The Amazonian Waterfall Paradise

Just a two hour journey from the capital Manaus, is the small Amazonian town of Presidente Figueiredo.  Nestled in the midst of a environmental protection zone, it’s a mecca for waterfalls (cachoeiras) with some 159 documented falls that range from 3 to 30 meters (9.8 to 98 feet) in height.  Awesome, right?!  I was definitely stoked about it the first time I heard about it.

There’s a few problems visitors, however, especially non-Portuguese speaking foreigners will encounter.  If you don’t want to book a tour, it can be difficult to get to the waterfalls as almost all of them lie some distance from the town itself, along the BR-174 and AM-240, and many of them have an entrance fee (even the ones that are not super impressive).   So here’s what I discovered on my hikes and which waterfalls are worth it and how much time I think you should afford each of them.

Cachoeira Orquídeas

This one is free and it close enough to town that you can walk or pay 5 reais for a mototaxi so there’s really no reason to not visit.  It’s an relaxing 6 km there and back along another wide and well-kept track.  The waterfall is decently sized and getting in for a dip was no problem.  I’d say 1-2 hours is perfect for this one.

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Gruta do Raio

A short distance from Cachoeira Orquídeas is another attraction that’s free and definitely worth a visit.  It takes only 10-15 minutes to get down to the cave so this is a half hour stop.  Feel free to take a shower under the running water and please don’t carve your name into the rock:)

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Cachoeira Neblina

This is the biggest waterfall in the area and also one that was fairly difficult to reach, but I highly recommend it because it was amazing.  That being said, it’s only for people who aren’t afraid of a trek in the jungle.

Not really sure if I would call this a 'trail', but it wasn't too difficult to stay on track.

Not really sure if I would call this a ‘trail’, but it wasn’t too difficult to stay on track.

I easily hitchhiked to the entrance which is situated at KM-51 of the AM-240 towards Vila Balbina (there’s no bus so aside from that the options are rent a motorcycle/car or pay a mototaxi).  It had a modest 5 reais entrance fee (bring exact change; I only had a 50 but was bailed out by my ride who decided to pay for me).  The trail is roughly 12 km roundtrip and very much jungle, rather overgrown, with plenty of large trees and brush laying in the way.  Aside from the turns to get around fallen trees, the trail is mostly straight until it terminates at the river, at which point you must go left up and along the river for 10 minutes or so, finally descending steeply to the bottom of the waterfall.  It’s fairly easy to stay on track though the left turning track towards the waterfall was somewhat difficult to find.  Stepping only a few feet off can leave you totally bewildered.  I spent some 20 terrifying minutes trying to untangle myself from the thickness of the forest and only managed because I was at the end and had the sound of the rushing river to guide me.

spider, rainforest

I wanted to see a leopard, but instead it was mostly spiders.

It was a 4 hour roundtrip for me, but I didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked at the waterfall because I began later than I expected.  You could easily spend 6-7 hours and I think the best idea is to start early, 8 am-ish, or camp.  You shouldn’t camp unless you’re in a group and prepared.   I got plenty of warning about leopards and snakes even during the day.  Thankfully, snakes weren’t a danger in the water because nothing feels as great as jumping in after a getting drenched in sweat during the hike (humid and over 100 degrees).

cachoeira da neblina

Cachoeira da Pedra Furada

Up the road from Cachoeira da Neblina, on AM-240 KM-58, lies Cachoeira da Pedra Furada.  It’s a 5 reais entrance and the hike is 15-20 minutes down a reasonably well maintained trail.

This waterfall is pretty unique as far as things go, gushing out in from some holes in the rock.  Since it’s fairly distant from town, it stays relatively empty (I didn’t see anyone the whole time I was there).  Perfect if you want a secluded spot to hang out by a waterfall and go for a swim.

cachoeira da pedra furada, presidente figueiredo

Cachoeira Santuário

This is one of the most popular waterfalls and I think it’s worth going to because it was impressive.  No need to break a sweat here though.  The ‘hike’ was barely 10 minutes on well kept and lined track.  It’s 10 reais to enter and there are many tours.  Santuário is located on the AM-240 at KM-12, not too far from town.

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Parque do Urubuí

I think everyone must automatically visit the Urubuí complex because it’s where most the lodgings and restaurants are and part of the town.  On weekends the place is full of day-trippers from Manaus, but it seems fairly abandoned during the week.  It’s perfect for swimming and hanging out to drink (I swear Brazilians try to make everything a beach climate).  The two best things here are tubing and a zipline across the water.

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Cachoeira da Iracema

This complex is located on KM-115 of BR-174 some kilometers away from P.F. and isn’t just the site of the waterfall, but also some kind of hotel with a pool and sports courts — I only went to the waterfall.  It’s 10 reais entrance and it’s definitely worth it because not only gives you access to Cachoeira da Iracema, but also Cachoeira das Araras, Gruta da Onça, and Gruta Palacio do Galo da Serra.

Gruta Palacio do Galo da Serra

Gruta Palacio do Galo da Serra

The hike in is short, first passing by the Gruta Palacio do Galo da Serra before turning to a boardwalk that goes up and around Iracema and continuing on towards Gruta da Onça.

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Cachoeira da Iracema

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After Gruta da Onça it’s another 1 km to Cachoeira das Araras on a trail completely covered by tree roots.  It isn’t difficult, but there’s plenty of sections that get muddy and watery.  But it’s definitely worth it to go see the red double fall.  I was tempted to go to the little island that separates the two, but I was short on time and didn’t have anyone to photograph me out there anyway.

gruta da onça, iracema falls,

Gruta da Onça

Gruta do Maroaga + Gruta da Judeia

This hike is only available with a guide and sounds like normally it’s 100 reais to go down (which I think is distributed within the group).  Anyway, there were four of us plus a toddler and each of us paid 20 reais so it was the most expensive visit, but one of the nicer hikes.

Gruta da Maruaga,

Gruta da Maruaga

Gruta da Judeia

Gruta da Judeia

Cachoeira Berro D’Agua

Has a restaurant and a cool abandoned hotel structure.  The waterfall itself isn’t very big, but it’s nice because you can drive right up and hang out without paying anything.  Good if you’re looking for a place to have lunch and take a swim to cool off without having to make any kind of trek.

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Cachoeira da Natal

Super cool and free, but difficult to reach.  I was lucky enough to get picked up by some guy who said the waterfall was on his property and he personally rowed me down the river.  We walked back to his house on an flooded trail and he told me hardly anyone ever comes there because it’s difficult.  I imagine you could hitch pretty easily as people live along the road or find a driver, but keep asking for directions because the only thing I can say for certain is you turn left at the ‘Sitio Paraiso’ sign.

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Cachoeira da Onça

About a kilometer up the road from Urubuí on the BR-174 is Cachoeira da Onça.  I thought the entrance price of 10 reais was expensive for what you were getting, but I guess it pays for the really nicely maintained trail.  The walk is about 20-30 minutes, but you can stop and sit on a bench by the banks of  a river for a while if you want.

cachoeira da onça

Check out my video portrait of the waterfalls around Presidente Figueiredo!

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