Bijagua: A Gateway to the Rio Celeste Waterfall

Last Updated: December 15, 2023

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.

Bijagua, Costa Rica - A Gateway to the Rio Celeste Waterfall

Location and Climate

Bijagua is located in Costa Rica’s Northern Highlands 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 1.5-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, Costa Rica Destination Guide - View of Town
Just a few businesses along the main road in Bijagua

Activities in Bijagua

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, river tubing, whitewater rafting, and river float trips. 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.

Farm Tour in Bijagua, Costa Rica
A mother three-toed Sloth and her baby hanging out on the property at Finca Verde

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.

The waterfall is best visited when it hasn’t rained lately, since the color can be altered by silt.

You now need to buy national park tickets online in advance to visit the waterfall. These can be purchased directly from the SINAC (government) website.

Read our post The Enchanting Rio Celeste for all the info you need to plan your visit. 

Hiking at Heliconias Rainforest Lodge

Outside town on the fringes of Tenorio Volcano National Park is Heliconias Rainforest Lodge.

Heliconias offers hiking along a trail through dense forest and across a few hanging bridges before looping back. New owners have taken over recently and upgraded the bridges so now they are sturdier.

This place is 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).

On our visits, we have seen 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.

Hiking at Heliconias Rainforest Lodge in Bijagua, Costa Rica
A white-faced monkey along the trail at Heliconias Rainforest Lodge

Frog Tours

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. 

Frog Tour in Bijagua, Costa Rica
Glass Frog at Bijagua Ranas

Tenorio River Tours

For something more exhilarating, whitewater rafting trips on the Tenorio River are available locally. This river has bigger Class III-IV rapids so it’s an exciting adventure. The ride is about 12 miles (20 km) along 22 rapids and ends with a memorable 12-foot drop over a waterfall called Cascabel. As you travel along the river, you can take in the gorgeous tropical scenery, birds, and wildlife.

More serene float tours and tubing tours are done on another section of the Tenorio River. A naturalist guide will lead the way on an inflatable raft or inner tube, pointing out gigantic kapok and fig trees as well as wildlife like monkeys, lizards, crocodiles, river otters, and many birds.

Rafting tours start at $105 pp and river float and tubing tours are around $55 pp. 

Restaurants in Bijagua

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 have enjoyed.

El Sabor de Dona Carmen

Hidden on a side street just south of the Bijagua High School (Liceo Bijagua) is El Sabor de Dona Carmen. This restaurant is as authentic as they get. The menu is simple with casados, a typical lunch dish of rice and beans, fish, chicken, or beef, and several side salads. There are also traditional rice dishes and soups like olla de carne (on Sundays). Adding to the charm is a small butterfly garden next to the dining area. 

local plate of rice and beans with many sides
A fish casado at El Sabor de Dona Carmen

Pizzeria El Barrigon

Located on the main road in town, the pizza at El Barrigon is solid and they have some other typical food options as well. We have 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).

Hummingbird Cafe

Located at Finca Verde Hotel, the Hummingbird Café offers something different if you’ve had your fill of typical food. 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. 

Restaurants in Bijagua, Costa Rica - Hummingbird Cafe
Lasagna at Hummingbird Cafe

Cafe y Restaurante Semilla

This small cafe has only a few tables but a sizable menu with traditional dishes, healthy options (including a vegan menu), as well as sweet treats. We also really enjoyed the coffee. Located on the main road in Bijagua, diagonally across from Mega Super grocery store. 

Small restaurant with garden and patio seating
The cozy Cafe la Semilla

Hotels in Bijagua

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. 

Note: Many accommodations in Bijagua do not have air conditioning. Because temperatures are cooler at night, most visitors find a fan to be more than adequate.

Budget Hotels

Finca Verde

Finca Verde is a laid back hotel 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, 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. $75-110/night, includes a good breakfast. Check Rates and Availability Here.

Hotel Recommendations in Bijagua, Costa Rica - Finca Verde
Simple room with a jungle view at Finca Verde

Sueno Rio Celeste Boutique Hotel

Sueno Rio 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 $140/night. Check Rates and Availability Here.

Mid-range Hotels

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 have stayed in one of their newer casitas, El Sol, 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. $130-160/night (double occupancy). Check Rates and Availability Here

Hotel Recommendations in Bijagua, Costa Rica - Casitas Tenorio
Casita El Sol at Casitas Tenorio

Tenorio Lodge

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. $130-170/night (double occupancy). Check Rates and Availability Here.

High-end Hotels

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. This hotel has obtained the Certification of Sustainable Tourism from the Costa Rican government. $280-420 (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. 

Last Updated: December 15, 2023

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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 GoThe 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 DestinationBijagua 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 CenterVisiting Bijagua along with a beach town in Guanacaste? This wildlife center near the city of Canas is a nice stop.