The waterfalls of Ola are a spectacle that could be argued to be among the best series of waterfalls in Panama. Two huge waterfalls are accompanied by many smaller cascades and watering holes, which on clear days boast beautiful blue waters.
HOW TO GET TO OLA WATERFALLS IN COCLE
As you can see on the map below there is a road that takes you quite close to the waterfall. This isn’t a huge hike. However, depending on what type of vehicle you have will depend on how close to the trailhead you can get. We had a small 4×4 and managed to get quite close to the trailhead, which you can see is on the left of the road below.
You will first reach the bottom waterfall, which has a series of cascades and waterholes to explore. The trail will spit you out at a point where you need to head left to look down on the first huge waterfall.
Then you will head upstream to reach the main waterfall of Ola. If you zoom in on the map below and follow the river upwards you can actually see it on the map. I would study this map for a few moments to get your bearings so you know where all the key points are before you get out there.
To head upstream you can either boulder and rock climb up the stream or find the path to the left-hand side of the river. The bouldering and rock climbing is for medium to advanced climbers and involved some problem-solving. I would recommend the path to the majority of tourists and only attempt to boulder your way up to the main waterfall if you are confident in your athletic ability to do so. It took about 20-30 minutes to boulder our way up to the main waterfall.
EXPLORING THE OLA WATERFALLS
We parked the car as close as we could and crawled under the barb wire fence (It still makes me smile that so many hikes in Panama begin with a barb wire situation. It reminds me how raw the adventures are here and also reminds me of the responsibility to promote these locations with the intent on sustainability and environmental awareness.
As the trek follows a path through the bushes you can see the main Ola waterfall in the distance, its quite a pretty walk looking up to the final destination. The trail then heads up into the tropical forest, where the sweating begins as does the incline. There is nothing too difficult about this trail, although it is a little rugged. Most people with a decent fitness level will find it relatively easy. After about 30 minutes after parking the car, we had reached the first falls!
Unfortunately for us, heavy rains the day before had gifted us with brown waters throughout the series of cascades. However, in better conditions, my local friends had told me that the water is similar to Pozo Azul and you can enjoy crystal clear blue waters. We still swam and had a great time, but I just don’t want you to be discouraged by the water. It isn’t dirty it is just after a heavy rain and the water is normally amazing!
At this point, we put down our bags and began to explore, rock climb and even ventured down the cliff-face alongside the huge waterfall that poured down below us.
This was a really cool area to hang out and refresh before making the trek up to the main waterfall. There is so much to explore at Ola waterfalls and I do suggest spending the whole day or at least half a day here. We spent a total of 6 hours at the waterfalls and actually didn’t want to leave!
As I mentioned in the directions above, you have two options for how to reach the main waterfall. Boulder up the stream or take the path to the left of the stream. We decided to boulder. It was actually quite difficult in parts and required some interesting maneuvers. In the hot sun of the afternoon we sweated, leaped and bounded our way to the top in about 30-minutes without any injuries or incidents.
The main waterfall was a sight to behold. It was aggressive and the pool it flowed down into was a scene of carnage. Huge rocks were littered everywhere from previous falls most likely and the water smashed down onto one of the rocks spraying up with pure force.
There are lots of things to do at the main Ola waterfall.
- You can head around to the right and actually get right behind the waterfall. From here you can enjoy a small cave and watch the waterfall spray right in front of you with beautiful views of the mountains in the background.
- Of course, you can swim. We couldn’t see the depth so we tentatively paddled around looking out for rocks in the murky water. Because of the water clarity, we definitely didn’t cliff jump although I think it may have been deep enough after I did a few dives. My rule is that if I’m not 100% confident in the safety of the water I don’t jump. I was nervous about landing on a random rock so I passed. Make sure you take responsibility for your own decisions and never jump based on a blog or a friends recommendation. Rocks can move, water levels can change and you can do some tragic damage if you blindly jump into the water.
- One of my favorite things to do was to get underneath the waterfall. It was so strong we couldn’t get quite underneath but even from 10 yards away we got absolutely hammered by the ferocity of the downpour. It was like a scene from a movie!
- After all of this exploring, we hung out on the big rock in the sun, ate our packed lunches and took a nap before heading back out!
There is also a viewpoint for Ola Waterfalls if you prefer not to hike all the way in. I actually only saw it when I flew my drone up to the mountain but there is a love heart shape on top of the mountain that looks down with a great view of the main waterfall as you can see below.
Heading out we decided to to take the path (now on your right) but managed to get lost a couple of times. My local friend assured me it was simple to follow so I am either blind or is it a bit hard to follow at some points. we ended up coming back the second half of the way by bouldering down the river.
ADVENTURE BAG FROM OLA WATERFALLS
This is an adventure bag. It is full of trash. Every time I go on an adventure I collect one adventure bag full of trash. It’s my small way of saying thanks to mother nature for allowing me to enjoy her beautiful creations. If we have time to go on an adventure we have time to collect an adventure bag on the way back out of the trail once we have enjoyed the waterfall, the hike or the beach. Adventure hard!