If you’re looking for a quiet rainforest getaway, we highly recommend Bijagua de Upala. As the gateway to Rio Celeste, this little town has a very natural and rural feel with stunning mountain scenery, fantastic bird watching and charismatic locals.
In this guide, you’ll read all you need to know about visiting Bijagua.
Bijagua, Costa Rica map.
Bijagua is located right at the border between Alajuela and Guanacaste, up in the Guanacaste mountain range. It is 86 kilometers (53.5 miles) from Liberia Airport and 190 kilometers (118 miles) from San Jose Airport. It sits right in between the Tenorio and Miravalles volcano.
How to get to Bijagua, Costa Rica
From Liberia airport, turn left onto the main road towards Liberia for about 10 minutes. Once you reach the city, turn right onto the Interamericana Highway 1 (gas station to your right). Continue on the highway towards Canas and exit right at Upala after about 40 kilometers (25 miles).
After you exit, take a left and continue straight all the way, about 35 kilometers (22 miles). It takes about 1 hour 10 minutes from Liberia. This is on the highway and a well paved road.
You can use a GPS or GPS apps like Google Maps or Waze to get to Bijagua de Upala.
How to get to Bijagua from La Fortuna
From La Fortuna, the most popular way is to go through Guatuso and Upala. This takes about 2 hours and the road is in very good condition. You can also go by way of Tilaran/Canas and the Interamericana highway. That route is on all paved roads.
Both routes are found in Waze.
A 4×4 is not necessary as the road is paved to downtown BIjagua.
The bus you will take is to Upala and you will get off at the AMP in downtown.
From Canas: There is a bus every day from Canas at 4:30 AM, 6 AM, 8:30 AM, 11 AM, 12:45 PM, 3:30 PM, 4:30 PM and 5:30 PM.
From San Jose: There is a bus from San Jose every day at 6 AM, 10:15 AM, 3 PM, 3:45 PM and 5:15 PM. There is an extra bus on Saturdays at 5:45 AM.
From Liberia: There is a bus from Liberia Monday to Saturday at 12:30 PM and 2:15 PM.
There aren’t many shared shuttles but Quality Transfers Costa Rica has shared shuttles from Monteverde at 8 AM for $65 USD per person. They have a returning shuttle at 3 PM for $65 USD per person.
Otherwise, renting a car or a private shuttle is the best way to get to and around Bijagua.
As soon as you enter Bijagua, you can feel the small town vibe. Dairy and cow farming are the backbone of this community but thanks to its close proximity to Rio Celeste, tourism is increasing greatly with more visitors discovering the beauty of Bijagua.
It’s common to see farmers out and about, horses and cows roaming the streets and chickens running around. The main street in town is only a couple kilometers long with a few restaurants, banks, supermarkets and pharmacies. There are wonderful views of the Tenorio and Miravailles volcanoes from town.
Most of the Bijaguenos live in the outskirts of town and many of them still farm (dairy and cow). Years ago, a good number of Bijaguenos were given a large piece of land from the government to help grow the local economy with farming.
However, in the past decade or so, the locals decided to plant trees and grow back the forest in hopes of increasing tourism to boost the local economy.
Thanks to the new forests, the bird and mammals population in Bijagua have increased drastically and is an excellent place for nature lovers.
Since the town sits about 500 meters (1640 feet) in elevation, the weather is typical tropical rainforest climate. Average year round temperatures are around 80s F (27 C) for most of the year during the day and cools off at night.
However, since it is up in the mountains, it does tend to rain a bit more. It can even rain a good amount during Costa Rica’s dry season (December – April). It is very humid in Bijagua.
We have visited six times in different months: March, April, June, September and January.
When we visited in September, it was hot and dry in the mornings and rained early afternoons and nights.
In April, it poured for 2 days straight. Got clear skies and sun on our third day. Was very hot and humid.
In March, it rained a lot on March 1st. It was off and on the whole day. My second visit was in mid-March. That day was very hot and dry, no rain at all.
In January, we had on and off rain with clouds and sunshine.
In June, it was cloudy, sunny and humid with rain in the afternoon.
Weather in Bijagua can be finicky due to the elevation. The best tip I can give you is to bring your waterproof rain jacket no matter what time of year you visit!
Things to do in Bijagua
The most popular thing to do is to visit Rio Celeste inside Tenorio Volcano National Park (read our detailed guide to hiking Rio Celeste here).
However, there are many other wonderful activities to enjoy in the area!
Swimming in Rio Celeste: There is a public entrance by the national park where anyone can go and bathe in Rio Celeste.
Heliconias Lodge Hanging bridges: Heliconias Lodge has 3 hanging bridges that runs through their private reserve of primary rainforest. It’s an easy 2.2 kilometer trail and is one of the first private rainforest reserves in Costa Rica.
Horseback riding to Rio Celeste: Explore the rain forest by way of horseback and ride to the public area of Rio Celeste to go for a dip.
Tubing on Rio Celeste: Float down small rapids on Rio Celeste on this fun water tour.
Bird watching: Because of the primary and secondary forests around, there are more than 300 types of birds. You can see three different types of toucans, hummingbirds, mot mots and more.
If you are staying in Guanacaste and want to visit Bijagua as a day trip for rainforest and sloths, check out the link to read about the excursion!
If you are staying in Guanacaste and want to do a day tour to Bijagua, please contact us. We can help arrange a day trip to Rio Celeste or to the rainforest for nature walks and sloth watching!
Bijagua, Costa Rica Hotels
The types of hotels in and around town are small B&B’s, eco-lodges and cabinas. Here are some of the recommended hotels in Bijagua.
Casitas Tenorio B&B (get 10% off your booking in the link): The property has a working dairy farm and a 800 meter trail. Very spacious casitas (little houses), perfect for families and couples.
Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel: Has more upscale lodgings with air conditioning, an on-site restaurant, large pool, flat screen TV and outdoor showers. Super nice hotel, perfect for a little luxury stay in the rainforest, right next to the national park. Rooms start at $180 a night, you can check availability.
Celeste Mountain Lodge: This lodge sits on a huge property with primary forest with their own trails. They have a focus on gourmet Costa Rican-fusion food. Rooms start at $165 for a single, all meals included. Check availability here.
Sueno Celeste B&B: This B&B has 5 spacious bungalows. They accept children 8 and older. Bungalows start at $120 a night. Book a room here.
Tenorio Lodge: Tenorio Lodge has 12 bungalows on a 17 acre property, each with a patio and a volcano view. They also have a little ranch area with two Jacuzzi. Rates start at $185, check prices here.
Finca Verde Lodge: A wonderful place to experience eco-tourism and local farming life. They have a cafe and 4 cabins. Prices start at $50 for a double room and you can volunteer for $20 a day. Make a booking here.
La Carolina Lodge is also another great place that is close to Tenorio Volcano National Park with their own horseback riding trails and dairy farm.
For cheap lodging, check out Rio Celeste Backpackers.
Restaurants in Bijagua, Costa Rica
There aren’t a ton of restaurants but they have a few good options.
Pizza El Barrigon: Pretty good pizza with a yummy vegetarian option. Also has traditional Costa Rican food. Big portions!
Restaurante Y Marisceria Poro: Seafood, traditional Costa Rica.
Terraza Bijagua: Has a very nice view, serves traditional Costa Rican food. Can sometimes be very slow though.
Cafe la Semilla: Very nice cafe in town with coffee, tea and snacks like empanadas and sandwiches.
La Cabana Lodge: New restaurant with a sports bar and drinks. A large upscale with Costa Rican fusion dishes. Great place for nightlife (the only place really).
There are two supermarkets, a bank, a pharmacy, a veterinarian clinic, a laundromat, a couple souvenir stores and a couple small clothing stores in town. You can find all the basic needs here.
The road is paved the whole way through town. It becomes unpaved on the neighborhood roads stemming from the main street.
They have now put in a gas station in Bijagua!
How to Visit Bijagua, Costa Rica
Renting a car will be the best way to visit due to the small town nature of Bijagua. You can also take the bus which is an easy cheap option from San Jose and Liberia.
However, you will need to figure out your own transportation to the national park. A round trip transfer from your hotel to Rio Celeste entrance is around $50 USD for 2-4 people or $30 one way. Having a car will be the most efficient and flexible way to get around.
Get our Costa Rica car rental discount to save $$ on your car rental with our discount and receive extra benefits like 2 free drivers, free cell phone and more.
If you stay in a hotel outside town or near the national park without a car, you will have to taxi back and forth which will add up in price. Not all the hotels and lodges have a restaurant so keep that in mind when looking for hotels if you don’t rent a car.
How Many Days Should You Visit Bijagua?
Most people visit for a couple days from another destination like La Fortuna or Monteverde. Bijagua is not quite the destination that visitors use as their main home base as it’s such a small town.
Although most people visit Bijagua as a day trip from La Fortuna or Guanacaste, you can stay a night. The ideal time to spend there is 1-2 nights. You can get a very good experience and feel of the town in just a couple of days.
I highly recommend staying a couple nights to experience rural tourism in a gorgeous area of Costa Rica. Everyone who visits falls in love with the town and it’s the perfect destination for some R&R in the mountains.
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