30KM TREK TO TIFE WATERFALL IN PANAMA
A journey of 30km with over 2000-meters of incline through the forest of Omar Torrijos National Park to reach the epic Tife Waterfall in Panama. It isn’t for the faint-hearted but it is an incredible experience and off the beaten path to say the least! If you are game the adventure to Tife Waterfall challenges you!
Photos by myself @jerryfit
In this blog post, I will share with you my experience of hiking to Tife Waterfall. We camped overnight and made it to Tife Waterfall 2. However, we didn’t quite plan it right and missed Tife 1. It wasn’t a disaster as Tife Waterfall 2 is the main attraction. I will tell you the best schedule to successfully see both waterfalls and have an enjoyable hike. Just a hot tip, this is best enjoyed as a 2-3 day adventure.
WHERE IS TIFE WATERFALL
Tife Waterfall is in Omar Torrijos National Park. There are several other hikes and viewpoints within the National Park so you may consider staying for a few days. The map below shows that it is only a couple of hours from Panama City.
There is a ranger station at the entrance to Omar Torrijos National Park. Here you will sign in to the park and listen to advice from the rangers who will ask where you are intending to go. To get to this ranger station you already have to hike two kilometers up the road unless you have a strong 4×4 available. Most cars will stop at the foot of the hill so you can walk up the 2km to the ranger station.
From the ranger station, you follow the road for 11km’s until you reach a house on your right-hand side. Here you can ask the locals to be your guide for a fee or you can continue on if you think you know the way and can navigate through the jungle. I will show more details of where to turn and the house I’m talking about in the blog post below.
TIFE WATERFALL HIKE IN OMAR TORRIJOS NATIONAL PARK
The hike begins at the bottom of the hill, in a non-descript area next to a small waterfall. If you have a 4×4 you can continue further but for most, you will begin at the foot of the hill and hike the 2km to the official start, which is marked by a big sign and a ranger station. We signed our names and crossed the official starting line.
We had Jerry Moreno, a local hiking expert, with us for the trip as per usual. However, he had never been to Tife Waterfall. We didn’t really know what we were getting in to. Already sweating and drenched from the first 2 kilometers of incline we headed off towards Tife Waterfall. A small dog ran out of the rangers office to join us. Remarkably he stayed with us for the next two days.
As we set off, the early part of the trail continues along a steady road with incline but nothing too crazy. In fact, it is similar to the Volcan Baru hike, because cars can actually drive along this part of the trail although the road is in terrible condition. With all of our camping gear on our backs, we slowly made our way to the first pit stop. After a couple of kilometers, we reached Calvario viewpoint. A big cross is on the right of the trail with spectacular views out across the valley. This is actually a popular tourist spot with people paying for a tour guide to drive them all the way to to the top.
The view was nice but nothing out of this world. I couldn’t imagine enduring the bumpy road for that viewpoint but each to their own. From this point, the trail hit a point of decline and some pretty rough muddy sections. It was almost slower than the incline as we dodged the potholes and the mud, hopping from the left to the right.
Luckily we avoided any rain but the tropical conditions had us saturated from start to finish. It was a wet hike!
There are a few forks in the road, which you will need to stick to the main trail on. However, there is a point where you will veer to the left on a smaller trail as the road dips down dramatically. I have included the photo below to show you which point this is and where to go. You can see Jerry is on the trail and you should NOT head down the road to the right. There are three skinny trees there for your reference.
I have also included a WikiLoc map, which shows you the exact route a successful hiker took. This hiker reached both Tife 1 and 2, which we, unfortunately, did not as we were unaware of how long the trek would take.
A sketchy bridge that was falling apart was our next challenge and we nervously scurried across the rotting wooden boards that were all that kept us from the river below. The dog didn’t seem to be nervous at all as he leaped across the meter long gaps without a care in the world. After crossing the bridge we were within an hour of our meeting our guide, Macedonio, at his house.
Here we would offload our gear, have a quick lunch and head off to the waterfall with Macedonio as our guide. A guide isn’t necessary but it was very helpful as it isn’t a clear trail. This isn’t heavily trafficked so there are a lot of half trails that you might not be sure of. We paid Macedonio $10 per person and he let us sleep in the Cabana, made us coffee and talked story with us. When we left he gave me this hat as a present.
After we left the house it was a two-hour journey through the jungle at a ferocious pace. We bounded over rocks, ducked through caves and squeezed through crevasses. Our guide spotted a Tapir, Tigrido and several frogs along the way. Although we were all gasping for air and tired as hell, we couldn’t help but notice some of the insane species of plants in the area. Notably, there were some metallic green leaves that seemed to fake to be real!
After 16 kilometers, we finally heard the waterfall and rushed through the last moments of the hike before Tife Waterfall was revealed. A huge booming waterfall split it’s way through the mountain range and crashed into the dark, precarious pool below. The cliff underneath the waterfall had fallen away halfway down so you could see clearly the shelf of water falling gracefully through the air.
Be warned the rocks around Tife Waterfall are wet constantly and it couldn’t have been any slicker. We slowly shuffled our way around the rocks to enjoy the uninterrupted view of this beast of a waterfall. As always my favorite part was seeing this epic waterfall from the air. I always notice different aspects to a location from the sky and this was no different. I could see the canyon between the mountains above the waterfall when I flew up high and it was a remarkable sight.
After a quick hour at the waterfall, we headed back to the house, showered under the tap and ate a quick dinner. We slept on the wooden boards in our sleeping bags and had a pretty decent nights sleep. Macedonio woke us up in the morning with a cup of coffee, which was a welcome brew.
It was awesome to wake up in the mountains and watch the first light battle with the fog in the valleys. We packed up and headed off early back towards the ranger station. It took us a total of four grueling hours to return to the ranger station.
HOW BEST TO DO TIFE WATERFALLS
After having seen the terrain, met the guides and hiked the route, I have some recommendations for how I would suggest you plan your trip. I highly suggest either two days or three days with the following schedule.
OPTION 1: 3 DAY JOURNEY
- Day 1: Hike for 11kms to Macedonio’s house(4-5 hours) Set up camp and rest.
- Day 2: Visit Tife 1 and Tife 2
- Day 3: Hike back out (4-5 hours)
OPTION 2: 2 DAY JOURNEY
- Day 1: Hike for 11kms to Macedonio’s house (4-5 hours) Set up camp and rest.
- Day 2: Wake up before sunrise and Visit Tife 1 and Tife 2. Have lunch back at the house. Hike back out (4-5 hours).
ADVENTURE BAG FROM TIFE 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!