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Tenorio National Park
Tenorio Volcano rises above the primary rainforest of the northern highlands. One of Costa Rica's best day hikes threads its way through this treasure trove of exotic wildlife to reveal something truly beautiful; the bright blue waters of the Rio Celeste...
Hiking is probably not the first activity you picture when you imagine visiting Costa Rica, with good reason. It isn’t the sort of place for multiple days’ tramping’; it’s really too compact, and much of the terrain does not lend itself to great walking.
There are some sweet spots though, some truly great day hikes through startlingly beautiful scenery. Like the swathe of primary rainforest on the slopes of the Tenorio volcano. The pristine jungle, dramatic terrain and the fact it receives a tiny fraction of the visitor numbers of Arenal, make it pretty special. And then there’s the Rio Celeste - a river which looks like it’s been lifted from a glacial region of Chile and dropped up here in the tropics.
A hike to remember
The Tenorio Volcano is actually a series of four dormant volcanic peaks and two craters, the upper reaches of which are covered in dense primary rainforest. Most of the associated national park is currently inaccessible, which means that the flora and fauna are amazing, apparently second in diversity only to Corcovado on the southern Pacific coast.
What most people come to the park to see though is not the landscape and not the wildlife, it’s the Rio Celeste – a bright turquoise river which runs through the heart of the park before cascading in quite spectacular style into the Celeste waterfall. The colour of the water is created by a unique physical reaction when two water sources meet - whilst in the park you will normally walk to see the point where two basically clear rivers merge to create the vibrant blue Rio Celeste.
Our favourite walk takes you both here and beyond, from primary into secondary rainforest, to its Blue Lagoon and to a viewpoint across the forested slopes of the volcano to the summit. On a good day you might find yourself enjoying this untouched nature more or less by yourself, and will understand why this is one of our top hikes in Costa Rica.
Beyond the walking trails
Away from the walking trails, there’s plenty more to keep you busy at Tenorio. You have hanging bridges, horse riding, kayaking, rafting and tubing for starters. The latter is by turns an exhilarating and relaxing pastime, whereby you sit in a large inner tube with a seat suspended in the middle of it to protect your rear end. You then head off downriver at the pace the water takes you. There’s also an excellent conservation project and farm nearby, which includes a butterfly garden and frog area and affords the chance to learn about their sustainable farming methods. There’s lots of wildlife around and about, including snakes, sloths and tons of birds.
How to visit Tenorio with Pura Aventura
Tenorio is up in the northern reaches of the country, tucked up above the Arenal Lake. So we can fit it nicely into a northern traverse, from the wetlands of Tortuguero, dipping into the peaceful cloud forests of Bajos del Toro, through the converging canyons of Rio Perdido and out to the laid-back beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula. Along with Tenorio, that’s a trip which pieces together a little bit of everything Costa Rica has to offer, from the landscapes to the people to the wildlife and just about every activity you can think of.
Whichever route we weave together for you, we’ll give you a decent amount of time in each place. Time to head out and to explore somewhere from all different angles, without it ever feeling rushed. If that sounds like your sort of vacation, do say so. Or share any thoughts, questions or plans with us.