Although the Rio Celeste Waterfall is a bit out of the way, I highly recommend going there because it truly is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Costa Rica. I will say that in my opinion, Viento Fresco Waterfalls are the most beautiful waterfalls in Costa Rica but that is of course completely subjective (click here to find out why I consider them the best). But regardless the Rio Celeste Waterfall is pretty spectacular and although pictures look completely photoshopped that blue color is 100% real.
Love waterfalls? Check out my guide to the Best Waterfalls in Costa Rica.
The Short Version
How to get to Rio Celeste Waterfall
First off, the Rio Celeste Waterfall is located in Tenorio Volcano National Park. The park USED to have two entrances, one in Bijagua and one in Guatuso. The Guatuso entrance is now closed. The only entrance is currently in Bijagua.
Luckily, even though Bijagua is a very small town the roads to get there are completely paved. Most likely, from no matter where you are in Costa Rica, you will navigate to Highway 1 and then exit onto Highway 6. Highway 6 is completely paved and winds through countryside and gentle hills. Once you reach Bijagua, there will be a turn off for Tenorio Volcano National Park. You will follow that road for about 9 km until you reach the huge parking lot and visitor center. Although the road to Tenorio's visitor entrance is mostly dirt it is well maintained and paved on some of the steeper sections. I drove (during the dry season) the entire way with a standard rental car and had no trouble reaching it.
Driving Tip: Personally, I traveled there (in the dry season) with a standard rental car. I didn’t rent a 4x4 because I was being cheap (extreme eye roll from me). Don’t be like me… Don’t be cheap, rent a 4x4 with 4 wheel drive. It is worth the extra peace of mind.
Renting a car in Costa Rica | Everything you need to know about driving in Costa Rica
How much does Rio Celeste Waterfall Cost
Entrance into Tenorio Volcano National Park (where the rio celeste waterfall is located) costs $12. The visitor center accepts dollars and colones. When I was there I didn't see any trail maps to take with you, only one hanging on a bulletin board. If you are like me and like to have one with you be sure to take a picture on your phone before you leave. Tenorio Volcano National Park Trail Map.
Rio Celeste Property and Trails
The Tenorio Volcano National Park is over 31,000 acres but only has one major trail running through it. The trail starts at the Bijagua visitor entrance and runs through the jungle. It starts out paved but quickly turns into a genuine hiking trail with small streams, tree roots and rocks to navigate around. If you are just hiking to the waterfall and back it is a very easy hike. The hike to the waterfall entrance takes about 20-30 minutes each way.
This second half of the trail, after the waterfall stop, continues to be well defined and easy to follow but turns more hilly and a bit more strenuous to navigate. If you continue on there is a beautiful mirador (lookout point), the laguna azul (blue pool), two bridges and finally the Teñideros, which is where the river changes from clear water to bright blue.
Hiking to Rio Celeste Waterfall
Like I said the hike to the waterfall is pretty easy. You follow the trail from the visitor center and after about 1 km you will reach a staircase leading down. There are about 250 steps total which lead you to a viewing platform. You cannot leave the platform and there is no swimming permitted.
The Rio Celeste Waterfall - Why is it so blue?
The Rio Celeste Waterfall is quite a sight to see. At first glance you will think your eyes are deceiving you, but the water is really that blue. It gets its blue color from a chemical reaction between the minerals of two rivers converging at the Teñideros point. Although it is a much longer hike, hiking all the way to the Teñideros point is worth it. The color doesn't change gradually, instead it is an instant reaction and is one of the weirder things I have ever seen.