The dazzling centerpiece of Costa Rica’s Tenorio Volcano National Park, the Rio Celeste is most famous for its shockingly bright blue color. The river’s hue results from a natural reaction of volcanic sulfur and calcium carbonate, which tints the clear waters.
Reached by hiking through the surrounding rain forest, Rio Celeste rewards visitors with its natural beauty and a number of other sights along the river. Most notable are the Rio Celeste Waterfall, a favorite photo spot where the river tumbles into a striking blue lagoon; the Teñideros, where two rivers merge in the Celeste; and the Poza Azul, the most stunning “dye pool.”
Many travelers opt to visit the national park on a 1- or 2-day tour from Tamarindo or La Fortuna. Excursions usually include a hike to the waterfall. Although swimming is prohibited within the park, it is possible to bathe in the river’s hot springs or enjoy white-water tubing along the river.
Things to Know Before You Go
- There is an admission fee to enter the Tenorio Volcano National Park and visitor numbers are limited, so it’s best to arrive early.
- The trail to the waterfall is 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) round-trip, and hiking to the waterfall takes about an hour.
- A raincoat and sturdy shoes with a good grip are essential, as rain is common even in the dry season. The trails are unpaved and can get extremely muddy.
- Restrooms, a restaurant, and a car park are located at the entrance to the national park.
How to Get There
The Río Celeste is located in Tenorio Volcano National Park in northwestern Costa Rica, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from San José. There is no public transport directly to the park, but it’s possible to take a taxi from the nearby town of Bijagua.
When to Get There
The river’s startling color change is best viewed during the dry season (December to April). Excess rainfall can dilute the reactive chemicals, leaving the waters with a less appealing muddy hue. The busiest period is from February to April, when it’s best to make an early start. Hikers allowed on the trail are limited, so you might find yourself having to wait if it gets too crowded.
Tenorio Volcano National Park
Hiking is the main activity in Tenorio Volcano National Park and there are a number of well-signposted short trails to follow. The Waterfall Trail is the main attraction, but worthwhile detours include the Mirador, a 5-minute trail that affords gorgeous views across the rain forest; and the Tenorio Volcano trail, although it’s not possible to climb to the summit. The park also harbors a wealth of wildlife, including tapirs, howler monkeys, ocelots, and jaguars.