Costa Rica Travel Guide: Off the beaten track, the magical Rio Celeste
Photo by crojars58/Flickr
Costa Rica is world-renowned for its beautiful nature and multitude of national parks filled with volcanoes and incredible landscapes. The only drawback is that, unfortunately, you are usually not the only person present admiring the paradisiacal beauty. Sometimes it can feel like everywhere you go, a flock of tourists have decided to follow you and accidentally stand in all your pictures.
If you want to get away from the crowds, you should make a small detour to the Tenorio Volcano National Park, located in the northwestern part of the country not far from La Fortuna. This often-forgotten park is a true oasis of nature, and holds astonishing sights that will leave you speechless.
Perhaps the most spectacular of these natural wonders is Rio Celeste, a river situated in the heart of the Tenorio National Park, and one of Costa Rica’s prime secret spots. In the past, travelers tended to bypass the park because of its remote location and the previous lack of adequate public transportation. More often than not travel guides didn’t even mention the location which also contributed to its lack of popularity.
Even today there is only one way to reach Rio Celeste and that is from the Rio Celeste Lodge. This small, unattractive construction lost in the rainforest, with its rustic rooms, can hardly be called a lodge. However, if you are ready to leave comfort aside for one night, you will not regret it. With better access and more travelers visiting, the lodge is progressively improving its infrastructure. The lodge’s charming owner will invite you to join his family for a typical local dinner before you head out on your hike to Rio Celeste the next morning.
Rio Celeste is known for its magnificent turquoise color, almost artificial looking, which comes from a natural blend of water and various minerals from the ground (for the chemists out there, the mix comes from sulfur from the volcanic activity and calcium carbonate). This otherwise ordinary river suddenly turns into a magical light blue stream before precipitating into a striking waterfall.
A trek to Rio Celeste involves a pleasant, yet somewhat challenging hike through the cool rainforest of the Tenorio Volcano National Park. The four-hour hike to and from the Rio Celeste Waterfall is sprinkled with astonishing views. Admire the blue lagoon, a natural pool filled with turquoise water, and los Tenideros, where the water suddenly takes on a striking sky-blue color, and any number of natural hot springs located along the banks of the rivers.
The trail then stumbles onto the great Rio Celeste Waterfall, one of the most beautiful sights in all of Costa Rica. Descend the steep stairs that take you to the bottom of the waterfall, and just take in the enchanting beauty of the scene for a while before getting back onto the trail.
Legend has it that when the world’s creator painted the skies, he dipped his paint brush into the river, giving it its striking light blue hue. Biologists still haven’t been able to determine the effects of the combination of minerals, so it is recommended not to swim in these waters, although some do at their own risk. You can take a swim a little further away where the water regains its clarity, and enjoy a relaxing dip in the hot springs.
The amazing sceneries of Rio Celeste are definitely a must-see for travelers to Costa Rica, and are certainly worth the little extra effort. This is truly one of the most magical places in the country, if not in the world. Don’t miss out on one of nature’s amazing wonders while it is still a relatively unknown tourist attraction.