Most travelers who go to Costa Rica end up asking how to visit Rio Celeste at some point before they land. This is not surprising, if you look at the photos I’ve included in this post.
The good news? Reaching Rio Celeste is relatively easier. The better news? Read through the next few paragraphs will make you even more excited to go there than you are already, if that’s even possible.
By the time you reach the end of this article, you’ll be well on your way to Costa Rica’s beautiful blue falls. You’ll also learn an important secret about swimming in them I wish I had know when I visited the first time!
Where to Stay Near Rio Celeste
Before I get into the details of how to visit Rio Celeste, I thought we could start with something more fundamental: Where to stay the night before you visit. There are two basic options. Some travelers will stay in one of the towns close to the falls, while others will travel from a larger destination nearby, most likely the hot springs idyll of La Fortuna near Volcan Arénal.
If you do stay near Rio Celeste, a simple accommodation such as Posada la Amistad is probably the best. Guest houses like this are valuable mostly because of their convenience, which is key when traveling in this part of Costa Rica. If you stay at La Fortuna’s Hotel el Silencio del Campo, meanwhile, you will visit Rio Celeste on a day trip, either via your own private car or on a day tour (more on that later).
How to Get to Rio Celeste
Rent a car
The easiest way to reach Rio Celeste (and to travel in Costa Rica in general) is to have your own set of wheels. As a general rule, it’s best to do this upon arrival at the airport in Liberia or San Jose to save yourself the trouble of having to find an in-town rental agency.
(Or book a tour)
On the other hand, if you’re planning to get around the country by bus, you can visit Rio Celeste on a tour from La Fortuna on an organized tour. This can also be advantageous for solo travelers, as it allows you to combine your adventure with what is likely much-needed socialization.
Pay your entry fee
Rio Celeste is in the Tenorio Volcano National Park and as a result, is subject to an entry fee. As of June 2022 this is $12 per person. Note that if you drive your own car, you will also need to pay $5 to park it on-site, although if you don’t mind walking you may be able to park it along the main road for free.
Complete the (easy) hike
Once you’ve followed your GPS (or your tour guide) to the entrance, the question of how to visit Rio Celeste is a simple one: You hike! The out-and-back trail, which ends at Rio Celeste’s famous waterfall, takes about an hour each way, and is relatively easy.
Swim—but take care
Contrary to some rumors you find online, it is possible to swim at Rio Celeste. However, you should avoid dunking your head into the water, or getting water into your eyes. The very minerals that give it its blue color can also irritate your mucous membranes.
Is Rio Celeste Worth Visiting?
Rio Celeste is pretty hyped online and in social media, not gonna lie. I’ve seen some articles that aim to portray it as otherworldly and even alien-like. Oddly, many of these also suggest that Rio Celeste is somehow off-the-beaten path. While that may be true in a very literal sense, it definitely doesn’t feel overlooked in any way—it will almost certainly be crowded when you visit.
Yet I do think you should visit Rio Celeste—and that it will probably knock your socks off when you to. The jungles it flows through are relatively normal for Costa Rica, which makes the sight of the blue waters through its thick vegetation all the more surprising. Then there’s the fact that you only reach the waterfall at the end of the trail: It’s a massive pay-off at precisely the right moment.
Other FAQ About Visiting Rio Celeste
Can you swim in Rio Celeste?
Contrary to popular belief, you can swim at Rio Celeste (but only in the river part—you can’t swim under or near the waterfall). The key is that you shouldn’t put your head underwater, as certain minerals in the water may irritate your mouth, nose, ears or eyes.
Why is Rio Celeste blue?
Rio Celeste is blue due to a combination of volcanic minerals in the water. These include, but are not limited to, Aluminum, silicon and oxygen. These minerals are also the reason you shouldn’t put your head underwater if you swim in Rio Celeste.
How hard is the Rio Celeste hike?
The Rio Celeste hike is relatively easy. Apart from the stairs that lead down to the waterfall at the end of the hike, the trail is mostly flat and very well-maintained. It should take you around an hour each way, although if you stop often for photos it may require a little bit more time.
The Bottom Line
I hope you have a much clearer idea of how to visit Rio Celeste now than you did when you arrive on this page. Like most things about traveling in Costa Rica, getting to the country’s beautiful, blue waterfall requires just the right combination of knowledge and patience, both of which pay off in spades once you finally get there. Some of you will travel to Rio Celeste independently, while others will take an organized tour from La Fortuna or elsewhere in the country. Want to make sure your next Costa Rica trip is one for the record books? Hire me as your Travel Coach—and let me sweat the details!