Rio Celeste Waterfall in Costa Rica – The Ultimate Guide

Rio Celeste waterfall is one of the most stunning natural wonders of Costa Rica. The beautiful Rio Celeste waterfall is 90 meters (295 ft) tall and you can visit Rio Celeste waterfall in Tenorio Volcano National Park. Rio Celeste Costa Rica refers to the turquoise blue river which leads to the waterfall. The distinctive turquoise coloration of the water is caused by a chemical reaction between volcanic minerals. To get to Rio Celeste waterfall you need to hike for about 20 minutes from the entrance of Tenorio National Park. During the hike you will be surrounded by the lush rainforest. And besides Rio Celeste waterfall there is much more to explore in the National Park. This extensive guide will offer everything you need to know about Rio Celeste waterfall and Tenorio National Park.

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How to get to Rio Celeste Waterfall Costa Rica

Located about 20 minutes from Bijagua, Alajuela, Rio Celeste Costa Rica can easily be reached by car. From La Fortuna it is only an hour and 15 minutes drive, so it could be a great day trip. 

The Rio Celeste area can only be reached by foot and takes about 20 minutes of hiking starting from the park entrance at the ranger station. Here you can also find restrooms which are not available in the park itself. 

Tenorio Volcano National Park

Tenorio Volcano National Park is a protected area located in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica. The park is named after the Tenorio Volcano, which is one of the most active volcanoes in the country. The area itself is approximately 121 square kilometers and is home to a wide range of flora and fauna. In 1976 the park was established to protect the biodiversity of the region and to preserve the natural beauty of the Tenorio Volcano. The volcano has two peaks, the Montezuma and the Tenorio, and is surrounded by lush rainforest that is home to a variety of wildlife.

The park is a popular destination for hiking and bird watching, with several trails that offer stunning views of the volcano and the surrounding area. The Rio Celeste is one of the park’s most famous attractions. Many people visit the Tenorio Volcano National Park for this turquoise blue river that flows through the rainforest and is fed by two streams that merge together at a point known as the “Teñideros.”

You can enjoy a variety of activities, including hiking, bird watching, wildlife spotting, and swimming in the Rio Celeste. The park also offers camping facilities for those who wish to spend the night and explore the park at their leisure.

The flora and fauna of the park are diverse, with over 600 species of trees, including the Guanacaste tree, which is the national tree of Costa Rica. The park is also home to a variety of animal species, including jaguars, pumas, tapirs, monkeys, and a range of bird species.

Overall, Tenorio Volcano National Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts visiting Costa Rica. Its natural beauty, diverse wildlife, and stunning landscapes make it a unique and unforgettable experience.


Entrance fee and opening times Tenorio Volcano National Park

The entrance fee for Tenorio Volcano National Park is $12 per person for tourists and 800 colones for Costa Rican nationals. The parking fee is 3000 colones (about $3,50) for every vehicle. 

The opening times for Tenorio Volcano National Park are from 7 AM until 4 PM every day of the week and the last entry is at 2 PM.

Best time to visit Rio Celeste, Tenorio Volcano National Park

The best time to visit Tenorio Volcano National Park is in the dry season from December to April and as early in the morning as possible. It doesn’t mean you can’t visit in the rainy season, however you have to take into account that the normally so distinctive blue color of the river will change into brown mud water coming from the jungle. This can lead to a disappointing visit, especially when you expect to see the amazingly blue river.

During the rainy season from May to November the showers mostly appear in the afternoon. But with Tenorio being located in Costa Rican’s hills and rainforest, it can rain any day of the week, no matter the season. We had for example some little rain during our visit in March. So if you want to be well prepared, then bring a poncho or rain jacket!  

Best tours to Rio Celeste waterfall

If you want to explore Rio Celeste waterfall which is located in Tenorio National Park, then it is highly recommended to book your tours in advance. Because of the popularity of Rio Celeste it is likely that tours sell out. So don’t wait to book until you get to Tenorio National Park. Choose your favorite tours here and secure your booking! All of these tours include air-conditioned transport with hotel pick up and drop off, certified guides and sometimes also lunch and entrance fees. You can reserve now and pay later, with cancellation up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.

In Tenorio National Park you can explore the beautiful Rio Celeste River and waterfall with its distinctive blue color, natural hot springs and an abundance of flora and fauna. The hike through the park is an out-and-back trail of 5.5 kilometers long. You will need about 4 – 5 hours to explore the entire park and if you take the time to enjoy the several points of interest along the way. The Rio Celeste waterfall is the first, and probably most popular point of interest of Tenorio National Park. The other spots are La Laguna Azul, Los Borbollones and El Teñidero.


Rio Celeste Waterfall

Rio Celeste Waterfall is a breathtaking natural wonder. The waterfall is one of the most popular attractions in the park and is famous for its bright blue water, which is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

To reach the waterfall, you can hike along the Rio Celeste Trail, which is a 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) round trip, with 150 meters of elevation gain. Along the way, you’ll see stunning views of the Tenorio Volcano, lush rainforest, and plenty of wildlife, including monkeys and toucans.

As you approach the waterfall, you’ll hear the sound of rushing water growing louder, and soon you’ll see the magnificent Rio Celeste Waterfall, which is over 25 meters tall. The water cascades down the rocks, creating a mist that cools the air around it.

If you’re visiting Costa Rica, the Rio Celeste Waterfall is a must-visit destination. Its unique and stunning beauty will leave you in awe and create memories that will last a lifetime.


The Legend of Rio Celeste

The name Rio Celeste (translated as “light blue river”) comes from a local legend. This legend tells the story of a god who, while painting the sky, dipped his paintbrush in the river’s waters, giving it its extraordinary blue color. Another legend states that the river was a product of two separate streams that merged, but both legends add to the mystical aura of the Rio Celeste.

In reality, the striking blue color of Rio Celeste Costa Rica is attributed to a combination of aluminum silicates and sulfur. These chemicals react with sunlight to produce the turquoise color that Rio Celeste is famous for.

Rio Celeste Waterfall trail 

From the park entrance where the ranger station is you will start the first part of the trail towards the Rio Celeste waterfall. This part is paved and pretty flat. In only 20 minutes you can get from the entrance to Rio Celeste waterfall.

As soon as you arrive at an intersection, you can descend to the base of Rio Celeste waterfall via 250 paved steps. Although you will have a wonderful view of Rio Celeste waterfall from the top of the stairs, the view from the base of the 30-meter-high Rio Celeste waterfall is even more spectacular. Feel the spray on your skin and see from up close how the water thunders into the bright blue pool. 

Once you make it back to the main trail, you can continue the hike through Tenorio National Park toward the next point of interest.  From here on the trail through the park will be unpaved. So after rain, it can get muddy and slippery. So in case you have planned to do the complete Rio Celeste Trail, you should bring proper shoes with grip.  


Laguna Azul 

A little further up along the trail, you will see a small lagoon of intense blue water. This is Laguna Azul, or Blue Lake. A left turn off the main trail will bring you closer. It is absolutely wonderful to see the contrast of the bright blue color against the green foliage of the jungle. 

This place becomes even more magical when I tell you that legend says that this magical little pool of blue water is reminiscent of the magic mermaid lagoon in Peter Pan. 


Los Borbollones 

Just a couple of meters further from Laguna Azul you will come across Los Borbollones which is a spot in the river where hot volcanic gases come up. You can even smell the sulphur here! The water boils and gives you a great idea of how much volcanic activity there is in this National Park. 


Spanish Mirador, the viewpoint

After approximately 20 minutes walking from the intersection, you will get to the only viewpoint along the trail which is Spanish Mirador. From here you can overlook the rainforest, but when we arrived here the clouds covered most of the rainforest limiting our view. 

El Teñidero, where the two rivers meet

This area marks the end of the trail. First you will cross two hanging bridges and after crossing the second bridge you will reach El Teñidero. Here you can see how the two rivers meet to form Rio Celeste and where the water turns from clear to blue. 


What causes the blue water at Rio Celeste?

According to studies, the bright blue water of Rio Celeste is caused by a chemical reaction between volcanic minerals. At El Teñidero, where the two transparent rivers meet, called Rio Buenavista and Quebrada Agria, a unique phenomenon takes place. More in detail, the pH change in the mixing point increases the particle size of a mineral present in the Buenavista River. A fraction of this mineral reaches the bottom of the river, and you can even see it as white sediment. Check out the picture below. But the majority of the mineral remains gets suspended in the river and dispersed. This causes the characteristic color of Rio Celeste. 


Wildlife in Rio Celeste Costa Rica

Rio Celeste is a natural habitat for a diverse range of wildlife, including tapirs, howler monkeys, squirrels and coti’s. The lush rainforest that surrounds the river provides a perfect habitat for these animals, making Rio Celeste Costa Rica a perfect spot for wildlife enthusiasts. We have spotted a tapir and coti but could only capture the coti as the tapir disappeared pretty quickly into the jungle.

Besides that, Tenorio is also a prime area for birdwatchers. Birds that inhabit the park include tody motmots, sunbitterns, trogons, toucans, woodpeckers, hummingbirds and much more.


Wildlife Activities

Hiking is another popular activity in Rio Celeste, and you can explore the rainforest trails while spotting a variety of wildlife. The trails are well-marked, and you can choose from several routes, ranging from easy to challenging.

A great wildlife activity is the Rio Celeste Nature Night Walk to spot reptiles and amphibians like the red-eye frog. This is a great opportunity to spot the famous red-eye frog because you will see different animals at night than during the day, and your guide will point all of these out to you.

BOOK HERE the Rio Celeste Nature Night Walk


BOOK here a Private Waterfall and Sloths Adventure tour in Rio Celeste


Most asked questions about Rio Celeste Waterfall

Is Rio Celeste Waterfall worth visiting?

Yes! Rio Celeste waterfall is a stunning natural wonder and absolutely worth a visit! Rio Celeste falls is one of the most beautiful Costa Rica waterfalls and a must-visit for nature lovers. The turquoise-blue water is so clear, and in contrast with the lush greenery, it feels like a tropical fairytale. The color of Rio Celeste River reminds us of the stunning glacier rivers, however in Costa Rica there are no glaciers involved to create this phenomenon.

How long is the hike to Rio Celeste Waterfall?

To get to Rio Celeste waterfall you have to follow the Rio Celeste Trail for 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) from the entrance which takes an average of 20 minutes walking. To get to the base of the waterfall you can follow a set of stairs leading down which adds a few extra hundred meters. The complete Rio Celeste Trail is 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) round trip, with 150 meters elevation gain.

Can I swim in Rio Celeste Waterfall?

It is prohibited to swim at Rio Celeste Waterfall and also in Tenorio National Park. But if you want to take a swim in the beautiful blue river outside of the park, it is possible at the Rio Celeste Free Pool. It’s only a few minutes away from the entrance of Tenorio National Park. 

Rio Celeste Free Pool

The Rio Celeste Free pool has easy access to the beautiful blue river. Here you can admire the magical color and eventually take a refreshing dip. However, the water of Rio Celeste has a high level of Cooper Sulfate. This can irritate the sensitive skin when staying in the water for too long so keep this in mind.


Is Tenorio Volcano National Park open year-round?

Tenorio Volcano National Park is open year-round. However, it’s best to visit during the dry season, which runs from December to April. This is because the trails can be muddy and difficult to navigate during the rainy season.

Is it safe to visit Rio Celeste Waterfall?

It’s safe to visit Rio Celeste Waterfall. However, you should be cautious when hiking along the trail and swimming in the Rio Celeste free pool. The terrain can be slippery and the water can be cold and deep in some areas.

Best National Park Tours in Costa Rica

If you want to explore the best of Costa Rica, then it is highly recommended to book a tour. During most of these tours you will combine a few locations on one day so you can see the diversity that Costa Rica has to offer. Because of Costa Rica’s popularity, it is highly recommended to book your tours in advance as it is likely that tours sell out. So don’t wait to book until you get to Costa Rica. Choose your favorite tours here and secure your booking! All of these tours include air-conditioned transport with hotel pick up and drop off, certified guides and sometimes also lunch and entrance fees. You can reserve now and pay later, with cancellation up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.

  • Cahuita National Park and Tortuguero Canal boat tour. Explore Costa Rica’s Caribbean side with this wildlife-rich shore excursion to Cahuita National Park. Admire the biodiversity of the Tortuguero Canals, hike across Cahuita and enjoy Puerto Limon’s city highlights.
  • 3-Day Tortuguero National Park Excursion from San Jose. Visit one of the most important destinations in Costa Rica on a guided tour. Explore a beautiful natural paradise, tour the famous Tortuguero Canal and see diverse flora and fauna during this 3 day tour.
  • Manuel Antonio National Park combo tour from San Jose. Explore the world-famous Manuel Antonio National Park and its beautiful white-sand beaches. Discover the abundant wildlife on the park’s rainforest trails. Enjoy included breakfast and lunch, and make stops to see crocodiles.

Best Volcano Tours in Costa Rica


Other tour recommendations in Costa Rica

  • Night jungle tour Manuel Antonio tour. The best of the wildlife comes alive at night. Allow yourself to live amazing encounters that happen only at night in the rainforest. See wild night animals, and discover a whole new world.
  • Tortuguero Park Day Tour with Breakfast & Lunch from San Jose. Spend the day discovering the luscious landscapes of Tortuguero National Park. Explore this vibrant rainforest, see native wildlife in its natural habitat, learn about the local ecosystem and enjoy a delicious Costa Rican breakfast and lunch.
  • Celeste River and Llanos de Cortez Waterfall from Tamarindo. Hike through Tenorio Volcano National Park and visit the beautiful Blue River. Discover the rainforest and swim at Llanos de Cortez waterfalls while observing sloths, red-eyed leaf frogs, toucans, and butterflies.

More Costa Rica travel inspiration

I hope you enjoyed this blog post about the beautiful Rio Celeste waterfall in Tenorio National Park Costa Rica.

For more travel inspiration about Costa Rica, have a look at our other Costa Rica travel guides.

20 best hikes in Costa Rica – The Complete Guide

15 best waterfalls in Costa Rica – The Complete Guide

La Paz waterfall garden Costa Rica – The Complete Guide

Playa Cocles in Puerto Viejo – The Complete Guide

Catarata del Toro – The Complete Guide

Arenal volcano hike – The Complete Guide

Playa Conchal Guanacaste – The Complete Guide

Irazu volcano – Everything you need to know

Cahuita National Park – The Complete Guide

BriBri waterfalls near Puerto Viejo – The Complete Guide

Manuel Antonio National Park – The Complete Guide

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  1. Jennifer skinner says:

    Pls advise if your images can be purchased. We visited the waterfalls and found it spectacular. Unfortunately, our photos failed to capture the beauty!

    1. Hi Jennifer, Thank you for your inquiry, yes our images can be purchased – licensed. Please send us an email on [email protected] to let us know which pictures you’re interested in and the purpose of usage so we can determine the quality you need. Kind regards Ilse & Atiba

  2. marjoleine says:

    Hello Ilse, what a beautiful waterfall in Costa Rica Rio Celeste is. The colors are so beautiful, amazing !

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