Carara National Park
Area: 12,950 acres
Date of Creation: June 1st 1978
Carara is one of Costa Rica’s most popular National Parks, in large part due to its proximity to San José. This is also where many cruise ship’s passengers are bused for a day trip when the liners dock just up the coast at Caldera’s or Puntarenas ports, and a common destination for field trips by local school children.
Carara is also one of the bird watchers favorite parks to visit for several reasons besides its ease of access. First, its position in a transition zone means that residents of both habitats are likely to appear. Second, the Río Grande de Tárcoles has free flowing sections and its waters seep into seasonal marshlands and a shallow oxbow lake covered with hyacinths further expanding number of local habitats. Finally, because it is slightly dryer, and not all of the trees are evergreen, Carara is more open than the rainforests further south making wildlife spotting easier.
Birdwatchers are also interested in this Park area because it has one of the largest remaining wild populations of Scarlet Macaw in Costa Rica
The park is located on the northernmost region of Pacific rainforest remaining in Costa Rica, and is the beginning of the transition zone into the tropical dry forests of the northwest. The coastal highway crosses the Río Tárcoles at the northern edge of the park. If you stop you can nearly always spot crocodiles basking on the banks of the river from a safe vantage point 50 feet above them on the bridge.
There are two hiking trails in Carara National Park. One-half mile south of the Rio Grande de Tarcoles bridge, as you head towards the rangers station, there is a parking area on the left. The 2.7 mile Araceas Nature Trail that begins here parallels the Río Grande de Tárcoles and has short branches to the Laguna Meandrica and marshes.