Rio Celeste Waterfall In Costa Rica Ultimate Guide

Rio Celeste Waterfall is located in the Guanacaste mountain range in northern Costa Rica and is famous for hiking, the views, and the blue waters. It opens every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are purchased online in advance and cost $12 for adults and $5 for kids. Expect to spend from 1 to 4 hours here. 

If you’re planning a trip to Rio Celeste waterfall, whether you’re going solo, with friends, or with family, there are some things you have to know beforehand. When I visited, I expected a long hike, fewer crowds, an off-grid location, and swimming spots at the falls.

Though the trip was enjoyable, we learned some things the hard way. To help you avoid these, I’ve put together a step-by-step guide with all the essential information for visiting Rio Celeste waterfall.

I divided this guide into three parts: the first covers what you need to know before your trip, the second explains activities within the park, and the third offers recommendations for the best nearby restaurants, lodges, and tours.

Key Takeaways

If you don’t have the time to read this complete guide, the table below provides a bird’s-eye view of all the things I’ll explain in the rest of this post. But I recommend you keep reading so you don’t get half-baked information. 

RIO CELESTE WATERFALL GUIDE (OVERVIEW)
LocationRio Celeste is located in the Tenorio Volcano National Park, Guanacaste Province, Guatuso, Costa Rica.
What makes it unique?The waterfall and river reflect a bright blue color when sunlight hits it—the incredible views and hiking experience.
Opening hours8 am to 4 pm daily. No other entry strictly after 2 pm.
Ticket fees and purchase method $12 for non-residents and 800 colones for residents. You must get tickets online before arrival via the SINAC website.
Car parking detailsParking space is available on-site for 2,000 colones ($5).
Requirements for entry into the parkCosta Rican ID or Passport (or a photo of it) if you’ve not pre-registered online.
Things to do
Facilities in the parkNo facilities. There’s only a bathroom at the entrance
Things not allowed into the parkPets, Single-use plastic, and swimming.
Restaurants around the Rio Celeste waterfallBlue River Brewery, Restaurant Tapirus Paradise, and Hummingbird Café.
Where to stay around the Rio Celeste WaterfallTenorio Lodge, Rincon Verde, and Casa Familia.
The best time to visitDry season from January to April
Who should visit Rio Celeste Waterfall?If you love tropical rainforests, monkeys on the treetops, and a stunning waterfall,. 
Who should avoid Rio Celeste Waterfall?It’s not much of a hike for an avid hiker. Also, those who don’t like crowds. This one is a busy place. 

rio celeste waterfall

PART 1: PREPARING TO GO 

First, let’s go over the step-by-step process of buying tickets for the Rio Celeste Waterfall entry. You have to do this before even starting your trip to the place. 

I will also explain some of the things to bring along, the ideal things to wear, and the best time of year, week, and day to visit. 

1. Buying tickets online in advance

Visitors are expected to buy tickets online and in advance from the SINAC website.  Nationals and residents pay ¢800, while non-residents pay $12 per person. 

The ticket grants you access to Tenorio Volcano National Park, from which you can now access the Rio Celeste waterfall. 

It took me over an hour because the website was slow and kept reloading. I recommend getting your tickets the night before, at least.

Sinac website to buy Rio Celeste Waterfall tickets. On the website, you’ll need to provide your approximate time of arrival. 

After buying your ticket online, you can show a screenshot of the code at the park entrance.

Pro Tips: 

  • There is no internet service once you’re there, so it’s best to buy your tickets in advance.
  • You will meet volunteers helping people who hadn’t managed to get tickets beforehand, so you’ll probably be fine if you have trouble with the website.
  • It’s a super-popular park. To beat the crowds, I suggest getting there when they open at 8 a.m.
  • Some parts of the park may be closed on certain days due to weather conditions. Keep an eye on the Tenorio Volcano National Park Facebook page to know the latest on this before going. 

To enter, every day hours are from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and you can stay in place until 4 p.m.

2. What To Wear & Things To Bring Along When Visiting Rio Celeste Waterfall 

The weather at Rio Celeste waterfall is usually hot during the day, around 82°F (28°C), so shorts and a T-shirt are cool. If it’s rainy, consider wearing long-sleeved clothes to stay warm.

For shoes, you’ll need closed-toe hiking shoes because the path has lots of rocks and roots. 

Tips: 

  • If you don’t have proper footwear, you can rent boots for $5 at the entrance, which is especially useful during the rainy season.
  • Bring a waterproof jacket or poncho, as it can rain at any time.

I also recommend you bring bug spray, sunscreen, water, snacks, a camera, and pocket binoculars. The park has some wildlife. I was lucky enough to spot a sloth living above the waterfall. 

3. Best Time To Visit Rio Celeste Waterfall 

The ideal time to visit Rio Celeste is from January to April, when it is dry season. However, due to its hilly location, it can rain at any time of the year.

If you visit during or after heavy rain, the trails will be very muddy and hard to navigate. Also, the river may not look as blue because of sediment runoff. 

The water can even appear brown and muddy after intense downpours without sunlight. Locals told me this usually happens in October and November. 

PART 2: GETTING TO THE WATERFALL

The park has a daily limit of 1,000 visitors, with only 500 allowed inside at any time. 

If you arrive when the park has reached its 500-person capacity, you’ll need to wait until some visitors exit before you can go in.

Let’s look at how to get to the waterfall itself, what the parking provisions are, and the things to do in the park and around the waterfall. 

1. How to Get To Rio Celeste Waterfall

You can either come in a rented car or by shuttle/bus. I visited in a rented car and will speak more about that. But I also researched things to do if you want to get to the park by bus.

If you’re coming with a car: 

Use Google Maps or Waze to find your way from Liberia. However, don’t simply enter “Rio Celeste” as your destination. This can lead you to the wrong place or give no results.

I set my destination to “Parqueo del Parque Nacional Tenorio.” This guided me to the parking lots right outside Tenorio Volcano National Park.

Alternatively, you can enter “Soda El Pilón” on Google Maps or Waze. It’s a restaurant right by the ticket office and main parking lot.

You’ll know you’ve arrived at the park entrance when you see numerous parking signs and locals in yellow vests waving flags to direct you to their lots.

Pro Tip: 

  • There is no cell phone signal near the park, so download Google Maps offline.
  • You don’t need a 4×4 to get to the park, as the road is paved.
  • From Bijagua, the town closest to the part, the drive is around 30 minutes.

If you’re coming with a shuttle or bus: 

Public buses don’t go directly to the entrance of Tenorio Volcano National Park. 

According to the description given to me by a local in the area, you’ll need to either hail a taxi or catch a ride from Bijagua. This can cost around $50. 

Alternatively, you can simply ask your hotel front desk for help getting to the park. They may even provide tour packages there. 

2. Parking options at Rio Celeste Waterfall

There’s a parking lot right by the entrance of the National Park. Parking costs around 2000 colones per car ($3), and you’ll need to leave the parking slip on your dashboard. 

While your car will be safe the entire time, it’s a good rule of thumb not to leave any valuables in it. 

Also, roll up your windows and lock your doors for safety.

3. Do you need a tour guide? 

Tour guides are readily available at the national park’s parking lot to walk you through the entire experience, from hiking to the waterfall itself. But this comes at a cost. After chatting with a local, I learned that a guide might not be necessary for the hike. 

The park is well-marked, and there is not even enough time to spot wildlife. So, in my opinion, you’re better off exploring the park on your own. 

It’s easy to navigate without any issues.

4. Things to do at the Rio Celeste Waterfall

The main thing to do at the Rio Celeste waterfall is to experience all five main attractions. They include: 

Main attractions at Rio Celeste WaterfallWhat it entails
The entire hikeThe entire hike is 3.7 miles round trip and can take up to 4 hours to complete.
CatarataRio Celeste’s bright blue waterfall
Mirador (lookout point)The lookout point for a breathtaking view
Laguna AzulThe blue-water lagoon
Los BorbollonesGases from the volcano bubble up through the water in this area
El TeñideroWhere two rivers met?

 

After you pay the entrance fee, you can start exploring, starting from hiking. It is a 1,500-meter hike that also involves climbing numerous stairs. If it has recently rained, the area can be muddy, and your boots will come to use. 

You may be lucky to find many animals on your way, that you can photograph. 

But after the hike, the first attraction you’ll be greeted with is the Rio Celeste Waterfall, which locals call Catarata. 

NOTE: 

  • Swimming isn’t permitted in the waterfall area within the national park. However, there are designated spots along Rio Celeste where swimming is allowed.

Mirador (Lookout Point)

Following the waterfall, the next stop on the Rio Celeste hike is Mirador, located 500 meters away. You may ascend to the lookout point or continue your journey toward Laguna Azul.

Laguna Azul (Blue Water Lagoon)

Just 150 meters past Mirador lies the stunning Laguna Azul. The water in this lagoon is an exquisite shade of blue. It is thrilling to experience the beauty firsthand. However, we were reminded that heavy rainfall could alter its magical hue.

Los Borbollones

A mere 50 meters from Laguna Azul, you will reach Los Borbollones. Here, gases from the Tenorio Volcano create bubbles in the water, followed by the distinct smell of sulfur.

You will see many bridges connecting the Rio Celeste hike. 

El Teñidero

Finally, 300 meters from Los Borbollones, you will arrive at El Teñidero, where two rivers, Rio Celeste and Los Teñideros, converge. 

5. Why the water is blue & why you can’t swim here

Scientifically, the water at Rio Celeste waterfall is bright blue because two clear rivers meet, leaving minerals (coated in silicon, oxygen, and aluminum) in the water that reflect sunlight to make it blue. 

However, locals would tell you that Rio Celeste got its stunning color when God dipped his brush in the river while painting the sky. 

Now, while you can’t swim in the river, there’s a free public entrance by the bridge, about 1 kilometer (around 0.6 miles) past the park entrance. 

You can simply enter “Rio Celeste Free Pool.” on Google Maps to swim there. 

Alternatively, visit Poza Danta Piuri río Celeste for lunch and enjoy their private access to the river.

PART 3: LEAVING THE PARK 

El Teñidero is at the end of the hiking trail, so this is the point where you start returning to the entrance, which spans around 2,500 meters. 

There are restaurants and accommodation options close to the park. Let’s start with the other fun things you can do outside the park. 

1. Other things to do around Rio Celeste Waterfall

If you finish your hike early or decide not to do the entire hike, there are other fun things you can do near Tenorio Volcano National Park. One is to go for a swim in the Rio Celeste Free Pool, which is nearby and a great spot to cool off. 

If you’re interested in wildlife, you can join a night tour at Tapir Valley Nature Reserve.

There are perhaps other things in the area that I didn’t venture into. But you can share your experience in the comment section on this. 

2. Restaurants around Rio Celeste Waterfall

After your hike at Tenorio Volcano National Park, you can grab a meal at nearby restaurants. I love the stunning mountain view at Blue River Brewery, where you can enjoy American-style food and homemade brews. 

Restaurante Tilapias Angel is a better option for families because it serves seafood and lets you pick your fish for lunch. 

You can even choose to go to Tapirus Paradise, near the park entrance. There, you can see wood carvings and artistic décor. 

3. Accommodation options around Rio Celeste Waterfall

If you’re planning to stay overnight near the waterfall for an early start, I recommend the Celeste Mountain Lodge. It’s a mid-range budget option with a stunning common area with panoramic mountain views. The rooms are modern. 

But if you’re on a tight budget, look no further than Rio Celeste Posada Rural. The rooms are basic but they have everything you need to visit the park. Prices start at $44 per night. 

They’re in simple private cabins, and breakfast is included. You may even spot toucans on the property.

Is the Rio Celeste Waterfall Worth the Visit? 

It depends on what you’re looking for. As an avid hiker and someone who has visited Mirador del Silencio in La Fortuna, I’d say the hike to Rio Celeste isn’t too challenging, especially if you’re just going to the waterfall. The path is mainly paved with regular stairs.

So it’s not really a big deal for someone who wants adventure. 

The unique appeal of the Rio Celeste Waterfall lies in its sky-blue water. Generally, if you’re a waterfall enthusiast, you will find a trip to Rio Celeste satisfactory. 

Expect a crowd, but it’s one of the most famous waterfalls. Staying overnight nearby to arrive early and avoid the crowds is a great idea. 

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About 

Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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