The Enchanting Rio Celeste

Set in the mountains in rural northwestern Costa Rica, the Rio Celeste (Blue River) and waterfall is a breathtaking natural wonder that one has to see to believe. The brilliant blue water, which seems altered at first blush, gets its show-stopping hue from a chemical reaction between volcanic minerals. A walk through Tenorio Volcano National Park will take you along the riverbed. Here, you will see (and smell) the Rio Celeste turn from clear to vivid turquoise. You will also get to admire the waterfall, which is fast becoming one of the country’s most popular attractions. Below we share the essentials for planning your visit to the Rio Celeste.


The Enchanting Rio Celeste - Tips for Planning Your Visit


Tenorio Volcano National Park is a lofty 31,794 acre (12,867 hectare) swath of jungle located in northwestern Costa Rica. The towns closest to the park are Bijagua to the northwest and Guatuso to the southeast. This area of Costa Rica is very rural and features verdant rolling hills, farmland, and pasture, complete with plenty of grazing cattle. If you’re looking for an authentic travel experience, be sure to spend a couple of nights in Bijagua. Because this area is more remote and has fewer amenities, it sees far fewer tourists than other parts of the country. Read our complete post Bijagua: A Gateway to the Rio Celeste Waterfall for information to help plan your visit. 


The Enchanting Rio Celeste - Tips for Planning Your Visit
Local road to Rio Celeste/Tenorio Volcano National Park

Park Entrances 

Tenorio Volcano National Park previously had two separate entrances: one near Bijagua and another near Guatuso. Costa Rica has since closed the Guatuso entrance, so now all visitors must enter the park from the ranger station on the Bijagua side.

See below for directions on getting to the park. We will cover the best way from La Fortuna/Arenal as well as from Bijagua and Guanacaste Province.


The hike to the Rio Celeste is moderately difficult if you go the entire length of the trail. The first section leading to the waterfall, however, is a lot easier. This is a nice option for those not interested in a strenuous hike. Below, we will describe both portions of the trail.

Here’s a link to the trail map to help you get your bearings.

Portion of Trail to Rio Celeste Waterfall

From the ranger station, the trail leading to the waterfall goes through lush forest along a nicely paved, flat path. After about 10 minutes, the pavement ends and turns to gravel, then a regular dirt trail. The hike to the waterfall is about 30 minutes in total. Along the dirt portion, you will encounter some short steep areas, a small stream crossing, and lots of roots and rocks to navigate around. This portion of the hike is fairly easy in difficulty. We passed a man with a cane and many young children.


The Enchanting Rio Celeste - Tips for Planning Your Visit
One of the tougher sections of the first part of the trail to the waterfall


Once you reach the waterfall, it is a long 250 steps down a nicely constructed staircase to get to the viewing platform. The area around the falls is closed off and no swimming is permitted, but you will be close enough to get some amazing pictures. The Rio Celeste Waterfall is 90 meters (295 ft) tall and cascades into a deep blue pool surrounded by thick green vegetation.


The Enchanting Rio Celeste - Tips for Planning Your Visit
View from the staircase of the Rio Celeste Waterfall


Tip: The best time to visit the Rio Celeste is during the dry season of December to April, as rain can cloud the water and dull the turquoise effect.

Portion of Trail After Waterfall

Many people turn around after they have visited the waterfall, but there are some beautiful sights if you continue on. The second portion of the hike is more difficult. From the waterfall, the trail meanders uphill before descending to the serene river. After climbing up and then down some steep inclines, around slippery tree roots and irregular terrain, you will come to the Poza Azul. This is a lovely blue pool where you will want to take plenty of photos. Note that despite some old maps and publications, swimming is no longer permitted anywhere in the park.


The Enchanting Rio Celeste - Tips for the Hike
Terrain on second part of trail to Poza Azul and the tenideros


Continuing on, you pass over the river using a couple of small hanging bridges. Next you’ll reach one of the most interesting features of the park, the tenideros. This is the point where two rivers converge and the chemical reaction occurs. Both rivers have water that is crystal clear, but where they meet it suddenly turns a stunning blue. You might also detect a strong odor here from the chemical reaction between the sulfur and calcium carbonate, which causes the color change.


The Enchanting Rio Celeste - Tips for Planning Your Visit
Tenideros (point where two rivers converge and water turns to blue)


The trail dead-ends at the tenideros so you will just go back the same way you came to return to the ranger station. You can visit the park in an hour or two if you only want to see the waterfall. But if you want to see everything, allow 3 – 4 hours.

More than Only the River and Waterfall

The stunning waterfall and majestic river are definitely the highlight of a visit to Tenorio Volcano National Park, but there is more to enjoy as well. The surrounding scenery is beautiful, even if you do only the short portion of the hike. Because the park is at a high elevation, it hosts primary cloud forest as well as rainforest and is home to an abundance of wildlife. On our visit, we saw white-faced monkeys, white-nosed coati (a raccoon-type animal), and many birds, including a new one for our list, the very tiny Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant.


Black-Capped Pigmy-Tyrant at Rio Celeste
Black-Capped Pigmy-Tyrant along the trail


The longer portion also offers a scenic lookout where you can see two of Tenorio Volcano’s four peaks as well as Cerro Montezuma.

Planning Your Visit to Rio Celeste


Tenorio Volcano National Park is open daily, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Important: Even though the park is open until 4 p.m., last admission is at 2 p.m.


$12 for foreigners, ₡800 for citizens and residents.

What to Bring/Wear

  • Footwear: We recommend either hiking boots or sneakers that you don’t mind getting dirty. This area of the country receives a lot of rain so the trail is often muddy. Something like Keens would work well too.
  • Clothing: Mornings can be cooler here with temperatures in the lower 70s, but it does heat up quickly. If you’re getting an early start, lightweight pants and layers are best. If you’re not starting the hike until later in the morning, shorts and tee shirts are fine.
  • Water/Food: Be sure to bring plenty of water as temperatures do get hot during the day and any snacks that you may want. There are a couple of restaurants near the ranger station, but nothing else until the towns of Bijagua and Guatuso.
  • For more general tips, read our post about packing your daypack for Costa Rica.


The Enchanting Rio Celeste - Tips for Planning Your Visit
Muddy conditions along the trail are common



Right outside the park entrance are two simple restaurants serving typical Costa Rican cuisine. We ate at the one next to the ranger station and it was delicious! (Cash only)

Directions to Rio Celeste/Tenorio Volcano National Park

From Bijagua or Northern Guanacaste (Liberia, Tamarindo, etc.)

From Liberia, head south along the Inter-Americana Highway (Route 1). About 6 km (3.7 miles) before the town of Canas, take the off-ramp and go under the highway, connecting with Route 6 toward Upala. Follow Route 6 for about 22 km (13.6 miles) to Bijagua. Route 6 is a well paved road. Once you enter the small town of Bijagua, look for a sign for Tenorio Volcano National Park. Take a right onto the dirt road at the sign.

When we last visited (January 2017), they were in the process of paving the steeper parts of this road. From the main road, it took us about 30 minutes to get to the ranger station, as much of it was still rough dirt. Once the road is improved, this will be a much faster trip. 4×4 is not necessary to access the park from this direction under normal conditions.

From La Fortuna/Arenal

If you’re coming from the La Fortuna/Arenal area, it is faster to access the park from the town of Guatuso. From La Fortuna, follow Route 4 north for about 40 km (25 miles) until you get to the Rio Frio Bridge in Guatuso. Here, take your next left onto a dirt road (follow signs for the Rio Celeste Hideaway). The dirt road starts off smooth, but near the village of Rio Celeste turns a bit hilly. Parts of the steepest spots are paved, however, as you get closer to the ranger station, less of the road is paved. This could change with the improvements that are currently happening, but as of our last visit (January 2017), 4-wheel drive is recommended for this route. If you do not have 4×4, you could drive up and around the park, taking Route 4 to Route 6 and accessing the park on the Bijagua side, but this would take a lot longer.


There is parking at the ranger station for $2. Attendants will sort of watch your car, but as always in Costa Rica, do not leave anything valuable inside.


The Rio Celeste is definitely a must see for those travelers looking to check another one of Costa Rica’s natural wonders off their list. For us, this unique river and waterfall only confirmed what we already knew: that Costa Rica can keep surprising you with its magical beauty time and time again.

Post Updated: February 20, 2017



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  2. Ha! I love that statement “the public bus is for the more adventurous”, so true, so true! Its a bummer one can;t swim in that beautiful blue pool but I guess it might be safer to just photograph. Great pics!

    1. Hey Becca, yeah they built the enclosed viewing platform very recently. When I was researching before our visit, all the pics I saw was of it wide open and beautiful for swimming. Probably better for safety reasons but still a little sad. Thanks for reading!

  3. Ahh, the public buses. Whenever I return to CR, I will not be taking one of those! Too many just crazy/omg memories with them. I don’t know what was worst-those in the country or in the city 🙂
    This is yet ANOTHER 🙂 area I didn’t make it to. Your last picture, it looks like some undiscovered place. I half expect to see the conquistadors coming through the trees.

    1. Haha, it does have a fairy tale feel, you’re right. Haven’t heard about any conquistadors, but some people think the minerals in the water have magical healing powers. We only looked from afar so who knows. Thanks for reading!

  4. This looks amazing! I will be visiting in January and have been using your website and book to plan a 10-day trip. Do you have any idea how this compares with Rio Penjamos in Rincón de la Vieja? There is a resort offering a special with some tours included.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Nate, We haven’t been as far north as Rio Penjamos but it looks similar to the Rio Celeste. The resort you’re talking about (the only one in the area) is close to the hot springs/river and looks peaceful and secluded but there doesn’t seem to be a ton more to do in the area. The towns closest to the Rio Celeste are small and remote too, but closer to La Fortuna if you also wanted to visit an area with more amenities and things to do during your 10 days. Hope that gives you some guidance. By the way, if you need a rental car for your trip (recommended for visiting either location), make sure to check out our discount to save some money. There’s more info on our website:

  5. Is Rio Celeste better visited from Arenal or Tamarindo? We will be visiting both places. Whats the approximate time to get there from each place?

    1. Hi Ashley, Arenal is definitely the better option. Tamarindo is located quite far from Rio Celeste in Guanacaste in the northwestern part of the country, it’s several hours away, while Arenal is only about 1.5 hours and can be done on a day trip as long as you leave early.

  6. Hi Jenn and Matt, we are retirees from North Andover MA, a tico and a gringa, who wish we had done what you did. But here we are now and want to visit Rio Celeste. I’ve read the hike is “challenging” and steep in parts; I can walk 2-3 hours no problem, but my knees don’t like steep. I have my hiking poles but only sneakers. I’m hoping to make it at least to the waterfall. What do you think? Thanks.

    1. Hi Lisa from North Andover- we actually have friends who moved to Andover recently and will be visiting them when we go to the US for a visit next month, small world! On your question, the hike isn’t too terribly hard, especially if you’re used to walking 2-3 hours. There are a few steeper spots and of course don’t forget the staircase down to the waterfall with 250 steps. Other than that though, you mostly have to go slow because of tree roots and mud. One tip- we entered through the less commonly used Guatuso entrance. We think the trail might be easier/shorter from other entrance, near Bijagua. Here’s a link to the trail map: Hope that helps!

  7. Hi, is it possible to leave from Arenal, do the hike , and drive to santa Elena after (in th same day)?

    1. Hi Mariane, It is probably possible to do it in one day if you get to Rio Celeste very early but it would be really rushed. You want at least a couple of hours at Rio Celeste, then would have to grab lunch and leave Rio Celeste right after so that you’re not driving in the dark to Monteverde/Santa Elena. Better to break it up into a couple of days. There are some great eco-lodges near Rio Celeste if you decide to stay the night. Check out Rio Celeste Hideaway and Casitas Tenorio to start.

  8. Hello,
    First off I wanted to say I love your website! I have been using it for research and ideas. We are here for our honeymoon! We will be there June 4th. I really want to visit Rio Celeste Waterfall! We are staying in La Fortuna area. What is best way to get to Celeste? What is best way form of transportation to get there fast, cheap, and most importantly safe! Plus are some good places to get when we get to area?

    1. Hi Daniel, The Rio Celeste is a bit off the beaten path so is harder to reach if you don’t have a car. You can take the bus, but it is a long, complicated trip from La Fortuna. Hiring a private driver or going as part of a tour is another option but this is more expensive (tours are around $100pp). Your best bet might be to just rent a car for the day. Adobe Rent a Car has an office in La Fortuna and it looks like a small 4×4 would be around $58 with our discount. Use the form on our rental car page to get this discount if you decide to book. As for places to eat, the towns around Rio Celeste are pretty small but there are some small local restaurants.

      1. It sounds like renting a car versus going to Rio Celeste from arenal will save a lot of money. Is the trailhead easy to find and are the road conditions good?

        1. Hi Mary, Sorry it took us a while to respond to your comment. But yes, renting a car is a good alternative to an organized tour from La Fortuna if you are looking to save money. The roads getting there are in pretty good condition. To drive, you will take Route 4 (paved small highway) to Guatuso and then take a left onto a dirt road (read directions above). This road is bumpy but fairly flat and goes all the way to the town of Rio Celeste. From there, the road gets more hilly (with some steep spots) to the park entrance, so you might want a 4×4, just in case. Our memory is that there is a good sign for the entrance to the park. Have a great visit!

  9. Your site is amazing! I’ve been reading it for awhile now and I have a question about Rio Celeste. I have since after reading your articles crossed off Rincon dela Vieja and Cabo Blanco – due to a walking disability – I broke my ankle 2 years ago – and cannot do these kinds of walks.
    But I really really would like to see Rio Celeste and Poas Volcano.
    Do you think there is any possible way I could see those? I am trying to figure it out but can’t seem to find out. Thank you!

    1. Hi Sue, Probably not Rio Celeste unfortunately because it is a fairly tough hike. You could definitely do Poas though. The trail to the crater is flat and even paved. You can read our post about it here for more info on trail conditions. Something else that might be good for you are hanging bridges because usually the trails are really well maintained. There are some near Arenal Volcano and in the cloud forests of Monteverde. Maybe check out La Paz Waterfall Gardens when you’re near Poas too. Hope that helps!

      1. Hi Jenn & Matt! Thanks for your reply. And it was as I suspected. I am also talking to a CR expert who helped me plan last yr’s trip and he said the same thing… darn!!! Poas is on the list tho! I’ve read through all your posts – they are amazing by the way, I’m so enjoying reading them all…. It’s helping me build our itinerary for next year in a BIG way. Selvatura is also on the list, for hanging bridges, hummers, wildlife etc… I hope I can do it. La Paz is #1 on our list – we skipped last year, won’t do that again… Even if it’s touristy I think we need to go there for the hummers. There and Café Colibri & Selvatura for hummers. We are thinking of skipping Arenal – too touristy & I probably can’t even do it anyway. but keeping: Café Colibri, Tabacon hot springs, Sarchi, Poas, La Paz & Selvatura – in that area. then moving on to Nicoya Peninsula…. What are your thoughts?

        1. Glad us Costa Rica experts agree 🙂 That sounds like a really good plan, Sue. While you’re up in Sarchi you could also check out the topiary garden in Zarcero. It’s not huge but is a cool stop if you’re in the area. Really small, authentic farming town. So glad our site has been helpful with the planning! We offer itinerary help too if you have more questions. There’s more info about our different services here.

  10. I will mark that down, thanks! I think I have our itinerary pretty “set” – tho we might do a little wandering as we go… got our highlights tho!

  11. We’d love to visit the rio celeste on our vacation there over Christmas but im wondering if we are able to squeeze it in. We are Staying in La fortuna and then driving to Monteverde from there. Is it possible to hit the Rio Celeste from la fortuna and then make it to monteverde in a day? it seams ambitious but im not sure how long the roads take to drive…. please and thank you

    1. Hi Taylor, We addressed this exact question a few months ago. Take a look at our response to Mariane’s comment on May 9th. To add to that, you won’t want to rush at Rio Celeste because it’s beautiful and you really don’t want to be driving the road to Monteverde at night.

      1. thank you very much! i appreciate that, sorry i missed the above question/answer. i’ll definitely be using a full day from la fortuna instead of trying to do it in between.

  12. Are there any hostels nearby? Or do we have to stay in Arenal? I am on budget. Where do I catch the buses from to Rio Celeste?

    1. Hi Mc, Rio Celeste Backpackers is close by in Bijagua. That is a good option. A dorm bed is around $18/night. We have never taken the bus from La Fortuna but you can find instructions on this website. The route is in reverse but you should be able to figure it out. Here’s a link to another website that you can use to piece together the route in reverse (La Fortuna to Upala to Bijagua).

  13. Hi Jenn,

    We are going there for a day trip. Do you have any other recommendations what else can be done around the area for a few more hours.

    1. Hi Patricia, This area of Costa Rica is very rural, lots of small towns and open fields. There aren’t a ton of attractions outside of the Rio Celeste. One idea, though, is the Finca Verde Lodge in Bijagua’s farm tour. They’re an organic farm, but the tour focuses on showing you tropical plants and wildlife. They also have a butterfly garden and frog/lizard enclosure on the property. Here’s a link to their website with more info. Otherwise, you could grab lunch at a local restaurant in Bijagua. These small towns are a great place to really experience the culture.

  14. We are headed to Costa Rica in April. We have 2 kids (11 and 9 year olds) who are very adventurous and love hiking. We were planning on a few days in Monteverde as opposed to the Arenal area as seeing the volcano wasn’t a highlight when my wife and I visited 15 years ago. That said, your reviews of this hike and Cerro Chato have made me rethink. Are there hikes like these in the Monteverde area or, if we are looking for a strenuous, beautiful hike, is this what you’d recommend?

    1. Hi Matt, Cerro Chato is one of the more challenging hikes in Costa Rica and the Rio Celeste is one of our favorite attractions. Other than these two, though, there aren’t a lot of challenging hikes near La Fortuna. Monteverde does have more choices. It’s all cloud forest so similar scenery but some of the reserves have unique features like waterfalls, hanging bridges, trails designed for birding/seeing hummingbirds, etc. It can get busy at certain times of year, but one of our favorite places for a moderately challenging hike is the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Santa Elena is nice too because it is seldom crowded. Hope that helps. If you haven’t seen it yet, our book Top 10 Costa Rica Itineraries has a whole chapter on what we consider the best hikes throughout the country. It’s the Eco-Trekking chapter. Hope your family has a wonderful trip!

        1. Hope the book is helpful, thanks for getting it. We think that waterfall is back open but aren’t 100% sure. I would ask someone local, like your hotel, when you arrive before setting off to try and find it just to make sure.

  15. Hi guys, my wife and I are visiting Costa Rica at the end of May and will be staying in La Fortuna for the first few nights of our trip. If we wanted to go to Rio Celeste from the La Fortuna area, would you still recommend route 4 towards Guatuso? I think at the beginning of your post you mention that the entrance at Guatuso has closed, so would we have to go all the way around the park and enter through Bijagua? Thanks!

    1. Hi Kevin, When we updated this post a couple of months ago, we updated the directions too so those are good. Yes, Route 4 is still the best way from La Fortuna. Even though the Guatuso entrance is closed, it’s still faster to go that way since the Bijagua entrance is just up the road (you go past the closed entrance and the Bijagua entrance is shortly thereafter). Otherwise you have to drive all the way around the park on Route 4 and 6, then it’s another 30 min on the dirt road from Bijagua because the road is in rough shape. Hope that makes sense.

  16. Hey
    Is there any entrance to park other than Bijagua?
    We will be driving from La Fortuna.

    Thank You

    1. Hi Naresh, There is only one entrance now, but you don’t have to drive to Bijagua to get to it. You can cut across through Guatuso. Read our directions from La Fortuna, above.

  17. Hey Jenn and Matt
    This is a great post.
    Can you tell driving directions from Monteverde to Volcan Tenorio. Our plan is to start driving from Monteverde in afternoon and reach Hotel Cataratas Bijagua Lodge in evening.
    Then next day hiking Rio Celeste starting early, finish by afternoon and go to Venado Caves and reaching La Fortuna by 7 PM.
    Is this plan feasible?

    Thanks in advance!!!

    1. Hi Nick, The fastest way is Route 606 to Highway 1 (stay on 606 the whole way and don’t take 605). Then take Route 6 off the highway all the way to Bijagua.

      Your plan for the next day is possible, but honestly sounds exhausting since it involves two very active excursions. I guess if you did only the first part of the hike to the waterfall, that would get you out of the park sooner and into the caves earlier. Try to get done at the caves by mid afternoon, so that you don’t have to drive in the dark. If you have time to fit in the caves on another day, that might make the day less hectic and more enjoyable.

  18. we are thinking of staying in Nuevo Arenal. If we wanted to go see Rio Celeste, is there a “shortcut”? Or do we have to drive to LaFortuna and then up Route 4 to the Park?

    1. Hi Amy, We have taken the “shortcut” from Nuevo Arenal before (Route 143), thinking it would be faster, but it turned out to be an extremely rough, slow dirt road. That was a few years ago so it could have improved, but most likely not. The safer route is, as you say, to go back to La Fortuna and take Route 4.

  19. Hi guys,
    We will be going from Playa Negra to La Fortuna but we want to go to the Rio Celeste first before heading to the hotel. We will have luggage and surfboards with us and will have to leave some of it in the car if we go to the waterfall (we will take our backpacks with valuables and passports etc with us on the hike). You mentioned there is a ranger station there where you park but is the parking area close to ranger station where they can actually keep an eye on the car?

    1. Hi Steve, The ranger sits in an office and isn’t that close to the parking area, but there are attendants who are supposed to keep an eye on your car. (This is why there’s a parking fee. Normally national parks don’t charge for parking.) The lot is pretty big, though, so they have a lot of ground to cover. Maybe park as close to the ranger station side as you can. The far side is more isolated and would be worse in terms of potential break-ins.

  20. Hi,
    We are heading to CR on Memorial weekend, wondering how often does it rain during this time of the year. We would like to visit the Rio Celeste from La Fortuna, but unsure if the weather permitted. Also, what time does the sunrise and sunset?


    1. Hi Eunice, We looked at some historical rainfall data for the Bijagua/Rio Celeste area. It looks like in May, Bijagua receives a medium amount of rain compared to the rest of the year so you might be okay. I don’t want to give numerical totals because it can give the wrong idea since a large amount of rain can fall in one storm event in Costa Rica.

      For anyone else interested in the weather patterns in this area, the driest months are February through April, May receives a medium amount, June through August receive the most, September and October stay fairly rainy, and then it decreases as the year goes on. January typically gets more than Feb.-April, but is one of the drier months. Here’s a link to where we pulled this info. All in Spanish, but there’s a chart on page 6.

      Sunrise and sunset are consistent year-round in Costa Rica. Sunrise is around 5:15 a.m. and sunset is around 5:45 p.m.

  21. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    My family (3 kids ages 8, 10 and 13) will be visiting Rio Celeste on Saturday, July 15. I would like to know if you think the entire hike (all the way to the Tenideros) will be too difficult for my kids. Next, the best shoes (if conditions are really muddy) would be the Keens? Also, if we do the entire hike to the Tenideros, did I understand your post that there is a lookout to see the volcano? Lastly, what weather/temps should we expect mid-July. We will be heading out of our hotel around 7:30am from La Fortuna, is it really crowded early and during this time of year? Crossing my fingers for a dry couple of days so the trail are not too bad and the water is Celeste.

    Thank you,


    PS – any chance of seeing a sloth on these trails?

    1. Hi Arlene, It probably depends on your kids. If they are used to hiking/walking, they should be able to do the whole thing. We did see younger kids doing the whole loop. You can just assess how it is going when you get to the waterfall and go from there. Keens are good in mud (a lot of people prefer them) but your feet will get dirty. Personally, we prefer waterproof hiking boots and then we wash them off later and change into sandals or something in the car. Temps will be warm. Shorts and T-shirts or lightweight hiking pants if you want to avoid the bugs. Yes, there’s a lookout to the different peaks of Tenorio Volcano in the distance- it isn’t spectacular, but it’s nice. The park shouldn’t be too busy in mid-July but there will probably be some tours. Try to get ahead of the groups if you can. Good luck for clear skies!

  22. This is the most magnificent of God’s creations. Rio Celeste is a true beauty. The hike getting to the waterfall was fun: a little strenuous and muddy along the way with many steps to climb, but so worth it. Wear good hiking shoes & bring a rain jacket just in case. We did get sprinkled on part of the way. The waterfall & pool colors are spectacular. Thanks for sharing, beautiful pictures!!!!

  23. Hi there,
    We are heading from Tamarindo to Rio Celeste. Your directions are helpful. However after seeing the waterfall, we are heading from Rio Celeste to La Fortuna. We rented an Intermediate SUV. Will be okay driving with this car from there to La Fortuna or do we need to get a 4×4? Or should we drive back from the dirt road to Bijagua then go from Route 6 to Route 4 to head to La Fortuna? Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Nidhi, As we said above, they were working on the road last time we were there (January 2017), but we’re not sure if they were doing the stretch from park towards Guatuso. Part of this portion is steep and rugged so if you are coming soon (rainy season) and don’t have 4×4, we would probably drive around and go Route 6 to Route 4. You might be okay if you’re coming in the dry season.

  24. Hi Jenn and Matt,
    My daughter in-law had asked a large group of family and friends to go to Costa Rica (9 adults and 3 children). We are staying at the Rui Palace Costa Rica from November 2 -11, 2017. Normally I am the one who looks in to vacations and books them. I just started to look in to information on Costa Rica and realized that our time is during the raining season. I have some adults about canceling their trip due to the rain. We have read where there are less excurions and some compeltely canceled due to rain and road closes. This of course is an expensive vacation. Could you give me your advice about going at this time and any other interesting or important advice?

    1. Hi Chris, November is the rainy season, but the rain typically starts to taper off this time of year. The dry season on the Pacific coast begins in December so usually November isn’t a bad time to visit. September and October are usually the rainiest months. You can read our Weather post for more info. As far as tour cancellations and road closures, most tours operate rain or shine and road washouts are not a huge problem. When they happen, they are repaired relatively quickly. The Riu is a little bit far from most tours/attractions so you will be spending some time in the car. Our advice is to plan your excursions for the morning when rain is less likely and be prepared for the rain (see our Packing post for tips on what to bring in the rainy season).

  25. Hi Jenn & Matt

    I am staying a night in Bijuagua right outside the park entrance. I really want to see the waterfall but only have a short time before I have to leave. How quick could a round trip hike to just see the waterfall take?

  26. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    Your blogs are really helpful and very informative. I am partly successful in planning my DIY trip to CR thanks to you. I had a question. I was trying to find out the driving directions to the park entrance or the ranger station but I wasn’t able to find it on net in google maps. I would be living in Chachagua. Can you please give me directions to the ranger station or park entrance. Google maps place to search for also should do.

    Thank you.

    -bArAth A

    1. Hi Barath, We have directions for how to reach the ranger station in this post (towards the bottom). You can use the ones from La Fortuna. Coming from Chachagua, you’ll pass through La Fortuna first. Here’s a Google Map with directions. Google Maps was acting strange when we made this map, but that is the way we know to go and should be accurate as long as the road after Guatuso hasn’t been washed out or otherwise damaged recently.

  27. Rio Celeste wasn’t on my radar until I read this post! Thank you – it sounds amazing and a must-see. We will be staying in La Fortuna and do not want to drive. Is there a guide or tour company you would recommend for a day trip to Rio Celeste?

  28. Hi Jenn & Matt-
    My husband and I are planning to do a day trip from Tabacon to Rio Celeste in early March. Would you mind sending me the tour company you recommend for transportation and guides?
    Thank you so much. Your site has been so helpful!

  29. I’m on my way to CR tomorrow and had planned to see the Rio Celeste as I’ve missed it in my two previous trips. This information is very helpful. I’ll expect my sneakers to get trashed, but I think I’m going to take the full hike and hope I don’t have a heart attack! 🙂

  30. Hi Jenn and Matt!
    I’ve just discovered you, researching for our first trip to Costa Rica!
    I’m planning a trip for late July and we will have our six and seven-year-olds with us.
    I’d like to rent a car, travel around, visiting the following:
    – La Paz Waterfall Gardens
    – Catarata Del Toro
    – Arenal area, including Tabacon Hot Springs, the Butterfly Conservatory in El Castillo, and the chocolate tour at Finca Luna Nueva
    – Rio Celeste
    – Monteverde
    – Manuel Antonio
    – Oso Peninsula
    How much time would you allow for this itinerary? Is is too ambitious for a first trip with littles?

    1. Hi Amber, We’d allow at least 15 nights plus whatever airport overnights you’ll need so that you’re not rushing around too much, because the drive times between some of those destinations is substantial. You could do 2 nights near La Paz/Catarata del Toro, 4 nights in Arenal (lots there and you can just do Rio Celeste as a day trip instead of adding it as a separate destination), and 3 nights each in Monteverde, Manuel Antonio, and Drake Bay. The itinerary is a little ambitious with a 6 and 7 year old because of all the driving. The Osa would be an obvious one to take out since it takes a long time to get there. You will still see a lot of wildlife if you skip it. Hope that helps out with the planning. If you still need to rent a car, be sure to check out our rental car discount. We get 10% or more off and your kids would get free booster seats when you book through us. Hope your family has an amazing trip!

  31. Hi, your post was very helpful! We will be renting a car when we are going to costa rica, I am curious if you would suggest self guided tours or getting a tour guide.

    We plan on going to Rio Celeste to see the blue water, but weren’t sure if this is a trip we should do on our own or get a tour guide for?


    1. Hi Lindsay, Sometimes we recommend a guide for hikes, like the hikes around Arenal Volcano so that you can learn more about the geology/history of the area. A lot of times guides are essential for spotting wildlife too. But the Rio Celeste hike is one that you can definitely do without a guide. Just follow the well-maintained trail to see the different sites. If your goal, though, is to see wildlife, a guide would be good to have. Let us know if you’d like a recommendation.

  32. Hi Jenn and Matt,

    Can you send a recommendation for guides in Tenorio as well as Miravalles? I’m particularly interested in spotting some birds. We are staying in Bijagua for two nights in February and will trek around both of these areas.

    And one other question – would it be feasible to go to Monteverde for a day-trip from Bijagua? I’ve read your posts about the preferred driving route (down route 6 to Route 1 to 606). But, just not sure if it’s too much driving for a day trip down and back before dark.


    1. Hi Amber, We’ll send you an email with info for guides now.

      Regarding the day trip to Monteverde, it’s about 2 hours each way so possible if you leave early. Quite a bit of driving but it would let you see a completely different area of the country (cloud forest) with different birds. And yes, the fastest route would be 6 to 1 to 606.

  33. Hello – I really wanted todo the Lake Cerro Chato Trail but after reading so many comments it seems risky due to the recent closure. This hike seems beautiful– how would you compare to Nauyca Falls? are both a must see in your opinion? After our stay in the La Fortuna area we will stay in Playa Hermosa (the one by Jaco) and I am trying to decide on day trips.

    thank you

    1. Hi Annamarie, The Nauyaca and Rio Celeste are very different and definitely both are worth doing. They are two of our favorite waterfalls in the whole country. The hikes to them are different and the waterfalls themselves different as well. The Nauyaca is a little far from Playa Hermosa, but doable as long as you get an early start.

  34. Hi, the tips on this site so helpful! We’re traveling with our 6 year old and she gets car sick so I’m wondering if you can provide some tips. We are traveling from Liberia airport to Bijagua (1 night) then going to La Fortuna. My question is.. is that route paved between Bijagua and back on route 4 and down to La Fortuna? If the drive is rough she’ll definitely not be feeling well. Our other option is skip Bijagua and just head to La fortuna the route that google maps tell us. Thanks!

    1. Hi Nesha, Stick with your original plan because that route avoids the curvy road around Lake Arenal. To get from Bijagua to La Fortuna, you will want to take Route 6 north to connect to 4 rather than cutting across to avoid the bumpy dirt road. Route 4 should be okay for her – it is fully paved.

  35. Hello! Planning our visit for February 2020, will be traveling from La Fortuna to Monteverde, curious if you think Rio Celeste is a realistic stop on the way?
    We are doing quite a bit of traveling during our week visit (La Fortuna- Monteverde – Manuel Antonio), so trying to prioritize our stops. Thanks!

  36. Hi Jenn and Matt! Super helpful post. We are thinking of staying in El Castillo for access to the sky bridges around La Fortuna, then traveling to the Rio Perdido hotel for a couple of nights for some R&R. Do you think it’s feasible to stop here on our way between the two destinations? Thank you!

    1. Hi Alex, Yes, it’s totally reasonable. It will add a little bit of driving to make the stop but just plan on leaving early in the morning so you’re not rushed and it should be fine.

      1. Hi Jenn and Matt.

        Amazing website !!!

        We are a family of 5, visiting Costa Rica for first time during Christmas vacation. Staying for 10 days. Planning on dividing the trip. 5 days in rainforest around Arenal and 5 on beach in Guanacaste.

        For the five “rainforest days”, we would like to visit the Arenal volcano area, Rio Celeste and Monteverde. Where do you think a good base would be to make day trips to these places from there?

        Since we are traveling in high season. Do we need to buy entrance tickets in advance to the parks or is it ok to buy at the entrance?

        For the Guanacaste area would you recommend a certain town? We just want to relax on a beach and do some water activities (snorkeling, catamaran..)

        1. Hi Alex, Glad our site has been helpful! From Arenal, you could do the Rio Celeste as a day trip. Monteverde is too far to do as a day trip from either location, though. If you really want to see all three places, we would do 3 nights in Arenal and then 2 in Monteverde.

          You don’t need to buy tickets in advance for most national parks but some parks do require you to buy them online at some point before your trip. This government website lists the applicable parks. For where you are going, it’s at least Tenorio Volcano National Park where the Rio Celeste is.

          For Guanacaste, it really depends on the type of experience you’re looking for. Here’s a link to our Destinations Summary Guide, which is organized by region. Keep in mind that popular places like Tamarindo will be very busy over the holidays.

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