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Rio Celeste is the crown jewel of Northern Costa Rica. The Light Blue River, a winding body of water surrounded by amazing rainforest in the Tenorio Volcano National Park, sports one of Costa Rica's most beautiful waterfalls, natural hot springs, as well as the unique phenomenon of clear water turning blue by means of a volcanic chemical reaction. The trip from La Fortuna is well worth it, as many people I know have considered Rio Celeste the best part of their trip through Costa Rica. Try the Rio Celeste Guided Tour
What does a trip to Rio Celeste involve?
A trip to Rio Celeste involves a pleasant, yet somewhat challenging, hike through the cool rainforest scenery of the Tenorio Volcano National Park. The hike will last about an hour and a half before you reach the Rio Celeste Waterfall. Take some time here to enjoy the beauty of this gorgeous cascading water crashing into the baby blue swimming hole below. The lush green tropical surroundings top off one of most aesthetically-pleasing views in all of Costa Rica. After another hour of hiking, meanwhile taking a dip in the various hot spring pools along the way, you arrive at the spot where the Rio Celeste turns from a crystal clear water to a magnificent light blue color only found in Rio Celeste. This chemical reaction is caused by a constant flow of minerals supplied by the Tenorio Volcano. After you've seen the water turn blue you can start heading back to the park entrance. This downhill hike will likely only take you an hour and a half. When you get back to the park entrance you will be satisfied by all of the exercise you got while seeing a hidden natural wonder that will spark the envy of the most savvy tourists.
How do I get there?
Rio Celeste Guided Tour
The rural tourism agency JAZON, a rural youth organization of Costa Rica's Northern Zone, organizes a high-quality full-service tour to Rio Celeste at a discount to other tour operators in the La Fortuna area. JAZON is a non-profit organization whose activities help rural families supplement their agricultural income with rural tourism activities. The tour includes a guided tour through the Tenorio Volcano National Park (including entrance fee) in English or Spanish and lunch. During this three-hour tour, you will enjoy the flora and fauna of thick tropical forest to the spectacular Rio Celeste and see the spot where the river's water turns from clear to light blue. The prices of the tour are quite reasonable. From the community of Rio Celeste the tour only costs $25 per person (minimum of four people). Transportation from La Fortuna can be provided at an additional charge. If you have your own transportation, a guide from JAZON can accompany your group for the same $25 per person charge. If you are a large group of 10+ persons, a trip can be arranged with transportation from La Fortuna for $35 per person or $30 for citizens/residents. (The lower price for citizens and residents is a result of lower admission fee at national parks in Costa Rica) Contact JAZON at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them at (506) 479-70-62 to make reservations. Either way, visit their website, CostaRicaRuralTours.com to see other services they offer.
Rio Celeste for the independent traveler
Rio Celeste is best accessed through Guatuso (although until now Bijagua, on the other side of the Tenorio Volcano, has done a better job of exploiting the national park for tourism). The center of Guatuso, San Rafael, is a mere hour bus ride from La Fortuna. From La Fortuna, I recommend taking the 6:40 AM bus to Upala, since it is so important to get to Rio Celeste early in the day. The Upala bus will arrive in Guatuso at around 8:00 AM, leaving you right in the center of town where you can very easily hail a taxi to take you to the Tenorio Volcano National Park entrance. A taxi will cost you about $16 US in 2006 prices. You could also take an 11 AM bus (about $1.50 US in 2006) to the town of Rio Celeste that will take an hour and leave you about 3 kilometers from the park entrance. If you walk the 3 kilometers, expect to arrive at the park entrance at about 1 PM. At the park entrance, tourists have to pay an entrance fee of $6 US in 2006 prices. After you're done with your hike in the afternoon, you can either stay in the Rio Celeste area or you can head back to Guatuso to spend the night. Just be aware that the last bus goes back to Guatuso by 1 PM, so if you want to get back the same day, you'll likely need to take a taxi back. Anyway, the process of getting to Rio Celeste and back can be difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. For many people the Rio Celeste Tour with JAZON would be much more convenient, but we live in a free world, so the choice is yours.
Rio Celeste Video
This is a good, short video of Rio Celeste. It shows a small portion of the hike through the Tenorio Volcano National Park, as well as a good clip of the Rio Celeste waterfall. If the pictures of Rio Celeste aren't enough, check out this video to verify that Rio Celeste is the real deal.
Copyright 2007 Rural Costa Rica, a Costa Rica Travel Affiliate