Thirdeyemom

Exploring the Rio Celeste at Tenorio Volcano National Park

We met out guide Wilson early in the morning at our hotel and were on our way to Tenorio Volcano National Park. Although the park is only about a fifteen minute walk from our hotel, the Rio Celeste Hideaway, we drove and in the end it was a good decision due to the high heat and humidity that day.  It was overcast and had just rained that morning leaving a thick humid mist to the air and lots of mud.

Wilson recommended we pay the $4 to rent a pair of mid-length plastic mud boots and despite the discomfort it ended up being an excellent decision. The trails were slick in fresh, thick mud and my new hiking shoes would have been ruined had I worn them. The only downside was the boots were too big, a bit cumbersome and needed knee-high socks to avoid rubbing. I clumsily walked last in line during our three hour hike but at least I saved my shoes.

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Tenorio Volcano National Park (Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio) was created in 1995 and encompasses over 18,400 hectares of rainforest and cloud forest as well as the Tenorio Volcano itself. Although the volcano is no longer active, there is still a large amount of volcanic activity present. There are hot springs and bubbling water within the river where the volcanic gases are released way below the ground.

The prize possession of the Tenorio Volcano National Park is the Rio Celeste “Blue River” that meanders through the jungle. As you hike along the trail, you can visit a spectacular waterfall as well as see where two rivers converge to create the celestial blue Rio Celeste, a natural phenomenon.

As we entered the park, the first thing Wilson pointed out was the green walking trees which are endemic in this park. They can live in water because it passes through them and a special sap drops off the ends for animals and birds to eat. Although they don’t actually walk the trees do move a small amount each year.

We saw some tapir tracks but never saw these impressive animals. The park is also home to pumas and jaguars however these large cats are even more difficult to spot since they are very shy. Birders love to come to Tenorio given the immense biodiversity of its unique ecosystem. We spotted a few avid birders with their enormous lens taking photos of all the amazing migratory birds. Apparently we had hit Costa Rica just right as many migratory birds were preparing to head back north for the spring some even further past where we live in Minnesota and into Canada.

Tenorio Volcano National Park/Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio, Costa Rica

Cloud and Rainforest surround the park

Tenorio Volcano National Park/Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio, Costa Rica

Tenorio Volcano National Park/Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio, Costa RicaTenorio Volcano National Park/Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio, Costa RicaTenorio Volcano National Park/Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio, Costa RicaOur first stop was at the heavenly waterfall. To this day, the Rio Celeste waterfall is perhaps one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen anywhere. Its color is so incredibly turquoise that it looks like someone put Easter Egg dye in it painting it a childish, playful blue.

Tenorio Volcano National Park/Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio, Costa Rica

First stop…the waterfall!

Tenorio Volcano National Park/Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio, Costa Rica

First sight! A blue morpho butterfly flew under the waterfall and it took my breath away

Tenorio Volcano National Park/Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio, Costa Rica

It was hard to get a good family shot given the brightness of the water however we managed to get a few good ones.

Tenorio Volcano National Park/Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio, Costa Rica

Tenorio Volcano National Park/Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio, Costa RicaWe continued our hike along the Rio Celeste and I was absolutely astounded by its incredible color. Wilson explained that the magical blue colors comes from the convergence of two rivers, the Rio Buenavista and the Quebrada Agna. The pH change (acidity) at the mixing point (“tenidero”) increases the particles size of the minerals causing an optical phenomenon which creates this magnificent color. Scientists from all over the world come to see and study the convergence point as it is the only place you can see this  on earth! Pretty incredible.

Tenorio Volcano National Park/Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio, Costa Rica

To view photos enlarged and as a slide show, click on the gallery. 

Finally, we got to see where the two rivers met and mix to form the amazing Rio Celeste.

Tenorio Volcano National Park/Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio, Costa Rica

Tenorio Volcano National Park/Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio, Costa Rica

Tenorio Volcano National Park/Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio, Costa Rica

Here you can see the dark brown color of the two rivers. The Quebrada Agna is the river above and the Rio Buenavista is the one below on the left side of the picture. Where it is all white is where the rivers converge and the minerals are suspended changing the color of the Rio Celeste

Tenorio Volcano National Park/Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio, Costa Rica

A closer look at the convergence point. The white line is sediment where two rivers meet. Different ph and sun hits it to make the color change. It is the only place in the world where you can see the colors change.

Tenorio Volcano National Park/Parque Nacional Volcan Tenorio, Costa Rica

We also saw the bubbles coming from volcanic hot spring and gas. You would not want to take a swim in the water here.

Bubbles are from volcanic hot spring and gas. Coming from the ground.

Bubbles of gas coming from far below ground (white color in the water).

After three hours of walking through the jungle, we were all hot, tired and sweaty. It was time to head back to our hotel for lunch and then we were off to yet another adventure: River Tubing. Unfortunately the water was flowing too fast and was too high to tube down the Rio Celeste so we did another river. It is definitely something I would love to do someday as I can only imagine the beauty of tubing down such incredibly blue water! It would be surreal.

An 8-second video of the waterfall…

Next time I’ll remember to shoot it in landscape as it looks best!

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18 comments

  1. Heide

    I wish you could have heard the audible-to-my-co-workers gasp I just made after reading your description of the Rio Celeste waterfall — and then seeing the photos, which exceeded even your description. WOW! How privileged you and your family were to visit this place … and how privileged the rest of us are to be able to follow along.

  2. What an amazing trip! I’m considering going to Costa Rica next year. Did you wait until you arrived to hire a guide or did you make the arrangements in advance through a tour operator?

    • We did a little bit of both. It really depends on if you are going during high season or not but I think if you just did it all on the fly and hired guides there you would be just fine.

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