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Top Five: The world’s best waterfalls

Waterfalls are one of nature’s most amazing wonders. This top five list brings you the world’s best waterfalls – whether you’re swimming in pools at the bottom, or hiking to the top to admire from afar.

 
 

Waterfalls

Pipiwai Trail, Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

Along the Hana Highway (or “Road to Hana” as it is commonly called) there are countless picturesque spots, including Mokulau and Honomanu Bay. On the southeastern side of Maui, just off Route 330, visitors will find the Pools of ‘Ohe’o, commonly known as the Seven Sacred Pools. One of the most popular attractions in East Maui, the gulch is a string of pools and waterfalls that are easily accessed for swimming, cliff jumping, and people-watching.

While the Seven Sacred Pools is beautiful, continuing on the Pipiwai Trail for 1.8 miles into Haleakala National Park is truly rewarding. First, you’ll come across the Falls at Makahiku, which plunge almost 200 feet (60 meters).  If you continue on, the hike culminates at Waimoku Falls which drops more than 400 feet (121 meters) above you. The trail is maintained by National Park Service, so it is relatively well-traversed and you will most likely pass other people while on the hike.

 Plitvice Lakes National Park, Karlovac County, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes is Croatia’s best known national park and the only natural spot among Croatia’s seven UNESCO World Heritage sites. Located in the mountainous area of central Croatia, just off the border of Bosnia and Herzegonia, the park is comprised of 16 interconnected lakes between two mountains.

The entire park, with its network of paths, provides ample hiking and water features. However, Veliki Slap (the Big Waterfall) seems to be a particular draw for visitors. Located in the Lower Lakes area of the park, the Veliki Slap falls 255 feet (78 meters). Although there are viewing platforms at the bottom of the falls, there are also stairs that you can climb to the top of the waterfall as well as a tunnel where you get to look down upon the waterfall.

With the number of hikes available in Utah, it’s a tough assignment to choose only one, but we were assured that Lower Calf Creek Falls at Capitol Reef National Park is a great bet. At 6 miles round trip, it is the longest of the hikes on the list, but the geological and archeological points of interest along the hike make it well worth the longer journey. While the hike doesn’t have much elevation change, the trail is quite sandy so it can be a bit more strenuous than a normal flat walk.

Aber Falls, Snowdoin National Park, Wales, UK

Picturesque Aber Falls in Snowdonia National Park located in the northwest corner of Wales  makes many people’s top five list of amazing waterfalls. At 3559 feet (1085 meters), it is the highest mountain in Wales and England and the national park’s rolling hills provide fantastic views of Snowdonia, Ynys Môn (Anglesey), Pembrokeshire and even Ireland if you reach the summit.

This hike is just a short 2 miles walk from the car park, but can also be the first half of a 4.5 mile circle if you’d prefer to not walk in and out the same way. Aber Falls is 115 feet tall (35 meters) and although the pool at its bottom is swimmable, it should be noted that the water is very cold, even in the summer months.

Lower Calf Creek Falls, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah 

Calf Creek provides a greater variety of vegetation than other parts of the park, so the trail is a great spot for bird watching – hummingbirds, downy woodpeckers, golden eagles, and mourning doves can all be commonly seen in the area. Upon reaching Lower Calf Creek Falls, you can marvel at the way it has carved into the rocks above before falling 126 feet (38 meters) into the pool below.  Swimming is allowed and encouraged so don’t forget to wear a swimsuit or bring a change of clothes for after taking a dip.

La Fortuna Falls, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica

Whenever waterfalls or hiking is mentioned, Costa Rica often comes to mind since the small country is rich with natural spectacles and rainforest. The waterfall hike to La Fortuna Falls, located just inside Arenal Volcano National Park in Costa Rica, is particularly special. Situated in the shadow of Arenal Volcano, an active volcano which is presently in a resting stage, the trail to the falls can be completed on foot or on horseback. Along the hike, visitors pass through both pasture and rainforest with toucans, monkeys, and other rainforest inhabitants often spotted along the route. It is only a short trip from the trail head to the falls, which plummet 200 feet (62 meters) to a swimmable pool below.

Whether you’re looking for a hike to burn off a few Mai Tais or a full-day trip to a UNESCO World Heritage site, VirtualTourist.com has hundreds of reviews and travel tips by real travelers who’ve actually been on the trails and photographed the scenery. Check out more suggestions at www.virtualtourist.com.

 
 

 

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