The Most Beautiful Waterfalls Around The World Where You Can Swim In Peace, According To Travelers

"There's hope at the bottom of the biggest waterfall," wrote journalist Patrick Ness. Not only is there hope, but there's often great swimming. Swimming under a waterfall is a primal, gripping, life-affirming experience. There's something entirely bewitching about using the Earth as your bathtub, shower, and infinity-edge swimming pool. But too often, that isn't possible: Most waterfalls are not safe to swim under, and visitors can only admire them from a respectful distance. Or there are simply too many visitors, and there's nothing respectful about any of them. 

We're most interested in finding spots across the globe where you won't have to share your natural nirvana, where the only sounds you'll hear are the roaring of the falls, the rustle of the trees, the sound of your own splashing, and the birds and crickets of the surrounding woods. We searched traveler guides, blogs, and reviews for hidden waterfalls with swimming pools around the world and found sites that are quiet, swimmable, and breathtakingly beautiful. 

Anayadikuthu Falls, India

Amidst a lush region full of wildlife and waterfalls, Anayadikuthu stands out as a hidden gem. It is one of the few with a swimming hole at the bottom, and it remains relatively off the radar of most visitors. In other words, to come here is to treat yourself to your own private spiritual forest bath.

The falls are located in the heart of the Idukki District in Kerala, a vibrant, intoxicating state in the far southwest of India popular for its incredible forests, mountains, temples, beaches, and wildlife. The Idukki District is well-known for its tropical wildlife sanctuary of leopards and lakes, tall mountain peaks, and the popular seven-step Thommankuthu Falls. Thommankuthu is gorgeous, but crowded. During the monsoon season from June to September, walk about 30 minutes from Thommankuthu through lush forest trails to arrive at a nearly private grove where thunderous falls cascade down rocky cliffs into clean blue water ideal for swimming. Reviewers note the peace and serenity of the Anayadikuthu, but remoteness does come with a price — you're on your own. Bring food and first aid kits to fully enjoy this private paradise.

You could easily spend a day lounging by the falls, but there are also numerous attractions in the near vicinity, including Thommankuthu Falls, the Kattadikadavu View Point, the Chottanikkara Bhagavathy Temple, and many more.

Blue Hole Falls, Tennessee

The description is in the title: Blue Hole Falls, buried deep in the woods of eastern Tennessee's Cherokee National Forest, is named after the beautiful, 15-foot-deep swimming hole at the bottom of a waterfall colored a mesmerizing shade of turquoise blue. Visitors say they enjoy the crisp, clear water and the sight of water tumbling down cliffs surrounded by peaceful woodland forest. If you'd rather not swim, there are plenty of large, flat rocks offering a perfect vantage point of the falls and the forest.

Blue Hole Falls is also referred to as "Waterfall #3" because there are three other waterfalls in the immediate vicinity. Another waterfall flows from the Blue Hole, so when swimming, be careful to hold your ground. A third waterfall tumbles into a grotto behind Blue Hole Falls, while another flows deep in the woods, away from the trail.

This peaceful forest bath is located off Route 91 in Elizabethton, Tennessee. A small gravel parking lot off Panhandle Road leads to a moderate, half-mile trail to the falls. Once you've dunked in and dried off, the surrounding Cherokee National Forest region is an outdoorsy Appalachian paradise of hiking, fishing, swimming, and camping.

Catarata Uvita, Costa Rica

Many waterfalls flow into natural pools, but how many have natural slides to get you there? Catarata Uvita, one of several waterfalls in the Parque Nacional Marino Ballena on Costa Rica's Pacific coast, is famous — but not too famous — for a smooth rock that slides down 25 feet through the waterfall into the deep, warm, turquoise pool underneath.

This thrilling natural jungle water park is located amid dense rainforest about a 10-minute drive from the town center of Uvita. A private entrance will transport you through a lush jungle alongside a flowing river that eventually leads to the waterfall. A small butterfly garden just before the waterfall adds an extra Edenic fluttering flourish. Finally, climb the ladder up the rock and take a deep breath before you let the falls carry you below. There's a brief sheer drop, but the pool below is about ten feet deep. The adrenaline rush is intoxicating.

Once vertigo kicks in and the skin starts to prune, the surrounding area offers even more natural adventures. Waterfall junkies can visit nearby Cascada el Pavón, Nauyaca Falls, La Fortuna, and Rio Celeste waterfalls. There's also endless swimming in the sun-soaked Pacific just 15 minutes away, which is literally shaped like a whale's tail.

Fautaua Waterfall, Tahiti

Here's a waterfall you definitely can't ride down: the towering 450-foot Fautaua Waterfall.

Swimming in the pools beneath the falls deep in the Tahitian mountains is a testament to the adage that hard work always pays off in the end. It's not easy to get there, but you'll be richly rewarded once you do.

The trek starts at the city hall of Papeete, the French Polynesian capital. Go on a weekday to obtain a hiking permit, then set aside at least half a day for the arduous ascent through the humid tropical rainforest. Most visitors estimate the hike takes anywhere from four to six hours, and since the trails are not particularly well-marked, many recommend a guide. You'll also need to ford some rivers, so bring water shoes and lots of bug spray.

After a long, sweaty hike, 450 feet of cold mountain water tumbling onto you while you gaze out at a lush valley will make for the most magical shower of your life. Fautaua Waterfall is the tallest waterfall in Tahiti, and it flows into several different rock pools underneath. And because it's so hard to get there, you'll pretty much have this Polynesian paradise entirely to yourself.

Less experienced hikers who don't mind a bit of company may want to try the Vaimahutu Waterfall, which also offers swimming at the bottom and is much closer to town. Or you can indulge in Tahiti's infinite turquoise treasures.

Gembleng Waterfall, Indonesia

The second you arrive at the rock pools of Gembleng Waterfall, it will become immediately clear why this is a sacred site. The Balinese traditionally believe this is where an ancient king came to commune with the gods and where the spirit Dewi Sri continues to bring visitors good luck.

You'll thank Dewi Sri mightily as you ease into your own personal natural rock pool. You'll feel like an ancient king as you look up and you see thundering streams of water tumbling from towering mountains. You'll feel the gods as you look out over an endless expanse of lush tropical jungle.

The waterfall gushes into a series of tiny infinity-style rock pools, all free and open to the public. Surrounding the falls are caves, trails, and little warungs of local refreshments. You must've done something right.

Gembleng is located in the Karangasem region of Bali, a roughly two-hour car ride from the island's major tourist sites. Unlike many other secluded waterfall sites, the journey is relatively simple: Climb up roughly 60 steep steps and marvel as vibrantly colored butterflies swirl around tropical flowers. If you go early in the morning, you'll smell sacred incense as you ascend into heaven.

Helgufoss, Iceland

This might be one you want to try in the summer months, and unlike everywhere else swimmable in Iceland in the summer, it won't be jam-packed. Helgufoss is a quiet gem located in rolling fields just 30 minutes from Reykjavík, where water flows down moss-covered lava rock into a turquoise pool. As you wade around the brisk, invigorating water, enjoy views of jagged mountains and rolling green fields. It's no wonder "Helgufoss" translates to "Holy Waterfall."

The holy waterfall is part of the enchanting Mosfellsdalur Valley, a bucolic region part of Iceland's 300-kilometer Golden Circle Route. After you towel off, you can travel to see the Great Geysir exploding into the air from geothermal springs, take in the thundering Gullfoss (Great Waterfall), or explore Þingvellir, the geologically stunning oceanside lava fields where the world's first parliament convened in A.D. 930.

If you're not in the mood for the crowds that are sure to accompany these iconic sites, take a contemplative walk along the Laxness Trail, also known as the Poet's Path. Nobel Prize-winning novelist Halldór Laxness lived near Helgufoss and drew his inspiration from walks with his dog along a path of horses, sheep, and simple country churches. For his full story, visit the adjoining Laxness Museum devoted to his life and work.

Hin Lad Waterfall, Thailand

Hin Lad Waterfall is located in the heart of Ko Samui, an impossibly beautiful tropical paradise in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand. The intoxicating island is visited by over 2.7 million tourists a year, but they often congregate around its turquoise beaches or elephant sanctuary. To get away from the crowds for some peaceful zen, head inland into the lush jungles. You'll start at the Namtok Hin Lad Temple, where you can stand on a beautiful bridge over a rushing creek and throw crumbs at the brightly-colored fish below. Or you can engage in an English-guided meditation or class with the monks under swaying palm trees and flowing water.

From the temple, it's less than a mile's walk down the Waterfall Trail to reach the Hin Lad Waterfall, a quiet, secluded fall gushing into cool, clear pools to wash away the last vestiges of suffering.

If you enjoy this spiritual and physical cleanse, there's more serenity to be found. In addition to its tropical beaches, Ko Samui is a haven for both temples and waterfalls. Don't miss the Khun Si Waterfall, the Nu Muang Waterfalls, or the "Secret Buddha Garden," featuring dozens of evocative Buddha statues situated around a peaceful, fragrant jungle garden.

Kulaniapia Falls, Hawaii

Big Island, big falls. Kulaniapia Falls stands a majestic 120 feet tall and is surrounded by 42 acres of lush jungle. The best part? The four giant waterfalls in the heart of Hawaii's Big Island are privately owned, so they never get crowded. To visit, you'll need to stay overnight at the Inn at Kulaniapia Falls Resort or rush to purchase a limited number of day passes available to non-guests.

A $50 day pass buys five hours at the towering falls, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but you get so much more than just time. The resort pass also covers kayaking or paddle boarding under the falls or — here's a new one — a guided rappelling tour up them. Any of those activities will probably leave even the mightiest adventurer quite peckish, so they'll be happy to know their pass also covers breakfast and dinner made from ingredients from the resort's farm, plus a farm tour and a cooking class.

Guests of the resort enjoy all that, in addition to the numerous deluxe delights of an elegant Asian-themed tropical farm resort overlooking the gorgeous jungle waterfalls that literally provide its hydropower.

Lisbon Falls, South Africa

Lisbon Falls is one of the highlights of South Africa's Panorama Route, and that's quite an accomplishment. The celebrated route through the northeastern Mpumalanga Province includes many other towering waterfalls, a whole safari's worth of wildlife like zebra, baboons, and wildebeest, staggering geological wonders like the Three Rondavels, and an overlook of mountains, rivers, and jungle so majestic it's called "God's Window."

But travelers express a particular fondness for the majestic 308-foot Lisbon Falls, the region's tallest. "Just another hidden gem of this country. Small ticket for a true masterpiece of nature!" wrote one reviewer. Indeed, the entry fee to spend a whole day lounging and swimming under the falls is 15 rand, equivalent to 79 cents. It may be the best thing you ever buy for under a dollar. Many visitors stand on the observation deck, surrounded by clouds of mist, while others hike about 30 minutes down the falls, then dive into a brisk, blue-green swimming hole beneath them. Others lounge around and enjoy picnics overlooking the falls and the eagles known to soar above them.

For the fewest crowds, visit outside the December and January tourist season. That goes for the entire Panorama Route. Don't miss Berlin Falls, Mac-Mac Falls, Bourke's Luck Potholes (which may bring to mind an awful commute but are actually an amazing canyon of sandstone tunnels, tubes, and bright blue pools), Adam's Calendar (like South Africa's Stonehenge), and so much more.

Macaquinho Falls, Brazil

How about 11 waterfalls for the price of one? Venture deep into the heart of the Amazon, and you'll find Macaquinho Falls, a series of 11 waterfalls flowing into one of the planet's oldest, most biodiverse regions. What's more, it's part of the Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, a 2-billion-year-old plateau and UNESCO World Heritage Site home to a seemingly endless variety of waterfalls, caves, and geological wonders.

Macaquinho Falls, from the Portuguese word for "monkey," is located about 30 miles from Alto Paraíso de Goias, itself a three-hour drive north of the inland capital of Brasília. Drive alongside the river, then walk about a half mile before the roaring falls beckon. At one of the waterfalls, the Cachoeira do Encontro (Waterfall of Encounter), two sets of cascading falls join into a deep blue swimming hole, and you can even swim into a cave behind it. At the Poço do Jump, the name says it all: you'll love jumping into the 30-foot turquoise pool below the falls.

If you want to ignore TLC's advice and go chasing all the waterfalls of this incredible region, consider booking a tour of all the waterfalls at Chapada dos Veadeiros. But for those of you who want these pools all to yourselves, don't worry — visitors say not many people are hardy enough to make the trek up to this hidden gem, but those who do are rewarded 11 times over.

Maraetotara Falls, New Zealand

It may not have been the greatest idea to put the New Zealand Wine Trail so close to a rope swing, though some may argue it was an excellent idea. But everyone seems to agree that the swimming lagoon into which the rope swing leads is one of the country's loveliest hidden gems.

Maraetotara Falls flow about 50 feet down into a crystal clear swimming hole beloved by locals but relatively unknown to tourists. Located amidst lush North Island forest, the lagoon is a peaceful spot to enjoy cool water and the sound of roaring falls. They are an easy 10-minute walk along the river from a parking lot and allow ample lounging and viewing space for anyone who doesn't feel like swimming or braving the rope swing.

Once you've dried off, there's the entire Hawke's Bay region to explore. Located on the eastern side of North Island, about halfway between Auckland and Wellington, this scenic region is best known as New Zealand's wine region and home of the aforementioned New Zealand Wine Trail. It's also a relatively flat cycling capital, and many bike tours travel between different wineries. Visitors can also enjoy the celebrated Art Deco architecture of nearby Napier and Hastings, which host the Art Deco Festival; Cape Kidnappers, home to the world's largest mainland colony of gannet birds; Lake Waikaremoana and its gorgeous walking track; Te Mata Peak, which boasts panoramic views of the region; and several other waterfalls and beautiful beaches.

Orlias Falls, Greece

Many of these otherworldly sites will make you feel like a god who can use the planet as a personal shower and plunge pool. But not too many of these waterfalls flow through the home of an entire pantheon of gods and goddesses.

The Orlias Waterfalls are a series of waterfalls that flow along the slopes of Mount Olympus in the northeastern area of Greece, the home of Zeus, Hera, Athena, Apollo, and the rest of their dysfunctional family. Like many royal families across Europe, they've opened their palace to visitors. Start at the evocative chapel of Agios Konstantinos and hike about an hour and a half along the Orlias Stream Trail through dense forest, scrub, and a flowing stream.

You'll eventually reach the Red Rock Waterfall, which is both the most dramatic and the least crowded. The godly falls tumble about 60 feet from the craggy Orlias Gorge into a large green pool, which visitors say feels bracingly refreshing after the long, hot hike. The falls pool into numerous other smaller pools nearby, which visitors say are a little busier. Go early in the day and avoid the summer months to get the pools all to yourself, save for the occasional nymph or centaur.

The whole 9,573-foot mountain takes about two days to climb — the gods don't want to make it too easy for the mortals. Consider a few tours that will guide you to where the Earth meets the heavens.


It was almost as tricky to compile this list as it is to get to many of these waterfalls. Chances are that if a waterfall has a swimming hole and is on some internet list, the word is out, and tourists flock to it. We found these spots mainly by searching for hidden waterfalls and swimming holes in countries across the seven continents. We then read Tripadvisor reviews to make sure they weren't crowded, looked at image searches, and watched YouTube videos to ensure they were indeed an appealing swimming hole under a waterfall and that there weren't many people around. Happy swimming!