Nestled in a lush valley between two dormant volcanoes is the town of Bijagua. This rural village is probably best known as a stop-over destination for those visiting the nearby Rio Celeste Waterfall. And while the famously blue waterfall is quickly becoming a must-see attraction, the town itself remains peaceful and undeveloped. In this post, we’ll give you all the information you need to plan your visit to the charming country town of Bijagua.
Special Note: In November 2016, Bijagua was one of several towns in northern Costa Rica that was hit hard by the country’s first hurricane. While Hurricane Otto caused severe damage and even took several lives, the town is working diligently to rebuild and recover. We hope you’ll consider adding Bijagua to your travel plans, not only for all it offers, but also as a way to help the community.
Location and Climate
Bijagua is located in northern Costa Rica and sits at the border between the provinces of Guanacaste and Alajuela. Set inland, within the Guanacaste Mountain Range, this area stays lush and green year-round. The steep slopes of the Miravalles Volcano (6,654 feet) and Tenorio Volcano (6,286 feet) offer a beautiful backdrop for nature lovers. The closest international airport to Bijagua is Daniel Oduber International (LIR) in Liberia, about an hour away. Beach towns in Guanacaste like Playa Hermosa or Playa Tamarindo are about 1.5-2.5 hours away. The popular destination of La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano is a 2 hour drive.
Tip: Bijagua’s rainforests stay verdant year-round thanks to the nourishing rainfall it receives. Be sure to pack a raincoat and leave flexibility in your schedule for activities.
Bijagua is most famous for being the gateway to the Rio Celeste Waterfall. But there is enough to do here to fill at least a couple of nights. The region has areas of thick jungle and is home to an abundance of flora and fauna. Guided birding and wildlife tours are available to take advantage. You will also find mountain biking, horseback riding, and river tubing on the Rio Celeste. It is a great spot for those looking to connect with the local culture as well.
Farm Tour at Finca Verde
Finca Verde is a locally owned farm and reforestation project with a lovely restaurant and a few rooms. Though called a farm tour, this tour focuses more on exploring the gardens and forested areas of the property in search of monkeys, sloths, and birds. There are also stops at the small butterfly garden and snake/frog enclosure. Along the way, the hands-on guides will share their passion for some of Costa Rica’s most interesting plants, flowers, insects, and animals. You’ll catch a glimpse of how the family incorporates organic farming on their property as well. Night tours are also available.
Rio Celeste Waterfall Hike
As we’ve said, the major attraction of Bijagua is the Rio Celeste Waterfall that flows within the nearby Tenorio Volcano National Park. (See cover photo, above.) The intense blue color of this waterfall and river looks like something out of a fairytale but is absolutely real. Note that the waterfall is best visited when it hasn’t rained lately, since the color can be altered by silt.
Read our post The Enchanting Rio Celeste for all the info you need to plan your visit.
Hiking at Heliconias Lodge and Reserve
Outside town on the fringes of Tenorio Volcano National Park is Heliconias Lodge and Reserve. Heliconias offers hiking along one main trail through dense forest and across a few hanging bridges before looping back. The hanging bridges are rustic and one was not in service on our visit, so wouldn’t recommend going just for that. But this place is still a great option for exploring nature and beating the crowds. It’s a paradise for birders, with some unique species like the Tody Motmot, Yellow-eared Toucanet, and Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo (a relative of the roadrunner). We weren’t so lucky with birds during our hike, but we did see a large troop of white-faced capuchin monkeys, along with butterflies, lizards, and less rare birds like Toucans and Crested Guans. Heliconias also has a hike (guided only) to a lagoon where visitors sometimes spot the rare Baird’s Tapir.
Cataratas Bijagua (Bijagua Waterfalls)
At the foothills of the Miravalles Volcano, this trail at the Cataratas Bijagua Lodge leads through thick forest and along a rushing river to a refreshing waterfall. The moderately difficult hike takes about 3.5 hours. Unfortunately, the trail was closed at the time of our visit because of hurricane damage, but it should be open again soon.
You’ve likely seen Costa Rica’s colorful frogs on banner ads and book covers, but in Bijagua, you can meet them in person. There are two frog tours in the area. With a local guide by your side, you will walk around specially made trails and gardens that have been planted to attract and breed frogs. The kinds of frogs you might see include the red-eyed tree frog, blue jean poison dart frog, and a see-through variety known as the glass frog. Night tours generally see more frog species and are also the best time to see animals like snakes, lizards, birds, and even sloths. Reserve in advance through Bijagua Ranas or Frog’s Paradise. Tours are in Spanish unless otherwise arranged.
Bijagua isn’t built up so the restaurant selection is small, but there are still some tasty finds. Here are a few places that we enjoyed.
Located at Finca Verde Hotel, the Hummingbird Café offers something different if you’ve had your fill of typical food. This was the first restaurant that we tried in town and it was hard to branch out after that (we returned several times). The small but diverse menu has appetizers like hummus and handmade tortilla chips. Entrees include chicken enchiladas, cordon blue, lasagna, pizza, and burgers. The setting is very laid back, with an outdoor patio surrounded by jungle.
Pizzaria El Barrigon
We enjoyed our dinner at Pizzaria El Barrigon. Located on the main road in town, the pizza here is solid and they have some other typical food options as well. We tried the veggie pizza, but those who are feeling adventurous might like the house specialty, which is topped with gallo pinto (Costa Rica’s traditional rice and beans breakfast dish)
A great choice for a typical Costa Rican meal is Las Tinajitas. Also located on the main road in town, the kitchen here serves up classics like arroz con camarones (fried rice with shrimps), casados (plate of meat or fish, rice, beans, and side salads), and soups like olla de carne (Costa Rican-style beef stew). One of their fresh batidos (fruit smoothies) after a hike is also highly recommended.
Although Bijagua may be a small town, it has a sizeable selection of hotels. Much of the lodging is quaint B&B-type places (think cabins). Travelers of every budget should be able to find something nice. Prices in this area are still fairly modest compared to other destinations in Costa Rica. Below are our top picks for where to stay in Bijagua. Don’t miss the special discount code to save 10% at Casitas Tenorio.
Note: Many accommodations in Bijagua do not have air conditioning. Because temperatures are a lot cooler at night, most visitors find a fan to be more than adequate.
Finca Verde is a laid back hotel that is immersed in nature. The two buildings that make up the small lodge have a couple of rooms each and are backed by lush tropical forest. When we stayed recently, we saw sloths and many birds and woke to the calls of howler monkeys each morning. The rooms are rustic and small, but clean and comfortable. One of the best things about staying at Finca Verde is that you have easy access to their delicious restaurant, the Hummingbird Café. $75/night, includes a good breakfast. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Sueno Celeste B&B
Sueno Celeste is a bed and breakfast located right off the main road coming into town. It has spacious, freestanding cabins so that you have plenty of privacy. Each cabin is tastefully decorated and has a porch where you can watch colorful birds come and go through the gardens. This is an excellent value at around $75-95/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Rio Celeste Backpackers
For those wanting to stretch their dollar even further, there is Rio Celeste Backpackers. This hostel has a shared dorm as well as a few private rooms. A welcoming local family runs it and does their best to make it feel like you’re a guest in their home. Shared dorm, $18 a bed. Private room $40. Check Rates and Availability Here.
Casitas Tenorio B&B and Farm
One of our favorite properties in this area is Casitas Tenorio. Run by a friendly Costa Rican-Australian couple, this bed and breakfast and working farm has a handful of beautifully crafted bungalows. We stayed in their newest casita, El Sol, earlier this year and loved it. The finishes were modern and sophisticated, but with plenty of Costa Rican flair. Hand-painted tropical scenes adorned the walls, brightly colored linens dressed the beds, and local wood was used throughout. Guests love the breakfast area, not only for the volcano view, but to watch the many birds that come to the feeders. $85-130/night (double occupancy). Check Rates and Availability Here. Our readers get 10% off at Casitas Tenorio! Just enter the Promo Code TwoWeeks at checkout.
Another good option for very comfortable bungalows is Tenorio Lodge. This eco-lodge has 12 wooden bungalows set on a large 17 acre parcel of garden and forest. Through the floor-to-ceiling windows, guests get to enjoy views of Tenorio Volcano from within their cabin. The lodge also has two huge Jacuzzi tubs for soaking. $120-140/night (double occupancy). Check Rates and Availability Here.
Rio Celeste Hideaway Resort
Most of the lodging in this area is budget to mid-range, but there is one hotel for those looking for a little more luxury. The Rio Celeste Hideaway is a small resort with high-end bungalows. Their casitas are nestled in the peaceful forest and each has an awesome outdoor garden shower. Rooms have A/C. This hotel is right next to the national park entrance, but it is more remotely located so be prepared to drive to get to restaurants and amenities. $180-330 (double occupancy). Check Rates and Availability Here.
Bijagua offers travelers an escape from some of the more touristy areas in Costa Rica and has enough activities and amenities to make it just as enjoyable. With lush rainforest, friendly locals, and beautiful sights like the Rio Celeste Waterfall, Bijagua is sure to grow. Get there now and experience this charming town for yourself.
Have a question about visiting Bijagua? Ask us below. (Email subscribers, click here to ask your question online.).
Check out the links below for more practical info for planning your trip to Costa Rica:
- Driving in Costa Rica: What to Know Before You Go – The area around Bijagua is spread out and best explored with a rental car. If you have concerns about driving in Costa Rica, read this post. And be sure to check out our rental car discount to save 10% and get free extras.
- La Fortuna: What to Expect from Costa Rica’s Most Popular Destination – Bijagua and the Rio Celeste Waterfall are often visited from La Fortuna. If you’re planning a stay here, check out our recommendations for hotels, activities, and restaurants.
- Las Pumas Rescue Center – Visiting Bijagua along with a beach town in Guanacaste? This wildlife center near the city of Canas is a nice stop.