Guide to Rio Celeste, Costa Rica

Río Celeste, Costa Rica – Guide + Map

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A few years ago, I came across a photo of Río Celeste, Costa Rica, while flipping through the pages of an airline brochure. It was a huge waterfall with the most beautiful turquoise color, surrounded by lush vegetation. Next to it, there was a phrase that said, “When God finished painting the sky, he washed his brush in the Celeste River.”

Sometime later, we found ourselves visiting Tenorio Volcano National Park on our 15-day trip to Costa Rica, and this was one of the stops we were most excited to see. Two rivers converge here, the Buena Vista and Quebrada Agria. Their mineral-rich waters, combined with the sun’s reflection, create a magical blue color that looks like something out of a fairytale.

Rio Celeste Costa Rica, best activities

Río Celeste, Costa Rica – Guide + Map

If you like hiking and nature, this is a must-see attraction in Costa Rica, and I’ll tell you everything you should know for your visit to Río Celeste. It seemed like a very worthwhile plan to me, so I encourage you to visit one of the most popular national parks in Costa Rica to see this waterfall for yourself.

In this guide, I’ll give you information about places of interest, tickets, hours, and recommendations for hotels near Río Celeste where you can recharge your batteries.

Top places to visit in Río Celeste, Costa Rica

To begin, you should know that the main points of interest in Río Celeste are located along a trail called “Mysteries of Tenorio” that starts from El Pilón Station. This path is very easy to follow and is 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) long, so the entire journey is almost 7 kilometers (4 miles).

Things to do in Rio Celeste Costa Rica

Top places to visit in Río Celeste, Costa Rica

Although it’s a moderate route, there are some sections that are more challenging, but nothing that will prevent you from enjoying the visit. Along the way, you will find slopes, stairs, rocks, and streams to cross, but in the end, it’s a fun adventure in a unique wild environment.

Of course, depending on the time of year, some sections can be quite muddy, so make sure you wear closed-toe shoes. Many visitors even wear rain boots.

The path is divided into 5 parts:

1. Río Celeste Waterfall

From El Pilón, it’s about 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) to the Río Celeste Waterfall. The beginning of the road is simple and easily accessible, and it stays relatively mud-free even when it rains.

However, once we reach the falls, the real challenge begins. To appreciate this natural wonder, you’ll have to go down (and then up) about 250 steps. Even so, it’s worth it since this is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Costa Rica, measuring 30 meters (98 feet)!

Rio Celeste Costa Rica waterfall

1. Río Celeste Waterfall

While you can get good views from the staircase, I recommend getting a closer look to see its incredibly captivating colors. They’re truly postcard-worthy. Plus, you can take some astonishing souvenir photos with the waterfall in the background. The turquoise color of the water, the force of the waterfall, and the surrounding vegetation create a spectacular image.

Of course, keep in mind that the surroundings of the Río Celeste Waterfall are closed to the public, and swimming is prohibited. Don’t worry; I’ll share a spot later where you can take a good, refreshing dip!

2. Tenorio Volcano Viewpoint

The Tenorio Volcano Viewpoint is located just 500 meters from the waterfall. Visiting this panoramic point is one of the best things to do in Río Celeste since you’ll get privileged views of the entire national park, which is home to a cloud forest and virgin landscapes.

Tenorio Volcano, the best of Rio Celeste Costa Rica

2. Tenorio Volcano Viewpoint

Additionally, on clear days, you can see 3 of the 4 volcanic cones of the Tenorio Volcano, one of the most important volcanoes in Costa Rica. I highly recommend adding this stop to your itinerary so you can enjoy all its beauty.

3. Blue Lagoon

From the viewpoint, the path becomes a little more challenging since some areas have uneven terrain, with ups and downs or tree roots that cross your path. However, the reward is enormous, as you’ll be able to take in the magnificent views of the Blue Lagoon in Río Celeste, Costa Rica.

Swimming Rio Celeste Costa Rica

3. Blue Lagoon

This pool of turquoise water is a true paradise surrounded by thick vegetation, resulting in a striking contrast of colors. Swimming is not allowed here either, so you will have to settle for some photographs in this wonderful natural setting.

4. Borbollones

If you continue along the path, you’ll begin to notice a strong sulfuric smell. This means you’re near the gurgling waters of Río Celeste, where some cracks in the ground expel volcanic gases.

Borbollones, Rio Celeste Costa Rica tour

4. Borbollones

This produces a large number of bubbles on the surface of the river as if the water is boiling. And it’s no wonder since, in this area, the water temperature can range from 31°C to 94°C (88°F to 201°F). You can feel the heat rising by just standing there.

5. Teñideros de Río Celeste, Costa Rica

Los Teñideros de Río Celeste is where the Buenavista and Quebrada Agria rivers converge, so this is where the magic happens. At this exact point, you’ll be able to perceive the water’s change in color, which goes from being transparent to having that characteristic turquoise color. I was very surprised by the instantaneous and abrupt change.

Beautiful places in Río Celeste, Costa Rica

5. Teñideros de Río Celeste, Costa Rica

The path from the Borbollones to the Teñideros of Río Celeste is exciting. You’ll feel completely immersed in the vegetation since you’ll have to cross some hanging bridges and a rugged path. However, depending on the time of year, there may be some stretches full of mud.

Even so, it’s totally worth it. This area was where we saw the most fauna, including a green bejuquilla snake and a curious coati.

Other things to do in Río Celeste, Tenorio Volcano National Park

If you have a little more time, there are other activities in Río Celeste that you can consider. I’m sharing the best things to do in Río Celeste below:

Swimming in Rio Celeste

Remember, swimming in Río Celeste is prohibited, both at the waterfall and in the Blue Lagoon and Los Teñideros. I know taking a dip is extremely tempting, as the forest can be quite humid and hot. But don’t be discouraged!

Swimming in Rio Celeste

Bathing in the Rio Celeste

There is an area where you can freely swim, and you can see it here on this map. If you want to cool off, this is the spot to do so. As for us, we were so delighted that we decided to stay at the Piuri Cabins, which are located just a few meters away. The cabins allow direct access to Rio Celeste, so we were able to spend a little more time enjoying this lovely place.

Go tubing in Rio Celeste, Costa Rica

Another one of the most popular activities in Río Celeste is signing up for this tubing tour. In case you don’t know, tubing is when you float through the rapids of the river on a round inflatable. This excursion includes a safety helmet and life jacket, as well as a guide who will give you the necessary instructions so you can have a great time.

Tubing Rio Celeste Costa Rica

Go tubing on the Rio Celeste, Costa Rica

Along the way, you’ll be able to observe birds of all kinds and enjoy a privileged perspective of this natural area. If you’re craving a bit of adrenaline, I’m sure you’ll love it! To end the day, you can recharge your batteries with delicious fruits and drinks.

Night tour in Río Celeste

One of the best things to do in Río Celeste is to explore its surroundings on this night walk. If you want to spot some of the most iconic animals in Costa Rica, I recommend signing up for this tour with a local guide, which departs from El Pilón Station at the park entrance.

Tour in Rio Celeste at night

Night tour in Río Celeste

The walk lasts around 2 to 3 hours, during which you’ll encounter some species that aren’t usually out during the day, such as reptiles and insects. The coolest thing about this excursion is that it only allows small groups so as not to scare the animals. Along with an experienced guide, you’ll be able to learn more about the different animals that cross your path.

Horseback riding tour along Rio Celeste

Lastly, another activity in Río Celeste that you should consider is this horseback riding tour.

Rio Celeste horse trail Costa Rica

Horseback riding tour along the Rio Celeste

If you want to explore the jungle in a new way, this horseback adventure will allow you to discover the surroundings of Río Celeste accompanied by a local guide. Additionally, at the end of the ride, you’ll have free time to play on Tarzan’s giant swing and take a dip in the turquoise waters.

Keep in mind that you don’t need any type of experience, so this is a great thing to do in Río Celeste with family or friends.

Hours and tickets to visit Río Celeste at the Tenorio Volcano

Tickets to Río Celeste, Costa Rica, cost $14 for foreigners and 904 Costa Rican colones for national residents. The price for kids under 12 is $6 for foreigners and 560 colones for national residents. Your ticket includes an information brochure and a map of the park highlighting the main points of interest.

Rio Celeste Costa Rica tickets

Entrance price and schedule to visit the Río Celeste in the Tenorio Volcano

Tickets can only be bought through the Tenorio National Park official website. You must create a username and a password to access the website.

The hours to visit Río Celeste are from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., although you can stay inside the park until 4:00 p.m. While it’s open every day, I recommend avoiding weekends since they’re the busiest days. Only 500 visitors are allowed on the trail at any one time, so it’s best to visit on a slow day.

How to get to Río Celeste, Costa Rica

The best (and only) way to get to Río Celeste is by car. There is a parking lot at the park entrance where you can leave your car, but remember to bring some money since you can only pay for parking with cash.

Rio Celeste Costa Rica how to get there

How to get to Río Celeste, Costa Rica

As I mentioned, we stayed at Cabinas Piuri, so we were only a 15-minute walk (2-minute drive) from El Pilón Station. However, many tourists drive here from the town of La Fortuna, which is about 80 kilometers (1 hour and 40 minutes), or from Bijagua, which is a much smaller town just 20 minutes from the park.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any public transportation routes that go to the park, so if you’re not planning to rent a car in Costa Rica, the best alternative is to sign up for this full-day tour from La Fortuna, which I’ll tell you about in the next section.

Excursion to Río Celeste from La Fortuna

This tour from La Fortuna is the best alternative if you don’t want to drive, or don’t feel like renting a car. It includes the entrance fee, all transfers, and round-trip transportation to and from Río Celeste, so just include the location of your accommodation in La Fortuna when you book. This excursion lasts about 8 hours, so make sure you clear the entire day for this trip.

Rio Celeste Costa Rica tour

Excursion to Río Celeste from La Fortuna

On this tour, you’ll walk along the “Mysteries of Tenorio” trail to see all its most important points, which include the Río Celeste Waterfall, the Tenorio Volcano Viewpoint, the Borbollones, and the Teñideros. Your guide will explain everything about this strange phenomenon and will accompany you throughout the tour while looking for animals among the vegetation. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot interesting species like the Costa Rican sloth.

After the excursion, dig into a delicious lunch of typical Costa Rican dishes, to refuel.

Hotels near Rio Celeste, Costa Rica

As I mentioned before, many tourists decide to visit Río Celeste from La Fortuna. Now, if you have a car, you have more options, and you can find some hotels near Río Celeste in Bijagua or nearby.

Below, you can see my accommodation recommendations for visiting Río Celeste:

  • Piuri Cabins: We chose this accommodation by Tenorio National Park. The cabins have private rooms with bathrooms and beautiful views of the surroundings. If you’re looking for a place to connect with nature and take a dip in the river, I highly recommend it since you’ll have direct access to Blue Lagoon. In addition, the rooms feature a small private terrace and a kettle for morning tea.
  • Río Celeste Hideaway Hotel: This is one of the most recommended hotels in Costa Rica in the town of Bijagua. It’s a more luxurious accommodation, featuring 5-star amenities like an outdoor pool and 3 jacuzzi tubs. Like the previous option, this hotel offers access to the trails leading to certain sections of Río Celeste where swimming is allowed. Plus, a local breakfast is included with your room rate, but you can always visit the resort bar.
The best hotels in Rio Celeste, Costa Rica

Hotels near Rio Celeste, Costa Rica

  • Celeste Mountain Lodge: This is another hotel near Río Celeste offering simple accommodation. The rooms have private bathrooms and panoramic mountain views, and you can choose the all-inclusive plan to focus solely on enjoying yourself. In addition, the bar-restaurant has a beautiful terrace, making this a charming place to stay.
  • Tenorio Lodge: These bungalows are just 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) from the town of Bijagua and ensure a pleasant stay in the middle of nature. They include king-size beds, spectacular views of the Tenorio Volcano, and an exquisite breakfast every morning. There are also 2 communal jacuzzi tubs and a restaurant that serves local and international dishes.

Best restaurants near Río Celeste

Choosing a good place to eat in Costa Rica while visiting Río Celeste can be a bit complicated. However, I’m sure these recommendations will help. These are my favorite restaurants in the area:

  • El Sabor De Doña Carmen: This is one of the best places to enjoy local food at affordable prices. It’s 500 meters from the center of Bijagua and is run by its owner, Doña Carmen, the restaurant’s namesake. In addition to serving abundant and delicious dishes, it has a courtyard with a butterfly garden, which you can visit for free.
  • Soda and Rancho Doña Irma: This restaurant is next to El Pilón Station, where the Rio Celeste route begins and ends. It’s the ideal place to stop after visiting the waterfall, serving local cuisine at very good prices and boasting a rustic appearance.
  • Restaurant Tapirus Paradise Rio Celeste: Located a few meters from El Pilón Station, this place offers fascinating views of the Tenorio Volcano and its surroundings. The restaurant is beautiful, with wooden details and a free parking lot. The menu includes international dishes like pizza and pasta, so it’ll please all appetites.

Map of Río Celeste, Costa Rica

Finally, here is a map of Río Celeste, Costa Rica, and the nearby attractions. I recommend taking a look at our map of Costa Rica when planning your travel itinerary through this stunning area.

Rio Celeste Costa Rica map

Map of Río Celeste, Costa Rica

That’s everything you should know about Río Celeste in Costa Rica. I hope this guide helps you plan your visit to the Río Celeste Waterfall and its lovely surroundings, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.

Pura Vida!

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Hey there, I'm Ascen, your personal trip planner on a mission to help you craft the most incredible adventure of your life. While I'm based in Las Vegas, you won't find me there often. As a full-time traveler, I'm always on the go, exploring new destinations and capturing the world through my lens. From the enchanting shores of Almeria, Spain, where I grew up, to the far reaches of the globe, I'm here to provide you with detailed travel guides and practical tips to make your trip planning a breeze. Find out more about me here.
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