Six things nobody tells you about Iguazu Falls

iguazu falls brazil

Yesterday, we shared our experience visiting Iguazu Falls, one of South America’s natural highlights.

We covered the experience of the visit to the Falls, like most travel publications tend to do. After all, that’s why we all go up to this corner of the jungle.

But no one talks about what the actual trip there is like. So today we are talking about the things that nobody tells you about your trip to Iguazu Falls:iguazu falls dani with falls

It is not cheap or easy to visit Iguazu Falls.

Iguazu Falls are located on the border between Brazil and Argentina, out of the way of any other destination in either country.  The only way the falls can be on the way anywhere is if you happen to be traveling overland through Paraguay (which most people aren’t). So likely you’re detouring to make a special trip here.

In total, we spent $1,000 for a four-day trip, traveling by buses and staying in the cheapest hostel we could find available. Here’s how:

Getting there is expensive. Buses are your cheapest option. On the Brazil side, Sao Paulo and Florianopolis, the closest biggest cities, are both just under 16 hours away by bus. From Buenos Aires it is a full 24-hour bus ride, and our trip from Rosario was 20 hours and cost ARS480, or $95 US dollars per ticket and our onward journey Puerto Iguazu to Salta was another ARS590, or $115 per person.

iguazu falls garganta del diablo close-upThis is one of the world’s major natural wonders, so there is obviously an airport. Buenos Aires is a two-hour flight, but flights are normally around $350 one way.

Hotels and hostels have inflated rates, and even places with mediocre reviews are overpriced and quickly booked. We paid ARS245 / $48, for a double room in giant, mediocre hostel with carpet that may have not been vacuumed in years. Unless you are on a shoestring budget, we would recommend to choose a place with better reviews, but that will bump you up to more per night.

Iguazu Falls admission rates are another extra cost on top. Per person we paid ARS60 / $12 for the bus to the Falls and back, plus ARS170 / $34 entrance and another ARS150 / US$30 for the boat ride – which we really recommend doing, too. So that is $76 total per person, plus Dani paid BRZ41.66 / $21 admission to visit the Brazilian side of the Falls, plus ARS8 / $1.60 for the bus to the border and ARS12 / US$2.40 (each way) from the border to the Falls.

iguazu falls waterfalls viewing platformIn total, the actual visit to the Falls cost us $181, and would have cost $210 had Jess come to the Brazilian side (plus an extra $140 for a 90-day visa that U.S. citizens must pay).

Our tip: Don’t leave planning to the last minute. Booked in advance, a return flight from Buenos Aires could have cost under $400 – twice the price of a bus ticket, but saving you two entire days of your life on a not very comfortable bus. Another great option to save money is booking in advance a complete tour package with a local travel agency from Argentina.

Consider a visit to the nearby historic Jesuit Missions in Paraguay, a UNESCO World Heritage site, while you are in the area. It’s just a two hour trip from Puerto Iguazu, Argentina.

iguazu falls waterfalls

Puerto Iguazu is a dump

Considering that Puerto Iguazu is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Argentina, the town leaves much to be desired.

Other popular tourist towns in Argentina – Bariloche, Cafayate, El Calafate, Ushuaia, are solid cities. They have great infrastructure for tourism and in general felt on par with similar places in Europe or the U.S. Puerto Iguazu feels much more like a developing country, only restaurants and souvenir shops line the streets, most hotels are in urgent need of renovation, and there were many child beggars walking barefoot from table to table all day throughout town.iguazu hostelsOur tip: Try to find a good deal for a nicer hotel on or a hostel with excellent ratings on Hostelbookers, and book well in advance. Splurge at some of the nicer restaurants – we loved La Rueda, an upscale restaurant on Avenida Córdoba 28.

puerto iguazu pasta at la rueda

The real stars of Iguazu are not the Falls!

coati warning signSure, the Falls are why we are all here and are by the far the most stunning aspect of your trip to the park. But you rarely hear about the coatis (a raccoon-like animal) that feel like the true main attraction. From the minute you pass through the gates, you’ll be met by dozens of coatis roaming freely.


Tourists are constantly snapping pictures of them, possibly more than of the Falls. They kneel down and get so close to them – but don’t be fooled. These buggers BITE. They steal food, rummage through bags and depending on how many there are – they can get rather aggressive. There are very large, very graphic warning signs showing what a coati bite looks like, but in true tourist mode, people from around the world still get frightening close to them, feed them or even pet them!

Our tip: Don’t feed the coatis and keep a safe distance if you don’t want to pay for a rabies shot. If they smell food, they are likely to bite you.

Coatis Iguazu Falls

The nature around the Falls is spectacular.

Staring at the Falls for hours, getting lost in imagining all that water rushing by your eyes every second – that’s the core reason you visit Iguazu Falls. But the wildlife here is amazing, and more than almost anything else, we’ll remember the butterflies, hundreds of them, fluttering around us as we wandered along the trails and through the gorgeous jungle here. There are colorful birds, huge catfish in the river, crocodiles, those pesky coatis and monkey and jaguars, (albeit the last two we didn’t personally see).

Our tip: Take some time for a picnic – bring your own food, as the food in the park is overpriced and lackluster – and really take in the jungle scenery as well, not only the Falls.

Iguazu Falls Wildlife

The National Park is huge!

While the Brazilian side is pretty manageable with only one walkway (1.2 km long / 0.75 miles), the maze of walkways on the Argentine side is much bigger than we expected. While you can see Niagara Falls easily in a couple of hours, you can wander the walkways at Iguazu Falls for hours and hours. The upper trail, the lower trail, the trail on St Martin’s Island, the trail to the Devil’s Throat. If you’re also planning to take a boat ride, you can easily spend six hours in the park, especially as the little train ride from the entrance to the first set of trails takes a while, as does the train ride to the Devil’s Throat (Garganta Del Diablo).

Our tip: Plan at least half a day for your visit to make sure you have enough time to walk all the trails, and have time to take in the falls from all the viewing platforms. We wouldn’t advise to attempt seeing the Brazilian side and the Argentine side in one day.

Iguazu Falls with jungle

The weather is iffy.

Iguazu Falls are in a tropical region and it rains. A lot. Being in the densely humid jungle, it can rain hard for a few hours or a whole day. We saw plenty of package tourists trucking it out to the Falls the first two days we were in town because they had their one day and it was time to move on.

Our tip: Err on the side of unpredictable tropical weather and give yourself a couple of days’ leeway so you can opt to go on the sunniest day possible. Trust us, the sun sparkling off the water, countless rainbows and all those butterflies make waiting a day or two totally worth it.

iguazu falls rainbow

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    1. Karisa – yes, inflation seems to be out of control in Argentina right now. I hope the economic situation calms down soon, so that travel gets more affordable again… because everybody should go and see these falls 🙂

  1. This post and “She said, She said: The Detour to Iguazu Falls” were fantastic, Girls. Totally my favorite style of travel blogging: great stories that are personal, real, informative and telling it like it is… with style, charm and wit. The photos are brilliant, too. p.s. Berlin misses you.
    Justin (Lotus Artichoke) recently posted..Kochen ohne Knochen Interview

  2. Justin hit it on the nose. Great post. If you’re looking for feedback on what to write about, this is it. “The rest of the story”. Guide books and tourists sites generally give the rosy view of places to visit. I like that you present the real costs from personal experience. Keep it up.

  3. Nice pictures! Jess has been slimmed down for a while and you both look great. Why not put a newer pic of Jess for “Wonder When I Wander” etc.

    1. Carolyn – your comment made Jess’ day 😀 Thanks for the kind words! You had noticed it before and mentioned to change the pics – well, we are happy to let you know that we are in the middle of a huge redesign and will update all our photos and feature pics for our series! We hope it’ll go live soon.

  4. Such a great trip. Love both your posts on the Falls. This one is FANTASTICALLY helpful!! Thanks for all the very detailed pricing info, and specific tips. This post definitely tips me over the edge of wanting to go. 🙂

    1. Hi Austin, thanks for your input! We had seen that some bus companies advertised a journey of only 16.5 hours, but that seems impossible! Even our ride took almost 22 hours (2 hours longer than they had said) from Rosario, which is another four hours from Buenos Aires en route to Iguazu. Thanks for the link, super helpful with all the prices!

      1. You re right to say that takes 20 hrs from Rosario, as the same website confirms:

        However, explanation is that the routes from Buenos Aires doesn’t go through Rosario, but closer to the borders of Brazil and Uruguay, therefore saving some time on the road. Moreover, since demand is higher from Buenos Aires, some services do fewer stops by charging a premium.

        There is a link under each of the services that details the stops on the route.

        I can testify that trip duration indicated in this website tends to be accurate (under normal conditions) after using it for travelling within Argentina for 3 years :). And unfortunately I can also testify about inflation …. you have to mention that many restaurants even don’t have their prices printed since tend to change from month to month!

        Still, just got to mention that this is a great post. These pieces of information are great for first-time travelers to these natural wonders! Cheers.

  5. Wow, the prices have gone up massively! I went in 2008 and it was nowhere near as expensive. It is definitely worth the price though I think. One tip I would give is to take waterproof suncream with you. I put on suncream before, but as soon as I was at the devil’s throat I got so soaked that all the cream had washed off. I didn’t realize at the time, but I had a massive sunburn by the end of the day.
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Flashback Friday: The day I met Diego Maradona

    1. Tammy – I know, it’s crazy how much more expensive Argentina has gotten! We used prices we had seen on blogs from 2010 as a reference before we got there, but found out that everything was twice the price! In less than 3 years! Inflation was out of control – even in the few months we spent there, prices increased noticeably.

      And thanks for the tip with the sunscreen, which we should have included 🙂

  6. Great post girls, I love reading your blog! One other money saving tip is to ask for a discount for paying cash when booking the bus from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu. Our bus was 30% cheaper than advertised and it only took 18 hours.

  7. I went in Feb. of 2012 and had a completely different experience. I still don’t see how you guys spent so much money for a 4-day trip.

    I took a semi-cama sleeper bus from BsAs to Iguazu, and then another to Floripa. Took a boat under the falls. The entire 4 or 5 days including transportation couldn’t have cost me more than $200 (minus the cost of the Brazilian visa).
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    1. Well, it wasn’t all that difficult to spend it, considering we spent $200 for accommodation, $180 to see the Falls, $420 for transportation there and back, and around $200 for meals during our four days there. Between the two of us, of course 🙂

  8. Our trip from Buenos Aires with 3 nights in an ok hostel, not including food and drink, was US$913 for 2 people. It was 18 hours each way and we went into the park 2 days and did the full excursion @ A$430pp on the first day. Half price park fee on the second day.

    We thought taking the bus was worth the money as we saw some interesting scenery and sunset and sunrise.

    Iguazu was what we thought it would be like, a bit shabby like most of what we are seeing at the moment, but at least not pretending to be anything else. People are struggling here.

    The falls were freaking amazing and we are so glad we went there.

    PS. That was part blue rate and part normal rate as we paid for the bus with the card.
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  9. Great summary! We were going to go there but its remote location and complicated logistics were too much. One money saving tip though. It always pays off to use a blue dollar exchange rate which saves you about 40%-50%. All currency exchange rates listed here assumes the official exchange rate which is about 5 – 6. With some proactive approach the $1K trip could have been easily a $600 trip. Some explanation how it works could be googled or read here:
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  10. Thanks for your nice report about the waterfalls in Iguazu. I was already in Argentina, too. It´s was a nice but my favorite country in south america is bolivia. But everybody should be see the Waterfalls especially if the tourist season over.

  11. I always wanted to see the Iguazu Falls – loved my time there.
    Incidentally they had 50% more water than usual currently. This made for
    a lot of white water 🙂

  12. This is very good information. I was actually searching for “how to dress for touring Iguazu Falls” Could you add that, please” This is because I was watching a travel channel piece on the Falls and the hostess was dressed in a pretty frock & elegant flat sandals. But I’m sure that’s not the ideal attire

    1. Ha, that’s a good point!! Yes, I wouldn’t wear my best outfit to the Falls and steady footwear is definitely an advantage – you will get wet for sure! We also had plastic rain ponchos to keep our gear safe in the wetter places 🙂

  13. We plan to visit Iguazu falls this April and your post has great information about stuff, we havent’ considered yet.
    Do you recommend doing a boat trip from Brazilian or Argentine side? Is 2 days enough to see everything (one day for Brazilian side and one for Argentine side)? I guess you don’t suggest staying an extra day in Puerto iguazu?

    Thanks for your answers.

    Can’t wait to see the coatis! They look adorable 🙂

    Have fun,
    2 tickets to Wonderland recently posted..Are Santorini’s sunsets really that good?

    1. Hi Marusa, be careful with these coatis though, they’re pretty cheeky! 😉 I think the boat trip is cheaper now from Argentina with the great Peso rate (make sure to enter Argentina with US Dollars in cash!). An extra day in Puerto Iguazu – in my opinion not necessary. I’d spend two nights though to make sure you have enough time to see both sides. I went to the Argentine side on the first day, spent the second day on the Brazilian side, and then left on the night bus.

  14. Hmm, planning for a South America trip at the moment and I’m undecided on the falls. Fortunately I’ll have my own transport so not at the mercy of bus services, but it is a long long way from anything.

    Much to be considered I’m sure.

    1. It is a long way but I did enjoy the scenery up there, so if you can combine it with something else in the area maybe, I wouldn’t skip the Falls 🙂 Enjoy your road trip!!

  15. Tip: You can now buy one-way flights to/ from Rio de Janeiro and Iguazu for $55 with Gol Aerolineas (go to the company website for the lower fare instead of using a search engine like Expedia or Kayak). Quite a steal!

  16. We were not willing to pay the Brazil Visa cost since this was our only entry into Brazil. We had a tour the first day to the Argentine side and explained to the tour guide that we would not be going with the group the next day because of the Visa situation. He said if we were with a tour and not spending the night in Brazil no visa was needed. We did go. There were no problems. Don’t know if we were legal or smuggled in, but i would really recommend seeing both sides as long as you have spent the time and money commitment to get there

    1. I hope you’ll enjoy the Falls (it’s hard not to 😉 ) Happy to hear that you found the post informative, Andrew.

  17. I just booked 3 days from Rio. $220 rt including 4* hotel with breakfast thru expedia. I am thinkinking of renting a car. Any thoughts? Great info btw. Definitely will go to Arg side

    1. Thanks for sharing, Melesan, that’s an amazing deal!! I don’t think you need to rent a car while you’re there though. Everything’s well connected via public transportation.

  18. Will be there in a couple of weeks! I’ve booked a flight from BsAs to Iguazú. I’ll be staying 2 1/2 days, then I’ll be flying to Montevideo! I’ve booked a hostel in Iguazu Misiones. Hope it’s as nice as the reviews noted!
    Can bookings for the Fall’s tours be done at most hotel/hostels, or will I just need to take a bus to the falls and see what they offer? I’d really like to do the boat ride, but don’t want to have to pay for a Brazilian visa (I’ve had to purchase an Argentinian Reciprocity Fee already!).
    I know that the temps will be cold, but do you think photo-taking will be okay? Any suggestions/recommendations?

    1. Hi Dawn, it was very easy to get to the falls by bus – no need to book a tour! We booked a combination of bus tickets to the falls and the boat ride, which came slightly cheaper than booking the boat ride separately in the park, but a full tour is not necessary. The bus will drop you off at the entrance to the park and from there you can take a little train (like in an amusement park) or walk. We walked to all the viewpoints and spent about 3/4 of a day in the park. It all depends on how long you’ll linger and take photos. It’s a gorgeous setting. I remember the food options in the park were pretty limited though (and overprized) and we were glad having brought our own lunch. As you can see in Royce’s comment above, she did go to the Brazilian side for the day without a visa. As for the boat ride: I took some photos with my iPhone before the tour started and before we hit the waterfalls (my camera was packed up in a waterproof bag they provided) but I was SOAKED as soon as we hit the falls. If you have a waterproof camera or a waterproof case for your phone, you’ll be fine, but the intensity of the water pouring down on you is insane. Since we went in really hot weather, our clothes dried off quickly, but if it’s cold there now, I would even consider taking a change of clothes. Enjoy Iguazu Falls! Truly spectacular 🙂

  19. To make your trip less expensive, you could try AirBNB

    I’m staying on the Brazilian side now, I’ve the whole floor of the apartment for a minimum price.

  20. My sister and I are going in September. We arrive at 0725 and are interested in going to the falls immediately after dropping our bags off at the hostel. How do we book the bus to the falls? Can it be done at the hostel or do I have to book in advance? Sam with the boat tour. In advance or day of is fine? Thanks.

    1. Hi Alicja, you can definitely go straight to the Falls after dropping off your bags – I think the buses start running around 7am. There are several travel agencies in the bus station that sell bus tickets – buy them right there and you cut out the intermediary fees. Booking on the same day that you’re going is fine, for both the bus and the boat. Enjoy Iguazu Falls.. it’s such an impressive natural wonder!

  21. I loved it there, brings back some great memories. . I was living in Posadas at the time back in 2005, so was only a 4hr drive for me. Not sure if it is still a very dangerous place or not but I’d stay clear of Ciudad del Este (City of the East) in Paraguay, across the bridge from Foz. I stayed at the Sheraton in the grounds of Iguazu Falls, which gave me free entry (both sides Argentina & Brazil) for the 3 days I was there.

    I’d love to go back there, I have a bit of unfinished business. I’d highly recommend it to anyone. South America is a fabulous experience.

    1. Wow, you stayed right at the Falls! That’s amazing!! I saw the Sheraton when we were in the park and the location is truly spectacular!

  22. I’m planning a visit to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in January and wants to fly to the falls. Spend 2 days there depending on the flight schedule. Wants to see both sides. Do I have to pay for a visa, and if so can I avoid this. What advice would you give me.

    1. Hi Salima, a commenter before you pointed out that Gol Aerolineas offers flights from Rio de Janeiro to Iguazu for $55, so that’s great news for you 🙂 Another commenter pointed out that they crossed over to the other side without a visa, and I’ve heard that some people just stayed on the bus instead of getting off at the border to get their passport stamped. I’d look up what people say on that topic in forums like the Tripadvisor forum or Lonely Planet forum. Please feel free to report back on your findings 🙂

    2. P.S. And you should definitely go to both sides! You can get much closer to the falls on the Argentinian side. But paying $160 for a visa for a day would be ridiculous.

  23. Just so you know you know, youre getting around 15/16 pesos to the USD now. So you can enter the park for 140/150 pesos or 9.50ish USD. A lot cheaper than before! Enjoy everyone!

  24. Having now visited Iguazu, I have to say the falls are amazing. The Adventura Nautica boat trip, although short is awesome too.

    The town of Iguazu isn’t quite the dump it’s made out to be. Sure if you come directly from Buenos Aires or any other International cosmopolitan city, this it might not seem the best, but travelling South America, and Argentina in particular via motorcycle, It is typical of small towns in the area, and better than most.
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    1. Hi Mike, thanks so much for the feedback 🙂 Iguazu Falls are still some of my all-time favorite travel moments. Magnificent!! Glad you enjoyed your time there, too 🙂

  25. Love all this info. Thanks! I’m still trying to figure out what to wear. We’ll be there at the end of December. Sounds like shorts and t-shirts work best? And for footwear do you recommend water type shoes? Like Tevas or Chacos? Or do sneakers work better? I do want to walk as many trails as possible but don’t want to wear heavy hiking shoes. Thoughts? Thanks!!!

    1. Hi Karen, make sure you wear sturdy shoes – some parts of the trails are slippery and wet… Tevas should be fine. T-shirts and shorts is perfect! It’ll be hot and you’ll get wet for sure 😀 Enjoy the Falls!

  26. i plan on arriving to the falls from buenos aires with a brazil visa already. would i need to book hostels in advance? is it simple to cross into the brazil side of the falls if you already have a visa?

    thank you for your information by the way. very helpful

  27. hello 🙂

    I’m going to Iguazu falls by July 17th I dont know how’s the weather at that time but i’m planning to bring some extra clothes if it is a cold weather. I have a canadian and a peruvian passport so I dont know if i have to pay the extra fees to go to the Brazilian or Argentinian side. Does anyone know?

    1. It´s a good idea to bring some extras clothers. July is usually one of the coldest months in Iguazu. Let me know if I can advise you about anything else. I have been living in Iguazu for 3 years now.

  28. Not only do those Coatis smell food. They hear the plastic bag noise. I just was taking lens out of plastic bag and 2 of them were nosing in my bag. Witnessed few minutes later, family with snacks inbag. Coati number 1 jumped on bottom of bag kid dropped it at least a dozen of them came and devoured the contents. If you have time the bird park has lots of closeup chances.

  29. From what I am seeing, correct me if I am wrong, but the Brazilian side is actually more picturesque with sweeping views and the Argentine sides is more trails and jungle? I am gong to be visiting from the US and wondering if the VISA fee is worth it for one day. I do realize this is like a once in a lifetime trip, so perhaps it is. Thoughts?

    1. The Brazilian side is very pretty but would I pay the $160 visa fee for it? Don’t think so.. When are you traveling, Jeff? Because if you’re traveling between June and September of this year, you’re in luck: Brazil is waving the visa fee for US citizens during the Olympics 🙂

  30. Hi, I head to Iguazu tomorrow and wanted to add that flights are much cheaper than stated. I paid $250 return from Buenos Aires and only booked one week in advance (so over long bus rides after Patagonia!)

    Looking forward to seeing the falls!!

    1. Jasmine, thanks so much for the update! Happy to hear that airfare seems to be less pricey now, especially on such short notice! Hope you enjoyed your time at the Falls 🙂

  31. I went there in July 2015 with my wife and just loved it, both sides for different reasons. We stayed in Peurto Iguazu and I agree – it was a dump! We’d just flown straight there from Peru and a long trek to Machu Pichu and found to our total dismay that the town did not have a single coin laundry. WHATT?? With no clean cloths we stunk our way around the falls for the 3 or 4 days we were there as no laundries were open either. I took your advice (read this before I left) and we went to the Jesuit mission – well worth it. Great tip.

    1. Thanks, Peter! Can’t believe that there was not a single laundry… but at least you have a good story to tell now 😉

  32. Great blog; helpful tips. We are in Argentina now, and have our flights set for next week. But the weather report looks dreadful for all 3 days! Any advice for enjoying in constant thunderstorms?!?

    1. That’s a tough one, Cheryl! But I think the thunderstorms will be only part of the day, not last all day? I hope the sun comes out for a few hours while you visit the Falls!! And at least it’ll be warm rain.. I don’t remember any great indoor activities at Iguazu Falls, I’m afraid :O

  33. Have you been there during peak season? I’m sure you overpaid for your hotel room. Currently we’re staying on the brazil side for arround $20 for a nice double room in a 3-Stars ousada including pools and breakfast. We got an overnight bus from Bombinhas (over Joinville) which is less than $50. For everyone who don’t need to pay for the VISA i would recommend to visit Iguazu Falls from brazil (and do a day trip to the argentinean side).

    1. Thanks for your comment, Vishnu! I’ve noticed that prices seem to have gone down quite a bit – felt the same way in Colombia right now, which my friends found expensive a few years ago – But with the current Dollar – Peso exchange rate I found it ridiculously cheap! Feel like the same goes for Brazil and Argentina.

        1. Glad to hear that you’re loving the Falls!! 😀 Can’t wait to watch your videos, Rich! Enjoy the rest of your trip.

  34. Hi Dani any advice on the best way to get from the airport on the Argentina side to the Sheraton and how much. Thanks

  35. 1) any local eateries you can hit up if staying at the Foz do Iguacu side? im a big yelper but theres not too much
    2) anybody rent a car that thought it was a good idea? they are 20 bucks a day on multiple sites

  36. I am going to both sides of the falls later this month and am really struggling to find a place to stay on the Argentinian side. I’ve looked and looked but find almost all budget and mid-range places get pretty poor reviews (or at least enough poor reviews to make you wonder….) I have a reservation at a hotel in town and I’m almost wondering if it is the same place you stayed? It’s the Keranga Oga. Of course there are tons of hotels…. One post earlier this year said they were staying in a nice pousada for $20 a night – I certainly haven’t found anything like that! Also I’m wondering how we make our picnic “coati proof” when they can smell food and hear bags rustling too! Any ideas?. Thank you!

    1. I hear you on the accommodation issue – that’s exactly what it was like when we went… all the places there had really bad reviews. We didn’t stay at Keranga Oga, we stayed at Waterfalls Hostel. Maybe there are better options on Airbnb? Oh and as for the picnic – don’t worry, there are still plenty of coati-free places in the park. They gather around the restaurants usually. Enjoy Iguazu Falls, Brenda! 🙂

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