Home » RIO CELESTE WATERFALL – Complete guide to Tenorio National Park Costa Rica
RIO CELESTE WATERFALL – Complete guide to Tenorio National Park Costa Rica
Rio Celeste waterfall is a beautiful 90 meters (295 ft) tall waterfall in Tenorio Volcano National Park. The distinctive turquoise coloration of the water is fed by the Celeste River and is caused from 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. And besides Rio Celeste waterfall there is much more to explore in the National Park. Read in this blog post everything you need to know about Rio Celeste waterfall and Tenorio National Park.
About Rio Celeste and Tenorio Volcano National Park
Located in the northern region of Costa Rica, Tenorio Volcano National Park was created in 1995 and is one of the country’s youngest National Parks. It’s name comes from the active Tenorio volcano which is a beautiful symmetrical cinder cone shaped volcano of 1916 meters height.
In Tenorio National Park visitors can explore the 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 kilometres 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.
How to get to Rio Celeste Costa Rica, Tenorio Volcano National Park
Located about 20 minutes from Bijagua, Alajuela, the Tenorio National Park can easily be reached with a 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.
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 $3,5) for every vehicle.
The opening times for Tenorio Volcano National Park are from 7AM until 4PM everyday of the week and the last entry is at 2PM.
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 expected 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!
Exploring Tenorio Volcano National Park
For nature lovers Tenorio National Park is a fantastic place to explore in Costa Rica. The 6 kilometres long hiking trail that leads you through the highlights of the park is well maintained and signed. However it can get muddy after some rainfall, so hiking shoes with good grip are recommended to wear. The total incline throughout the park is only 150 meters down the 250 steps down to the viewpoint of Rio Celeste waterfall. Bring enough water and eventually some snacks and you are ready to explore!
Rio Celeste Waterfall trail
From the park entrance where the ranger station is you will start the first part towards the Rio Celeste waterfall. This part of the trail is paved and pretty flat. In total the Rio Celeste hike will take you about 20 minutes. When you arrive at the intersection when you can descend down to Rio Celeste waterfall you will see that the rest of the trail through he park will be unpaved. So from here it can get muddy after some rainfall.
From the top of the stairs you will already have a wonderful view on Rio Celeste waterfall. However, if you want to see it from up close you have to conquer the 250 paved stairs down to the viewing platform. Rio Celeste waterfall is 30 meters high and thunders into a bright blue pool.
Once you made it all the way back up you can continue the hike through Tenorio National Park towards the next point of interest.
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.
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 that limited 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.
Wildlife in Tenorio National Park
There is plenty of wildlife in Tenorio National Park to spot. You can pretty easily spot tapirs, howler monkeys, squirrels and coti’s. 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. We have spotted a tapir and coti but could only capture the coti as the tapir disappeared pretty quickly into the jungle.
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 because the majority of the mineral remains suspended in the river and gets dispersed, it causes the characteristic color of Rio Celeste.
Can you swim in Tenorio National Park?
It is prohibited to swim in the Tenorio National Park. But if you want to take a swim in the beautiful blue river, it is possible at the Rio Celeste Free Pool which is only a few minutes away from the entrance of the park.
Rio Celeste Free Pool
The Rio Celeste Free pool has an 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.
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.