Schlepping a heavy backpack full of water and snacks over rocks, up hills, and through the woods isn’t for everyone. But if somewhere along the way, your hike includes breathtaking views of water gushing over a vertical drop, it makes all the sweat (and muscle burn) worth it.
We’ll spare you the TLC references and puns: these are the most epic waterfall hikes to hit up on your next trip, no matter where you are in the world.
Iguazú Falls | Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina
The largest waterfall system in the world—Iguazú Falls—can be found between Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina. While these hikes don’t necessarily end at the waterfall, you will need to take on a series of hikes to get the full view (aka the complete Instagram slideshow). First, you’ll make your way up Macuco Trail, which will lead you to a swimming hole and provide you with a less-crowded view of one of the falls. From there, head to the upper trail, where you can stand on bridges right over the plunge. Finally, the grand finale is a short hike (less than a mile) along the Paseo Garganta del Diablo trail that will bring you directly over the highest point of the falls — the Devil’s Throat. Fitt Tip: don’t forget to pack your poncho!
Yosemite Falls | California
Everyone might go to Yosemite National Park for the views of Half Dome and El Capitan, but you’ll also want to put it on your “must visit” list for Yosemite Falls. This 7.6-mile round-trip hike includes almost 4,000 feet of climbing, so pack a lot of snacks and extra water. But getting an eyeful of this 2,425-foot cascading waterfall from the top is an experience you won’t soon forget. Fitt Tip: November-July are your best bets for seeing the falls, but peak flow is in May.
Hanakapi’ai Falls | Hawaii
If you’re an experienced hiker and find yourself on the island of Kauai, you’ll want to carve out a day to hike Hanakapi’ai Falls. You’ll start on the Kalalau Trail on the hidden Nā Pali Coast and come upon Hanakapi’ai Beach two miles into your hike. From there, continue on two miles more to the falls (make sure you have an overnight camping permit). This hike will take you through lush jungles, rugged coast line, and obviously, some spectacular waterfalls. Fitt Tip: due to heavy flood damage, the trail to the falls is currently closed. Consult the State Parks Service before heading out.
Montezuma Falls | Costa Rica
You can easily access the trailhead to these falls right from Downtown Montezuma. Hike 0.3 miles to the bridge over Rio Montezuma and you’ll come across a dirt trail on the right — that’s your route. Then, you’ll make your way through a rocky riverbed and scramble along the boulders and rocks. It gets very slippery when wet, so be sure to use the ropes and wear waterproof footwear with good tread. The first stop is the lower waterfall and pool. After you’ve snapped a few photos, continue on and climb a set of rustic stairs that will take you to the top waterfall. Be sure to watch out for monkeys!
Plitviče Waterfalls | Croatia
This UNESCO World Heritage site looks like it was taken straight from a fairy tale. In the Plitviče Lakes National Park you’ll find 16 terraced lakes are joined by waterfalls. You can spend six to eight hours hiking Trail K, most of which is covered in wooden walkways or gently-sloping dirt paths. It’s a couple hours’ drive from Zagreb, so you’ll want to pack enough water and snacks for a full day.
Glymur Falls | Iceland
Even if you only have a one-day stopover in Reykjavík on your way to or from Europe, you’ll want to rent a car and drive the hour to Glymur Falls, the second-highest waterfall in Iceland. But unlike a lot of falls in Iceland, these are not visible from the comfort of your vehicle, so make sure you pack your boots. While the hike is mostly uphill, the moss-covered canyon views are truly awe-inspiring. Once you’re at the top, you’ll have to cross a river before you finally make it to the drop of the waterfall. Adventure, found.
Victoria Falls | Zimbabwe and Zambia
The natural border between Zimbabwe and Zambia is the mile-wide Zambezi River and the 354-foot plummet known as Victoria Falls. If you want to hike down to the falls, you’ll have to enter on the Zambia side. Walk down the Batoka Gorge and go under the Victoria Falls Bridge to the base of the falls — it takes less than an hour, but there are steep steps and rocks involved, so travel with care. From there, you’ll hike back up the gorge — it’s a tough trek, but the reward is totally worth it.
Tugela Falls | South Africa
South Africa boasts the world’s second-highest waterfall—Tugela Falls—which drop over a half mile over five “leaps”. And you’ll have to channel your inner Indiana Jones for the adventurous hike to this destination in Royal Natal National Park. There are two trails you can take, but go for the Mont-Aux-Sources path. During your ascent, you’ll hoist yourself up chain ladders to the top of the Beacon Buttress and, from there, it’s another half-hour walk to the top of the falls. Trust us — the views are worth the sweat.
Kuang Si Waterfall | Laos
About 18 miles south of the capital city of Laos, Luang Prabang, you’ll find this popular tourist attraction. But bring your bathing suit because there are a series of cascades and turquoise pools that you can swim in before you get to the main attraction — the three-tiered Kuang Si Waterfall. Take a tuk-tuk (aka a ride in a pickup truck) from the small village Ban Long Lao just outside the city to the area where the falls are. First, you’ll hike along the mountainous countryside through rice fields, orchards, and gardens. Then, you’ll climb through the forested mountains and through the jungle before arriving at Kuang Si Waterfall. Just make sure you save enough time to sit and bask in all it’s glory before you head back to town.
Kawasan Waterfalls | Philippines
If you’re looking for a leisurely hike through lush forest, Kawasan Waterfalls in the Philippines is the place for you. Take a bus from Cebu City into the jungles of Cebu Island, and once you reach your final stop, the Kawasan Falls are only about a 15-30 minutes walk away. Here’s what you’re in for: a breathtaking view of waters cascading into a clear blue-green pool. Spend some time splashing around, and if you’re looking for a more secluded spot, take the stairs at the bottom — it leads to a second waterfall.
Wallaman Falls | Australia
Slightly under four miles is the total distance you’ll put in when you hike to the base of Wallaman Falls, Australia’s tallest single-drop waterfall. But don’t be fooled — this is no walk in the park. The highlight of Girringun National Park is only seen by around 100,000 people annually, which makes knowing that waterfall selfie also will not have been seen 100,000 times before. #WorthIt
Devil’s Punchbowl Falls | New Zealand
Most people who visit New Zealand’s South Island work in a driving tour between Christchurch and Greymouth. If you find yourself on this route, you’ll want to hike to Devil’s Punchbowl Falls, a 131-meter high waterfall in Arthur’s Pass National Park. The hike will only take you about an hour total, but you’ll want to bake in some time to admire this force of nature.