Hiking through Costa Rica’s Tenorio Volcano National Park is like a scene from a Disney flick, seemingly unreal with each step. Complete with a magically glowing river and waterfall to reward your exertion.
Just arriving at the park can be an adventure if you attempt it without a guide. There is access from both the west and the east, however, Google Maps doesn’t display the small dirt road needed to access the park. Surprisingly, our ancient friend, Mapquest does the trick. The closer you get to the protected park the more magical it becomes. A few miles out there is a tree with hundreds of straw looking bags hanging from an enormous rainbow eucalyptus. The tree by itself looked like children had drawn up and down the trunk with crayons proudly displaying all the colors of the rainbow. Then you’ll notice gorgeous oropendolas (a bird with a bright yellow tail and feet that sing an extraordinary song) zooming in and out of the stork-like bags. Time it right, and you’ll witness hundreds of exotic birds zoom in and out of their incredibly crafted nests with perfect precision.
After a long bumpy journey, you arrive at the park where you can pay a small entrance fee and rent galoshes for the slippery journey. Even deep into the dry season, Tenorio has it’s own microclimate that keeps the forest alive in a wet and wild bliss. The mud throughout the trail was impressive. You can sink ankle deep countless times through the four-hour trek. The great hospitality to rain, fog, and mist create a surreal amount of life. Moss wrap around every trunk and limb and a variety of colorful fungi dot the rocks and trees. Green climbing vines and hairy moss hang from trees creating a mystical four season garland effect.
At one point along the Río Celeste, there was a clear line in the water seemingly crossing the river where the color shifted from a crystal clear natural spring to a surreal neon blue. I’m told this brilliant color is created when the sulfur emitted from the volcanic activity below mixes with calcium carbonate. A chemical reaction occurs which creates a blue mineral that when concentrated create this euphoric glow. If the rain is heavy, however, it dilutes the magic transforming the color back to the still gorgeous transparent water.
Further down the mud-laden trail, you’ll see a small eddy filled with boiling water alongside the cool river. This is due to hot sulfuric gases that create a natural Jacuzzi complete with bubbling “jets.” If seeing a natural Jacuzzi was hard enough to wrap your mind around, seeing it sit side by side with an indigo blue river will make you feel like you drank special Kool Aide before the hike.
If you ever venture to Costa Rica, this National Park is a must see. It’s not part of the main tourist circuit yet, but that is certain to change as more people discover the magic within. If you’d rather enjoy this experience with a guide and not worry about finding these hidden dirt roads simply sign up for a guided tour from La Fortuna.