Rio Celeste – Costa Rica’s Best Kept Secret

Hidden inside the rainforest is one of the Costa Rica’s best kept secret. Rio Celeste translates to Light Blue River in Spanish – the name given because of its intense blue colour. This ‘fairy tale’ place is located in Tenorio Volcano National Park. Rio Celeste Waterfall is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the world! As you hike through the park you get to the point where all the magic happens and two clear-water streams create Rio Celeste. This enchanting river will hypnotise you and leave you speechless. Visiting Rio Celeste gives a new meaning to ‘Pura Vida’.

Rio Celeste - Light Blue River

Tenorio Volcano National Park

Open every day from 8am to 4pm. However, because of the time it takes to hike, the last entry is at 2pm. As a tourist, you have to pay $12 entrance fee, whereas locals pay only $1.50. In the park, you can spot different wildlife including monkeys, sloths, tapirs, tropical birds and many more. I got very close to coati, which wasn’t afraid at all. Perhaps, he was too busy looking for food and hoping I might have some! 🙂

tenorio volcano national park

tenorio volcano national park

tenorio volcano national park

Even though it’s one of the most phenomenal wonder of nature, it’s not often visited by the tourists – mainly, because of its remote location. The closest town, Bijagua is still 30 mins away. Poor conditions of the road that leads to Tenorio Volcano National Park don’t help either. On the other hand, it gives the park more mystic feeling.

How To Get To Rio Celeste From La Fortuna?

It’s a 2-hour drive from La Fortuna. As a budget traveller, I tried to find the cheapest way to get to Rio Celeste from La Fortuna. Sadly, going by public transport would involve getting off at the closest town and from there taking a taxi. Meaning my journey would be much longer and more expensive than buying a tour. For those reasons, I’ve decided to book a tour from La Choza Inn Hostel, where I was staying at. If you’re still looking for an accommodation in La Fortuna, you can read my review and find out more about La Choza Inn Hostel. The tour costs $65 and includes transport, park entrance, tour guide, lunch, swim in the river and a stop at Ceiba tree. For a half day tour, I think that’s a great value for money!

Rio Celeste

Rio Celeste Waterfall

There’s a waterfall that drops into the pool of this enchanting water. Unfortunately, when I visited it was closed for the reconstruction of the path that leads down to it. A recent windstorm affected it quite badly with many trees down. If you wish to see Rio Celeste waterfall, make sure it’s open. You can check with your tour operator or on Rio Celeste facebook page.

Rio Celeste Hike

The hike to the waterfall is only 1 mike (1.5km) from the entrance of the park. The total hike in the park is 4.5 mike (7.5km) long and I found it relatively easy. Even though, I visited Costa Rica in December which is the start of the dry season, it was still drizzling, which made the trail muddy and slippery. For this reason, I recommend taking a good pair of hiking shoes. There are some other essential items that you need to pack for your trip to Costa Rica. The trail runs along the light blue river. During your hike you get to cross few bridges and get the chance to see the rainforest from the viewpoint.

Tenorio Volcano National Park

There’s a beautiful Laguna Azul – the Blue Lagoon of Rio Celeste, where the colour of the water is very intensive.

Laguna Azul – the Blue Lagoon of Rio Celeste

And Borbollones – the natural hot springs. You can see the water bubbles because of the hot thermal volcano temperature that heats up water from the bottom. In the past, people could soak in there. However, now it’s prohibited.

Rio Celeste - Borbollones

Why Is Rio Celeste Blue?

The trail ends at Los Teñideros (“The Dyers”) point, where the light blue colour of the river is born. At this point, two transparent streams meet together – Rio Buena Vista (‘Good View River’) and Quebrada Agria (‘Sour Creek’). It has been discovered that the water of Rio Celeste is actually clear!

It’s only an optical illusion caused by scattering of sunlight off the minerals found at the bottom of the river. The water of Rio Celeste contains aluminosilicate (aluminum mixed with silicon and oxygen). Rio Buena Vista also contains a significant concentrations of silicon. Studies have shown that silicon and oxygen particles of a certain size (100-450nm in diameter) could cause the blue colouration of the water as they reflect light in a particular way. If they’re larger than that, they can create light hues – just like the colour of Rio Celeste.

However, the particles of Rio Buena Vista are much smaller than the ones found in Rio Celeste, which is why that river alone doesn’t appear light blue. This is where Quebrada Agria comes! As it’s been found, Quebrada Agria is fairly acidic while Rio Buena Vista is rather neutral. According to research, it’s a phenomenon where one river provides mineral material of a certain size and the other river provides the acidic environment resulting in the growth of those particles. Since the minerals reflect the light, it’s best to visit Rio Celeste on a sunny day, as the blue colour of the water appears more intense.

Rio Celeste

There’s also another explanation for the light blue colour of the river. As the legend says, once God was done with painting the sky, he dipped his paint brush in Rio Celeste 🙂 I think it’s the most realistic one, too. I mean, particles and scattering – who buys that stuff, am I right?!

Can You Swim In Rio Celeste?

For safety and preservation reasons, you can’t swim in the river at Tenorio Volcano National Park. However, a short drive away from the park, the river is still blue and you can swim there. Despite the cold weather, I couldn’t resist not taking a dip in this magical water.

Rio Celeste

Swimming in Rio Celeste

Ceiba Tree

The last stop of our tour was at Ceiba tree. This 400 year old massive tree will make you realise how tiny you really are!

Ceiba Tree La Fortuna

The tour has been a fantastic experience. If you ever in La Fortuna, I strongly recommend to go and see this magical river for yourself!

Have you ever been to a place with such a blue coloured river before?

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Rio Celeste

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