Costa Rica’s northern province of Guanacaste, with its lush, rolling hills and rural landscape, is home to Tenorio Volcano National Park. Pete and I headed north toward the park, in our rental car from San Jose Airport. We were determined to seek out tranquility and hidden treasures in the Costa Rican rainforest, away from the more heavily visited town of La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano.
We planned to stay (and splurge!) at the Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel, just a couple of miles from Tenorio Volcano National Park, at the base of the volcano. After driving for a couple of hours, we turned off the main highway for the final 3 miles to the hotel.
The gravel road leading to the hotel was more obstacle course than an actual road, and this may still be a bit of a generous description! Yet, somewhere between the continuous head-hitting-roof bumps and our fits of uncontrollable laughter, our love affair with Costa Rica began.
The Rio Celeste Hideaway hotel has a central restaurant, bar, pool, and spa area, with private bungalows spread around the property, tucked away into the rainforest. Our 3-night stay allowed us to hike and explore the national park while feeling remote and relaxed by the pool and in our bungalow.
From our bungalow, we could hear the low rumble of the howler monkeys off in the rainforest, in between the squawking calls of the birds. We felt a part of nature sitting on our porch, facing the dense trees, listening to the rainforest come alive.
From the hotel property, there is a private trail leading down to a section of the Rio Celeste. This bright, turquoise river is an unbelievable sight, as it runs through the national park. The sulfur from the volcano gives the river its breathtaking blue color, almost making it look entirely unnatural among the natural greens of the rainforest.
Tenorio National Park and the surrounding area is a combination of cloud forest in the higher elevations and rain forest down lower. The Tenorio Volcano is covered in dark green plant life and reaches 6,287 feet tall at its highest peak.
From our hotel, we decided to walk the steep 2 kilometers to the trailhead for the Rio Celeste Waterfall Hike. (On the way back, our legs wished we had driven!)
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This hike is an absolute must-do while visiting Tenorio Volcano National Park. If you are visiting the Arenal Volcano, there are public buses that will get you within walking distance of Tenorio National Park’s entrance. It will certainly take some work, but the reward will be well worth your efforts!
The well-marked hike is moderately challenging, as it takes you into the rainforest for a 3-4 hour round trip hike.
Tenorio National Park is home to a wide variety of animals, including howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, white-faced monkeys, pumas, and the elusive tapir. Unfortunately, we didn’t spot any of these animals, but the calls of the howler monkeys were a constant sound in the distance.
Follow the path of stairs (and your ears) down toward the crashing waterfall. While the river is in sight for much of the hike, the full spectacle of the turquoise Rio Celeste waterfall is jaw-dropping! If you’re anything like us, you will want to stay and enjoy the view well-past the point of feeling rested from the stop!
If you keep going along the path, there are thermal hot springs and milky blue lagoons shrouded in deep green vegetation. Continue walking far enough, about another 45 minutes from the waterfall, and you can see where the volcanic chemicals begin to mix with the river and change it from clear to blue.
Driving to Guanacaste Province to see the Rio Celeste Waterfall and explore Tenorio Volcano National Park was a true highlight of our trip. Away from the rush of the tourist crowds, we experienced true magic in the Costa Rican rainforest.
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