The Best Known Waterfalls in North America

From the iconic Niagara to the tropical splendour of Dunn's River, read on to discover North America's best waterfalls.

Travel and Exploration
20 April 2023

Stretching almost from the North Pole to the Equator, the North American continent is the third largest in the world and encompasses incredibly diverse landscapes. And yet, waterfalls seem to be everywhere. Whether mountainous or coastal, icy or tropical, the waterfalls of North America find a way.

So, what are North America’s best waterfalls and what makes them stand out? What’s the tallest waterfall in North America? Read on to discover the answer to these questions and more.

Niagara Falls | USA/Canada

Probably the most famous of all the waterfalls of North America is Niagara Falls. This iconic crest of rushing water measures some 2,200 feet across, over the edge of which some six million cubic feet of water plummets every single minute.

Located on the border between the United States and Canada, it’s actually made up of three separate falls – Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls.

While there’s no doubt that Niagara is one of the continent’s great watery wonders, it is by no means alone. Indeed, even when only accounting for the US and Canada, both are overflowing with more. For example, notable waterfalls in Canada include Quebec’s thundering 272-foot tall Montmorency Falls, and Alberta’s frothy Athabasca Falls. Meanwhile in British Columbia, Helmcken Falls in Wells Gray Provincial Park plummets an impressive 463 feet.

Yosemite Falls | USA

Upper Yosemite Falls (Photo: Sathish Jothikumar via Getty Images)

Standing at a height of approximately 2,425 feet, Yosemite Falls is often cited as the tallest waterfall in North America. Made up of a series of successive plunge falls, Yosemite Falls is one of many cataracts in Yosemite National Park and is at its peak in May, when snowmelt causes the water flow to increase dramatically.

Whether Yosemite is in fact the tallest US or North American waterfall is the subject of some debate. There are those who argue that this is in fact located in Whatcom County in Washington State. There, a waterway known as Colonial Creek is said to drop over 2,500 feet, although its remote location makes this difficult to confirm. Still others reference Canada’s James Bruce Falls as being taller than both.

Havasu Falls | USA

Havasu falls (Photo: Putt Sakdhnagool via Getty Images)

The riotous contrast of brilliant aqua-blue waters and blazing travertine rocks makes Havasu Falls one of the most visually compelling waterfalls in North America. Raining down around 100 feet into a shimmering pool, this is one of a number of waterfalls located within the Havasupai Indian Reservation in Arizona.

Hierve el Agua | Mexico

Hierve el Agua (Photo: Glow Images via Getty Images)

The spectacular mineral formations and turquoise cascades of Mexico’s Hierve el Agua make it amongst the most beautiful waterfalls in North America. The mineral-rich water flows from the cliff face, creating a series of terraced pools and small falls down the rocky cliffs. The pools are fed by underground springs and are surrounded by stunning rock formations that have been shaped by thousands of years of erosion. And Mexico has yet more stunning surprises in store in the form of its cenotes. Located mainly in the Yucatan Peninsula, cenotes are subterranean bodies of water created by sinkholes. Many of them, like Xcanche and Ik, are home to beautiful waterfalls.

Salto El Limón | Dominican Republic

Salto El Limón (Photo: Daniel Van Pelt via Getty Images)

The Dominican Republic is home to many picturesque North American waterfalls, including the 27 cascades of Damajagua. One of the country’s most famous waterfalls is Salto El Limón. Amid the dense jungle vegetation in the eastern Samaná Peninsula, its waters descend in shimmering strands some 130 feet down the rocks to a turquoise pool below.

La Fortuna Waterfall | Costa Rica

La Fortuna Waterfall (Photo: Andres Alvarado via iStock)

In Central America, Costa Rica is home to the stunning La Fortuna Waterfall, nestled near the imposing Arenal Volcano. This captivating cascade descends more than 200 feet, creating a picturesque natural pool below.

Thousand Foot Falls | Belize

Thousand Foot Falls (Photo: KaraGrubis via Getty Images)

Some of North America’s best waterfalls are found in Belize, including what is known as Thousand Foot Falls. Set within the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, this dramatic cataract actually drops 1,600 feet.

Dunn's River Falls | Jamaica

Dunn's River Falls (Photo: jasoncowellphoto via Getty Images)

Dunn’s River Falls is one of Jamaica’s most popular national treasures and it’s easy to see why. This natural wonder near Ocho Rios is a series of terraced limestone waterfalls that flow directly into the Caribbean Sea. Set on a white sand beach surrounded by lush green vegetation and exotic flowers, it’s the very epitome of a tropical paradise.

The Waterfalls of North America

High angle view of North American waterfall (Photo: Nick Strecker / EyeEm via Getty Images)

North American waterfalls are as diverse as the landscapes they inhabit. And, while we’ve revealed some of the best cascades, chutes and plunges the continent has to offer, there’s a wealth of additional wonders to explore.

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