It’s no secret that Costa Rica is known for its ecological zones and micro climates.  A visit to one of the most incredible primary forests will surely put you in touch with nature.

A highlight of the Tenorio National Park is the magnificent Rio Celeste Waterfalls.  This was our first time hiking here, but surely not our last and a must see if your visiting Costa Rica.  This area is located close to the slopes of the Miravalles Volcano another one of a kind volcano in Costa Rica.  Visiting the Tenorio National Park is sure to be on anyone’s hiking list.  This tropical primary forest is located in the Guanacaste Mountain range.

Driving from La Fortuna

Take Route 4 towards San Rafael to Guatuso and Upala, watch for sign to the National Park following along the gravel and rocky roads to the entrance.  It takes approximately 26 miles from the town of La Fortuna, but probably allow yourself 1 1/2 hours.

Driving from Puntarenas

Our route starting in Puntarenas taking Rd CR 23 to the Panama Highway 1 to Jicaral and turned right onto CR 6 to Upala.    Your GPS or Waze app will give you directions but some of the roads are impassable without a 4×4.  Our leisure driving was very scenic with views of teak trees in blo0m on both sides of the road and up ahead we could see the mountains of Miravalles in the distance.

Park Entrance

Enter the park at the main building (Puesto Pilonto) to pay your entrance fees.  We advise to use the washroom facilities before beginning your day hiking the trails as there is nothing along the trails until you exit.

rio celeste trail start

The trail starts off easy with a paved pathway but be prepared as the path changes to uneven ground & rocks with an elevation to the top for a more challenging hike.

trail -rio celeste

Part of the trail covered with sandbags.

 Along the trails you will encounter rocky areas as well as climbing up rock steps.   This can become a little more difficult especially during rainy season making the paths slippery.  I suggest you bring a rain poncho which helps keep you dry and protects your camera gear.

trail guides-rio celeste

Here we are walking through the primary forest on a flat level

Travel Tips:  A few things we always suggest when hiking in Costa Rica is a knapsack, poncho, bug spray, sun lotion, a compass, and phone in case of emergency.

citronella tree

Pictured above is a citronella tree with berries.  You can use the berries as a natural mosquito repellant if you happen to forget packing this in your knapsack.  The smell is very fragrant and lasts for days.

signs -rio celeste

When you arrive at the sign you can take the path on the right to the look out (Mirador) to view the Tenorio volcano.  It’s about another kilometer or 558 meters.   Along the path is the most amazing sight of Laguna Azul (700 meters) a beautiful blue pool in the middle of the forest.  Wait for this one it’s gorgeous!

bubbling water

The white color to the left of the photo is actually bubbling hot springs.  Standing close by you can feel the heat.

small hanging bridge

You will cross two short bridges on your trail to the river but don’t worry they are not high like many others in the country.  After crossing the short bridge your trail will have a glimpse through the tree of the blue lagoon.  The signs located by the bridges will have “Capacidad 1 persona” which means only 1 person should cross at a time on the bridge.

view to the lagoon

Steps down here is the oasis of luxury in the forest the Lagoon Azul.  This is a great stop to take a break, relax and take in the wondrous views.

dimas-blue lagoon-rio celeste

There is no swimming in the waterfalls or the lagoon, but the color is amazing.

two rivers-tenorio

This is where the magic happens.  By mixing the minerals, silicon, and oxygen in the Rio Buenavista with the Quebrada Agria together at the Tenidero point this turns the water blue giving us that wow phenomenon.

tropical forest-rio celeste


Travel Tips:  During heavy rains the rivers with remain muddy in color so it’s best to arrive in optimal weather conditions.

Weather Conditions

Be prepared with your knapsacks packed with a rain poncho.  We travelled here during the rainiest month in Costa Rica which is October.  We have to say we were blessed with an almost perfect day.  Although a little cloudy at times we did not receive a torrential downpour but enough to throw on our ponchos to protect our camera equipment.  The trails can become quite muddy making it slippery to climb over rocks.  I think we lucked out as the week before the park was closed due to excessive rain which caused damage to some of the bridges.  Check ahead before your plan to hike to make sure the park is open.

The Tenorio Volcano itself is over 6,000 feet high with 3 craters named Tenorio 1, 2, and 3 which is referred to as Cerro Montezuma.  From the Mirador look out you get a glimpse of the volcano mountain usually cloud covered at the top but not actually close enough to see inside the crater itself.

rio celeste dimas

One of the most jaw dropping sights to see is the popular Rio Celeste with its famous turquoise blue colored pool of water.

rio celeste waterfalls

These 65 foot waterfalls are sure to be one of the highlights from your vacation here in Costa Rica.

Places to stay near the park

Celeste Mountain Lodge

Rio Celeste Hideaway

Tenorio Lodge

Animals in the Park

If you’re lucky you might spot one of these animals or birds.  On our hike while we didn’t spot an tapir’s we did see a snake disguising himself wrapped around a tree branch and exiting the last section of trees we saw many capuchin monkeys swaying from the tree branches overhead.

  • Tapir
  • Umbrella Bird
  • Crested Hawk
  • Crested Eagle
  • endemic Reptiles

Park Information

Local residence the fee is $ 2 USD

Non residence the fee is $12 USD

The park opens at 8:00 am and closes at 4:00 pm.  We suggest to get there early to enjoy a full day of hiking with plenty of time to enjoy the main attraction the Rio Celeste Waterfalls.

As always our thoughts and opinions are our own.

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