We were staying a couple nights at a bed and breakfast in La Fortuna and one of the adventures that was top on our list was the hike to Rio Celeste waterfall. First we had to figure out how to get there though and our Costa Rica GPS map was actually pretty helpful, but it didn’t get us all the way there.
Rio Celeste is actually northwest of La Fortuna, but we had to drive east on 142 for a little while before we turned onto 141 heading north, and finally got on route 4 which took us back west the majority of way to Rio Celeste. Route 4 is a nice paved road… you could almost call it a highway, but it’s just one lane each way. We drove through Monterey and also San Rafael de Guatuso. After San Rafael de Guatuso, it was our GPS that told us to turn left on to this road before we got to Katira. Within just a few minutes of being on this road it turned into a dirt and stone road, then we crossed this crazy wooden bridge.
We were unsure if we were going the right way at this point, but kept going. A few miles later the road got even more rough… so we turned around. By the time we got back to the bridge, we saw a man pulled over that looked like he knew the area. We decided to stop and ask him if we were going in the right direction. He spoke nearly no English at all, but he had a smart phone with a translator! After a few minutes he had “communicated” with us on his phone and reassured us that we were headed in the right direction!
After thanking the very helpful man, we continued on our way… slowly… over the rough road. And it actually got worse at times and very narrow. I think we were on the road for 20 miles or more and it took us well over an hour before we actually arrived at the Rio Celeste hiking trail entrance. At the trail entrance there is parking, an information hut, and a little restaurant. I believe you can even hire a tour guide to walk through the rain forest and give you a guided tour. We didn’t do that because we thought it would be easy enough to just walk through and follow the signs.
Our Hike to Rio Celeste
When we first arrived at the entrance to the trail, we were told that it was too wet and dangerous to hike the trail, so it was closed momentarily. After the drive we had to get there, we were so disappointed and just hoping they would open it before it got too late. Luckily we only had to wait around for about 30 minutes before they opened the trail to hikers.
We started our hike in the late morning and they had good reason for keeping hikers off the trails. It was wet, muddy and not always easy to keep your footing. We both almost fell a couple times and we saw a couple other people fall along the way. As more people continued to hike the trails and it continued to rain from time to time, the trails got even worse. Below is a picture of Lynn’s feet early on… by the end of the hike our feet were covered in mud.
I also can’t forget about the many roots and vines that covered the trail through the rain forest. If you weren’t watching each step it was very easy to trip over a root that was sticking out of the ground.
Along the hike there were also small streams to cross as well as wood planks to walk across. Each time there was a cable tied to the trees so that you could guide yourself across and keep your balance. The same cable was available as we walked down the “steps” to get a closer look at the waterfall.
I don’t actually think the hiking trails are that long, but because of the wet conditions it took us quite a while to hike to the end of the trail and back. The hike to the waterfall is also a little side hike off of the main trail. One thing we realized along the hike is that there was another trail coming from the opposite direction, which a lot of people were hiking on. I’m pretty sure that this other trail came from a road that you can get to off of route 6 and the town of Bijagua de Upala. It didn’t make sense for us to go to that trail entrance because it was way out of the way when coming from La Fortuna. It seemed like the other trail entrance was where most of the tour buses were dropping off people.
Other than getting wet and muddy we had a great time on the hike. The blue water on the hike is pretty amazing and you can actually hike right to the point where the water changes color. We didn’t see a lot of animals on this hike, but I’m pretty sure we also didn’t know where we should be looking. We found out from a hike near the end of our Costa Rica trip that we were not very observant! Below I’ve added some additional pictures from our hike to the Rio Celeste waterfall.