Rio Celeste: a Real Life Fairytale


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.