurous American aviator Jimmy Angel, who first saw the falls from his plane in 1933, Angel Falls (AKA Kerepakupai Meru), is the highest waterfall in the world. Nearly one million visitors make the trip to see its grandeur each year, as the astounding volume of water drops into a sink hole at the bottom and fine mist rises into the surrounding air.

If our Top 10 Waterfalls list have you looking to take the plunge into Central and South American travel, call us today to get started chasing waterfalls on your dream vacation!


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