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Fairytale Magic: Rio Celeste Waterfall In Costa Rica

Entrance Rio Celeste Costa Rica

Tenorio Park Entrance

Guatuso, Costa Rica

Hidden within the cloud forests of Costa Rica’s Tenorio National Park, the magnificent bright blue Rio Celeste Waterfall will take your breath away!

After doing some of the more typical tourist activities in Costa Rica like visiting Monteverde Cloud Forest and whitewater rafting in Turrialba, I wanted to find an activity that was a little more off the beaten path.

I heard a rumor about a secret waterfall located in the North of the country, and decided it would be worth checking out. It was 5 hours by bus from San Jose to reach the town of Guatuso on the Eastern edge of the reserve.

That was followed by an hour long ride in a local bus filled with little old ladies who stared at me the whole way.

Once at the tiny village of Rio Celeste, it’s a 2 mile hike up the steep dirt road leading into Volcano Tenorio National Park.

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Camping near Rio Celeste Costa Rica

Hammock Camping in the Cloud Forest

Camping In The Cloud Forest

After half a day of travel, drenched in sweat & ready to pass out, I finally made my way into the entrance of the park and paid $4 to hang my camping hammock in the trees. Access to bathrooms & showers was included, and they even had a small restaurant.

Summertime is rainy season in Costa Rica, and the sky often opens up in the afternoons. Luckily I had my hammock set up before the daily deluge began.

Although I did scare off at least 5 snakes in the process.

The next few hours were spent lazily swinging from my dry cocoon while reading a book and listening to the family of howler monkeys screaming directly above me.

Finally I threw in some earplugs and fell asleep.

Frog near Rio Celeste Costa Rica

Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

Hiking To Rio Celeste

The next morning it was time to rise with the sun and began a journey into the forest in search for the famed waterfall. The 45 minute hike sent me through a scenic canopy of trees alive with curious white-faced monkeys, colorful red poison dart frogs, singing birds, and fluttering blue morpho butterflies.

Not a bad way to start the day.

But the best was yet to come.

I heard the roar of the waterfall before I saw it. Slipping and sliding down the muddy trail I rounded a bend and suddenly stopped cold…

Rio Celeste Waterfall Costa Rica

Rio Celeste Waterfall

Was This For Real?

I couldn’t believe my eyes. It looked like something out of a fairytale story. A powerful river came crashing 60 feet down from the trees above into a dazzling pool of turquoise blue water. It created a cold mist that floated through the air around me.

Rarely does my mouth drop open dumbfounded at the beauty of a place!

Standing alone in the middle of an emerald green forest transfixed by this beautiful bright blue wonder of nature, I had another one of those special surreal moments that all travelers long for.

Rio Celeste Costa Rica

Rio Celeste River

Swimming At Rio Celeste

I couldn’t wait to take a dip in that cold water! It felt great after my early morning hike. The intense color of the pool is created by volcanic minerals in rocks underneath.

The rest of my day was spent climbing rocks and playing in the vibrant blue liquid. There is a pretty strong current at the base of the waterfall that pushes you away, so it’s impossible to swim too close to the powerful cascade of water.

A few other people stopped by the falls that day, but for the most part I had this magical place all to myself. My adventure was complete with a dip in natural hot springs further up the trail.

While it’s definitely not the easiest place to visit without a car, a trip to Costa Rica’s Rio Celeste waterfall is a fantastic travel experience. ★

Watch the Video: Rio Celeste Waterfall

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Location: Rio Celeste, Costa Rica

Packing Guide

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Book Your Flight

Book cheap flights on Skyscanner, my favorite airline search engine to find deals. Also read my tips for how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Cars is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.

Book Accommodation

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent local apartments on Airbnb ($35 discount!). Read my post for tips on booking cheap hotels.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.

Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Costa Rica
Suggested Reading: Monkeys Are Made Of Chocolate
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READ MORE COSTA RICA TRAVEL TIPS

I hope you enjoyed my guide on Rio Celeste Waterfall in Costa Rica! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

Have any questions about Rio Celeste waterfall? Are you planning a trip to Costa Rica? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Kirsten

Saturday 10th of December 2016

Hey Matt, I'm wondering if you actually camped at Rio Celeste Lodge or were just suggesting them to other travelers looking for lodging. I'm having a hard time finding places to camp! Others are welcome to chime in. Thanks in advance, Kirsten

Igor Lopasovsky

Monday 8th of June 2015

Hi Matt, unfortunately it's prohibited to swim in Rio Celeste waterfall right now. They even built a fence around the pool. I believe it is due to someone died there 2 years ago but I'm not sure about that.

Lucy Beth

Sunday 22nd of March 2015

Hi there!

My husband and I will be staying with family in Jaco for the month of May but want to take several day trips to other places. Rio Celeste is at the top of our list but we don't want to stay the night or pay for a tour. We also won't have a rental car so we'll be relying on public transportation. Would you recommend Rio Celeste to us, and how easy would it be for us to get transportation there and hike in to the waterfall and hot springs?

Pete

Wednesday 14th of January 2015

About 8 years ago I spent a few months with a group of Aussies and Canadians working on the walking track to the waterfall. As you head up from the Rio Celeste town you'll see a beating down shack on the right just before you get to the park entrance (that is where 12 of us lived for that time, or the cement floor). Well use to be there ... I am sure other volunteer groups have used it since. It was an amazing experience, and we'd hike to the waterfall almost daily. There are hot springs along the way too.

You could swim at the waterfall when I was there ... it is amazing, and as you walk along the track you come across a section where the river meets another clear river. Seeing the colours blend is quite spectacular.

Matthew Karsten

Thursday 15th of January 2015

Cool Pete! Rio Celeste waterfall is a special place. So beautiful. I know the meeting point of the rivers you mention, the colors are very pretty.

Davis

Wednesday 23rd of July 2014

Beautiful! Heading there next week, too bad it's fenced off. But based on those pics it still looks worth it! Where exactly are the natural hot springs after the falls? Want to make sure I don't slip in one that ends up cooking me!

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