It is no surprise that Costa Rica has some of the worlds most beautiful waterfalls , although we didn’t get to visit the most famous La Fortuna in Arenal, we did get a chance to check out a few other spectacular ones.
The Rio Celeste waterfall is one I was looking forward to the most, it literally means Blue River. Set in the mountains in rural northwestern Costa Rica, this waterfall is a breathtaking natural wonder. The water is so blue that it’s not only totally Instagramable but you can finally make use of the #nofilter (haha).
Many people turn around after they have visited the waterfall, but there is much more to see if you carry on. The trek through the national park is very long and muddy, but I will say it’s totally worth it. You will get to walk by the water bed of the enchanting 14km river, the lagoon, and even the Tenideros. You see the Rio Celeste gets its color because its fed by 2 streams of water. So the Tenideros is the point where the two rivers converge and the chemical reaction occurs. Both rivers have water that is crystal clear, but where they meet it suddenly turns a stunning blue. How cool right?
- Tenorio Volcano National Park in the northern Costa Rican provinces of Alajuela and Guanacaste.
Hours and Fee
- The park is open every day from 8 AM to 4 PM.
- Entrance fee for adults is $12 and $5 for children (ages 2-12).
- If you plan on driving to Rio Celeste yourself, make sure you go in a 4×4. We went in a compact and had a tough time. Check out SIXT if you are looking to rent a car, they were the most affordable and accommodating ones we found.
- The entire trail there and back is approx 7.5 kilometers so make sure you are wearing comfortable hiking shoes, we wore our TEVA hiking sandals and had no complaints. Rain boots rentals are also available at the information desk in case you need.
- I recommend wearing shorts rather than long pants because the hike through the park is quite muddy.
- Bring waterproof gear if you can, at least a water resistant backpack or poncho because this part of the city gets a lot of rain. We got poured on for 45 minutes and although we didn’t have an umbrella we were thankful for our waterproof backpack or else our camera and phones would have totally gotten ruined
- To state the obvious, make sure you have tons of water to stay hyderated
- Prepare to spend at least 4-5 hours at the park so bring some snacks with you, if you are like me you will get hungry. Granola bars saved my life there.
- If you don’t want to venture out on your own, Book a guided tours, they are $100 and up.
LLANOS DE CORTEZ
This waterfall is relatively unknown by tourists making it the perfect hidden gem. Llanos de Cortez is not just beautiful but a lot of fun too because unlike Rio Celeste you can actually swim up to the falls. Another plus point is that it’s very easily accessible; it’s a quick 5 minute hike and will find yourself on a white sandy beach looking up at the majestic falls. Its no wonder that this waterfall is popular among locals, it’s the perfect place to have a picnic, relax and swim, you could very easily stay there all morning/afternoon. If you are staying in Liberia, I would definitely say this is a must do.
- The Llanos de Cortez Waterfall is located near the town of Bagaces, just 30 min south of Liberia and the airport It’s a short drive off the Pan American Highway (Route 1) and less than a 2 hourfrom Tamarindo, Flamingo, Playa Conchal, and other beaches in Guanacaste.
Hours and fees:
- This waterfall isn’t a part of a national park so there are no formal hours of operation.
- There is also no entrance fee to see Llanos De Cortes, however a local official will ask for a donation. We were told all donations go to a local school. We gave $10 for the both of us and we were good to go!
- Swim behind the waterfall. It’s absolutely worth it! If you are daring dive off the rocks
- Bring a waterproof camera
- Take your own towel, picnic blanket or lawn chairs
- Take some change with you, there is some locals selling cold coconut and sometimes even grilled meat
- There are no change rooms so have your swimsuit already on.
- Parking is free but it’s common practice to tip a local for “car security.” Basically, this means he won’t let anyone touch your car. We gave $2 usd.
- To avoid crowds, visit the falls during the weekday, the earlier the better
The Oropendola waterfalls stands tall,its an impressive 82 feet high cascade in The Rincon de la Vieja National Park. The water is so refreshing, its a crystal clear green and blue. We didn’t plan to visit this waterfall in particular but we were already in the park so didn’t want to miss it. Also just like Llanos de Cortez you can also swim in the pool of water but the water is icy cold. However when we were there, a few people were still swimming and even diving off the rocks. Makes for cool pictures that’s for sure but Faisal and I were not as brave -_-
- Rincon de la Vieja National Park, Guanacaste
Park hours and fees:
- Tuesday- Sunday 7am-4pm
- Entrance to the park is $15 and $5 children (if you are on a tour or purchase the adventure day pass $90 you don’t have to pay the entrance fee).
- Take a towel, if you plan on swimming you will need it
- Book an adventure tour at the park, it includes water tubing down a rapid river, zip lining, horse back riding, mud baths, hot springs, and even lunch- totally worth it! There are other combination tours you can pick from as well if you don’t want to do all of the above.
- If you didn’t book the tour in advance, its not a problem you can go to the National park yourself and purchase the pass directly from the information desk
- It’s a super short hike to the falls, so if you are in the park then definitely check it out, you will even cross a small hanging bridge
P.S If you plan on renting a car while in Costa Rica, here is a quick story for you. We originally booked our rental car with Europcar via hotwire and everything was paid for in advance. When we landed at the airport we were told that we couldn’t pick up the car from the airport as originally stated and instead we would need to wait till someone came and picked us up. After about 20 minutes we reached the Europa Car Rental office, we then told that we needed to purchase additional insurance and that the insurance we had purchased with Hotwire wasn’t valid in Costa Rica (apparently this happens all the time to them where people book through Hotwire and its never correct). Long story short… with the new insurance, the price of car rental went up significantly and we were stuck. Luckily we walked over next door to SIXT Rent A Car and we had much better luck. They had excellent customer service and better pricing too. They were also super friendly and helpful, we got tons of tips on where to visit and even the Trio (mobile hot spot). So we asked Hotwire for a refund and made a new booking with SIXT.
TIP You can decline the insurance offered by the car rental companies but only if your credit card provides international car rental protection for damages to the rental car. You do still still get charge extra for the mandatory third party liability..however Sixt Costa Rica always includes it in their price!