Carara National Park: The River of Alligators

Last updated on June 13th, 2019

*** Note: Updated May 2018. This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been completely revamped for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Have you ever been close to a crocodile, caiman or any big reptile?!

Well, if you are a biologist, crazy wildlife filmmaker or live next to a river with a bunch of them, maybe so. But the majority of people here in Costa Rica have seen them in a zoo or by Tarcoles Bridge.

Tarcoles River is famous for the number of crocodiles that you can observe from the bridge that is 2 kilometers from the main entrance of Carara National Park.

Tarcoles River

Unfortunately, this river is also the most polluted river in the country. (Read an article that we did about it here).

Actually, most people don’t even realize at the “Crocodile Bridge” in Tarcoles River is the northern boundary of the park, so technically that can count as the National Park.

Also, next to the bridge, you will see a whole commercial area that benefits the community. There are souvenirs, restaurants, parking spaces for the curious tourists that parks next to the bridge.

Note: We don’t recommend leaving your valuable stuff in the car there because the area is well-known for thieves who try to take advantage while tourists are admiring crocs. Try to park next to the restaurants, let say if you are coming from the airport will be before the bridge.

But for nature lovers and bird watchers, Carara National Park is the perfect place. It is close to San José (around and hour and a half) and also on the way to famous places like Jaco, Manuel Antonio and Dominical.

General information

  • Area: 5242 hectares (12953 acres)
  • Altitude: The elevation ranges from 100 – 500 meters (328 – 1,640 feet).1
  • Type of ecosystem: Habitats within the park include rainforest and river habitats.1
  • Dry season: December through April
  • Conservation Category: National Park

This national park is open EVERYDAY from 8 am to 4 pm, but during dry season it is open from 7 am to 3 pm.

The cost per person is $10 USD

Wildlife and Birdwatching

I have visited Carara a many times and I have seen different types of birds, frogs, snakes, and mammals. Every time that I’ve been there, I spent around 5 or 6 hours walking and stopping to take in all the details, with my camera and binoculars in hand.

The wildlife in this area is incredible. The first time Ligia visited Carara, she didn’t realize that we’d get to see a bunch of wildlife without going far from home.


  • White Bats
  • 3 species of monkeys (Howlers, white-faced and spiders)
  • Sloths
  • Snakes as: Boa constrictors
  • Lizards
  • Anteaters
  • Dart Frogs


  • Toucans
  • Trogons
  • Musketeers
  • Hummingbirds
  • Manakins
  • Tinamus

The park is part of the biological bridge between the conservation areas in the South in Costa Rica.

A governmental law created “the path of the macaws,” where the idea is to preserve the ecosystem of the macaws.²

Therefore for birdwatchers, this place is really nice because if you go early, it’s easy to spot a lot of birds.

We took pictures of a Macaw nest, trogons. Also, the famous “moonwalk” of the male red-capped manakin snaps his wings and dances on a branch to catch a female’s eye.

Hiking Trails (Handicap Accessible)

  • Universal Trail:

Thanks to the hard work of volunteers and the financial support of a big campaign that was done in Costa Rica, the public and private organizations donated money to create a trail that is handicap friendly. They have braille signs of wildlife of the area and the trails are in good shape for wheelchairs.

Distance: 1.2 km (Approximately 1,5 miles)

Walking Distance: 1 hour 40 minutes round trip

  • Las Araceas Trail:

Distance:1.2 km (Approximately 1,5 miles)

Walking Distance:1 hour 40 minutes round trip

  • Quebrada Bonita Trail:

Distance: 1.5 km meters from the main path (Approximately)

Walking Distance: One hour and a half round trip

  • Laguna Meandrica Trail: Separated entrance but you have to pay the entrance first. 2 km away from the main entrance. 

Distance: 4 Kilometers (Approximately  1.8 miles)

Walking Distance: 2 – 4 hours round trip

Photography and ASOGUIPACE

If you are really interested in getting the full experience in wildlife, these guys can help you. They are the ones that told us the season of some of the species, and we learned they labor to protect this area as their house.

We do believe supporting local guide organizations will help with nature preservation. And it’s worth it to learn from the people who spend most of their days studying animal behavior.

Because you care about what you know, we have decided to interview the president of the association and learn more about their work.

An interview with Enrique Cambronero – President of the Association of Guides from Carara.³

1- When was the guide association formed?

ASOGUIPACE was created in 2006.

2- What is the main purpose for which the association was formed?

The main purpose was organizing a small group of local guides who came to the park to offer their services as naturalist guides to nationals and foreign tourists who visit Carara. The idea was to also cooperate with the administration of the park in the maintenance of the trails of the parking lot and maintenance to the trails.

3- How many guides are integrated? Are they local?

There’s a group of 8 guides, all locals. Normally, we have 4-6 guides in the park.

4- What days are the guides in the national park?

Every day of the year.

5- What are the hours and duration of the tours?

The tours are organized as tourists arrive or by reservation. They are determined depending on the time requested by the tourist. The tours will take between 2 and 2 and a half hours.

6-What is the cost of the tour? What can make the cost vary?

Between $25 – $40 depending on the number of people. They do prices for high school and college students.

7- What is the maximum number of people per tour?

The minimum can be 2 people.

Seems like the maximum of the group must be less than 20 people per group according to the Public Use Regulations of the park. It could be private tours for a family or different tourists that are at the park at the same time.

8- In case a person does not speak English or Spanish, in what other languages can the tour be offered?

The tours are offered in Spanish, English, French, and German

9- What animals can usually be observed?

Answered in Wildlife and Birdwatching

10- What are the best times to visit the park? And why?

So all year long, at any time during the dry season, in the morning during the rainy season. Or if you enjoy the rain it can also be in the rainy hours in the afternoon, it is very beautiful.

11- Do you have any web page? Do you have Facebook or Instagram?

Our Facebook is: Guides of Carara / Asoguipace

12- Who can people contact to make a reservation in advance?

In conclusion, they are the experts of the area. Any other information such as reservations, questions about the park, people can email [email protected]

How to get there

Note: This post is in no way sponsored and we have no affiliation with the association of guides. We do believe in their work and how they can make a living from their profession.


  1. Various. (2004). Editor (Ed. San Marcos),Guía de Parques Nacionales. (2 ed., Vol.1.)
  2. Nº 33494-MINAE (Internet como prioridad) (2006, Diciembre 19).Constituye Corredor Biológico Paso de Las Lapas.
  3. Enrique Cambronero. Information with President of the Association of Guides Carara. ASOGUIPACE . Interviewer: Rodrigo Santamaría, Explore Tikizia.

Posted by Rodrigo

I am a wildlife and landscape photography lover and part-time blogger of Explore Tikizia; Husband to Ligia (a great wife) :) . Also a full time worker as support agent for a GDS. I love to travel to non-touristy places, hiking to difficult access areas and enjoy good cup of coffee.

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