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la leona waterfall vs rio celeste

La Leona Waterfall vs Rio Celeste Waterfall
in Costa Rica

Which one is Better?

La Leona Waterfall

La Leona Waterfall

Rio Celeste Waterfall

When traveling to Costa Rica there are so many beautiful places to see but there is not enough time to see everything. This leaves many people asking, should I visit La Leona Waterfall or Rio Celeste Waterfall? Today we are going to break down both waterfalls so you can decide which one is best for you and make the most out of your trip to Costa Rica. Stick till the end to find out free hidden gems to visit near each of these waterfall. 

Table of Contents

The Booking Process for La Leona Waterfall

To attend La Leona Waterfall a reservation is required in advance to guarantee a guide will be available at your desired time.

To book a tour for La Leona Waterfall, you will be given 2 options a self-drive tour or a tour with transportation. You will just input all your information on the site and then check out. Shortly after checking out, you receive a confirmation email with everything that you need to know for the tour and everything you need to bring.

Also, if you need transportation to the tour, that can easily be booked with the same company at the time of making your reservation.

The Booking Process For Rio Celeste

To book a tour with the National Park you must make a reservation in advance. To book a reservation, you first need to create an account on the national park website. Make sure to plan ahead because sometimes it can take 24 hours to receive the password for your account. 

Once you create an account you will be able to book your ticket. After you will receive a copy of your ticket to show at the counter when you arrive at the national park.

If you will need transportation to the waterfall, you cannot book it through the national park. You will need to use a third party to book your transportation. There are many reputable transportation companies you can use in the area.

Arriving at La Leona Waterfall

Location: La Leona Waterfall is located in the town of Curubandé. The waterfall is tucked away and requires a guide in order to find this hidden gem in Costa Rica.

Parking: La Leona Waterfall Adventure Hike provides free parking to all its visitors. This parking lot is secure and monitored during all business hours.

Check-in Process: Upon your arrival, you will check in at reception. You will begin by signing a waiver and then you will be introduced to your guide for the excursion. They will talk you through everything that you need to know for the tour and provide you with a dry bag and life jacket.

Guide: All of the guides at La Leona Waterfall are extensively trained and have immense knowledge about the trail and Costa Rica.


Arriving at Rio Celeste Waterfall

a building with a green roof and a gravel path

Location: Rio Celeste Waterfall is located inside the Tenorio Volcano National Park, which is in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica.

Parking: Upon your arrival you will park in their parking lot and pay ₡2000 to park which is equivalent to about $4. This parking lot is secure and monitored during all business hours.

Check-in process: When you check in you will first need to go through security. Make sure you leave any of the prohibited items in your car. It is also important to show up exactly at your scheduled time. On each hour they let another group of people into the National Park.

Guide: A guide is not provided at Rio Celeste Waterfall. If you would like to have a guided tour, there are guides offering their services at the entrance of the park. 

Facilities at La Leona Waterfall

La Leona Waterfall has brand new and well maintained facilities. On site you have access to bathrooms, changing rooms, showers, lockers and shoe washing stations for after the tour. 

At La Leona Waterfall there are a large variety of drinks and snacks available for purchase. There are water shoes, hats, and waterproof phone pouches available as well. 

Facilities at Rio Celeste Waterfall

Rio Celeste Facilities

At Rio Celeste there are bathrooms and sinks available for all guests to use near reception. There are 3 women’s and 3 mens bathrooms. The bathrooms at Rio Celeste are functional but not well maintained. 

Make sure you are prepared with everything you may need for the day because once you are inside the National Park there is nothing available for purchase. There are numerous vendors separate from the National Park outside of the gates selling food, drinks, rain ponchos and more! 

The Hike to La Leona Waterfall

La Leona Waterfall is considered an adventure hike and is of moderate difficulty. 

On this hike you will begin at the office and then be driven in the company’s vehicle for about 5 minutes until you reach the start of the trail. 

You will also climb ladders, up and over rocks and use ropes to help you along the way. You will see unique rock formations and crystal clear blue water. Also, if you’re lucky you may even spot a few animals such as monkeys, iguanas, snakes and birds.

During this hike you will be fully immersed in the forest. It is essential to have a guide by your side to help you get to the waterfall safely. Along the way you will go through several different river crossings all at varying depths and with varying currents.

In order to enter the waterfall you will need to swim against the current into a cave where the waterfall is hidden. You will then have the one of a kind opportunity to swim under the waterfall and in the pool below. 

The Hike to Rio Celeste Waterfall

After arriving at the National Park, you will begin your hike on a paved trail. The entire trail is very clearly marked so there is no way to get lost along the way. It will then turn into a gravel trail and you will continue up a gradual incline. 

Along the way you will see several beautiful man-made bridges. You will then see other attractions on the trail. Those attractions include, the Volcano Lookout (Always cloudy), Blue Lagoon, the Borbollones, and the Teñideros.

The first attraction you will see is the waterfall. To reach this waterfall you will need to travel down over 120 steps down a one of a kind staircase. At the bottom you will reach the viewpoint for the waterfall, it is important to note that you will not be able to swim in this waterfall.

Once you reach the teñideros, you will see a sign marking the end of the trail. At this point you will turn around and do the entire trail in reverse.

La Leona Waterfall

La Leona Waterfall, is a part of the Rio Blanco. It is known for its crystal clear blue water. This stunning water, gets its color from volcanic minerals coming from Rincon de la Vieja Volcano. 

This waterfall is a new discovery and tours began operating here in 2021. This waterfall is known for the adventurous hike it takes to reach it as well as its natural beauty. 

The duration of the experience takes about 2.5 to 3 hours and is 2km each way (1.5 miles). 

Rio Celeste Waterfall

Rio Celeste Waterfall is part of the Tenorio Volcano National Park. This national park was created in 1995 and is the home of Rio Celeste Waterfall. 

This is a very popular attraction worldwide due to the color of the water as well as the unique staircase you must traverse in order to reach the waterfall viewpoint. This water gets its color from the minerals known as aluminosilicates. The coloration is formed by mixing 2 non colored effluents together, the Rio Buenavista and Quebrada Agria.

The hike to Rio Celeste Waterfall take about 30-40 minutes and is 1.5km each way.

Key Differences

La Leona Waterfall
Rio Celeste Waterfall
Tenorio National Park
Advance Booking Required
Guide Required
Minimim Age
4 Years
Hike Difficulty
Moderate - Adventure Hike
Swimming Allowed
Year Opened
Price for Parking

What's the Best Pick for Me?

In conclusion both of these attractions are worth the visit if you have time to do so and each offer their own unique experience. It all comes down to personal preference and what you are looking for out of your trip to the waterfall. 

If you are looking for a one of a kind adventure hike where you will learn all about Costa Rica from an expert guide, swim through the refreshing waters of Rio Blanco and truly immerse yourself in nature, La Leona Waterfall is the pick for you because of the unique experience of swimming directly under the waterfall. 

If you are looking to explore on your own everything that the national park has to offer, visit the one of a kind staircase leading you to the waterfall viewpoint, walk through the hike at your own pace, and see the famous bright blue water coming from the waterfall, then Rio Celeste Waterfall is the perfect choice for you. 

La Leona Waterfall


Booking a Tour to La Leona

Free Place to Visit Near La Leona Waterfall

La Pipa

La Pipa is a hidden swimming spot, that is about a 15 minute walk away from the La Leona Waterfall office. 

To get to La Pipa you will head down the hill for about 5 minutes, staying to the right. After you pass the super market you will see a gravel road on your right side. You will head down this road for about 10 minutes until you reach La Pipa on your left side. 

Here you can swim in the bright blue crystal clear water, relax under the mini waterfalls and jump off the rocks. This hidden gem is a must see while in Curúbande. 

Free Place to Visit Near Rio Celeste Waterfall

The Bridge

This bridge and swimming hole is located about a 10 minute drive outside of Rio Celeste.

This hidden gem is only know by locals and you won’t find it on the map. To get here you will drive to the Katira Gas Station. After you pass this gas station, with it on your right side you will then take the next right down the dirt road.

Here you can jump off the bridge in to the refreshing water below. This is the perfect place to cool off after your hike to the waterfall. If you watch carefully you may also see sloths and monkeys in the trees above. 


No swimming is not allowed in Rio Celeste Waterfall. 

Yes, a guide is required in order to visit La Leona Waterfall. 

Some of the most popular waterfalls to vist in Costa Rica are Nauyaca Waterfall, Rio Celeste Waterfall, La Fortuna Waterfall, Llanos de Cortez Waterfall, La Paz Waterfalls, and Del Toro Waterfall.

This water gets its color from the minerals known as aluminosilicates. The coloration is formed by mixing 2 non colored effluents together, in this case it is Rio Buenavista and Quebrada Agria.

The hike takes about 2.5-3 hours to complete. 

All that you will need during the hike is your phone and a water bottle. It is recommended that you bring a towel and change of clothes for after the tour. Closed toed shoes or sandals with straps are required for the hike. 

You should bring a water bottle (no single use plastic is allowed), bug spray, hiking clothes and shoes, and a rain coat.