Rio Celeste Waterfall: how to plan the best visit

The Rio Celeste waterfall is one of the most enchanting places to visit in Costa Rica. If you’re planning on visiting the Rio Celeste waterfall, here is everything you need to know in order to best experience the river and falls.

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About the Rio Celeste Waterfall

Rio Celeste waterfall
Rio Celeste Waterfall

The legend of the Rio Celeste waterfall, is that when God was painting the sky blue, he dipped his paint brush into the river, forever changing it to a sky blue hue. The scientific explanation is that there is a mineral in the water called colloidal silica that tricks the human eye into seeing a turquoise color when hit by sunlight. This article does a great job of explaining the science behind the Rio Celeste waterfall!

Turquoise waters of Rio Celeste
Turquoise waters of Rio Celeste


Rio Celeste Waterfall
Tenorio Volcano National Park

The Rio Celeste Waterfall is located within the Tenorio Volcano National, in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica. The park is about a 1.5 drive from the Liberia International Airport (100 km) and about a 3.5 hour drive from the San Jose airport (172 km). The sign for the park entrance is located in the small town of Bijagua. Once you pass the sign, you will have to drive along a windy mountain road for about 20 minutes. After about 20 minutes, you’ll get to the rangers station to actually enter the park on foot. In the rainy season, I definitely recommend 4×4 for this drive. However, in the dry season you should be fine without!

About the Rio Celeste Waterfall Trails

Once you purchase your entrance ticket from the ranger station, ($12 USD for adults, $5 for children) you can enter the park! The entire trail is about 6km (3.7 miles) and can take anywhere from 2-4 hours. This depends on the weather, your hiking speed, and how often you stop to take pictures!

The trails inside the park are marked very well, and the signage is very clear. Some of the highlights are the waterfall itself, bubbling hot springs, and a little wooden bridge that is the perfect place to stop for a photo!

Rio Celeste Waterfall Guide
Rio Celeste trail signs

The trail itself isn’t terribly difficult, however that is definitely weather dependent. The hardest part is the stairs leading from the trail to the waterfall. The stairs are quite steep and there are a LOT of them. However the view you get of the waterfall is well worth the effort. I personally hiked the trails in the dry season so they weren’t too difficult. However with some heavy rains I could see how it could get pretty slippery, and you’d probably want proper footwear (waterproof hiking shoes!)

Hanging Bridge in Rio Celeste
Hanging Bridge in Rio Celeste

What to Pack and Wear

What to pack to visit the Rio Celeste waterfall ultimately depends on the weather and time of year you visit. If you visit in the dry season (December-May), and it isn’t raining, you likely won’t have an issue wearing comfortable walking/hiking shoes. It’s recommended to wear closed toed shoes due to bugs, snakes, etc….. (I still wore my Chacos though!) In the rainy season, the trails can get pretty muddy and you might want to wear boots. The good news is that boots are available for rental at the park entrance! At any time of year, however, I recommend bringing a water bottle, rain jacket, comfortable hiking clothes, and something to keep your camera/ electronics dry if you choose to bring them. For more info on what to bring on your trip to Costa Rica, check out my Costa Rica Packing List!

Tips and Tricks


Swimming in the waterfall itself (or anywhere in the park) is not allowed for safety and conservation reasons. However, if you do want to swim in Rio Celeste, you can! There is a swimming hole located just past the Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel, and it is completely free!

Should you rent boots:

It depends. I personally don’t love the idea of rental shoes for sanitary and comfort reasons. Also, when I visited the park it wasn’t raining, so the trails weren’t too muddy. However, if it was *dumping*, I might have considered it. So its up to your personal preference but you really don’t **need** them.

Best time to go:

I recommend getting to the park as soon as it opens to experience the waterfall before it gets too crowded. I arrived at 8am, was the very first person in the park and it felt like I had it all to myself, which was truly magical. For more general travel information about Costa Rica, check out my post about Backpacking Costa Rica!

Bridge in Rio Celeste
Bridge in Rio Celeste

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  1. What an absolutely beautiful waterfall to visit! I love that bridge over the blue water to get to it as well. Definitely one for the list when I get to Costa Rica!

  2. What a gorgeous waterfall! That’s so cool that a mineral can make the water look so turquoise! Great info on visiting. Can’t wait to see it one day!

  3. What a stunning waterfall! Costa Rica is really high on my bucket list, so I’m definitely visiting this waterfall in the future. It’s good to know that you can rent boots if needed, as I love hiking but also love to pack light 🙂

  4. We unfortunately had to cancel our trip to CR but this was totally on our list! It is such a beautiful waterfall; really the whole park looks awesome!

  5. The water looks like the color of the lakes in British Columbia – so blue and beautiful. Having the park to yourself early in the morning would be amazing too. Don’t have to worry about tourists in your shots at all!

    1. It really was. I remember how nice it was having coffee in the morning in the jungle, and the windy yet beautiful drive to the falls! I can’t wait for more adventures like that with you!

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