Carara National Park Costa Rica is located on the Central Pacific coast of the country, in the Turrubares and Garabito cantons, in the provinces of San José and Puntarenas.
The park is located 90 kilometres away from the capital city San Jose and is one of the many natural beauties of Costa Rica, a popular destination among tourists from all over the world.
You can visit Parque Nacional Carara on your way to Playa Jaco from Puntarenas province and it is a unique habitat mainly because of its Amazonian and Mesoamerican ecosystems, a place where the humid southern coast meets the dry north.
Located in a transition zone, between the dry rainforest and the tropical Costa Rica rainforest, the national park was established in 1998.
It is a great destination for bird watching tours, as this rain forest is home to a very impressive number of birds, including the largest population of Scarlet Macaws in Costa Rica.
The park is about 20 square miles and it lies on both sides of the Tarcoles River and is a great place to spot crocodiles in their natural environment.
Getting to Carara National Park Costa Rica
The park is located about 9 miles from Jaco and 45 miles from San Jose, very close to the highway, right near Rio Tarcoles bridge.
Carara National Park is located close to San Jose, so the park is a perfect destination for a day tour from Costa Rica’s capital.
The best way to get to the park is with a rented car or a guided tour, as there are no bus stations near the entrances to the park.
You can also take a taxi from the beautiful town of Jaco but make sure you will coordinate with the driver when to pick you up as there are no taxi drivers waiting outside the park at the ranger station.
Opening hours and entrance fee to Parque Nacional Carara
The park is open from 8 in the morning till 4 in the afternoon during the rainy season and that is from May to November.
During the dry season, from December to April the opening hours of the park are from 7 a.m to 4 p.m but Laguna Meandrica is closed in the months of September and October because of floodings.
The ticket price for an adult is 10 USD and the ranger station from the main entrance to the park is located 2 kilometres south of Tarcoles Bridge river.
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Best time to visit Carara National Park Costa Rica
The best months of the year to visit national parks near Jaco Costa Rica, including Carara Park are March and April when there are many sunny days and almost no rain.
Although not part of the park, Crocodile Bridge is a famous bridge over the Tarcoles River perfect for spotting crocodiles that live in this river.
Stay on the bridge and don’t try to go down to the river’s shore as it is extremely dangerous and you might come face to face with these ferocious creatures.
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The hiking trails from the park
The park is split into two sections: Laguna Meandrica and Sendero Universal Access/ Los Araceas/ Quebrada Bonita, each of these sections having their own access to the local flora and fauna.
In order to have access to Laguna Meandrica you first need to buy your ticket from the main ranger station and show it to the guard from the entrance to this sector of the park.
This section of the park is closed in September and October because of the floodings from the heavy rains.
When it is open you need to keep an eye on the crocodiles, as this is one of their favourite habitats; you are not allowed to swim in the lagune nor to feed these creatures from this biological reserve.
Along your way, you will have the chance to observe many birds and wildlife, including the beautiful Scarlet Macaws as well as the diversity of flora.
If you plan to visit both sections of the park, our advice is to go to Laguna Meandrica quite early in the morning as there are few trees in the area and the sun is very hot, especially in the middle of the day.
Main ranger station trails section
This part of Carara National Park Costa Rica is crossed by three main trails:
- Universal access trail
- Sendero Quebrada Bonita trail
- Sendero Los Araceas trail
Universal access trail
The universal trail is one of the very few trails from Costa Rica that is suitable for people with disabilities, as it is very flat and wheelchair accessible.
Along the trail, you will find many statues of birds which you can touch and many signs in Braille so that blind people can enjoy some quality time in the middle of this Costa Rica rainforest.
Along the way, you will find bathrooms and resting places, things that are pretty rare in any other Costa Rican park.
Only Manuel Antonio National Park has a universal trail suitable for people with disabilities, a trail that was opened in March 2018.
Quebrada Bonita trail and Los Araceas trail
Quebrada Bonita trail is 1.4 kilometres long, while Los Araceas trail is about 1 kilometre long and they are interconnected so you can easily switch between.
The trails are very well maintained with many platforms and bridges and access to the resting places and bathrooms from the Universal trail.
It is a nice and relaxing walk below the canopy that protects from the sun and a great opportunity to listen to the birds hidden in the trees.
Animals from Carara National Park Costa Rica
Because of the very dense canopy, animals from this park are pretty hard to see, especially birds; you might hear them but you won’t spot them.
If you really want to spot birds, then I strongly advise you to take a guided tour as they are trained to spot wildlife in the dense canopy.
Besides the birds, you will probably see opossums, sloths, kinkajou, white-tailed deer, many species of frogs and the beautiful monkeys of Costa Rica.
There are quite a few options for your overnight stay in the area and here are our recommendations:
- Croc Resort And Casino Costa Rica has 4 restaurants, an outdoor pool and a beautiful garden and it is conveniently located on the beach near the town of Jaco
- Hotel Cerro Lodge Costa Rica located in Tarcoles close to the entrance of the park, featuring clean and spacious rooms as well as a restaurant serving local specialities
With one of the highest varieties of trees in the whole world, Parque Nacional Carara has 10 of the rarest and unusual hardwoods in the country.
It is the perfect hiding place for many species of animals, including birds and has one of the very few wheelchair friendly trails in the country.
The park is conveniently located close to the capital city of San Jose so it is the perfect destination for a day trip or even a short break far from the hustle and bustle of big cities.
Logistical tips and tricks for your trip
Book your accommodation
We always use Booking.com as they have the best price-quality ratio and they offer a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and villas to choose from.
You will find here all types of accommodations, from the cheapest ones to the most luxurious.
Don't forget travel insurance
Travel insurance will always protect you against unexpected events and cost like illness, COVID, injury, theft, or travel cancellation.
We never go on any trip without travel insurance and there were many cases when we had to use it.
Renting a car
We like to explore a country on our own and a car gives us the mobility and freedom to do that.
We always rent our car from Discovercars as they have free cancellation 48 hours prior to starting date and a wide range of car rental companies and options to choose from all over the world.
Tours and attractions
When we are looking for some adventure or we simply want to break up the monotony and discover new places, we always use GetYourGuide.
We love it because we always find the most amazing experiences, with free cancellation and a large variety of activities and tours to choose from.
Airplane tickets and holiday packages
Expedia is our ally when searching for the best price for airplane tickets as it works as an aggregator for a huge number of airlines and we always find the best price for our flights.
Travel tip: use Expedia when you are searching for holiday packages as they have many last-minute offers and great discounts for hotels, flights, and even the whole holiday packages.