Río Celeste – Costa Rica - Atlas Obscura

Río Celeste

This neon blue river gets its color from a unique mix of bacteria and volcano minerals. 


Nestled in the Costa Rican wilderness, the Rio Celeste is a stunning tropical gem whose iconic blue hue has turned it into a popular nature spot. 

Located amidst the forests of the Tenorio Volcano National Park the long river twists and turns through the wilderness maintaining its bright cerulean color all the way. The river gets its coloration from a mixture of sulfur and calcium carbonate which are seeded into the water from the nearby volcano. Along the river there are multiple hot springs and an impressive waterfall, all the same, seemingly unnatural blue. Pictures of the waters are regularly accused of being photoshopped or invented, but the simple chemistry in the river’s depths is very real, as countless hikers experience each year.  

Know Before You Go

Rio Celeste is located within the Tenorio Volcano National Park. The closest airport is Liberia International Airport. Many of the surrounding guesthouses/hotels have walking paths that lead directly to Rio Celeste (typically 1-2 miles). Some of guesthouse/hotel trails can be closed due to inclement weather, but the park's main entrance is usually reliable. Entrance for non-residents is $12. A 4x4 is STRONGLY recommended for getting to the park entrance, and for Costa Rica in general. Locals will try and convince you to rent galoshes at the entrance, but you will be fine in sensible shoes.

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