Coroico Cascadas: Chasing Waterfalls in Bolivia’s Jungles

We woke up to a heavy rain, but it didn’t deter our mission to find the Coroico Cascadas. There was very little certainty on how to find the three waterfalls. We found some information online, but some of it contradicted other sources and we couldn’t seem to make sense of where to begin the hike. Furthermore, the cascadas are known by multiple names, including Tres Cascadas, San Juan Waterfalls, and by their own individual names.

We decided to ask some locals in Coroico, hoping they could provide more concrete information on how to find them. The first lady we asked had no idea how to get to them. The second group of people we asked laughed when we said we wanted to walk to them and told us it was too far. Despite thinking we were crazy, she pointed us in a vague direction.

An old car on the road to the Coroico Cascadas
An old car on the road to the Coroico Cascadas

Starting the Coroico Cascadas Hike

Apparently there is a trail that goes around the side of Cerro Uchumachi. However, another local we met in town told us that the easiest way to get there is by walking the road. We walked to the edge of Coroico, taking the road that goes directly by Hotel Don Quijote. After walking down the road for a short while, you’ll come to a sign next to a small building on the left. It lies at kilometer marker 52.6. The sign is old and barely legible, but it points the way to the Coroico Cascadas and to Vagantes.

Cascadas and Vagantes sign
The dirty signs pointing the way to Vagantes and the Cascadas

The Hike to the First Waterfall

It was eerily foggy, and the road was muddy and wet. But, the misty morning air felt cool and refreshing. We walked down a quiet stretch of road before coming to a small town. It was very quiet as locals went about their daily business. The only sounds we could hear were dogs barking and distant music coming from a few homes. The occasional combi driver would come by, asking us if we wanted a ride to the cascadas.

In the first small town we came to, our group became a trio. A sweet, old dog decided to follow us down the road. She would run ahead, always waiting before disappearing out of sight. Whenever you come to a fork in the road, stay to the right. There are various small roads that run off the main road, but always stick to the main path. This road eventually turns into Camino Arapata.

The sweet dog that accompanied us on our long hike
The sweet dog that accompanied us on our long hike

It was 3.9 km (2.4 mi) before we made it to the first waterfall (kilometer marker 48.7). The first of the Coroico Cascadas sits off the right side of the road and runs across it. In the dry season, this waterfall is often a mere trickle, but it was a strong flow after the recent downpours. The water flow was deep, and our dog friend patiently waited for us while we found a way to cross the river she so easily waded through.

Matt looking for a way to cross the river
Matt looking for a way to cross the river

The Second Waterfall

After crossing the river and avoiding soaking our shoes, we continued down the winding road. It was truly beautiful as the road took us through lush jungle and plots of green farmland. At another 1.4 km (0.9 mi), we made it to the second waterfall at kilometer marker 47.3.

The base of this waterfall has been transformed into a manmade pool to store water for inhabitants of nearby towns. A small trail led up the left side of the falls, so we decided to explore a bit. The rocks were soaked and mossy, but our dog friend seamlessly scampered up the trail ahead of us. There were various small pools that the falls flowed into before rushing off the ledge to another pool below. We had the whole place to ourselves.

The slick trail beside the second waterfall
The slick trail beside the second waterfall

The path became steeper and slicker as we climbed, so we decided to head back to the base of the falls. On to the next waterfall we went.

The Third Waterfall

The third of the Coroico Cascadas lies just around the corner from the second, sitting only 0.7 km (0.4 mi) down the road at kilometer marker 46.6. It is marked with a sign that says “3ra Cascada La Jalancha.” This one is perhaps the most popular and is built better for visitors. Upon entering, we paid a few Bolivianos a piece. From the entrance, there is a well-maintained trail that leads up the hillside. Along the trail there are various picnic areas and even spots to put a tent if you want to do some camping.

At the top, there is a restroom/locker room that can be used if you plan to spend some time there and want to take a dip. Another family took in the view of the beautiful waterfall with us. We crossed the small stream at the base of the waterfall to admire it from a different angle. Despite the cooler, rainy weather we decided to take the plunge.

Freezing, but having a good time at the third waterfall
Freezing, but having a good time at the third waterfall

We spent a while at the falls with our dog friend patiently watching us. When we had our fill, we threw back on our clothes and headed down the trail. The rain continued as we made the trek back to Coroico. We said goodbye to the pup that had been following us as she stayed behind in the town we first met her in. We made it back to town in the late afternoon with tired legs.

Notes on the Coroico Cascadas

We really enjoyed seeing the Coroico Cascadas and having the opportunity to see some of the Yungas countryside. If you aren’t up for hiking all the way there and back, there are combis that go to and from the waterfalls on occasion. You can ask for one in the main plaza or pick one up that is heading there. We saw only a few pass us our entire time walking, so if you surely want a ride, it is better to organize one in town. There is often one waiting at the lot at La Jalancha for a ride back at a low cost.

We never felt unsafe while walking through the jungle, but the area is very remote, so it is best to hike with a buddy. Also beware that some dogs in the area are aggressive, so do not approach them suddenly. While we had a really sweet dog follow us for the duration of our hike, we also met some aggressive dogs in Coroico.

Hiking back to Coroico with the pack
Hiking back to Coroico with the pack

Coroico Cascadas Hike at a Glance

Cost: 3 Bolivianos per person to enter La Jalancha. Bring extra if you want to catch a ride

Hike Duration: 4-6 hours stopping at all three waterfalls.

Hike Distance: About 11 miles round-trip from the edge of town.

It is about 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) from the edge of town to the yellow sign. It is 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) to La Jalancha from the yellow sign. Walking around the waterfalls will add to this distance.

What to Bring: Camera, rain jacket, sunscreen, towel and swimsuit if swimming, snacks, plenty of water, good walking shoes, small change for entrance and combis if desired.

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