On the Pacific coast, 25 Km southwest of Orotina, Puntarenas Province. Carara presents a wide variety of plant life with evergreens being particularly predominant. The reserve possesses several ecosystems, including marshlands, a lagoon, and primary, secondary and gallery forests. The marshland is rich in waterfowl, wading birds, amphibians and reptiles that are usually found in these environments. The lagoon is completely covered with water hyacinths and other floating aquatic plants. The primary forests occupying most of the reserve are species-rich, multi-layered, and have an abundance of creeping vines and epiphytes. The tallest trees include such species as espave, silk cotton, wild fig, nargusta and quamwood, a very spectacular tree during the dry season when it is covered with yellow flowers. Amphibians and reptiles are abundant. Crocodiles measuring up to three meters long are widely distributed and easy to sight in the Grande de Tarcoles River. Waterfowl such as roseate spoonbills, anhingas, jacanas, pied-bellied grebes and Mexican tiger-bitterns are also in attendance. The fauna is abundant in spite of the isolated location of the reserve. Among the mammals, the four-eyed opossum, two-toed sloth, aouti, kinkajou, tayra, margay cat, collared peccary and white-tailed deer are found. A particularly conspicuous bird in Carara, notable for its beautiful bright blue, red, and yellow plumage, and the fact that it has all but disappeared from the Dry Pacific, is the scarlet macaw. Other species include the collared aracari, American egret, great tinamou, and turkey vulture.
Distance from San Jose: about 110 km (69 miles) / about 2 hours
Opening hours: Daily from 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Date of foundation: 1978 Biological Reserve Carara, 1998 declared National Park
Size: 4700 hectares
- Araceas Nature Trail (1 km/0.6 miles - round trip from the Quebrada Bonita Ranger station)
- Laguna Meandrica Trail (4.5 km/2.8 miles - alongside the Rio Grande de Tarcoles with some side trails to the lagoon and the marsh areas)
This small national park is easily accessible and offers a nice stop on the way towards many to the popular Pacific beaches. The Carara national park protects marsh, gallery and primary forest and is one of the main nesting sites of the Red Macaw. The neighboring Río Tárcoles offers the possibility to watch numerous large American Crocodiles.
Amenities: Visitor's center, parking, ranger station, renting of rubber boots is possible
You'll pass over the Tarcoles River on your way to Carara. The bridge is renowned as a spot for watching alligators. From the safety of the bridge's span, you'll be able to see several good-sized ones warming up in the sun on the sandy beach along the river.