Bijagua: A Gateway to the Rio Celeste Waterfall

Last Updated: September 22, 2019

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.

Be sure to check out the Hotels’ section, below, for a promo code to save 10% off one of the best lodges in Bijagua!

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

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, 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, 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. 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.  

If you’re interested in hiring a guide for the Rio Celeste hike, we work with an excellent naturalist who has lived in Bijagua his whole life. Private tours with him are $75 per person and include entrance fee and lunch. For information on booking a tour, see below. 

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 visit, we saw 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.

Private guided tours of Heliconias are around $65 per person and include entrance fee. For information on booking, see below.

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 are done on another section of the Tenorio River. A naturalist guide will lead the way on an inflatable raft, 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 tours start at $55 pp. Both include professional guides, all equipment, and lunch. See below for how to book a rafting tour.

Thermal Pools at Rio Perdido Hotel

A great way to relax after exploring Bijagua is a visit to the thermal pools and hot springs at the nearby Rio Perdido. This resort, about 1.25 hours away, has 3 mineral pools on its grounds, a swim-up bar, and spa. A unique feature is the thermal river you can walk down to and soak in. It has 8 registered hot springs and is surrounded by pristine rainforest. If you’re not staying at the resort, you can access these amenities with a day pass.

Day passes are $65 pp with lunch or dinner included or $40 pp for entrance only. The resort also offers other activities like zip lining through a canyon and river tubing. See below for how to book a day pass or other tour at Rio Perdido.

Activities near Bijagua, Costa Rica
Hot spring pool at the Rio Perdido near Miravalles Volcano

Booking a Guided Hike, Whitewater Rafting, Float Trip, or Rio Perdido Day Pass

If you’d like to book a guided hike of Rio Celeste or Heliconias Hanging Bridges, a river rafting or float trip, or a day pass or activity at the Rio Perdido, we’d be happy to help. Just contact us through our Tour Booking Service page or send us an email at bookings(at)twoweeksincostarica(dot)com. We’ll need to know your preferred date and the number of people in your party, adults and children. We’ll then send you some information and help you book. Booking through us costs the same and helps support our website!

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.

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

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).

Las Tinajitas

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. 

Restaurants in Bijagua, Costa Rica - Las Tinajitas
Arroz con Camarones at Las Tinajitas

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. 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.

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/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 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 $100-130/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. $105-150/night (double occupancy). Check Rates and Availability Here. Our readers get 10% off at Casitas Tenorio! Just enter the Promo Code TwoWeeks at checkout.

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. $150-185/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. $150-330 (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. 

Last Updated: September 22, 2019

Have a question about visiting Bijagua? Ask us below. 

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you book a hotel using one of the links, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read our Privacy Policy for more information.

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.

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14 Comments

  1. Perfect timing for this post! We’re leaving to CR this week and just had planned to visit Bijagua! 🙂 Any extra to do-ideas are super welcome.

    Kind regards

    1. Hi Lynn, Casitas Tenorio has a tour where you can learn about their farm and milk a cow, if that interests you at all. The co-owner, Donald, is also an expert birdwatching guide and does tours at their private reserve near the national park.

      Other ideas: A little farther near Miravalles Volcano is hot springs, mud baths, and a hike with waterfalls and hanging bridges. It won’t be in time for your visit, but we’re coming out with a guide to the Miravalles area soon. Hope you have a great visit. Glad Bijagua is on your list!

  2. Thank you for your blog. We are traveling to CR for trip no. 4 in November 2017 and a Costa Rican friend suggested La Carolina Lodge. Seeing that this area was hit hard by a hurricane (which we did not know) makes me want to visit all the more, before heading off to Bosque del Cabo on the Osa for stay no. 4. We’ve made many friends there, so it’s like going home. We’ve visited much of the country, including Manzanillo on the Caribbean side. We love the entire country.

    1. Hi Jennifer, That’s a great lodge, we think you will enjoy it and will enjoy seeing a new area of the country. Bijagua is beautiful and the people are very friendly. Thanks for commenting. Hope you have another wonderful visit!

  3. Hi Jenn and Matt! Thank you so much for all of your information! We will be arriving late November and will be staying at the Finca Verde Lodge. What are the temperatures like since these units do not have A/C? We stayed at a place in the USVI that didn’t have A/C and it ruined our trip so now I’m in the hotseat to let everyone know what we should expect this go around. Thank you in advance we are looking so forward to this trip and this great place!

    1. Hi Cynthia, It cools down a lot at night in Bijagua so you should be fine without A/C. We wore pants to dinner some nights when we were there last January, and January is usually hotter than November. Hope you have a wonderful stay at Finca Verde! We loved it there.

  4. This is all such helpful information!! I lived in Costa Rica a few years ago near Guapiles/Cariari and am planning a trip to go back and visit friends, as well as parts of the country that I’ve never seen. I’m hoping to see Tenorio, but will be relying on public buses for transportation. Do you know what the bus routes are like from Arenal to Bijagua or from Liberia to Bijagua? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Megan, We have never accessed Bijagua by bus, but we think that both trips as possible and not terribly long. You can use this website, which is usually fairly accurate. It shows a bus that stops in Fortuna and goes to Bijagua via Upala. If you went from Liberia, you would change buses in Canas.

  5. Hi!
    Because of your awesome site, I decided to add Rio Celeste to our itinerary for our trip May 2018. We will be coming from Samara and will have our own 4×4 vehicle. I’ve been all over CR but this area will be new to us, so we’re trying to figure out driving time. We will have our young boys (1.5 and 3 at the time of the trip) with us. Any recommendations for quick stops to stretch on the way up? We’re staying at Casitas Tenorio B&B and are really excited for this new adventure!
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Kourtney, From Samara, you can either go Route 18 and up Highway 1 or Route 21 over to Liberia and connect to Highway 1 from the other direction. The first option might be slightly faster but there are better places to stop if you go up through Liberia. You could visit the town of Guatil to see the artisans make pottery in the traditional Chorrotega method. This is a quick activity. There are also some parks in the city of Liberia, and probably one with a playground. Hope that give you some ideas. You will love Casitas Tenorio. Hope you used our discount code!

  6. You mentioned river tubing on the Celeste? I am intrigued by this option…do you have to go with a tour or is there another way to do this? Also, my husband and I are looking at doing two possibly 3 days in Biagua. We want to hike the Celeste but I am wondering if there is enough to do otherwise to keep us occupied or if we should move down to Liberia…Thanks for your website! It has proven invaluable as we plan our trip to CR!

    1. Hi Barbara, You would need a guide for the river tubing. I don’t think there is anywhere to rent tubes, plus you would want a guide for safety reasons. There is definitely enough in the Bijagua area to keep you busy for 2-3 days, especially since you probably won’t be arriving until later in the day on your first day. In addition to the activities above, the Miravalles Volcano area is a reasonable drive away. This is also a quieter area, but there are some cool things to see. Miravalles has the volcano, hot springs, and Las Hornillas (mud baths, hiking, waterfalls, etc.). You can read our post about Miravalle here.

  7. Hi there – thanks for the great information! We are travelling to CR in December 2019 and looking for some volcano/waterfall/adventure action closer to the Pacific than Arenal. When you say that the Heliconias hanging bridges are rustic….how rustic? I don’t love heights or swinging things so want to make sure they are safe and sturdy.

    1. Hi Janna, Heliconias Lodge is under new management now and they are working to improve the bridges. They were sturdy when we visited a couple of years ago and we have heard that they are in even better shape now. They’re just rustic in the sense that they’re not the elaborate super reinforced bridges that you will find in places like La Fortuna and Monteverde.

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