Tenorio Volcano National Park
The Tenorio Volcano National Park sits in the beautiful Guanacaste mountain range north of Costa Rica. It’s known for its volcano (standing at 6,286 feet tall ~ 1.9 kilometers) and hiking trail, but above all, people visit to see the magic Rio Celeste Waterfalls. The volcano is dormant, but there is still lots of geothermal activity occurring on this site, especially in the river.
If you’re a nature or adventure enthusiast, visit Tenorio Volcano National Park and make the most of its crater hikes, horseback riding, and epic birdwatching!
Rio Celeste Waterfalls
Rio Celeste Waterfalls are the main attraction in the Tenorio Volcano National Park. The water is fiercely blue – almost bluer than the sky!
An exciting legend gave the Rio its name (Rio Celeste means ‘light blue river’). The story goes that when God was creating the universe, he was painting the sky. When he finished, he washed the brushes in the river, creating the beautiful blue color that we see today at the Rio Celeste Waterfalls.
However, in reality, it’s an optical illusion caused by white minerals that coat the rocks underneath the water. The whiteness of the stones makes the Rio Celeste look far bluer than your average river!
Aside from the color, visiting the Rio Celeste Waterfalls is an impressive experience. At 98 feet high, watching the water plummet into the pool below is fantastic – a reminder of how powerful nature is.
The Hiking Trail to Rio Celeste Waterfalls
To get to the Rio Celeste Waterfalls, you can only follow one trail, around 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers) each way. This takes approximately 1 hour walking one way. However, we recommend adding more time when it rains and it’s muddy.
Start at the ranger’s station, following signs for the trail. The first 20 mins are flat and paved, making it easier for hikers of all skills and ages. When you turn off to the waterfall, the trail turns into a more typical unpaved hiking trail. Plus, you’ll need to walk down (and up later!) the 250 stairs to the waterfall. Experience the incredibly powerful, blue waterfall that plunges to the side of you.
On your way to the falls, cross the hanging, wooden river bridges, and make sure to look up at the animals and birds you can see in the lush rainforest canopy. It’s a breathtaking, scenic experience that shouldn’t be missed on your trip to Costa Rica!
Other things to do at Rio Celeste Waterfalls
If you continue from the Rio Celeste Waterfalls, you’ll find several stunning spots on the trail.
- Laguna Azul: a charming milky blue pool bordered by luscious bright green trees and plants.
- Los Borbollones: this is where you can see geothermal activity take place! The boiling part of the river is full of Sulfur, giving it a distinct smell. Ensure you respect the signs and don’t touch the scalding water.
- El Tenidero: the most extraordinary sight, where two different rivers meet. The mixture of the minerals creates this remarkable divide, creating the incredible blue color that Rio Celeste is known for.
Tips for Rio Celeste Waterfalls
The Rio Celeste Waterfalls hike can be a little bit challenging, so you’ll need to wear good shoes, especially if it’s muddy. The trail will be hard to walk in the rainy season, so it’s essential to allocate extra time. If you don’t have your hiking boots, you can rent them at the shop that’s by the entrance for 5 USD.
Make sure to bring:
- Water (refillable)
- Good shoes
- Rain jacket
- Mosquito repellent
Entrance Fee & Opening Times
Tickets cost 12 USD each (adult) and can be paid only by debit or credit card. You can purchase tickets online before your visit or at the Tenorio Volcano National Park entrance. If you’re choosing the latter (especially in the busy Spring months), we recommend arriving as early as possible. The Tenorio Volcano National Park only allows a certain amount of people in the park each day, which means it’s essential to arrive before the crowds.
Where to Stay in Tenorio Volcano National Park
Most people visit Tenorio Volcano National Park on a day trip from La Fortuna, Costa Rica (1.5 hours). There’s a fantastic range of accommodation in La Fortuna for all budgets, and it’s a great base to go on day trips (like these).
If you want to stay close to Rio Celeste Waterfalls, we recommend staying about 20 minutes away in Bijagua. It’s a small town, but it has some lovely lodges to stay in and is the perfect place if you want a more remote Costa Rican holiday experience.
Campsites near Rio Celeste
- Villa Celeste Katira (has a nice campsite)
- Posa del Pedro
- Doña Ana
How to Get to Rio Celeste
From La Fortuna, Rio Celeste is about a 3-hour round trip. A newly paved road between the two places makes it easy to drive. What’s more, it’s incredibly scenic, winding through picturesque farmland.
Because of the paved road, you won’t need a 4×4. However, you might need a car with higher clearance from the ground in the rainy season, especially as you get closer to Tenorio Volcano National Park. Parking Price: 2000 colones (3 USD) per car.
Please note: Generally the area is very safe but take valuable belongings with you or leave them at your accommodation.
There is no public transport to Rio Celeste Waterfalls, so if you don’t have a hire car, the best thing to do is book an organized tour from La Fortuna. This is an effortless way to see the falls as you’ll get your park entrance, return transport, and a guide included in the price.
The best time to visit Rio Celeste Waterfalls is in the dry season (December to April). The water might not be as blue during the rainy season due to the heavy rains and the mud. Because of this, it can also be challenging to hike. Although, the rains will make for a very powerful waterfall experience!