Costa Rica Tips, Travel Costa Rica

Driving to Rio Celeste Waterfall, Costa Rica


Visiting Costa Rica’s otherworldly Rio Celeste is fast becoming one of the country’s premier day tours. 

Images of the river’s sparkling blue waters online just don’t do it justice. It’s only by seeing the spectacular Rio Celeste in person that its beauty is possible to believe.

What gives Rio Celeste its beautiful color?

The river’s milky turquoise hue is formed by the joining of two rivers with distinct mineral compositions. Their unusual elements are derived from the Tenorio Volcano from which they flow. Among the minerals are calcium carbonate, sulfur, silica, and several others common to volcanic activity.  

The two rivers – the Buena Vista and Quebrada Agria – are clear like any other river in the area. That is until they join at the base of the volcano and an unusual chemical reaction occurs. Where the rivers meet, and Rio Celeste is formed is known as Los Teñideros. Which means “the dyers” in English.

It isn’t so much a chemical reaction that occurs when their waters mix. It’s more like an optical reaction that causes an unusual transformation in color and transparency. Light is refracted and reflected when it hits the water’s surface. Creating a fairy book spectacle of brilliant blue that delights visitors young and old. 

Rio Celeste Waterfall

Rio Celeste River further enchants its visitors when it plunges 250 feet from the lush rainforest as a dazzling waterfall. 

And that’s not all Tenorio offers its fans. Surrounding the mountain’s flanks are mineral rich hot springs and vibrant forests literally teeming with wildlife and exotic tree and plant species.

What are the road conditions like around the park? 

Road conditions around Tenorio National Park have improved in recent years. It used to be that a 4WD vehicle was the recommended form of transportation to and from the destination. 

Today, thanks to improvements in infrastructure, you can visit the sky blue river and waterfall in a sedan or compact vehicle.

What car to rent for a day trip to Rio Celeste Waterfall

We at Adobe Rent a Car have the biggest and newest fleet of vehicles in all of Costa Rica. From mini sedans to full-size SUVs and pickup trucks – we’ve got you covered.  


We usually recommend a 4×4 vehicle for visitors planning on seeing multiple destinations. The added lift and power helps when driving on dirt roads and steep terrain. Please speak with one of our bilingual Adobe agents to find the rental car that’s right for you. 

How do you get to Rio Celeste Waterfall?

A visit to the renowned Blue River of Costa Rica is actually easy. The following directions from popular Costa Rica destinations will make your drive a breeze.

In most cases we recommend using your vehicle or cell phone GPS to get to Rio Celeste. Costa Rica’s most accurate and comprehensive navigation platform is WAZE

How to get to Rio Celeste from Liberia

Those of you flying into Liberia’s Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport will be happy to know that Adobe Rent a Car has a full service office nearby.  

From the Adobe Liberia office head northeast on Highway 21 and then southeast on the Pan American Highway #1. After approximately 40 km take a right on the Camino El Bijagua exit. Then continue east past Bijagua town until you arrive at the Rio Celeste Ranger Station and the Rio Celeste Parking lot. 

The drive time from Liberia International Airport to Tenorio Volcano National Park is approximately three hours.

From Tamarindo 

To visit Rio Celeste from Tamarindo you must first drive towards Liberia. From Tamarindo take Route 155 to Route 21 in Belén. From Belén drive through Filadelfia de Guanacaste to Route 21 and Liberia. 

Once you’ve reached the Panamerican Highway #1 (also known as the Carretera Interamericana) head south to Route 6 and Camino al Parque de Bijagua in Upala. Keep following the signs until you arrive at Tenorio National Park. The drive time is approximately three hours.

From Playas del Coco

Getting to Rio Celeste from the popular town of Playas del Coco is similar to the directions mentioned above. The drive time is approximately 2:30 hours.

From town, follow Route 151 and east on Route 21 until you reach Liberia. Head south on the Panamerican Highway #1 for approximately 40 km. Take a left (north) onto Route 6 and continue for about 35 km on Camino al Parque to your destination in Guatuso.

From La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano

Experiencing the breathtaking Rio Celeste Waterfall from La Fortuna is a great day trip. 

Take Route 142 out of town to Route 4 (the Corredor Noratlántico). Take a left onto Route 4 and continue driving for approximately 37 km until you reach San Rafael de Guatuso and Barrio del Bosque.

Next, take a left onto Maquengal Road and continue for approximately 21 km until you reach the National Park Ranger Station and parking lot. 

Where do you park for Rio Celeste Waterfall? 

You will see a large parking lot at the entrance of the national park. At the writing of this article a small parking fee of 2,000 CRC ($3.50) was expected for the entire day. Make sure to display your parking receipt on the dashboard of your vehicle. 

Although the parking lot is guarded it is never recommended to leave valuables in your car. If you’re traveling with your luggage try to keep any electronics or other personal items out of sight. And always remember to lock the doors and roll up the windows. 

Ipads, purses, laptops, and cameras are easy targets for thieves, even if the car is locked. If possible, always leave your valuables, passports, credit cards, and any important documents in the hotel safe while you’re out. 

If not possible, it’s best to purchase a discreet fanny pack or travel wallet to carry your documents and valuables with you when you’re out and about.  

Tenorio National Park entrances fees

You can access the Rio Celeste Waterfall & Tenorio Volcano National Park from the ranger station and entrance near the town of Bijagua. The 2021 entrance fee for non-residents is $12 adults, $5 children, and 800 colones (CRC) for locals and residents. 

When is the best time to visit the Rio Celeste Waterfall? 

Tenorio Volcano National Park is covered in rainforests. This is a good thing when it comes to seeing wildlife and tropical scenery. However, rain is a regular phenomenon. Especially during the rainy season.

To get the best out of the experience we recommend visiting during the dry season. For most of the country the driest months are between December and May.

Don’t be dismayed if you can’t help traveling during the rainy season. But make sure to visit the park in the early morning when it’s usually sunny and dry. And make sure to bring a change of clothing and prepare for muddy trails. 

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