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The color of Rio Celeste

The color of Rio Celeste

The Rio Celeste is at the foot of the majestic Tenorio volcano in the heart of the national park of the same name.

Let’s take a look at the region. Located in the heart of Tenorio National Park, Rio Celeste is a jewel in the middle of the rainforest.

The sky blue color of the Rio Celeste?

Let’s go to the heart of the matter and respond immediately to the question posed by all travelers who have had a chance to see the phenomenon up close. For those who have not (yet) lived, summarize the picture: The Rio Celeste River is located in the middle of a dense tropical forest of deep green and offers, according to the weather (we will see why it is so important) a color of a blue sky glowing in a certain part of its course.

Rio Celeste

But where does the blue color of the Rio Celeste come from?

For many years, local guides, specialists, geologists told us that the blue color of the river came from the emanation of certain gases at the site called “Teñidero” accessible via one of the trails of Tenorio National Park. This “colored” zone is only present for a distance of about 14 km. It had hitherto been admitted that this color came from a high concentration of copper, calcium carbonate, and sulfur. However, there was never any certainty as to the real reasons for this transformation in this particular place (Teñidero).

Teñidero Rio Celeste

The legend

The inhabitants of the area like to tell this story. According to them, God would have washed his brushes in the river after painting the sky in blue. And, in a way, they were not that far off, because the blue color of the sky has a role to play in the final process.

Rio Celeste

Where does its blue color come from?

But what is the real reason?

In 2013 a small group of researchers from the University of Costa Rica decided to break the secret. After several analyzes on the rivers Rio Celeste, Quebrada Agia and Río Buena Vista, the first unknown came. How to explain that during the sampling, the water was of a turquoise color whereas in the laboratory it became totally transparent?

Faced with this enigma, scientists returned to the field to consider other factors. They realized that in the Teñidero area there is a “whitish” substance in the water. This substance composed of several minerals, aluminum, silica and oxygen is called aluminosilicate. The colors of the light spectrum arriving in the waters of the Rio Celeste are almost all absorbed except the bluish colors that are reflected and offers us this superb show.

But why is this color not present on the whole river? This is a matter of size of the whitish particles that cover the bottom of the river. The particles of the Buena Vista River are 186 nanometers while that of the Rio Celeste River averages 566 nanometers. And it is precisely this difference that allows the blue spectrum to be reflected.

This is why you can observe the phenomenon amplified by good weather and a beautiful blue sky. The light blue of the sky will be more easily reflected by the minerals of the river.

National Park Tenorio

Established in 1955, Tenorio National Park is part of the Arenal-Tempisque Conservation Area. It covers an area of ​​just over 18,402 hectares of tropical forest and volcanic land. It is best known for hosting two treasures of nature: the Tenorio Volcano and the Rio Celeste River.

Opening hours : Open daily from 8:00 to 14:00, but can stay until 16:00.

Prices :

National: ¢ 800.

Foreigners: $ USD 12


Tenorio Volcano

It is a stratovolcano with a height of 1916m. It has five craters and is currently inactive. Its main crater is now a lake surrounded by rainforest. There are some thermal waters on its flanks, including one on the banks of the Rio Celeste.


The Rio Celeste


Coming from the confluence of the rivers Agria and Buena Vista, the Rio Celeste is best known for its blue-celestial color. The main attractions, apart from its color, are its waterfall, the Teñidero site which gives it its particular color, the observation points on the Tenorio volcano, the thermal waters, the small blue-sky lagoon and the tropical forest which surrounded.

To visit the Tenorio National Park, two accesses are possible:

By Bijagua

By Guatuso, Katira

Rio celeste

ICT Costa Rica

How to get there

By car, from San José, take the General Cañas highway towards Puntarenas. Continue on the Interamerican until the city of Cañas. About 10 km later, turn right and continue to the village of Bijagua. Once in Bijagua, head east after the big sawmill. (Continue about 9km).



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