I have to say, I do not know what took me so long to go visit one of the most spectacular national parks in the area. You know, I have lived here for almost 10 years now, my 10th anniversary is coming up in November but that’s another topic. I have seen and maybe you as well, some fantastic photos of the crystal clear almost light blue fluorescent waters of the Rio Celeste or “Heavenly River” it is a site to see firsthand to really get the full experience.
Just this past week, my girlfriend and her daughter were visiting and I asked what do you guys want to do tomorrow as I am free from work and clients. Both responded, “Can we go to Rio Celeste”. I asked them if they have ever been and the resounding answer was NO. How come I asked, you have lived here in Costa Rica your whole lives? I got this look like; really do you know what it takes to get there by bus? That look was enough, “Sure let’s leave early as I heard it is a long way away from here. So I looked it up using the app WAZE, it a free GPS mapping /alert system I found it to be better than others. After a few minutes of trying to find the correct route to drive to Rio Celeste, I plotted the course to drive, not bad from where I live only 78 kilometers or roughly 48 miles and the app stated it should take about 1 hour and 33 minutes. So I am thinking that’s not so bad about an hour and a half drive or just a bit more. Next morning bright and early we were off for a day’s adventure.
The drive from Playa Hermosa into Liberia then south on the Inter Americana highway to route CR 6 was a breeze; we got to this point in about 40 minutes. Rt. 6, just north of Canas, is a great paved road all the way and the views of the mountains and volcanoes are just breathtaking. So, about 20 minutes after turning onto Route 6, I am following WAZE directions and we get to the town of Bijagua, a quiet mountain town sitting between two national parks, tons of lush greenery and flowering plants in people’s front yards, and along the highway. Bijagua is a very typical Costa Rica small town and very charming. Mind you now when I say highway, here in Costa Rica 95% of the highways are only two lanes, that is, one way in each direction, so a distance of only 48 miles can take longer than just an hour or so. After passing through Bijagua the Waze App says turn right here and go for 12 kilometers, so I make the turn. Holly crap this had to be the worst rock/dirt road I have ever been on, the girls started laughing and said: “thanks pops for the free kidney massage are we almost there”.
After the 30 minutes of killing everyone’s kidneys, WAZE tells us to turn right in 100 meters and you are at your destination. Hooray!! We all screamed. Liar!! I made the turn and continued to drive for 3 more miles, and nothing. So we stopped at this small roadside restaurant/soda and asked if we were any near the Rio Celeste and the national park. The owner was quite pleasant and laughed “sure follow this road for 7 more kilometers and you are there. He then said I guess you are using WAZE.” We all hung our heads low.
Finally almost two and three-quarter hours later we arrived at the entrance to the park. I have to tell you it was worth the trip. After paying the entrance into the park (and by the way for locals as I am considered since I have full permanent residency it was only $1.50 entrance fee, non-residents pay about four times the local fee). So if you decide to go to the national park be ready to pay about $6.00 USD but it is worth it. So off we go with water bottles in hand for the hike to the river and waterfall. I had heard that the hike can be really muddy and it is about a 2-mile hike in the jungle up and down hills, I was ready and prepared! Just a short distance from the entrance trail all of sudden we come upon a concrete paved walkway, I thought “wow this is cool how easy is this?”. Well at times I should just shut up my brain and not listen to it. 200 yards later the path ends and turns to rock and dirt and I thought, “ok here comes the muddy part because we are in the middle of the rainy season so I am sure it will be”. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was not a muddy mess but still a bit of a challenging hike as we were climbing uphill and the dirt was wet but the rocks helped out. Now, it was not like climbing on hands and knees, but a good incline. I was amazed at some of the tropical flowers that were along the trail and saw many different types of butterflies, birds and, of course, insects. Not to worry not one mosquito bite amongst us and we used no repellents. Along we go and the trail flattened out and we come to a big sign in both Spanish and English welcoming us to the falls. You could hear the waterfall very clearly but still could not see it. Just past the sign was a concrete set of stairs with handrails leading down the ravine towards the falls.
We took a few minutes to enjoy the sites and watch some incredibly beautiful iridescent blue butterflies dancing around us. Just incredible to see these creatures live in nature. As we are getting ready to trek down towards the waterfall and rive a couple slightly older than me, I assume as the had a heck of a lot of gray hair than me, huffing and puffing with faces red as a clown’s bulbous nose. When they got to the top step, the gentleman looked at me and said good luck getting back up here. I knew I was in for it at this point. So I thanked him offered him my water and he said thanks, I have one and you will need yours.
So, off we headed down the steps and they were pretty steep. As we got close and the stairway made a turn the waterfall and river came into view. We all stopped in our tracks with amazement. We had never seen anything as beautiful as this. As we continued down we just could not believe what we were seeing, I said to Karla, “why did we ever wait this long to come here! We finally made it to the bottom and there is a nice landing area that holds about 20 people comfortably with a railing to prevent you from falling into the river. At this location you are restricted from swimming in the pool at the base of the waterfall, later I investigated other areas and will surely return. The color of the water is mind-blowing to me; we never saw anything like this in our lives. After spending about an hour and taking tons of photos we decided to hike back up to the top. Well, I am going to make this short, It is over 280 steps almost straight uphill, I had to stop every 80 or so and catch my breath, good thing there were handrails.
After leaving the park, we decided to have a late lunch and there are 2 restaurants right at the entrance to the park. Good local Costa Rican food, I love Casado, the national dish, some kind of meat, rice, beans, plantains and a salad all on one plate.
After having a full belly we decide it’s time to head back to the beach. Oh great, I am thinking almost three hours to get back so I decided to check WAZE again to see if there is a shorter way back. While I am messing with the app, Karla asks the parking attendant, where does this road go to? She said oh just 5 kilometers straight ahead in the opposite direction you came from and you are in Bijagua.
At this point, I wanted to throw the phone out the window or delete the app WAZE. From the park, it took only an hour and forty minutes to get back home and the road from the park to Bijagua was paved on all the up and downhill parts and the flats were dirt but in great shape even in the rainy season. So if you decide to come to Guanacaste for a vacation just send me a note and I will give you the direction to the national park and the Rio Celeste, without the hassle of an additional hour on the road by a GPS system that works most of the time. Either way, it was still a great day and I will do it again.
Here is a link to a YouTube video I took while at the Rio Celeste Falls, enjoy! https://youtu.be/lu9brGx-L_4
If you want to keep up with what is happening in Costa Rica sign up for my monthly email. I never spam and will never pass on your email to any other party.