Rio Celeste is arguably the most famous—and the most STUNNING—waterfall in Costa Rica, with bright turquoise water cascading down a cliffside, tucked away in a lush jungle. While hiking to Rio Celeste should absolutely be on your bucket list, it isn’t exactly conveniently located—it’s at least a one and a half hour drive from the most popular destinations for travelers, like La Fortuna—and sometimes, much further!
So if you don’t want to worry about figuring out transportation to the trail or alternatively, just want to have the help of a guide to see some really cute sloth or monkey friends on your hike to the falls, here’s 10 incredible Rio Celeste tours (no matter which part of northern Costa Rica you’re staying in) so you can experience this amazing waterfall!
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Rio Celeste is located in Tenorio Volcano National Park in the teeny town of Bijagua de Upala. As mentioned above, the national park, nestled in the jungle of the Guanacaste province in the northwest corner of the country, is located at least an hour and a half away from the most popular destinations in Costa Rica. So, one of the huge benefits of going on a Rio Celeste tour is the fact that your transportation will be totally taken care of from wherever you’re staying.
Once you get to Tenorio Volcano National Park, you have to actually make it to the waterfall, which is only accessible along a moderately challenging 3.4 mile hike. In addition to being able to stand beside one of the most gorgeous waterfalls in Costa Rica, there’s also a number of other cool highlights along the trail, like Laguna Azul, a pool of electric blue water surrounded by a luscious jungle; Borbollones, a portion of the river that is quite literally boiling; and the Tenideros, where you can see exactly where the brown river turns to the incredible shade of turquoise you see in the waterfall.
If you want to learn more about this bucket list-worthy trail, we wrote a whole post all about hiking to Rio Celeste.
I’m going to be totally honest with you. You definitely don’t need a guide to find your way along the trail. You can certainly drive to the national park yourself in your rental car and the trail is well-defined, so you’d have to kinda, like, try to get lost on it.
However, if you want to learn or even see the plants and animals that you’ll come across on the trail, a guide is pretty much the only way you’ll be able to spot creatures in the incredibly dense and lush jungle.
Plus, most tours also take you to spots you wouldn’t otherwise see as a casual tourist, like hidden spots where you can actually swim in the turquoise river (you’re not allowed to swim under the waterfall itself) and authentic cafes to get some killer Costa Rican food.
So, if all that sounds up your alley, I’ve broken down the best Rio Celeste tours based on where you’re staying while you’re enjoying this vibrant and colorful country. Feel free to click on the link below to your homebase while you’re in Costa Rica to skip right to the tour recommendations for you!
- Rio Celeste Tours from La Fortuna
- Rio Celeste Tours from Guanacaste Beach Towns (like Tamarindo or Flamingo)
- Rio Celeste Tours from San Jose
Rio Celeste Tours from La Fortuna
The vast majority of travelers include La Fortuna, the country’s adventure capital, on their Costa Rica itinerary. While there’s lots of awesome things to do in La Fortuna, one of the most popular activities is to chase the beautiful waterfalls in the area, including the La Fortuna Waterfall, Catarata del Toro, and, of course, Rio Celeste.
But, given that Costa Rica’s bluest waterfall is located about an hour and 15 minutes northwest of La Fortuna, going on a guided tour makes getting here a lot easier!
On this tour, you’ll be picked up at your hotel in La Fortuna and driven to Tenorio Volcano National Park. Most of the guides with this company grew up in the area and are incredibly knowledgeable about the plants and animals you’ll see on the roadway (yep, they stop along the way so you can see as many Costa Rican critters as possible!), like sloths, red poison dart frogs, and caymans (basically, tiny alligators!).
Of course, you’ll see the highlights along the trail, like the incredible waterfall itself, and your guides will point out all of the interesting plants and critters you’ll pass along the way.
Once you’re done with the hike, your guide will take you to a chill spot along the river where you can actually swim through its brilliantly-colored water—one of the coolest parts of the tour, in my opinion!
You’ll end the day by grabbing a delicious lunch at a local soda, meaning a mom and pop Costa Rican restaurant. They pretty much always serve the best food around!
It’s worth noting that this tour also happens to be one of the most affordable Rio Celeste tours from La Fortuna—definitely a bang-for-your-buck option!
On this tour, you’ll be picked up at your hotel in La Fortuna and driven to the start of the Rio Celeste hike.
On the ride to the national park, the guides are incredible at spotting wildlife off in the trees and stopping the vehicle, so that you can get the best view of them as well. They also provide fascinating information on the small Costa Rican towns you’ll pass and life in Costa Rica as a whole.
You’ll hike to Rio Celeste together, as well as see the other highlights along the trail. This company’s guides are SO informative, sharing facts about Costa Rica’s biodiversity and its history.
On the way back to your hotel, you’ll stop at a tasty restaurant for lunch for some authentic Costa Rican food—you earned it on that hike!
This tour company will pick you up from your hotel in a very comfy and air-conditioned vehicle. While some Rio Celeste tours can have a LOT of guests at one time, especially in the busy season, this tour limits theirs to 30 people—and groups are typically much smaller.
Along the Rio Celeste hike, your guide will share information about why Rio Celeste looks the way it does, history of the area, and more. What makes this tour company stand out is how funny the guides are—they’re always enthusiastic and incredible at keeping guests engaged with learning about the vibrant jungle around you.
On the way back to your hotel, you’ll stop at a local roadside restaurant for a delicious and filling Costa Rican lunch.
Looking for an alternative tour to the one described above, which also includes cooling off with a swim in the cool turquoise water of the Celeste river? This tour is a great option, which kicks off with getting picked up from your hotel in an air-conditioned vehicle.
You’ll hike with your guide to Rio Celeste and, along the way, they’ll help spot animals, like snakes and toucans, hiding in the jungle. Afterwards, if you get all sweaty from the hike, your guides will take you to a local stop to swim in the brilliantly colored and cool waters in the nearby river.
On the way back to La Fortuna, you’ll fuel up from your hike with a stop at an authentic restaurant for some very tasty Costa Rican food.
If you want a truly small group experience, this tour company takes a maximum of just nine people on any given tour (and usually, less than that!).
In addition to hiking to the stunning Rio Celeste and pointing out plantlife and animals you’ll see along the way, the guides usually include some fun stops during your tour—from a swimming hole along the river, a Maleku Indian art gallery, and a 400-year old tree!
Because this tour does not include a stop for lunch, it’s usually around five hours long. Given this is a few hours shorter than most of the Rio Celeste tours from La Fortuna, this is perfect if you’re trying to squeeze in a couple more adventures in the Arenal area!
On this tour, you’ll be picked up from your accommodations in La Fortuna and taken to Tenorio Volcano National Park. Along the way, you’ll stop to pick up some much needed coffee and to spot wildlife along the way, like toucans and monkeys—your guide will even bust out scopes to help you see the creatures high up in the dense forest.
You’ll then hike along the Rio Celeste hike to the waterfall and to the other highlights along the way. The guides with this company are incredibly engaging (especially with kiddos!) and eager to answer all of your questions about the plant and wildlife you’ll pass in the dense jungle.
Afterwards, you’ll stop to grab lunch at a roadside Costa Rican restaurant and the guides are usually happy to stop at any other stops along the way, like shopping at a local market if you happen to pass one.
Rio Celeste Tours from Guanacaste Beach Towns (like Tamarindo and Playas del Coco)
The province of Guanacaste is famous for its pristine beaches along the Pacific coastline, found in charming towns like Tamarindo or Playas del Coco in Papagayo.
These towns are popular with backpackers and other travelers alike, thanks to their perfect mix of vibrant nightlife scenes and laid-back surfer vibes. So if you’re looking for something a bit different than relaxing on the beach along the Pacific coastline, a trip to Rio Celeste may just be the perfect way to spice up your trip. Plus, given that Rio Celeste is almost three hours northeast of some of these beach towns, going on a guided tour makes getting here an absolute breeze.
When booking your tour, just make sure the tour company picks up in the town that you’re staying in—these beach towns are pretty spread out and some tours only pick up in certain ones (I noted the pick-up destinations in the description below).
Oh, boy, if I were staying in this area, this adventure would DEFINITELY be my tour of choice.
On this private tour from your accommodations in either Tamarindo, Papagayo, or Flamingo, you’ll first be taken to Spring Paradise Bijagua Tours, a private ecological reserve with a number of easy trails where you can see sloths, tapirs, and monkeys. Your guide will help you spot some of Costa Rica’s incredible biodiversity hidden in the jungle and, of course, share plenty of information about the plant and wildlife you spot.
Afterwards, you’ll head to the nearby Tenorio Volcano National Park to hike the Rio Celeste trail to marvel at the breathtaking waterfall and the other natural wonders and wildlife in the national park.
Before your final activity of the day, you’ll stop for a delicious lunch of authentic Costa Rican food—fuel up, because the afternoon’s activity is a doozy!
And finally, one of the most unique activities on a Rio Celeste tour—river rafting! You’ll float your way down the cool, turquoise waters of the river—what could be better than listening to the sounds of the rainforest as you float down a natural lazy river? The guide will usually even stop mid-float so that guests can make mud masks from the volcanic ash lining the river. If that’s not a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience, I don’t know what is!
You know what’s better than a super blue waterfall? TWO turquoise waterfalls!
On this tour, which picks up in Tamarindo, Playa Grande or Flamingo Beach, you’ll get picked up from your accommodations and kick off your day’s adventures with a stop at Tenorio Volcano National Park to hike to Rio Celeste. Your guides will point out cute critters, hidden in the jungle, and share information about Costa Rica’s incredible biodiversity. After your hike, they’ll take you for a dip in the cool turquoise waters of the Celeste river.
Next up, you’ll stop at a private ecological reserve for a short hike through the jungle, where your guide will help you spot sloths, red-eyed tree frogs, and other interesting flora and fauna in the impossibly lush surrounding greenery.
You’ll grab an authentic lunch at a local restaurant and head off to your final stop—the jaw-dropping Llanos de Cortez waterfall. This 65-foot tall robins egg blue waterfall cascades into a calm plunge pool that’s perfect for swimming in or, alternatively, you can relax the afternoon away on the nearby warm, sandy beach.
This tour company picks up from hotels all over the Guanacaste region, like Papagayo, Flamingo, and Playas del Coco.
On the way to Tenorio Volcano National Park, you’ll grab a tasty breakfast and then hit the Rio Celeste trail to see one of the most stunning waterfalls in Costa Rica. Once you’re done, your guide will bring you to a local stand for some super fresh tropical fruit—there’s something about a hot, sweaty hike that makes fresh fruit taste SO good!
You’ll then head to Jungle Life, a private ecological reserve with a few easy trails for guests to enjoy and see the sloths, tapirs, and monkeys that live in its rainforest.
Before you head back to your hotel, you’ll stop once more to fuel up with a delicious Costa Rican lunch. Pura vida!
Rio Celeste Tours from San Jose
San Jose is Costa Rica’s largest city and home to its largest airport. So if you’re visiting Costa Rica from another country via plane, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be landing here.
San Jose is largely treated as a springboard for other, more exotic parts of the country, like La Fortuna or Manuel Antonio, by most travelers, but if you happen to be staying here for a period of time, a tour to Rio Celeste, located three and a half hours northwest of the city, may just be the perfect way to soak up a bit of Costa Rica’s natural beauty.
On this tour, you’ll be picked up from your accommodations in San Jose and start making your way to Tenorio Volcano National Park. Along the way, you’ll stop for breakfast to fuel up for the trail ahead.
Once you make it to the Rio Celeste trail, our guide will hike alongside you through the jungle, pointing out tons of flora and fauna you’d otherwise never see. Of course, you’ll stop at the beautiful waterfall, along with seeing the boiling Celeste river and the confluence where its waters turn that jaw-dropping shade of blue.
Afterwards, you’ll get a delicious Costa Rican lunch and make your way to your final stop at Jungle Life, a private ecological reserve that’s home to sloths, tapirs, red-eyed tree frogs, and other adorable jungle creatures. Your guide will help you spot the animals hidden in the dense foliage and share fascinating information about the incredible biodiversity around you.
You’ll then start your trek back to San Jose—but your guide will still be on the lookout to stop and check out any animals you might see along the roadway!
I hope you found one of the Rio Celeste tours that will be the perfect complement to your trip to Costa Rica! Do you have any questions about any of these tours—or visiting Rio Celeste? Let me know in the comments below!