Have you ever been close to a crocodile, caiman or any big reptile?
Well, I can tell you that I had never seen a crocodile REALLY up close until I started to work in tourism. Actually my first experience was so exciting because I was studying about them at college in a course I took to become a tour guide. I was taking that course with a biologist expert on amphibians and reptiles; this professor took us to a private reserve where there were some caimans and crocodiles in captivity. Some guys in charge of cleaning the caiman and crocodile’s cage asked for help because they needed to move some of these reptiles to other place for clean the area.
They ask for volunteers.So guest what? I said yes!!! That was my first experience REALLY close to a caiman. I was shaking like jello but I made it… hahaha


Costa Rica is a country where you can find the Spectacled Caiman and American Crocodile. Both of them are known for some characteristics like:

Spectacled Caiman

  • It’s much smaller than the American Crocodile.
  • It’s distinguishing trait is the bony ridge between and in front of the eyes.
  • The caiman is generally a light tan to yellow or brown color with vaguely dark cross bands on the body and tail.
  • Some Places where it could be spotted: Corcovado National Park, La Selva Biological Station, Tortuguero National Park, Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge.

American Crocodile

  • The American Crocodile’s head is more narrow and elongate with a skinnier snout.
  • The croc is more active at night, and during the day it may bask for hours on the shore or bank, saving energy.
  • Adult American Crocodiles do not have any predators, with the exception of large sharks, humans, and sometimes a large jaguar.
  • Some Places where it could be spotted: Carara National Park, Corcovado National Park, Santa Rosa National Park, Tortuguero National Park.

American Crocodile

The good news!!!

I know it seems scary, especially when we talk about the caimans and crocodiles. However, visiting Carara National Park is the most exciting experience that anyone can get.

Maybe you are asking yourself: Does Carara National Park has crocodiles?

Well, if you are visiting Jaco beach, Manuel Antonio beach or even Carara National Park, you should take the main route that goes to the Central Pacific area. This route will take you over the famous bridge of the Tarcoles River (Rio Tarcoles).

Tarcoles River

Why so famous?

I have visited this area many times. I ALWAYS, believe me, always I see people from around the world stopping and walking over the bridge to observe and take pictures of these big crocodiles, sometimes you can see up to  10 crocodiles or more in the same place resting and basking in the sun. This river is just 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) away from the national park.

What does Carara mean?

The park’s name, taken from the Huetar natives, means crocodile. After visiting Tarcoles River you will understand the significance of the name. This river forms the northern boundary to the park and is inhabited by crocodiles almost year round.

The best changes made to the National Park

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

My first time at this park was a little difficult but it was an adventure. The trails were mostly for people with good physical condition and really muddy in some areas especially during rainy season.   However, I visited this National Park a few days ago and I thought it could be great to talk about it since the facilities have changed a lot.

The reception and bathroom

Costa Rica is tropical country where most of the time, humidity is a big factor that affects buildings made of wood, actually is so expensive and difficult to maintain any infrastructure made by this material. So Carara reception and bathrooms were previously affected by mold. Nowadays it´s different! Take a look at the old and new building.

Old building

Old building

New building

New Building

The Universal access trail

This trail was possible thanks to many private organizations, who worked all together to get this done. Also volunteers and donors were really important to make this possible. The national park has an extension of  5 240 hectares (12950 acres approximately) which means you can still find trails that may have otherwise been difficult to access and not suitable for everyone but the universal access trail has an extension of 1.2 kilometers (0.7 miles approximately).

Carara Universal trail

Ligia at Carara

It’s just GREAT! That was my first impression about this trail… I had been to many national parks in Costa Rica, but nothing like this. Walking at this trail allows even blind people or others with disabilities to touch, walk, listen, and smell the sites. They can get a real impression of the tropical forest without additional assistance from another person.

This is how it looks now:

Universal trail

General information

This national park is open EVERYDAY from 8am to 4pm, but during summer time is open from 7am to 3pm (December through April).
The cost per person is $10.00US.

The parking is safe and you can leave your luggage or other travel bags in your vehicle. They just ask that you keep them locked.

How to get?

Wildlife and photography

Don’t forget to bring your camera or binoculars! I am not a professional photographer and I just use basic equipment, but this doesn’t stop me from taking pictures. So I’ll share some of those pictures with you now that I have taken in this area.

The Scarlet Macaw is one of the famous birds that it can be seen in this area

Scarlet Macaw
fruit bat
dart frog
Trogon bird

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Pura Vida!

Carara National Park

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