Rio Celest Tenorio River Free Swimming in Costa Rica
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Rio Celeste Costa Rica: Best Full-Day Plan for Families

Our visit to Rio Celeste & Tenorio Volcano National Park in Costa Rica was an experience our family will never forget. Throughout this guide, we will share our hiking tips, the best locally recommended, off-the-beaten-path restaurant, extra sightseeing opportunities nearby, as well as details on how to stay the night nearby in the unique city of Bijagua. Staying nearby will allow you to add more experiences (sloths, rafting, etc.) to your visit without much work.

We recommend adding this stop to your plan for a 7 day family vacation in Costa Rica. You can stop by Rio Celeste before or after spending time in La Fortuna or the Guanacaste region beaches (like Tamarindo). Easy! Ready, let’s dive in.

Day Plan: Visiting Rio Celeste Costa Rica

Hike to Rio Celeste at the Tenorio Volcano National Park

The Tenorio Volcano National Park (Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio) is located about 1.5 hours from the Liberia Guanacaste Airport. The main attraction is the Rio Celeste waterfall, but we strongly recommend you continue the hike after this point to experience more unique stops and majestic blue water. Use the SINEC site to learn about this National Park and click “Buy” to secure tickets.

Rio Celeste Tenorio Volcano National Park Entrace Costa Rica

Main Attractions

Visiting Tenorio Volcano National Park with your family for a hike is an excellent choice. The one main trail from the parking lot is the Mysteries of Tenorio. This trail is 3.2 km long and takes you through all the main attractions of Rio Celeste waterfall, pozo azul, borbollones, and Teñidero. No strollers as there are a lot of stair sections, but it’s doable for most as our youngest was 4 years old and did the hike. Here are some of the highlights:

Rio Celeste Waterfall in Costa Rica with hiking path
Photo by Victoria Rokita on Unsplash

Rio Celeste Waterfall: This 30-meter-high waterfall is a crowd favorite, thanks to its unique blue hue. We actually didn’t spend much time here as we wanted to do the entire hike, but it is quite beautiful. You will be able to make it to this point fairly easily. The crowd thins out a bit if you continue on from here.

Tenorio Rio Celeste Hike to Blue Water Costa Rica

La Laguna Azul: A small pool with an intense color that’s off-limits due to its high concentration of natural chemicals. The hotbeds or “borbollones”: These are basically cracks and fissures that leak volcanic gases and fumes – pretty cool, right?! Photography Tip: It’s a great spot for photographs down by this pool. Use this point to take a walking break, and wait for space at the low fence to take your photo. It’s the best spot on the trail as the blue pops in photos.

Tenorio Rio Celest Blue Water Meeting Point Costa Rica

El Teñidero: This is where the magic happens – the start of the blue water phenomenon. You can spot turquoise water in many other places, but this is the only spot where you can see the color change.

Hot Springs: Nestled in the bed of Celeste River, these springs are a product of volcanic activity. If your family tells “why did that” jokes when the sulfur smell is strong, this is exactly where that will happen.

Park Information

  • Tickets: Purchase in advance on the SINEC site (click “Buy”)
  • Park Hours: The park is open daily 8am-4pm, the last entry is at 2pm.
  • GPS Parking & Entrance Coordinates:  10°42’57.5″N 84°59’14.3″W | Station El Pilon, Tenorio Volcano National Park 
  • Parking: Bring cash ~$2-4 dollars per car as fees may have changed.
  • Preparation: The trails can be muddy and slick, so good hiking boots and long pants are recommended. We did however wear shorts due to the temperature when we visited. Bring non-disposable water bottles and any snacks you need. No strollers. If traveling young kids, always bring a small first aid kit, just in case.
  • Difficulty: The trail to the Rio Celeste waterfall itself was easily doable, but involves a steep staircase to get to the good viewpoint. We recommend you hike the whole ~3-hour trail. During this trek, there are many small water crossings, steep steps, and potentially muddy situations. Do consider all of the stair steps if you have bad knees. We did the hike with our 4 and 6 year old kids, the 4 year old occasionally needed help but not the 6 year old.
  • Facilities: On the way to the ticket counter is a restroom building.
  • Swimming: While swimming is not allowed within the park, there is a location to go outside of the park (details below!).
  • Travel Tip: For the clearest waters, visiting during Costa Rica’s dry season (December to April) is ideal. However, Rio Celeste is beautiful year-round, so you can plan your trip whenever it suits you best.

Please remember to follow eco-friendly tourism practices, like bringing reusable water bottles and minimizing waste along your hike. Bring bug spray and snacks, and stay hydrated.

Grab lunch away from the crowds

Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll be tempted to have a bit to eat right across the street from the parking lot. It’s not a bad idea, but we enjoyed taking a 10-minute drive (take a right out of the parking lot) to Tilapiera Los Laguitos y Restaurant Rio Celeste. It feels more remote, has excellent seafood, and is picturesque! That was enough reason for us to avoid a parking lot view and some tourist congestion. The kids found some things to eat here too. Go here for the vacation vibes you were hoping for.

Rio Celeste Nearby Restaurant Costa Rica

Add on a quick visit to the oldest tree in Costa Rica

There’s another cool hidden gem right near the entrance of the national park – it’s none other than the oldest tree in Costa Rica! This ancient behemoth is a testament to this amazing country’s rich history and natural beauty. It’s only a 7-minute drive away from the Tenorio Volcano National Park. We consider this a must-visit based on the short duration of the visit. You only need about 15 minutes. There is no parking lot, so just pull over near the side of the road.

Oldest Tree in Costa Rica near Rio Celeste

Swim in blue water

On the way to or from the oldest tree in Costa Rica, stop at the Rio Celeste Free Pool. You’ll find it here – P259+PRM, Unnamed Road, Alajuela Province, Guatuso, Costa Rica. Utilize the street parking and make your way down for a free swim. Even if you don’t want to take the swim, run down for a quick photo. It’s so blue!

Rio Celest Tenorio River Free Swimming in Costa Rica

Stay the Night in Bijagua to Add an Experience

The guide above is about a one-day visit to Rio Celeste, but once you’re in this area, we promise you’ll want more time. Plan a night to stay in the very nearby Bijagua. We added a stay in Bijagua when we were looking for an authentic area near must-see destinations, but less touristy. Bijagua is perfect. Some favorite accommodations are on working farms (fincas) that are unlike many other stays you could have in Costa Rica. Staying here also gives you time to add on some amazing nearby experiences.

Accommodations in Bijagua

Mei Tai Cacao Lodge – We stayed at this B&B and finca. Each casita is completely separate and remote around the property. Amazing! We had a two-bedroom unit for our family (note, this is primarily an adults-only lodge due to the serenity of the B&B). The kind owners will schedule your restaurant delivery whenever you want it, and they serve a wonderful breakfast. Best yet, this is a working cacao (chocolate) farm as the owners are from Belgium. This is a gem! Reason number #1,000 it is amazing — we saw a toucan when we were checking in.

Finca Mei Tai Casita View Costa Rica Bijagua

Casitas Tenorio B&B – This was sold out when we visited, but give these private casitas a look to see if they are available for your dates.

Rio Celeste Hideaway Resort– This resort offers a 2-queen bed floorplan for families of four, and they also have rooms with a king bed. Amenities and scheduling for your stay are top-notch at this resort. It’s an ideal location for staying close to Rio Celeste in Costa Rica.

Tour and Experience options

Sloth tour

Seeing sloths, and other creatures, in the wild is made possible through Jungle Life Costa Rica – Rainforest Tours. Tickets are available in advance on Viator, or you can visit the tour operator’s Web site and contact them with any questions. I found them very responsive on WhatsApp. The kids loved it and it was a very easy walk.

The guides all come out early in the morning and scout out where the animals are — so, they all have a good idea of where things are before your tour (meaning you have a very good chance of seeing great things!). They found monkeys, sloths, snakes, and very small frogs for us. They knew exactly which leaves to look under to spot sleeping frogs! Oh yeah, we forgot that frogs are nocturnal. If that interests you, this company also does frog and jungle night tours.

White water rafting

White water rafting on the Tenorio River in Costa Rica is a thrilling adventure offering a unique combination of excitement and natural beauty. The river’s class III and IV rapids provide a challenging yet enjoyable experience for rafters, while the surrounding landscapes offer a glimpse into the country’s rich biodiversity.

This 10-mile tour is the one we recommend. Kids must be 8 years old to book, so we didn’t partake, but our finca owner recommended we raft while in the area.

The highlight of the trip is the river’s 12-foot drop, which promises to be an exhilarating moment for the entire family. Beyond the adventure, you will enjoy immersing yourselves in the stunning environment and connecting with Costa Rica’s vibrant ecological heritage. It is one of the most beautiful settings in the world.


Visiting Rio Celeste in Costa Rica is high on our recommendation list. You can add it to any visit near the Guanacaste or La Fortuna areas!

1-Day summary: Start your day with a hike in Tenorio Volcano National Park and see Rio Celeste. Then, stop for lunch along the way to the oldest tree in Costa Rica. Dip in the free swimming spot and then consider staying in Bijagua for the night. If you do, take a sloth tour or a whitewater rafting trip in the morning before your next stop. Yes, we like to make your planning easy.

Check out our additional guides on Costa Rica travel for more details on how to make the most of your vacation time or use our trip planning guides or travel resources. Let us know what you think if you make the trip! All the best. Happy, breezy travels. 

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