Settled in a magical cloud forest at the base of the Tenorio Volcano, enter into the rainforest, a new world. Water drips through the foliage saturating the trail below. As you splash the muddy path, jungle creatures play in the canopy above. A waterfall sings in the distance. Up close, it roars. Bluer than the sky, magical minerals mix in the turquoise glowing water. Rio Celeste is for those seeking a celestial experience.
Get Ready: Buckle up. The drive to Tenorio Volcano National Park and Rio Celeste is quite a ride. It’s about 100 miles from San Jose. We stayed in Tilaran, got up with the sun and left from there. From our hotel, Hotel Mystica, we drove northwest on 927. At the windmill farm on the top of the hill we took a right onto Highway 6. The road is rocky; get ready to be jostled around. Drive through Bijagua and follow the signs for Tenorio Volcano National Park. Take a right and follow the winding, rocky and at times pot-hole filled road into the park.
Be sure to have some Colones with you. There’s a park entrance/parking fee of less than 5 dollars. If you have a raincoat and rain protector for your pack, throw them in the car, too. You can buy a thin poncho or rent rain boots from vendors that set up camp outside the trail entrance, but that will cost you a little extra money.
Get Set: Once you’ve made it into the park, parked the car and paid, head to the information center. There are bathrooms here, if you need to use them after your drive. If you’re looking at the center, the trailhead is on your right. It’s easy to miss if the tent is not out. A bit like Narnia, enter into the trees to a magical new world.
Go: This trail is about 2 or 3 miles of muddy goodness.
The first bit takes you deep into the rainforest. The shade of the canopy and the wet mud mix, making for a brisk, invigorating walk. You might be tempted to look down to avoid giant puddles but if you don’t look up, you’ll miss frogs, monkeys or even big cats hiding in the overhanging trees above. You’ll hear rushing water before you see it. A slight turn in the trail and wow! You might just stop dead in your muddy tracks. Your senses are drawn entirely to sights of an indigo pool ahead and the sounds of a cascading waterfall filling it. A slippery, steep staircase will take you down to the base of the falls. Take your time heading down and hold onto the railing. You might be tempted, but signs warn, you cannot swim here.
The unusual blue color of Rio Celeste comes from volcanic minerals. Take your time soaking it in and then head back up the zigzagging staircase. There’s a path to your left that you might have been too mesmerized to notice before. It will take you along the river upstream from the falls. The water phases through icy blues and aquamarine. Pass over one person bridges and notice as bubbles brew up from the volcano, bringing a sulfuric smell with them.
At the end of the path, see something other-worldly as crystal clear water mixes with what looks like a line of minerals and turns immediately bright blue. Head back the way you came.
Effort: The Rio Celeste trail will test your balance. The mud sucks you in, the stairs are covered in light dew and the rocks on the trail are slippery. It’s a moderate path unlike any other. Any hardships you might feel on the trail are overcome by the awe inspired by Rio Celeste.
Takeaway: I wish I would have brought a rain protector for my pack. I spent a few dollars on a poncho from the vendors at the beginning of the trail, wore it for about five minutes, got hot and ripped it off, risking the mud and rain. All turned out fine. Looking back, I wish I would have known about some of the other wonderful adventures nearby. There are other trails in the area that take you to hot springs where you can actually take a dip.