Exploring Volcan Tenorio Park

Volcan Tenorio Park is one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world and a must visit if you are in Costa Rica. During your walk through the park you’ll see many species of trees and even you can spot some cute animals like the tapir, monkeys,  sloths, anteaters, collared peccaries and coatis. Sounds super cool no? Well, it is! If you’re planning on visiting the enchanting Rio Celeste, in this blog post I will share my experience and some useful tips and tricks to help you to plan the perfect visit.

Volcán Tenorio National Park is located in the Alajuela Province of Costa Rica pretty close to the frontier with Nicaragua. The park is protected by the law and it was created to protect the Tenorio Volcano and surrounding area from development, so in order to keep it as it is, there are a limited number of visitors per day (around 400). So make sure to plan your trip accordingly. If you´re wandering which months are better for you, then you should know that the busiest months of the year are during December through April, while the rest of the months are more chill and great to visit the park.

Tenorio Volcano actually consists of a cluster of many volcanic peaks and craters. It is about 110 km long and stretches from the northwest corner of Costa Rica near the Nicaraguan border. In the park, among other things you can explore the famous Rio Celeste and waterfall with its distinctive blue colour, natural hot springs and an abundance of flora and fauna.

TENORIO VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK

The hike here was so beautiful from the beginning until we left the park. It was such a relaxing experience for the eyesight enjoying the forest abundant natural life and the turquoise waters. This walk is not complicated and in the meantime, in the forest’s trail you can observe a great diversity of vegetation, many species of trees and even animals. I felt like in a fairytale.

distance : approximately 6 kilometers long. There is no defined “end” to this hike, it depends on how far around the waterfall you decide to hike.

difficulty: moderate

how much time :  it took us about 4-5 hours to explore all the spots we wanted to, but there was so much more to see and also depends on how much time you spend at each spot.

drone, entrance fee & parking for Volcán Tenorio Park

Flying drone is totally prohibited, unless you have a special permission, because as I said before, here are living plenty of animals and they might get scared. And if you have in mind to bring it with you don´t even try because they check your bag at the entrance and the security will ask you to leave it in your car or whatever you want to.

The entrance fee is 13 euros and it can be payed only by credit card (no cash payment is accepted). Another thing you need to know is that the main visitor centre is opened daily from 8 AM to 4 PM.

There is a parking lot 1 minute from the park, where you can leave your car and the price is 2 euros.

Costa Rica
If feels awesome to hike surrounded by this dense tropical forest
So happy to enjoy the lush vegetation
Rio Celeste

The Rio Celeste waterfall is the first, but also the most popular point of interest of Tenorio National Park, but not the only one. There are some other beautiful spots to see, like the Laguna Azul, Los Borbollones and El Teñidero.

RÍO CELESTE

The waterfall is 90 meters tall and I’m sure you´re wandering where the colour comes from. Well, the distinctive turquoise coloration of the water is fed by the Celeste River and is caused from a chemical reaction between volcanic minerals. This natural wonder will take your breath away and it is hard to believe that it is even real.

For many, the main attraction in the park is the waterfall and I can not blame them, it is amazing to see this natural wonder as the waterfall plunge into a crystal clear and incredibly blue pool below.

As it became more popular the number of visitors started to grow. Still, Rio Celeste is one of the more visited place in Cost Rica, attracting people all over the world because of its abundant wildlife. The trail to the waterfall lookout is a couple hundred steps down so be prepared to walk back up these steps and if it rains and it usually rains it is slippery, so be careful.

We visited in rainy season and sometimes, when the rains are incredibly heavy and constant or there is a tropical storm, the river isn’t as blue due to the sediment and run off. But with all that we were pretty amazed by how blue the water was and we couldn’t stop thinking how blue it must be with clear skies.

there is a legend

The beautiful colour of the river inspired indigenous people to create a myth. The story says that when Gods painted the sky blue and they used the river to wash the paintbrushes, creating the beautiful blue colour that we see today at the Rio Celeste.

However, the scientific explanations is that the optical illusion caused by he scattering of sunlight off the suspended aluminosilicate in the river, the sunlight refracts off of this suspended mineral in the water and appears blue to our eyes and cameras.

The waterfall was for long Costa Rica’s best kept secret
The river from above
Amazing wildlife

HIKING TENORIO VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK

Why you should do it: the surroundings in the park are absolutely amazing and a hike in the forest is such a mood and breathing the fresh air and spotting some unique animals is pure bliss.

What you need to know before to start your hike is that the trail is muddy and slippery in sections, mostly after the branch off for the Río Celeste lookout and I recommend you to bring appropriate shoes. And if you think that you if get dirty, you´ll just jump into the river to clean in it all, don’t make too many plans because the swimming here is prohibited.

what you should bring

  • Water
  • Camera
  • Good shoes
  • Rain jacket
  • Mosquito repellent


Follow the trail past the waterfall lookout and all the vista points all the way to the very end and after about 20 minutes hike you will arrive to another river, where the water turns into a baby blue colour.

LA LAGUNA AZUL

After leaving Rio Celeste behind you just have to follow the signs for the trail. The first 10 mins are flat and paved, but after a while it becomes rocky. It looks like a hard hike but in the end it is pretty easy for hikers of all skills. The day we visited it rained a lot and it was muddy and slippery. The rain made the hike to look difficult but it was all worth it in the end. To experience the incredibly blue lake even with rain it was amazing.

Watching the milky blue water set among emerald green jungle, this is definitely a place that you have to see in order to believe it hasn’t been digitally altered. In fact, the water is so blue and beautiful that it makes you want to just jump in it, but here is prohibited too.

I enjoyed very much our day in the park and I loved the nature surrounding the park. Starting with the verdant rolling hills, the jungle and the interaction with cute grazing cattle and monkeys. And if you’re looking for an authentic and peaceful travel experience, be sure to spend a couple of nights in Bijagua, because this place has fewer tourists than other parts of the country, allowing you to enjoy nature at another level.

And after a long hike you must be hungry. Right outside the park entrance are two simple restaurants serving some of the most delicious food and milkshake and add to that the dazzling views to the park with cute monkeys jumping from a tree to another. If you want to eat here bring cash with you because it is not possible to pay by card.

FACILITIES CLOSE TO THE PARK

  • A place to rent water shoes
  • A fruit stand to buy exotic veggies and fruits
  • Two restaurants that have in the menu delicious local food
  • A little market where you can buy snacks and water

Rio Celeste from another side

We had to go on a scenic river adventure surrounded by the tropical rainforest before to leave Bijagua. We took a spectacular walk thru the thick jungle along the river in the change to spot more animals and see the Rio Celeste from another side to a spot not very popular, but still beautiful and we were amazed by how blue the water is even after a few kilometres from the waterfall.

This side of the river was very impressive too, we enjoyed panoramic valley views, lush vegetation and even we’ve seen some families of monkeys playing in the trees, having breakfast. The only difference was that this side was less crowded and much more enjoyable. And of course, you are still in Costa Rica where you see at every ¨corner¨ to say so, plenty of wildlife, including birds of prey, white faced monkeys and different species of plants.

I hope you enjoyed this post about Rio Celeste! Obviously, this is just my experience and there are so many other cool activities to do that I still haven’t done. But I guess that will be a reason for me to come back. If you want to share your thoughts about Rio Celeste, let me know in the comments! I’m always curious to know how was your trip or if I had helped you to plan a trip.

I kindly remind you to be respectful to the outdoors.

Happy travels!

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