Today I will take you on a tour of Carara National Park in Costa Rica, where we will discover the magnificent fauna and flora, many species of birds, but also the largest crocodiles in Costa Rica.
Carara National Park is very easily accessible because it is located at the mouth of the Rio Tarcoles. You can get there from Alajuela, or San José by following the road that passes through Orotina, leading to the Pacific coast (90 km from San José, 50 km from Puntarenas). This national park is located at the junction of the dry forest of northwestern Costa Rica and the humid forest of the plains of the South Pacific coast, which gives it a particular climatic situation.
Do you know what “Carara” means?
Well, the region was previously populated by an indigenous tribe called Huetar. In the Huetar language, “carara” means crocodile. Yes, it is really from these surroundings that you will be able to admire the largest crocodiles in Costa Rica, and visits are organized to see them up close. But my advice is to go to the crocodile bridge to enjoy it; there you can take some wonderful pictures.
The visit of Carara National Park
First of all, like any national park in Costa Rica, the entrance will cost you $10, but what I strongly advise you to take a Costa Rican guide: it helps the local economy and moreover, they have the expert eye to find you the birds that are numerous in this park and difficult to see. Some of them speak French, ask them.
We were really not disappointed to take a guide because there are more than 400 species of birds in this park, so it is an ideal place for great observers. But alone, it is true that this is difficult. Moreover, it allows you to take beautiful pictures because the guide glues the camera to the binoculars, it’s the best!
You can often spot the orange-billed Tohi, red peacock, pink-throated Becard, blue-headed Pioneer, masked Woodpecker, red-tailed Jacamar and many other bird species… But the one you should definitely look for, and which is very rare and difficult to see in the rest of Costa Rica, is the red peacock.
Red groundnut: it is quite easy to observe in Carara National Park, especially in June and July. To guide you, you must listen to his cry: only a few seconds later, you will see a couple fly away. It is a rare bird because to tell you its story, it is the most faithful: this bird chooses a single female for life, with whom it will reproduce; therefore, in the event of separation, or if one of the two dies, it will remain alone.
You can also see other species of animals, such as large red ants on the ground that sting terribly (be careful where you walk!), or monkeys, lazy, the red daguet, white-tailed deer, the collared peccary and some absolutely monstrous American crocodile specimens.
There is also a very beautiful fauna to observe, with more than 750 plant species, such as these acacias that mingle with strangling fig trees, dream shelters for animals.
After we paid for the entrance to the national park, the guide took us by car from another entrance about a hundred metres away, where we plunged into the wilderness to discover the birds.
But from the entrance to the park, you can choose between two paths: the first, named Sendero las araceas, is about 1.2 km long and this walk can be combined with a circuit on the second path, the Sendero Quebrada Bonita, which is about 1.5 km. Both cross the primary forest which constitutes the major part of the park.
When to go to Carara National Park?
I advise you to go there if possible during the dry season, between December and April (we had been there in March). Although animals are present during the rains, March and April are the driest months, with tropical heat between 25 and 28°C; it is a little cooler in the heart of the forest.
Otherwise, there is still significant precipitation. Remember to take an ecological insect repellent, it will prevent you from being eaten. And last advice: to make the most of the animals and birds, get up early and be at the entrance to the park at 7 a.m.
Where to sleep?
There are lodges in which you can stay to be as close as possible to nature and thus observe the birds. Hotels also exist around the park but I do not recommend them.