Rio Celeste is undoubtedly one of the most incredible places in Costa Rica. This sky blue river in the Tenorio Volcano National Park enchants visitors with its stunning color and beautiful waterfall, making it a must see.
If you’re planning on witnessing the magic of Rio Celeste with your own eyes, you’ll be happy to know that the road to the national park entrance is now concreted over. The road from Bijagua to the park entrance has been re-done since it got damaged from Hurricane Otto in 2017 so it’s no longer a hilly dirt road.
Below you will find how to get to Rio Celeste from Bijagua, how to get to Rio Celeste from Liberia and how to get to Rio Celeste from La Fortuna. I also added Playas del Coco and Tamarindo since I know a lot of people are interested in doing a day trip from those destinations. This is for people who are renting a car which is the best way to visit Rio Celeste on your own as there are no public buses or shuttles directly to the national park entrance.
Click the section to skip to it.
What Car to Rent and Tips for Driving to Rio Celeste
In the dry season, you could get to Rio Celeste with a sedan. However, even though the road is concreted over the whole way, in rainy season we highly recommend a 4wd. This is because when it rains, the road does get slippery since it’s concrete and there are some narrow curves and steep hills.
Make sure to drive extremely carefully on this road no matter what time of year you visit. Locals drive fast and will tailgate so don’t feel pressured or stress out if that happens to you. Just go slow and they’ll pass you on their own accord.
Note that this road does not have painted lanes, stop signs, traffic flights, speed bumps or signs so go slow!
Rio Celeste Parking Lot (Tenorio Volcano National Park Parking)
There is a large parking lot at the entrance of Tenorio Volcano National Park. As soon as you park, someone will come collect 2000 colones per car. They’ll give you a parking slip, please place this ticket on the dashboard of your car so it’s visible.
Although this is a “secure” parking lot in that there is a “guard” and it’s at the park entrance, don’t leave any valuables visible in your car, make sure to lock your doors and roll up windows. There aren’t any security cameras and the national park/local community won’t take responsibility for any damage to cars or theft. There is a lot of traffic through this area and you will see many tour shuttles and vans.
If you have luggage in the car, I recommend to get there earlier and park as close as you can to the office and entrance where there are more people. Keep your luggage in the trunk (or covered if you have an open trunk in an SUV) and don’t leave any valuables visible.
What to Put in Your GPS
On Google Maps, put in “Parqueo del Parque Nacional Tenorio” as your destination. Don’t put in Tenorio Volcano National Park or just Rio Celeste as it won’t take you to the parking lot or it’ll say “route not found.” You can also put “Soda y Cabinas El Parque” as your destination, as that restaurant is literally right in front of the national park parking lot.
If you’re using Waze, enter “Rio Celeste catarata waterfall official parking.”
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How to get to Rio Celeste from Bijagua
In the video below, you can see how to get to Rio Celeste from Bijagua and how the road is. Bijagua is the main town near Tenorio Volcano National Park and it’s about a 25-30 minute drive from the town center to the park entrance. As you can see, it’s a very easy drive! From Bijagua, there is only one turn.
This video was taken January 2018. The road is now completely paved in March 2019!
We took this video by strapping our Sony Action Cam to the top of our car so that we can show you what the route looks like. We saw a few sedans on this road so if you’re worried that you can’t make it in a sedan, don’t! You can definitely drive a sedan to Rio Celeste. Just make sure to drive slow and carefully because the road is narrow and windy.
How to get to Rio Celeste from Liberia
If you’re coming from Liberia International Airport, turn left onto the main road towards Liberia on Route 21. Then turn left onto the InterAmericana highway 1 for about 40 kilometers (25 miles) and then exit left off the highway towards Upala (Route 6). You’ll continue on this road for another 33 kilometers (20 miles) until you reach Bijagua.
Once you get to Bijagua, you’ll turn right about 1 kilometer (.6 mile) north of Pizza Barrigon. Continue on this road for about 25 minutes. This drive takes about 1.5 hours.
Below is the map. You’ll notice I put as the destination “Soda y Cabinas El Parque.”
This route is on all well paved roads and is a very easy drive.
How to get to Rio Celeste from La Fortuna
There is a newish road connecting La Fortuna to Tenorio Volcano National Park making it really easy to go from La Fortuna – Rio Celeste – Guanacaste. This road takes about 1.5 hours on a nice, paved road through small towns and farmland with scenic views.
Here is the map:
You will need to head east out of La Fortuna on Route 142, and then turn left onto Route 4. This road has a lot of signs so make sure you follow the signs. At first, follow the ones to Upala and then you will start seeing Tenorio Volcano National Park, Rio Celeste and Bijagua. This is one of the few routes where I recommend to follow the road signs instead of Waze. Waze kept trying to turn us onto the old road, which is on a not so good road and took much longer.
Here are some photos of this route.
How to get to Rio Celeste from Playas del Coco
This route is very easy. All you have to do is drive from Playas del Coco to Liberia and then follow the same directions from Liberia. Playas del Coco to Liberia is about a 40 minute drive on an easy route.
Playas del Coco to Rio Celeste is about 2 hours.
How to get to Rio Celeste from Tamarindo
From Tamarindo, you will need to go back out the way you came from Liberia Airport and follow the same directions. Good road, easy route.
It’s about a 2.5 hour drive from Tamarindo to Rio Celeste.
How to Get to the Free Rio Celeste Swimming Pool
Click here to go to our guide to the Rio Celeste Free Pool so you can swim in the sky blue river!
Find out how to get to other places in Costa Rica!
How to get to Playas del Coco/Gulf of Papagayo
Hi, we are planning our trip in March and i was wondering if you can get from Fortuna to Rio Celeste by scooter or motorbike?
Motorcycle yes, lots of locals use that road. I would just probably add some more time to your estimated driving time
Sherry Schwartze says
We will be heading to Monteverde from La Fortuna on January 3rd and thought about adding a stop — Rio Celeste — on the way. Is this doable or too much to do in one day to make it enjoyable? We want to see everything but also want to slow down and actually enjoy our vacation (not just check the boxes). Do you recommend the stop?
Yes it is doable but make sure you leave early, Jan 3 is still busy and the national park stops letting people in at 2 PM or whenever they’ve reached their max limit.
Julie M. says
Hello. What would your best route suggestion be for driving from Rio Celeste to Monteverde? We’re a little worried about road conditions. Thank you.
Go to the Interamericana highway 1 and then Route 145
Carlos Sanchez says
Hi. We are planning on flying into San Jose and then spending a few days in Monteverde and a few days in Bijagua to visit Rio Celeste. Is it necessary to rent a car or can we just take other forms of transportation? Thank you very much!
I would definitely rent a car
This site is great! We are staying in Nuevo Arenal this week and driving up to Tenorio. Is 143 advisable? That’s the route Google Maps shows to take, but a local we met said to go down to Canas and then head up.
Its better to go to Canas and then head up like the person you talked to said
Lisa Weldy says
We will be landing in Liberia around 2:30 pm and renting a car. We’re headed to La Fortuna but need a stopping point that night before we get there (lodge doesn’t have availability til next day). We’re trying to decide between Rio Celeste or Lake Arenal. If Rio Celeste would do the short hike next morning before heading out (not full hike). Otherwise we’d enjoy the scenery at Lake Arenal if option B. Which do you suggest? We’ll have 4 nights in La Fortuna, 2 in Monteverde.
Are either of these choices safe to drive in the dark? Not sure when we’ll get car/clear customs in order to arrive before sunset.
Hi Lisa, either place is fine, it really depends on what you’d like to do. Road from Liberia to Nuevo arenal and Bijagua are paved and go through a major highway for most of it so you can drive in the dark but make sure to use a GPS as signage is not good in those areas.
Erin Holland says
I’m flying into Liberia with my 10-year old daughter and will be heading to Rio Celeste, staying at Finca Amistad Cacao Lodge, for a few days and then ending our trip in Tamarindo for a few days. It’s her birthday/mother-daughter trip and her requests are ziplining, hiking in the rainforest, horse back riding and some solid beach time. My main questions are: 1) is it best to rent a car when I’ll have to be navigating by myself (I also haven’t found clear directions anywhere online) or to hire airport transport to/from hotels, and 2) would you recommend one area over the others for those activities (specifically ziplining and horseback riding). Many, many thanks!
Hi Erin, I would definitely rent a car, especially if you’re going to the Bijagua area. It will be more comfortable especially being with your daughter. You can use Google Maps or Waze on your phone as GPS and the roads between Bijagua and Tamarindo are on a main highway so it’s paved, the only thing is I would check about the road condition to your hotels but in between the two, they’re good roads that a lot of tourists drive.
You can check our Things to do in Guanacaste for ideas 🙂
Hi! I am planning a trip in August, and was wondering what the best way to visit rio celeste from rio pacuare/pacuare river lodge
Hello Okiki, that is very far, there is no way to do it in one day. You will need to go back to San Jose after your time at the lodge, and then you can bus or make your way over to Bijagua. If you go to La Fortuna, you can also do 1 day trips to Rio Celeste from there.
Thanks so much for all the info! We are staying a couple nights in La Fortuna and then driving to Andaz Papagayo for 5 nights and I was thinking of checking out Rio Celeste on our way to Andaz from La Fortuna. Do you think that is possible, and if so which route would be best?
Hi Diana, yes it’s possible, we wrote more details about it in this post: Driving Guanacaste to Arenal (click on alternative routes).
Alexandria P says
My husband and I will be traveling to Costa Rica May 18-June2. We are flying into Liberia and want to go to La Fortuna, Rio Celeste, Monteverde cloud forest, Tamarindo, Playa Conchel, and Santa Teresa. Is there enough time for all of this? Thank you in advance. I LOVE your blog. So helpful
Yes definitely! You have plenty of time for both since you can do Rio Celeste in one day and then Conchal as a day trip from Tamarindo.
Hi! Thank you so much for this info! I was wondering – once we get there, will we be able to see/hike/hike nearby the volcano?
You can hike in the Tenorio Volcano National Park.
Thank you so much for all of this information! I am so glad I read the comments where you referenced the Facebook page for the river conditions. So helpful! One question, we are driving from San Jose to Rio Celeste and Google Maps says that take 27 to 1 going east and then north takes a little longer than if we went west on 32 and jumped on 4. Any suggestions on which route is best? Also, we will be taking 4 back down when we head to Puerto Viejo so I kind of wanted to take the route to the east heading there so we could see more of Costa Rica. Thanks again for your help!
I would recommend to take the 27 and then the 1, the Interamericana highway 1 is really nice so you can drive a lot faster and not deal with as much traffic because it’s a huge highway, I would say it’s actually faster than going all the way through the 4 and Sarapiqui because the 1 is such a nice highway. There is sometimes traffic on the 27 though. Since you’re taking the 4 back, you can take the 27 and then 1 to Bijagua.
You can do either way, it’s up to you depending on scheduling if you want to fit it in during the day of your drive, which will save you a day in Guanacaste/Arenal or use it as one of your days in La Fortuna.
I’m finding your information to be extremely helpful in planning our first trip to Costa Rica in Feb. Thank you!
We are renting a car and we will be staying for 2 weeks.
Starting in La Fortuna, we are staying there 4 nights then driving to Playa Flamingo area.
We really want to check out Rio Celeste and wonder if we should make it a day trip while staying in La Fortuna then when we head to Playa Flamingo area, we would take the 142. OR, should we leave for Playa Flamingo after stopping at Rio Celeste.
I appreciate your advice
Hi! We are going to be in Costa Rica in a week! And we really want to go to Rio Celeste. We know its rainy season and that the water could be brown. I also heard they could close it. Is there a way to check the day of and see if it will be open? Thank you!
Hello Lexi, I would check this FB page, it is the official national park and they post updates and they have a phone number: https://www.facebook.com/PNVolcanTenorioACAT/
Having the driving direction would be very useful.
Also, is there more than one entrance?
There’s only one entrance and driving directions from Liberia are in there now 🙂
Just wondering if it is possible/ enough time to travel from Monteverde to Rio Celeste to Arenal/La Fortuna in one day? Trying to make the most of our days! Thank you for all your help in planning our trip!
You could! Just make sure to leave early ad get a good night sleep because you’ll have to drive a bit. Around 3 hours for Monteverde to Rio Celeste and 2 to La Fortuna. Then the hike could take around 4 hours depending on how long it takes you and the weather so it’ll be a long day. The park also closes at 4 and you need to be in the park by 2 PM.
Journey Filkosky says
Hi I just returned from Costa Rica and Rio Celeste and they recently replaced the entire road all the way up. It is 100% paved until you get to the parking lot.
Hi Journey! Thank you for the update, great to hear!