Among all National Parks in Costa Rica, Carara is the one with the richest biodiversity. When you visit the park, you can be sure to see the majority of costarican wildlife, and that’s a chance, believe us !
Carara National Park Presentation
A Remarkable Biodiversity
Carara National Park's reputation is due to its rich biodiversity. Why is it so remarkable ? Because the park is located in a transition area between the South Pacific’s Rainforest and North Pacific’s Dry forest.. Therefore, wildlife from both zones live together in this Park. Incredible !
No less than 500 tree species exist in this 52km² park. 400 different bird species live there too. The most famous is the Red Macaw (Lapa Roja). This flamboyant bird can be seen early in the morning when they leave the forest to find food. You can also see them in the evening when they come back in the forest for the night. You’ll recognize them with their unique song.
Do not look only in the air. Look down too as you can see reptiles, frogs and big ants. Speaking about reptiles. Did you know that “Carara” meant “River of lizards” in Huetar Language ? The huetars were the first people living here in Carara. It means you will see American lizards. Even though there is nothing to worry about, don’t go swimming in the river ;)
Many mammals also live in the Park : Monkeys, Virginia Harts, Sloths, of course, and many others.
Different Tours in the park
There are 4 different tours you can do in the park. 3 of them follow each other. The paths are very short and easy (0.6 miles).
Good to know : The first tour is accessible for people with reduced mobility and more especially to rolling chairs and baby strollers. Very convenient for a visit with children. The 2 others are flat and well-marked. It allows you to discover nature with no physical effort. If you did many hikes during your stay in Costa Rica, you can end your vacation by visiting this park on your way back to the airport.
The fourth and last path is a bit distanced from the 3 firsts but is really worth it. It is THE path that leads you to the river where you will see crocodiles.
The best option is to visit the park with a local guide. First, it helps the local economy and second, they are used to looking for birds and will be your eyes and your ears. Without them you will miss at least half of it.
How to go to Carara National Park by Car ?
Accessing to Carara National Park is very easy. It is at 1h30 drive from San Jose by the 34 road, also named “Beaches road” because it is the main road that leads to Jaco, one of the most famous beaches of Costa Rica in Center Pacific. Some people could regret the proximity of the park with the road but that is also what makes it very easy to access, especially if you chose to rent a small car.
The park is perfectly located to visit at the very beginning or very end of your stay in Costa Rica. There is a big parking lot at the entrance, you can’t miss it and will recognize it with the huge statue of a Macaw.
Preparing your visit
To get in Carara National Park, you will have to pay $10. You only need half a day to see everything. It is better to go in the morning because it is still cool outside and you have more chances to see wildlife.
The park opens at 7am and the last visitors can get in at 4pm. Come with long sleeves shirts and trousers. there are many mosquitos. The area is humid and mosquitos are gourmand.
Good to know : when you are on the road, you will pass on a bridge called “Tarcoles” from which you can observe the reptiles. You can stop here for a while and park your renting car right before the bridge. Boat trips are also organised to see them from closer.
Our piece of advice : Even though the park is very interesting to visit with this extraordinary biodiversity, there are plenty of more beautiful and more impressive park of Costa Rica such as Manuel Antonio National Park. Visiting Carara National Park is however a good compromise if you don’t have time to visit another park during your stay.
What to do next ?
We already told you, Carara National Park is very well located and not so far from here you can see beautiful beaches and wonderful waterfalls.
20 minutes away from here you will find Playa Herradura. 10 minutes more and you arrive top Punta Leona. Have you heard of Jaco and its famous beach ? Well… It is only 20 minutes drive away. If you are more into waterfalls, go to Manatial waterfall that is only 10 minutes drive away from the Park.
Carara National Parc is perfect to visit if you do not want to see many national parks during your vacation. The majority of the wildlife found in Costa Rica lives in this park. Activities in Costa Rica are numerous. If you don’t have time to see everything, you will come back.