Carara National Park is the perfect place for a hiking adventure or unplanned stroll. You’ll be greeted by Costa Rica’s largest population of Scarlett Macaws as well as a plethora of other birds and wildlife.

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Explore the Enchanting Wilderness of Carara National Park

Nestled in the heart of Costa Rica's Central Pacific region, Carara National Park is a treasure trove of biodiversity and natural wonders. Established in 1979 with a mission to protect the fragile rainforest habitat of endangered scarlet macaws, this park offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the wonders of Costa Rican wildlife.

A Symphony of Wildlife Encounters:
Carara National Park beckons adventurers with a rich tapestry of life. As you step into the park, prepare to be captivated by the vibrant colors of Costa Rica's largest scarlet macaw population. These majestic birds grace the skies and provide a visual spectacle that is nothing short of awe-inspiring. However, the park is not just about macaws; it's a sanctuary for a multitude of bird species, including blue-crowned mot-mots, collared aracaris, guans, trogons, and hummingbirds.

Beyond the avian wonders, Carara teems with terrestrial and aquatic life. Keep your eyes peeled for armadillos, pacas, kinkajous, peccaries, sloths, capuchin and howler monkeys, anteaters, and more. For reptile and amphibian enthusiasts, the park presents encounters with massive crocodiles, iguanas, dart frogs, and a diverse array of snakes.

Enchanting Rainforest Adventures:
Carara's lush rainforest is a hiker's paradise. Trails wind through the dense foliage, inviting you to explore the heart of this natural wonderland. The elevated terrain, with an elevation ranging from 100 to 500 meters, offers a diverse range of ecosystems to discover. Meander along the pathways, which lead you deeper into the forest, and listen to the symphony of wildlife that surrounds you.

River Safaris on the Tarcoles River:
For an entirely different perspective, embark on a boat tour along the iconic Tarcoles River, home to colossal crocodiles. These prehistoric giants glide through the waters, and observing them from the safety of a boat is an unforgettable experience. Your guide will provide insights into the river's diverse ecosystem and point out hidden treasures along the banks, including herons, egrets, and kingfishers.

Plan Your Visit:
Carara National Park is open daily from 8 AM to 4 PM, welcoming nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. The park's ranger station offers essential facilities, including public restrooms. Admission to this natural haven is priced at $10 per person.

While Carara itself doesn't offer overnight accommodations, the neighboring regions of Jaco and Herradura provide a range of lodging options to suit every traveler's preferences.

Discover the Pura Vida Lifestyle:
Carara National Park embodies the essence of Costa Rica's renowned Pura Vida lifestyle. Whether you're a dedicated birdwatcher, a wildlife enthusiast, or simply someone seeking a deeper connection with nature, Carara promises an unforgettable journey through the heart of this remarkable country's natural wonders.

Prepare to embark on a hiking adventure, take a riverboat safari, and soak in the vibrant colors and sounds of the rainforest. Carara National Park invites you to become part of its enchanting ecosystem, offering a chance to witness some of the world's most captivating creatures in their natural habitat.

Keel-billed toucans are commonly spotted in Carara National Park

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Birdwatching in Carara National Park: A Paradise for Avian Enthusiasts

Costa Rica's Carara National Park is a birdwatcher's dream come true. Situated in the Central Pacific region, this protected area covers 4,700 hectares of lush rainforest, making it a haven for avian biodiversity. Whether you're a seasoned birder or just starting your birdwatching journey, Carara National Park offers an unparalleled opportunity to observe some of the most spectacular bird species in their natural habitat.

Why Carara National Park?

Carara National Park's unique location, where the drier northwestern region meets the wetter southwestern region of Costa Rica, creates a remarkable diversity of birdlife. The convergence of these two ecosystems makes Carara a hot spot for both resident and migratory birds. Here's why birdwatchers flock to this park:

1. Scarlet Macaws: The Iconic Residents

One of the park's star attractions is the scarlet macaw, an iconic parrot species known for its vibrant red plumage. Carara National Park hosts one of the largest populations of scarlet macaws in Costa Rica. These majestic birds are often seen flying overhead, their striking colors contrasting beautifully with the lush green backdrop of the rainforest.

2. A Multitude of Species

Carara is home to over 400 species of birds, making it a biodiversity hotspot. Birdwatchers can spot everything from toucans and trogons to herons and hummingbirds. The diversity of habitats within the park, including dense forests, rivers, and mangroves, provides a wide range of niches for various bird species.

3. Diverse Habitats for Varied Species

The park's diverse range of habitats, including primary and secondary rainforests, offers birdwatchers the chance to encounter both canopy-dwelling species and those that prefer the forest floor. The transition between these habitats is where many bird species thrive, making Carara a fantastic location for spotting different avian varieties.

4. Accessibility and Infrastructure

Carara National Park is easily accessible from popular tourist destinations like Jaco and Herradura. Well-maintained trails and boardwalks provide birdwatchers with excellent vantage points for observing birds in their natural surroundings. Additionally, the park has a ranger station with informative guides and basic facilities, making your birdwatching experience convenient and enjoyable.

Top Bird Species to Watch For

While the scarlet macaw is undoubtedly the park's poster bird, Carara offers a rich tapestry of avian wonders. Some of the notable species to watch for include:

  • Fiery-billed Aracari: Recognized by its fiery-colored bill and vibrant plumage, this toucan species is a delightful sight.
  • Keel-billed Toucan: With its large, colorful bill, the keel-billed toucan is an iconic representative of Costa Rica's avian diversity.
  • Orange-chinned Parakeet: These vibrant green parakeets with orange chins add a splash of color to the forest canopy.
  • Black-throated Trogon: A beautiful trogon species with striking black and white plumage and a distinctive call.
  • Great Tinamou: This elusive bird, resembling a plump partridge, can be spotted foraging on the forest floor.
  • Rufous-tailed Jacamar: With its iridescent green plumage and long bill, this species is a gem for birdwatchers.
  • Visit this site for a comprehensive checklist of bird species in Carara National Park.

Tips for Birdwatching in Carara

To make the most of your birdwatching adventure in Carara National Park, consider these tips:

  • Visit during the early morning or late afternoon: Birds are most active during these times, increasing your chances of spotting a variety of species.
  • Use binoculars and a field guide: Essential tools for identifying and observing birds from a distance.
  • Stay quiet and patient: Birds can be elusive, so patience and a low noise level are key to successful birdwatching.
  • Join a guided tour: Knowledgeable guides can enhance your experience by helping you locate and identify birds.

Carara National Park offers an unforgettable birdwatching experience amid the breathtaking beauty of Costa Rica's rainforests. Whether you're an avid birder or simply appreciate the wonders of nature, this park promises to provide a memorable and rewarding journey into the world of avian diversity.

Tarcoles River crocodiles

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The Tarcoles River Crocodiles

The Tarcoles River, which flows through Carara National Park, is famous for its population of massive crocodiles. These ancient reptiles, some of which reach lengths of up to 15 feet or more, are a thrilling sight for wildlife enthusiasts. They are frequently spotted basking along the riverbanks, especially on sunny days when they soak up the warmth of the tropical sun.

Taking a boat tour along the Tarcoles River is an excellent way to get up close and personal with these prehistoric creatures while ensuring your safety. Knowledgeable guides will navigate the river and share insights about the crocodiles' behavior, habitat, and conservation efforts in the area.

It's an unforgettable experience to witness these formidable creatures in their natural habitat, and the Tarcoles River provides a unique opportunity to observe them from a safe distance. Keep your camera ready, as capturing images of these ancient giants is a highlight of any visit to Carara National Park.

Villa Lapas Jungle Village

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Hotels Near Carara National Park: Your Gateway to Rainforest Adventures

When embarking on a journey to Carara National Park, finding the perfect place to stay is essential to make the most of your rainforest adventure. Here are some excellent hotel options near Carara National Park:

1. Villa Lapas Jungle Village: Nestled amidst lush rainforest, Villa Lapas Jungle Village offers a unique and immersive rainforest experience. The hotel's rustic charm and comfortable accommodations make it a popular choice for nature enthusiasts. Wake up to the sounds of tropical birds and monkeys and enjoy the on-site hanging bridges and nature trails that provide an up-close encounter with the rainforest's wonders. Villa Lapas Jungle Village is an ideal base for exploring Carara National Park, which is just a short drive away.

2. Cerro Lodge: Cerro Lodge is a paradise for birdwatchers, as it boasts incredible views of the Tarcoles River and the surrounding mangroves. The lodge's rustic cabins provide a comfortable and relaxing retreat after a day of exploring Carara National Park and its abundant birdlife. Cerro Lodge is known for its resident scarlet macaws, which often gather in the nearby trees, offering fantastic photo opportunities.

3. Macaw Lodge: For eco-conscious travelers seeking sustainable and immersive experiences, Macaw Lodge is a fantastic choice. This eco-lodge is surrounded by pristine nature, making it an excellent spot for birdwatching and wildlife observation. Macaw Lodge's commitment to sustainability extends to its eco-friendly accommodations, nature tours, and organic cuisine. Located in close proximity to Carara National Park, it offers easy access to the park's trails and biodiversity.

4. While there are nice ecoldoges near Carara National Park, most visitors to the park stay in hotels in Jaco or resorts in Herradura.

These hotels near Carara National Park cater to a range of preferences, from rustic rainforest immersion to budget-friendly accommodations. Whichever option you choose, you'll have the opportunity to experience the natural beauty and wildlife of Carara while enjoying comfortable lodging. Whether it's birdwatching, hiking, or simply basking in the wonders of the rainforest, these hotels offer an excellent starting point for your Costa Rican adventure.

Scarlett Macaws

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Carara National Park Facts At a Glance

Region: Central Pacific
Closest town: Jaco
Size in hectares: 4,700 (11,614 acres)
Year established: 1979
Elevation in meters: 100 - 500
Private managed: no
Government managed: yes
Rangers station: yes
Overnight facilities: no
Public restrooms: yes
Entrance fee: $10pp
Days: daily
Hours: 08:00 - 16:00
Hiking trails: yes
Boat tours: yes
Average temperature range in Fahrenheit: 70 - 90
Average yearly precipitation in millimeters: 2,800 (110 inches)
Habitat: rainforest, river

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How to Get There

From San Jose, take Rt. 27 west until you reach the Rt. 34 exit.  Take Rt. 34 south until you pass the Tarcoles Bridge (giant crocs can be observed from the bridge, though do not leave valuables unattended in your car).  After passing the bridge, the entrance to the park will be on the left.

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Carara National Park Weather: A Tropical Paradise's Climate

Carara National Park, located in the Central Pacific region of Costa Rica, enjoys a tropical climate that contributes to its lush and biodiverse rainforest ecosystem. Understanding the weather in Carara is essential for planning your visit to this natural wonderland. Here's what you can expect throughout the year:

1. Wet and Dry Seasons:

Dry Season (December to April): Carara experiences its dry season during these months, characterized by lower rainfall and plenty of sunshine. This is an excellent time for birdwatching and hiking, as the drier conditions make trails more accessible. Temperatures typically range from 70°F to 90°F (21°C to 32°C).

Wet Season (May to November): The wet season in Carara is marked by frequent rain showers, high humidity, and lush greenery. This is when the rainforest truly thrives, and the park's rivers and waterfalls flow with vigor. While the rain can be heavy at times, it usually falls in the late afternoon or evening, leaving mornings relatively dry for exploration. Temperatures during the wet season remain similar to the dry season.

2. Year-Round Humidity:

Carara National Park maintains a relatively high level of humidity year-round due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding rainforest. Expect humidity levels to range from 70% to 90%, creating a tropical atmosphere that supports the park's abundant plant and animal life.

3. Microclimates:

Carara's diverse range of habitats, from primary and secondary rainforests to riverbanks and mangroves, creates microclimates within the park. Conditions may vary depending on your location and elevation within the park, so it's advisable to check local weather forecasts and consult with park rangers for the most accurate information.

4. Hurricane Season:

Costa Rica is generally outside the Atlantic hurricane belt, and hurricanes are rare. However, Carara National Park can experience indirect effects of hurricanes, such as increased rainfall and potential flooding, during the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June to November.

Tips for Visiting Carara National Park:

Rain Gear: If visiting during the wet season, pack waterproof clothing, including a rain jacket and sturdy hiking shoes that can handle muddy trails.

Bug Repellent: High humidity often means more insects. Bring effective insect repellent to ward off mosquitoes and other biting insects.

Layers: Regardless of the season, it's wise to dress in layers to adapt to changing weather conditions.

Early Mornings: The early morning hours are often the best for wildlife viewing and birdwatching. Plan your outdoor activities accordingly.

Stay Informed: Keep an eye on local weather forecasts before and during your visit, and consult with park rangers for any updates or safety recommendations.

Carara National Park's weather is an integral part of its vibrant ecosystem, and experiencing both the wet and dry seasons can offer unique opportunities for exploring this tropical paradise. Whether you visit during the lush greenery of the wet season or the sunny, bird-filled days of the dry season, Carara promises an unforgettable encounter with Costa Rica's natural beauty.

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Carara National Park Packing List

Planning a trip to Carara National Park? This lush rainforest sanctuary is teeming with wildlife and natural wonders. To make the most of your adventure, here's a packing list to ensure you're well-prepared for your visit:

1. Lightweight Clothing:

  • Breathable, moisture-wicking shirts and pants are ideal for hiking in the tropical climate.
  • Long-sleeved shirts and pants can provide protection against insects and sun exposure.
  • Don't forget a swimsuit for cooling off in nearby rivers and waterfalls.

2. Sturdy Footwear:

  • Comfortable, closed-toe hiking boots or trail shoes with good traction are essential for navigating the park's trails.

3. Rain Gear:

  • A lightweight, waterproof rain jacket or poncho is a must, as Carara National Park can experience sudden rain showers.

4. Hat and Sunglasses:

  • A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection will shield you from the sun during your outdoor excursions.

5. Insect Repellent:

  • High-quality insect repellent to deter mosquitoes and other insects is essential for a comfortable experience.

6. Binoculars and Camera:

  • Bring binoculars for birdwatching; Carara is a haven for bird enthusiasts.
  • A camera or smartphone with a good zoom lens will help you capture the park's incredible wildlife and scenery.

7. Backpack:

  • A small daypack to carry your essentials, such as water, snacks, and personal items, while exploring the park.

8. Water and Snacks:

  • Stay hydrated by carrying a refillable water bottle. The park's humidity can be draining.
  • Pack energy-boosting snacks like trail mix, granola bars, and fruits to keep your energy up during your adventures.

9. Sunscreen and Insect Repellent:

  • Protect your skin from the sun's rays with a high SPF sunscreen.
  • Reapply sunscreen as needed and bring lip balm with sunblock.
  • Pack additional insect repellent for extra protection.

10. First Aid Kit:

  • Basic first aid supplies like adhesive bandages, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers can be handy for minor injuries.

11. Guidebook and Map:

  • A guidebook or map of Carara National Park can help you navigate the trails and identify local flora and fauna.

12. Bird and Wildlife Field Guide:

  • If you're into birdwatching and wildlife observation, a field guide specific to Costa Rican birds and wildlife can enhance your experience.

13. Travel Documents:

  • Keep your passport, identification, and any required permits in a waterproof pouch.

14. Cash and Credit Cards:

  • While major towns nearby have ATMs, it's a good idea to carry some cash for small purchases, guide tips, and fees.

15. Resealable Plastic Bags:

  • These are useful for keeping electronics, documents, and snacks dry in case of rain.

16. Portable Phone Charger:

  • Ensure your phone is charged to use it for navigation, photos, and emergencies.

With this packing list, you'll be well-prepared to explore the natural wonders of Carara National Park while staying comfortable and protected in the rainforest environment. Enjoy your adventure! Looking for more packing ideas? Read our packing page for more ideas.

Fun Fact: Carara National Park is home to the largest population of Scarlet Macaws in Costa Rica. These beautiful parrots are well known for their distinguished features and unmistakable call.

Nearby Destinations

Jaco33 km
Hermosa de Jaco40 km
Puntarenas76 km
Manuel Antonio104 km
Alajuela90 km


Latitude: N 9° 47' 52.08"
Longitude: W 84° 33' 54"

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