If you’re looking for a quiet getaway from the rowdy beaches in Guanacaste, we highly recommend staying in Bijagua de Upala, a little village near the entrance of Tenorio Volcano National Park. As the gateway to Rio Celeste, this little town has become more popular but still retains a very natural and rural feel with stunning mountain scenery, fantastic bird watching and small town charm.
In this guide, you’ll read all you need to know about the town. It’s one of our favorite places in Costa Rica, whenever we need to escape the beach, we head there to get our fill of fresh mountain air. We have visited several times and we love it every single time!
Click to skip to the section.
- Location and Directions
- The Town
- Things to do
- Where to stay
- Where to eat
- Tourist amenities
- How to Visit
Bijagua Costa Rica map.
Bijagua is located right at the border between Alajuela and Guanacaste, up in the Guanacaste mountain range. It sits right in between the Tenorio and Miravalles volcano at around 500 meters in elevation.
How to get to Bijagua Costa Rica
From LIR 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. After you exit, take a left and continue straight all the way, about 35 kilometers. It takes about 1 hour 10 minutes from Liberia.
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. You can also go by way of Tilaran/Canas and the Interamericana highway. That route is on all well paved roads.
Both routes are found in Waze.
A 4×4 is not necessary as the road is paved. A high car is recommended though so a mid size SUV or 4wd would work and be much more comfortable.
The bus you will take is to Upala and you will get off at the Las Tinajitas Soda in town. To buy tickets to San Jose or Liberia, you will buy them in Las Tinajitas restaurant and the bus stop is right outside in front of the Musi (the bus stop says horse rental here).
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 and Tamarindo. There is one daily shuttle from Tamarindo at 2 PM that costs $60 per person, 2 people minimum. Monteverde shuttles are at 8 AM ($54 per adult) and 2 PM ($74 per person). Unfortunately there has yet to be a shared shuttle from La Fortuna but you can take a private shuttle which costs $179.
Dairy and cow farming are the backbone of this community but thanks to its close proximity to Rio Celeste, tourism is increasing in this small rural town.
It’s common to see farmers out and about in town, 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 volcanoes from town. There is a lovely park with a playground which is an excellent spot to go on the weekends to people watch. If you’re lucky, you may spot a sloth at the park!
Most of the Bijaguenos live in the outskirts of town and many of them were given a large piece of land from the government to help grow the local economy which is why many locals are farmers. Although farming is still their main economy, eco and rural tourism has grown immensely the past few years. The primary and secondary rainforests in the area attracts many nature lovers and bird watchers.
It is very easy to get around since the town is so small but there aren’t really any officials taxis. If you don’t have a car, you’ll need to ask your hostel/hotel to find a taxi/shuttle for you. You can also stay at a hotel that is close to the main street of town.
See what the road to Tenorio Volcano National Park (Rio Celeste) looks like in this video!
Since the town sits about 500 meters in elevation near a volcano and rainforest, the weather is incredibly nice. The air is very fresh, with temperatures around 80’s for most of the year and can get a bit hotter in dry season (April – November). At night, it cools off to low 70’s. Since it is up in the mountains, it does tend to rain a bit more throughout the year.
We have visited three times in different months: April, September and January. In April, it rained most of the time even though it’s generally the hottest month of the year. We have also stopped by in March and it was raining really hard!
When we visited in September, it was hot, sunny and rained at night. In January, we had on and off rain with clouds and sunshine. Weather in Bijagua can be finicky and we don’t recommend trusting the forecast. It does follow the typical rainy-dry tropical seasons but it can rain during the dry months since it is higher in elevation. The best tip I can give you is to bring your waterproof rain jacket!
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). Most people do one day trips to Rio Celeste from Guanacaste or La Fortuna.
There are many other wonderful activities to enjoy in the area if you’re staying a few nights. The best thing is that most people pass through town to see Rio Celeste on a one day tour so there won’t be a lot of people on the tour.
Frog’s Paradise: Go on a night tour to see frogs up close with Uncle Miguel, a local who runs tours on his property. Tours are every day from 5:30 – 7:30 PM for $15 per person. It’s recommended to make reservations beforehand, you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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. It’s a 2.2 kilometer trail so it’s not too long and it’s a great place to see birds.
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. You don’t go through the super blue part of the river but it’s a fun tubing tour.
Bird watching: Because of the verdant primary and secondary forests around, bird watching is incredible. You can see three different types of toucans, hummingbirds, mot mots, oropendolas, tanagers and much more. More than 300 types of birds live in this area!
Tapir Valley: This is a tour by Donald, a Bijaguan native and one of the owners of Casitas Tenorio B&B. He owns a huge piece of property near Tenorio Volcano with primary and secondary forest where he leads guided walks.
We went on a night tour at Tapir Valley and saw a mom and baby tapir. It’s one of the best night walks we have ever done in Costa Rica. Donald also does bird watching tours at Tapir Valley.
Although it is a tiny village, there is actually quite a bit of nature and outdoor adventure to do. The best part is that it’s not super touristy as most people visit on a one day tour so tour groups are not that big. You may actually be the only ones!
For tour companies, we recommend Bijagua Rainforest Tours. They are the biggest in town and they offer all of those activities mentioned above with transportation. The guides are all locals and are very knowledgeable about the area.
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: This is one of our favorite hotels in Costa Rica, the owners are an Australian-Costa Rican couple who also have a working dairy farm and a 800 meter trail on their property. Very spacious casitas (little houses), perfect for families and couples. Get 10% off your booking in the link.
Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel: The only true “hotel” adjacent to the national park. The Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel has more upscale lodgings with air conditioning, an on-site restaurant, large pool, flat screen TV and outdoor showers. They have casitas with a garden or forest view. Rooms start at $180 a night, you can click here to check availability.
Celeste Mountain Lodge: This lodge sits on a huge property with primary forest and have their own trails. Their 18 rooms are all built with similar style and have views of the forest and volcanoes. They have a focus on gourmet Costa Rican-fusion food. Rooms start at $165 for a single, all meals included. You can check availability here.
Sueno Celeste B&B: This B&B has 5 bungalows, have wonderful views of the volcano and forest and are very spacious and clean. They accept children 8 and older. Bungalows start at $120 a night, you can 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 jaccuzis. Rates start at $185, check prices and availability 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 also volunteer which costs $20 a day. You can check availability and make a booking here.
La Carolina Lodge is also another wonderful place that is close to Tenorio Volcano National Park with their own horseback riding trails and dairy farm.
Restaurants in Bijagua
There aren’t a ton of restaurants but you can find some excellent places for traditional Costa Rican food. Here are our favorite places.
Pizza El Barrigon
Restaurante Y Marisceria Poro
All the restaurants are in downtown on the main street. They all serve Costa Rican food like casados, gallo pinto and rice dishes and the pizza at El Barrigon is not bad either! They have a yummy veggie pizza.
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.
How to Visit
Renting a car will be the best way to visit. You can also take the bus which is an easy cheap option from San Jose and Liberia but you will need to book guided tours/transfers to the national park. A round trip transfer from your hotel to Rio Celeste entrance is $50 for 2-4 people or $30 one way. Having a car will be the most efficient and flexible way so that you can get to the restaurants, hotels and national park on your own whenever you want.
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 either so just keep that in mind when looking for hotels if you don’t rent a car.
Most people visit for a couple days from another destination like La Fortuna or Monteverde since it is not really a destination that visitors use as their main home base as it’s such a small town. The ideal time to spend there is 2-3 nights. You can get a very good experience and feel of the town in just a couple of days.
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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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