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See our Rio Celeste Photo Gallery
Rio Celeste is the best kept secret in all of Costa Rica. The Light Blue River, a winding body of water surrounded by amazing rainforest in the Tenorio Volcano National Park, sports one of Costa Rica's most beautiful waterfalls, natural hot springs, as well as the unique phenomenon of clear water turning blue by means of a volcanic chemical reaction. They say that sulphur emitted from volcanic activity below mixes with calcium carbonate to make the pretty light blue. I say it's magic. Some may ask: "Why is Rio Celeste such a secret?" Well, tourism in Costa Rica has only started to hit its stride in the last decade or so. Only recently have tourists started to take advantage of the natural wonders that Northern Costa Rica has to offer. Since Rio Celeste is located north of the main tourism center, La Fortuna, Rio Celeste still attracts very few visitors, meaning that a very tranquil hike in the woods is in store for the folks who are willing to make the trek off the beaten path up to Guatuso.
Want to know a different way to experience a blue volcanic river? Check out the new Blue River Resort & Hot Springs, which is easily accessible from the beaches of Guanacaste.
What is a trip to Rio Celeste like?
A trip to Rio Celeste involves a pleasant, yet somewhat challenging, hike through the cool rainforest scenery of the Tenorio Volcano National Park. The hike will last about an hour and a half before you reach the Rio Celeste Waterfall. Take some time here to enjoy the Eden-like beauty of this gorgeous cascading water crashing into the baby blue swimming hole below. The lush green tropical surroundings top off one of most aesthetically-pleasing views in all of Costa Rica. After another hour of hiking, meanwhile taking a dip in the various hot spring pools along the way, you arrive at the spot where the Rio Celeste turns from a crystal clear water to a magnificent light blue color only found in Rio Celeste. This chemical reaction is caused by a constant flow of minerals supplied by the Tenorio Volcano. After you've seen the water turn blue you can start heading back to the park entrance. This downhill hike will likely only take you an hour and a half. When you get back to the park entrance you will be satisfied by all of the exercise you got while seeing a hidden natural wonder that will spark the envy of the most savvy tourists.
Not sure which hot springs resort to choose? Let our Costa Rica Hot Springs Comparison Chart help out.
How do I get to Rio Celeste?
Rio Celeste is best accessed through Guatuso (although until now Bijagua, on the other side of the Tenorio Volcano, has done a better job of exploiting the national park for tourism). The center of Guatuso, San Rafael, is a mere hour bus ride from La Fortuna. From La Fortuna, I recommend taking the 6:40 AM bus to Upala, since it is so important to get to Rio Celeste early in the day. The Upala bus will arrive in Guatuso at around 8:00 AM, leaving you right in the center of town where you can very easily hail a taxi to take you to the Tenorio Volcano National Park entrance. A taxi will cost you about $15 US in 2006 prices. You could also take an 11 AM bus (about $1.50 US in 2006) to the town of Rio Celeste that within an hour will take you about 3 kilometers from the park entrance. If you walk the 3 kilometers, expect to arrive at the park entrance at about 1 PM. At the park entrance, tourists have to pay an entrance fee of $6 US in 2006 prices. After you're done with your hike in the afternoon, you can either stay in the Rio Celeste area or you can head back to Guatuso to spend the night. Just be aware that the last bus goes back to Guatuso by 1 PM, so if you want to get back the same day, you'll likely need to take a taxi back. If you want to take a guided tour of Rio Celeste to avoid the hassles of bus travel, try an affordable option in JAZON, a rural tourism agency in Northern Costa Rica. Visit their website, CostaRicaRuralTours.com or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Map of Rio Celeste Area
In the map below you can see that the Tenorio Volcano National Park can be accessed from Bijagua or Guatuso. If you're coming from San José or La Fortuna, I suggest going through Guatuso and Maquengal (listed as Maquecal on the map). If you're coming from the beaches of Guanacaste, Highway 6 shown on the map shoots up north from the Interamericana and takes you to Bijagua, which would be your preferred entry point.
Rio Celeste Videos
Spoiler: You may not want to watch these video if you'd rather experience the Rio Celeste for yourself