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Tenorio National Park: What you need to know about hiking here

Visiting the most talked about, photographed and I think wonders of the world was high on my priority list when coming to Costa Rica.  For the last 4 years I’ve seen many beautiful photos of the waterfalls, and envied those who had seen it.  This time it was my turn to see the magnificent Rio Celeste Waterfalls.  An unbelievable experience I shared with my best friend.  A memory I will always cherish.

Getting there by car

Driving to Tenorio National Park is certainly not the easiest park to get to in Costa Rica.  If you take the main highway from La Fortuna turn left just before Canas on Route 6 then turn right on the National Park road until you see the entrance.   From La Fortuna it’s about 1 1/2 hours.  We can from Puntarenas and took road CR17 CR23 to the Interamerican Highway 1 to Canas.  We like to make a pit stop here for a washroom break as well as behind the restaurant you can always see the Scarlet Macaws in the trees.  Makes my day to see them, so beautiful and vibrant colors.  After our quick break we returned back on to the highway until we reached Route 6 (Corobici Canas-Upala),  then turned right here.  The rest of the roads you really need a 4×4.  Ruta 730 at Colonia Puntarenas turn right to route 4 Upala-Guatuso another right and watch for the signs of Rio Celeste.  In total you might drive about 83.5km.  We however got lost a few times as we were stopping at Rio Celeste Hideaway for the night.  From the resort the Tenorio National Park is about 1km.  Read more about the Rio Celeste Hotel.

Travel tips

The roads are challenging for a regular vehicle or tourist van.  We suggest you rent a 4×4 to maneuver the many hills & rocks you will find on the way.   The views of the river & waterfalls are the most spectacular scenery you will see in Costa Rica so if you can plan your trip in good weather you will have a better chance to see the blue water.

Park entrance to Tenorio

This is the entrance to pay your admission fee

There is a parking lots to leave your vehicle for this hike.  As always we suggest you not leave any valuable visible in your car.


Here is the start of the trail


You are here

The sign picture is of a tapir.  If you’re lucky enough you may see one in this park.  Sorry to say on our day tour we didn’t see one.


the trails are rocky

The trails here are challenging as they start off paved then gravel then rocky, gravel and mud.   We suggest you wear shorts and hiking shoes or water sandals, long pants aren’t a great option.  Believe me you will be muddy.  It rains here a lot so parts of the trail can be slippery.  I chose my KEEN hiking shoes which are also waterproof and provide better support.  I also have sandals by KEEN, but thought the closed in shoe would be more appropriate for this kind of hiking.


You can see above in the photo sometimes you climb up larger rocks.

The hike as a lot of places in Costa Rica is uphill.  We suggest to take your time and give yourself about 4-5 hours if you want to take the trail to the river and the stairs down to the waterfalls.


All the vegetation is very lush and green

Travel tip:  We always take our backpacks when going for nature hikes.  In our backpack we have a water bottle, sunscreen, bug spray, camera and of course a poncho.  If you have expensive cameras or even phones you don’t want to get them wet.  On our way back from the look out it started a light rain which progressed more.  I was glad we had ponchos to protect my gear.

When you arrive at the cross trails you will see a sign down to the waterfalls and straight ahead to the river & lookout.  If you can do it all head straight on the trail to the most amazing sight where the two rivers come together, mix minerals and turn the water this magical shade of blue.  Science is pretty cool when you see it for yourself.  This trail was definitely worth the extra walking.  I don’t think you can see anything quite like this, at least I never have.


You can start to see a glimpse of the blue color in the river.


A sneak peek at the river through the trees


Look closely, see if you can spot the black snake.

If you look closely towards the top of the picture you can see a snake camouflaged in the trees.


the river from the blue lagoon

blue lagoon-rio celeste

Here we are at the blue lagoon

There is no swimming allowed here in the river or at the waterfalls.  Such a shame as it’s so inviting.  Take your time at this lagoon it’s a great spot to sit and rest, have a snack, and get some awesome photographs.


This is just a small hanging bridge to cross to the other side.


The furmole bubbling water.

Here you can actually feel the warmth coming from the bubbling water.  Pretty amazing as the volcano it very close.


The two rivers come together & join making the river color turquoise

The river on the right comes from volcano bringing minerals that help mix with the natural river on the left.  What a unique sight to see.


A view from the look out

Straight ahead in the photo is the Tenorio Volcano.  It actually has 3 craters.  Simple called Crater 1, Crater 2, and Crater 3.  This is as far as you can go on this trail.  You’ll need to hike back the way you came until you come to the sign crossing of a few trails.  Here you can access the stairs down to the waterfalls.  In total there is about 150 stairs to go down.  Handrails are on both sides for convenience to hold if needed.  Don’t forget 150 down, 150 back.  Unfortunately for me I made it far enough down to get this gorgeous shot below of the waterfalls.  I have to say feeling a little out of shape I was exhausted.  For those who hike a lot this would be easy enough, for others this could be very difficult.


The main attraction the Rio Celeste Waterfalls

About this hike

If you have small children, require walking devices this tour & hike is probably not for you.  Unfortunately you’ll have to enjoy others photos.  For those who hike infrequently you might want to skip the river trail and head down the stairs to enjoy the waterfalls.  For the avid hiker this should be no problem.  We advise to stay on the trails provided as yes there is animals, insects, and other creatures lurking in the forest.  Remember it is their home.  Be careful before touching that tree branch.

Before you come to the paved trail be sure to look up in the trees.  We saw capuchin monkeys swinging from tree to tree.  Have your camera ready in case you’ve never experienced them here in Costa Rica.

Washroom facilities

Sorry to say you better go at the entrance, once you’re on the trails there are no washrooms.  As well if you packed a snack for your hike remember to take your garbage with you and not litter in the forest.

Hiking gear

  • backpack
  • water bottle
  • poncho
  • hiking shoes or sandals (waterproof)
  • bug spray
  • sun lotion


Entrance to the park

The cost for locals is $2 and for tourist is $12 USD

Park Hours

The park opens at 8am and closes at 4pm.  To fully enjoy the park, we suggest you arrive when the park opens.  Arrive no later than 2pm to guarantee entrance, but this still depends on the weather.  During heavy rainfalls the park will be closed as many of the trails will be muddy and dangerous for hiking.  Last week the park was closed as there was so much rain that some of areas needed repair for safe travels.  We were so fortunately today to have mostly good weather, a little rain which made the trails on the way back muddy.

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We would love to hear your experience at Rio Celeste National Park or if it’s on your bucket list you can contact us to help plan your trip!

Read more about others tours in Costa Rica!

Miravillas Volcano

Manuel Antonio

Poas Volcano

As always our opinions for reviews & tour experiences are our own.

Pura Vida!


About the Author:

Laurie Johnson is travel writer, agent, and founder of Pura Vida Vacations. She finds her inspirations from travelling of the beaten path, meeting the locals, and sharing her travel stories, reviews, and tips with her readers.

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