Rio Celeste

Few natural sights in this world boast the vibrant hues of Rio Celeste (Light Blue River in Spanish), where a stunning turquoise blue river, its lagoons, natural hot springs and jaw-dropping waterfall are set against the bright green of the jungle that surrounds it.

Rio Celeste’s unique light blue color is the result of a chemical reaction between volcanic minerals including sulfur and calcium carbonates. The place where the water appears to magically change colors from clear to bright blue right before visitors’ eyes is called Los Teñideros, where two streams merge to form Rio Celeste.

A local legend claims that when the Gods finished painting the sky they dipped their paint brushes in the river, giving it this spectacular turquoise blue shade.

This magnificent natural attraction is located inside Tenorio Volcano National Park, which surprisingly receives few visitors. In 2011, Tenorio Park welcomed less than 24,000 visitors. The low numbers could result from the poor condition of the road to get there, a bumpy, 40-minute ride from Bijagua, the closest town to the park. On the upside, fewer visitors are better to preserve the park’s pristine conditions and it never gets overcrowded.

Despite their low numbers, visitors are no longer permitted to bathe in Rio Celeste’s waters for conservation reasons.

The protected area inside the national park includes a dense primary and secondary rainforest that surrounds the turquoise river and Tenorio Volcano, which has lain dormant for years and has a ring of cloud forest covering its top. Various species of wildlife inhabit the park, most notably tapirs, monkeys, anteaters, sloths, wild cats and exotic birds.

Guided tours of the national park can be arranged at any of the area’s various local hotels, which include one upscale resort. Also, guides certified by the Costa Rican Tourism Institute with plenty of local knowledge generally can be found at the park entrance.

Tenorio Volcano National Park opens daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors should enter by at least 2 p.m. if they intend to cover the full extent of the trail before closing time.

The park’s entrance fee is $10 USD for foreigners and ₡800 (approximately $1.50 USD) for Ticos and residents.

For more info (in English and Spanish), call the park ranger station at Tenorio Volcano National Park: (506) 2206-5369.

Rio Celeste Weather and Packing Checklist:

The rainy season in Rio Celeste usually lasts from May to November, with a dry interval during July and August. Although the weather here is unpredictable, the heaviest rains usually fall in September and October. Temperatures tend to hover between daytime highs in the upper 70s to a cool 60 degrees at night. Visitors’ packing lists should include shorts, t-shirts, hiking gear, rain gear, sunblock, and a pair of pants and long sleeved shirt or jacket for the nighttime lows. 

How to get to Rio Celeste:          

From San José

By car:

Take the Inter-American Highway to Cañas, in Guanacaste province. Nine km after Cañas, take a right on Route 6 and drive towards Upala until you reach Bijagua. Then follow the signs to Tenorio Volcano National Park.

By bus:

A bus is available from downtown San José to the town of Guatuso, where you may take a connecting bus or taxi to Río Celeste. You can also take a bus to Upala, stop in Guatuso and do the same. 

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