8 Waterfalls You Have to See to Believe

Get reacquainted with Mother Nature through this collection of gorgeous cascades.
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Video: World's Best Waterfalls

Here are the top 10 must-visit waterfalls across the world.

10 of the World's Best Waterfalls in Action

 00:58

Dive in to these picture-perfect cascades seen around the world. 

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To Sua Ocean Trench, Samoa

To Sua Ocean Trench, Samoa

There’s swimming holes, then there’s To Sua Ocean Trench. This 100-foot-deep jade green, saltwater swimming hole is on a volcanic island in Samoa. It's nothing short of magical and worthy of a pilgrimage to the South Pacific alone. 960 1280

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Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

Bottomless Lakes State Park, New Mexico

New Mexico’s first state park, Bottomless Lakes, is home to eight small sinkholes filled with underground water. Swimmers love to take a dip in the deepest -- Lea Lake. The 90-foot-deep water gives the illusion it is bottomless because of its dark greenish-blue water and steep walls. 960 1280

New Mexico Tourism  

Rio Celeste River Waterfall, Costa Rica

Rio Celeste River Waterfall, Costa Rica

You haven’t seen blue until you arrive at Rio Celeste Waterfall in northern Costa Rica. This river and waterfall in Tenorio Volcano National Park are a surreal shade of piercing electric-blue due to volcanic minerals, and just as inviting are the numerous natural hot springs along the river’s edge. 960 1280

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Bassin Bleu, Haiti

Bassin Bleu, Haiti

Hidden in the hills outside Jacmel, Haiti, Bassin Bleu is an oasis of turquoise-blue pools and cascades. After a bumpy ride through palm-tree lined dirt roads, you’ll be rendered speechless when you arrive at Bassin Bleu’s highest waterfall that’s sure to have a few local boys taking jaw-dropping jumps into the shimmering swimming hole below.

Explore more of Haiti’s hidden gems with Haitian-led tour company EIM Adventures.

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EIM Adventures; Emily Winiker  

Seljavallalaug, Iceland

Seljavallalaug, Iceland

Escape the Blue Hole crowds for a more private dip in one of Iceland’s oldest geothermal pools. At the base of a narrow valley on the country’s south coast, Seljavallalaug is filled with hot spring water trickling down from volcano/glacier Eyjafjallajökull (yes, the one that erupted in 2010). 960 1280

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Ik-Kil Cenote, Mexico

Ik-Kil Cenote, Mexico

With an estimated 7,000 cenotes in the Yucatan, Ik-Kil, near Chichen Itza, Mexico, is known to be one of the most beautiful with crystal-clear waters and dramatic hanging roots. 960 1280

Randy Bonds  

Playa Nicuesa Waterfall, Costa Rica

Playa Nicuesa Waterfall, Costa Rica

After a day of hiking in the jungles of Piedras Blancas National Park, take a dip at the waterfall near Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, so remote that it is only accessible by boat. Listen for the sounds of the area’s howler monkeys and the calls of the area’s unique 250 species of birds. 960 1280

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Emma Gorge Waterfall, Western Australia

Emma Gorge Waterfall, Western Australia

With dramatic gorges, El Questro Wilderness Park in the remote area of Kimberly, Australia, wows visitors with its natural wonders, including this secluded waterfall and swimming hole amidst the towering cliffs of Emma Gorge. 960 1280

Tourism Western Australia  

Jellyfish Lake, Palau

Jellyfish Lake, Palau

This isolated saltwater lake on an uninhabited rock island in Palau, an archipelago paradise 500 miles from the Philippines, is known for its millions of golden jellyfish. But don’t worry, this special species only give a mild sting, making swimming here not only safe, but an unforgettable adventure. 960 1280

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Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland

When you think of Scotland, swimming holes might not come to mind, but a plunge into the crystal clear Fairy Pools on the River Brittle will certainly be nothing less than exhilarating (read: very cold) and perhaps a bit magical. Consider packing a wetsuit. 960 1280

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Dorset Quarry, Vermont

Dorset Quarry, Vermont

When the summer temps hit stifling levels in Vermont, there’s no place you’d rather be than at this 60-feet-deep swimming hole. Part of the country’s oldest marble quarry, there’s plenty of smooth stone ledges for basking in the sun or for taking a leap into the cool water below. 960 1280

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Saturnia Thermal Baths, Maremma, Italy

Saturnia Thermal Baths, Maremma, Italy

An hour’s drive south of Siena through the Chianti countryside, you'll find natural hot springs that border ancient Etruscan ruins. Saturnia's series of rock pools and cascades are opaque white due to the sulphurous minerals and hover around a steamy 98 degrees Fahrenheit. If you get too hot, cool off in the nearby Albegna Lake. 960 1280

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Queen’s Bath, Kauai

Queen’s Bath, Kauai

While this natural lava rock tide pool in Princeville, Kauai looks inviting, caution is extremely advised due to rapidly changing surf conditions and rogue waves. 960 1280

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Hamilton Pool Preserve, Austin, Texas

Hamilton Pool Preserve, Austin, Texas

In the outskirts of Austin, lies this jade green pool, part of a collapsed grotto and 50-foot-waterfall once revered by the Tonkawa and Lipan Apaches that lived in the area. Part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, Hamilton Pool requires reservations. 960 1280

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Blue Hole, Georgetown, Texas

Blue Hole, Georgetown, Texas

Texas summers are scorchers, but luckily the state has numerous swimming holes to take the edge of the heat. Blue Hole Park is home to a refreshing lagoon in the south fork of the Gabriel River that’s only a half-hour’s drive from Austin and offers free entrance. 960 1280

Rudy Ximenez  

Berekhat Zefira, Dead Sea Region, Israel

Berekhat Zefira, Dead Sea Region, Israel

For a truly under-the-radar waterhole, head to the Northern Negev in Israel’s Dead Sea region. With the expertise of a local guide, adventurous hikers can explore the hidden pools and water basins in the canyons northwest of Masada, just south of the Dead Sea. 960 1280

Triptip.com  

David Stream, Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, Israel

David Stream, Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, Israel

After hiking through the Ein Gedi, a nature reserve and national park with spectacular views of the Dead Sea, you’ll reach a waterfall oasis, a dramatic and refreshing contrast to the surrounding desert landscapes. 960 1280

Doron Nissim Israel Nature & Parks Authority  

Devils Bathtub, South Dakota

Devils Bathtub, South Dakota

In the Black Hills of South Dakota, there’s a deep swimming hole the locals have dubbed Devil’s Bathtub. Hike upstream to find a number of smaller hidden pools carved into the limestone, and even further you’ll come upon the ruins of the Cleopatra Mine north of the creek. 960 1280

South Dakota Tourism  

Cascada Verde, Ecuador

Cascada Verde, Ecuador

Located in the rainforest of the western slopes of Ecuador, the remote Cascada Verde waterfall can be reached on motorcycle with Ecuador Freedom Bike Tours. After a 20-minute hike through the rainforest, this waterfall offers a refreshing dip after riding the mountain curves. 960 1280

Ecuador Freedom Bike Tours  

Santa Rosa Blue Hole, New Mexico

Santa Rosa Blue Hole, New Mexico

An 80-foot deep crystal clear blue spring fed swimming hole and diving mecca, Santa Rosa Blue Hole is suprisingly located off Route 66, among the arid desert landscapes two hours east of Albuquerque. 960 1280

New Mexico Tourism  

Whale watching, Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego
Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego

Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego

Gray whales make the longest migration of any mammal on the planet -- and the western overlooks of Cabrillo National Monument are one of their pit stops. The peak time to see these massive 44-foot-long, 33-ton creatures is mid-January; they’re also visible from mid- to late December through March. 960 1280

Randy McEoin, flickr  

Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara, California

See the migration of the gray whales, as well as spot other marine life -- in fact, more than 27 types of whales and dolphins inhabit these waters at various times of year. The best times to go are February to early April for California grey whales; May to September for blue whales (the largest known animals to have ever existed), minke, humpback and, occasionally, right whales and orcas. 960 1280

Thinkstock   

Monterey Bay, California

Monterey Bay, California

Enjoy year-round whale-watching in Monterey Bay. Running alongside California’s central coast, the bay sees humpback and blue whales from April to December, and gray whales from December to April. The coast also attracts killer whales, who hunt gray whales during their migration north. 960 1280

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Kodiak Island, Alaska

Kodiak Island, Alaska

In addition to these cute sea otters, Alaska’s Kodiak Island sees gray whales, in April. In June, minke, sei, fin and humpback whales also visit these waters -- with fins and humpbacks a common sight from June to November. Another great time to visit is April: That’s when the annual Whale Fest Kodiak, a 10-day-long festival, celebrates the return of Eastern Pacific gray whales to Alaskan waters. 960 1280

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San Juan Islands, Washington

San Juan Islands, Washington

Orcas love the San Juan Islands, off Washington State. Three pods, known as the “Southern Residents,” usually make their appearance from mid-April to early October. Gray, minke and humpback whales also visit these waters, as do seals, porpoises, sea lions and otters. 960 1280

Thinkstock   

Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Vancouver Island, British Columbia

See killer whales, as well as humpback and Pacific grey whales, on a whale-watching tour of Vancouver Island. An estimated 85 orcas live in the waters around southern Vancouver and the southern Gulf Islands. Meanwhile, some 20,000 Pacific grey whales make their annual migration route along Vancouver Island’s west coast. Whale-watching season runs from March to November. 960 1280

Tourism Victoria/Frank Leung  

Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach

December through March is a prime time to see humpback whales at Virginia Beach. Fin whales -- the second largest animals alive today (behind the blue whale) -- also migrate through the area during the winter. In warmer months, from June to early September, see bottlenose dolphins, which frequently travel through the Chesapeake Bay area. 960 1280

Xavier de Jaureguiberry, flickr   

Long Island, New York

Long Island, New York

July through Labor Day are prime times to go whale-watching off Long Island, NY. Fin, humpback, minke, sperm, North Atlantic right, blue and sei whales are drawn to these waters to feast on schools of herring, sand eels and marine crustaceans. Whale-watching trips often leave from the historic town of Montauk, on the tip of Long Island’s south shore. 960 1280

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Cape May, New Jersey

Cape May, New Jersey

Not to be outdone, New Jersey also sees whale action. Beginning in March, humpback and finback whales, mostly 4- and 5-year-old juveniles, circulate in the Cape May Peninsula, at the southern tip of New Jersey, and feast on the waters’ abundant baitfish. Whale sightings continue through December. 960 1280

Alan Kotok, flickr  

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

See one of the world’s most important whale habitats. The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary spans 1,400 square miles of diverse marine ecosystems: Between 4,000 and 10,000 North Pacific humpback whales flock here each winter to bear and nurse their calves. 960 1280

Ryan Ozawa, flickr   

Coastal Waters off Florida

Coastal Waters off Florida

Sure, California and New England corner the market on whale-watching, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck in the Sunshine State. Your best bet is to take a dolphin cruise; you may just spot a North Atlantic right whale if you go between November and April. 960 1280

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission   

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor, Maine

Enjoy a summer whale-watching expedition in Bar Harbor, ME. Beginning in mid-April, hungry finback, minke and right whales travel to the area’s cool waters -- just 20 miles off the Maine coast -- to feast on sand eels, plankton, copepods and fish. Come October, the whales head south for warmer waters. 960 1280

Maine Office of Tourism   

Provincetown, Massachusetts

Provincetown, Massachusetts

Come spring, head to Provincetown, MA, where humpback, fin, minke and sei whales, as well as the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, frequent the waters off this coastal town through October. Another great spot for whale-watching is Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, just 5 miles north of Provincetown. 960 1280

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Gates of the Arctic National Park
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

It's not likely you'll plan a spur-of-the-moment trip to the Gates of the Arctic National Park: It requires serious planning to venture into this wild Alaskan spot above the Arctic Circle. 960 1280

By National Park Service, Alaska Region (Remote river in Gates of the Arctic) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

The remote park is accessible by bush plane, air taxi and, for the truly hardcore, on foot. Hikers may approach the park from Dalton Highway, but there are multiple river crossings along the way and no trails. 960 1280
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Once in the park, visitors are rewarded with sweeping valleys and rugged mountains, the tallest rising 8,510 feet at Mount Igikpak at the headwaters of the Noatak River. 960 1280

By National Park Service, Alaska Region (Noatak River) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

Washington state has its share of glaciers with more than 300 mountain glaciers in North Cascades National Park. Get your bearings at any of the park's 6 visitor or service centers where maps and exhibit rooms can help you plan excursions.  960 1280

By Walter Siegmund (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

The Ross Lake National Recreation Area is a popular starting point for the 400 miles of trails that meander through the valleys and cut through the mountains with switchbacks and rocky terrain. 960 1280
North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

The mountains are dotted with the glaciers as well as more than 127 alpine lakes and cascading waterfalls. The most popular waterfalls can be found at Gorge Falls along State Route 20 in between Newhalem and Diablo and Rainbow Falls in Stehekin Valley. 960 1280
Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park is a diverse spot with quiet deserts, caves and dense forests filled with 5,000-year-old bristlecone pines. It's remarkable that this is one of the least-visited national parks, often dismissed as a wasteland. 960 1280
Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park

Go underground at Lehman Caves, an ornate marble cave filled with stalactites, stalagmites and over 300 rare shield formations. 960 1280
Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park

Stargazers will delight in the view from Great Basin, one of the darkest spots in the country after the sun goes down. You'll want to spend the night so you can marvel at the Milky Way and constellations in the deep night sky, a rare treat as light pollution blocks the view from many cities around the country. 960 1280
Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park

The state of Florida gets hordes of visitors each year, but somehow Dry Tortugas plays host to only a small fraction of them. This cluster of 7 islands is just 70 miles west of Key West, but its quiet island pace sets it apart from its nearest neighbors. 960 1280

By Joe Parks from Berkeley, CA (Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park

The waters around the islands are filled with coral reefs teeming with interesting marine life that are perfect for a snorkeling trip.  960 1280
Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park

Scuba divers explore the Windjammer Wreck, a complete wreck site featuring an impressive sailing ship that sank in 1907. Back on the beach, sea turtles build nests in the sand where they lay their eggs along these protected sandy shores. 960 1280
Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park

Michigan's remote Isle Royale National Park is accessible only by boat or seaplane, so leave your car behind, and set sail from Houghton or Cooper Harbor in Michigan or Grand Portage in Minnesota. 960 1280
Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park

Once there, get ready for a day of backcountry hiking or navigating the lakes, bays and islands in a kayak or canoe. If you're not an experienced paddler, avoid the frigid water and possible squalls on a guided boat tour. 960 1280
Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park

To extend your trip, spend the night at the Rock Harbor Lodge, found in the island's northeast corner, with simple rooms and cottages overlooking the lake. 960 1280
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