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North America > Central America > Costa Rica > Central Pacific (Costa Rica) > Carara National Park

Carara National Park

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Scarlet macaw are a primary tourist draw to Carara

Carara National Park (Spanish: Parque Nacional Carara) is a national park on the mid-Pacific coast of Costa Rica, north of the city of Jacó. Carara is Indian and means river of lizards. The park lies mainly in the river Tárcoles basin. It is very popular by foreign visitors for the large population of macaw and American crocodiles.

Understand[edit]

History[edit]

Carara National Park was established as a biological reserve on April 27, 1978. Because of the huge numbers of tourists who visit the park in November 1998, the Government upgraded the status of the reserve to a national park.

Landscape[edit]

The park covers an area of 5242 hectares of which 4700 hectares is covered with forests. Within the park are three areas according to the Holdridge classification:

  • Tropical rainforest
  • Tropical wet forest
  • Tropical moist forest

The park is located in the Jamaica Mountains. The highest point is 640 meters.

Flora and fauna[edit]

The park is particularly noted for birding. It is one of the primary location in which scarlet macaws can be seen in the wild. Other birds in the park include othe parrots, trogons, hummingbirds, herons and woodpeckers. Mammals in the park include monkeys, sloths and coatis.

The nearby Tárcoles River is home to large American crocodiles which are often easily seen from the bridge overlooking the river.


Carara National Park
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Get in[edit]

Map of Tárcoles area

The main entrance is at the Quebrada Bonita ranger station about 3 km after the bridge over the Tárcoles River (direction Jacó).

By car[edit]

The park is easily accessible by car:
- From San José approx 70 km (N310, N27, N34)
- From Puntarenas approx 45 km (N17, N23, N34)
- From Jacó 20 km (N34)

By bus[edit]

Local buses have no official staging. Ask the driver to stop. On departure, just raise your hand if you see an approaching bus. Just make sure you leave befor dark. After sunset no bus will stop.

Fees and permits[edit]

Entry fee is US$10 for foreigners (2018).

Get around[edit]

Drinking water and toilets are available at the ranger station. There are no overnight accommodations inside the park. There are two walking tracks. Ask for a plastic map (it can get quite humid) and/or hire a guide. With a guide you will spot more wild life. The guides carry lenses on tripods and you can see through them and even take pictures using a digital camera.

See[edit]

An American crocodile ogles to a piece of chicken.

Tárcoles River[edit]

River Tárcoles is fed by many rivers that flow through the densely populated area of Costa Rica. It is therefore not surprising that it is the most polluted river in Costa Rica. Yet a visit to the estuary is worthwhile. If you drive on road 34, stop at the bridge over the river to view American crocodiles that glide through the water or lie on the lower shore. If you have some time left then drive to Tárcoles village and book a boat trip. Along the banks you can see a variety of waterfowl. You might spot Macaws flying over the river. Keep you hands inside the boat because it swarming with crocodiles, some of which have a length of seven meters. They are shy by no means as they are used to be fed by the guides.

Do[edit]

  • Tracking in the park
  • Crocodile Tour. By one of the operators in Tárcoles village.

Eat[edit]

Sleep[edit]

Tárcoles is a relaxed authentic village to a wide beach. There are some hotels and guesthouses.

  • Cerro Lodge
  • Hotel Carara
  • Mangarosa Hotel
  • Ranch Capulin B&B
  • Villa Sunni Daze

Go next[edit]

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