A Glimpse of Carara National Park

Costa Rica is a world leader in conservation with over 25 percent of its land mass under various levels of protection. Their system of National Parks encompasses a broad variety of ecosystems across the entire country. We have visited several and recently returned to Carara, located near the mouth of the Tarcoles River in Puntarenas. It is a small park, but contains a variety of flora and fauna as it is in a transition zone from the dry forests of the Northwest and the rainforests of the south. It can be busy as well due to its proximity to San Jose, popularity as a day trip, and its location on the well traveled road to Jaco and Manuel Antonio.

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An abandoned bridge on one of the smaller loops

There are two main systems of trails accessible to the public, but most people opt for the one leading from the main entrance and parking lot. In 2015 when we visited for the first time we hired a private guide who took us on the less traveled trail located a kilometre down the road from the main entrance. At the time we felt it was money well spent as he was an experienced guide and could identify and imitate all of the birds that so often are just heard.

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White ibis fishing in the stream

This time there were 4 of us and the guides wanted $20 USD per person so we opted for a hike on our own. We are getting quite good at spotting birds, animals and insects and so unless we are specifically birding a new area we will usually strike out on our own. The entrance fee for the park is $10 USD per person which is lower than some others.

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A small lizard catching some rays

The park map shows a short loop trail of about 2 km but we were pleased to find several smaller loops off of the main trail that weren’t quite so busy and followed a small river. There were a few large groups on the main trail the morning we were there, so it was nice to find some areas where we could hear the sounds of the rainforest. As well we found the sound of the trucks and motorcycles quite distracting until we were quite a distance from the highway.

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Green and black poison dart frogs

We finished our walk after about 2.5 hours which was plenty in the heat and high humidity of this area. We didn’t see a large variety of birds, but overall were very happy with the variety of wildlife we did spot including many green and black poison dart frogs, a basilisk lizard (Jesus Christ lizard), an agouti, a beautiful blue-crowned manikin (a lifer for us) and our first ever armadillo. The dramatic backdrop of the massive ficus trees, hanging vines and the flash of butterflies all added to the enjoyment of a rainforest walk.

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This was the first armadillo we had seen

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The paths are open and easy walking

The park borders on the Tarcoles River which is home to a large population of crocodiles which is the derivative of the park’s name. Just before reaching the entrance to the park, the highway crosses the river and tourists are treated to amazing views of these menacing reptiles from a hundred feet above. We’re not sure which is more scary – the jaws of the crocodiles or the roar of trucks just a foot away as you walk across the bridge which has no sidewalks.

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There were several dozen crocodiles visible from the bridge

We completed an enjoyable morning with lunch at a nice restaurant in Jaco and a walk on the beach.

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Erik and Anna enjoying the sand and surf

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About timannehall

We sold almost all of our belongings and left our home in Nova Scotia in April 2016 to experience as much of the world as we could. We spent over a year slow traveling in Latin America and Europe. For the next stage of our journey we are going to be based in Portugal and traveling from there.
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7 Responses to A Glimpse of Carara National Park

  1. This sounds like a wonderful day. We always like to follow the side trails too, and see what we can find on our own. We’ve not yet been to CR but it’s certainly on the list!
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the Jesus Christ lizards (maybe it’s just the name?) and we got such a kick out of watching them run on two legs. I also remember being surprised at how small the poison dart frogs are and how menacing crocodiles can look! Loved your pic with your wide smiles. Looks like you had a terrific hike in the Carara park. Anita

    Liked by 1 person

    • timannehall says:

      We had a very nice morning and were surprised by the diversity we saw within such a small park. We didn’t see the JC lizards running this time, but have in the past and they are far too cute when they get going. The crocodiles look like they are right out prehistoric times.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. kemkem says:

    I second Anita in loving that picture of you two👌. Sounds like a good day. Never heard of those frogs, they look so cute. So many crocs!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jean Pulley says:

    I’d be using the name of that lizard while looking at ALL of those crocks!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • timannehall says:

      They do look super mean, even from a distance. When we were there a few years ago, we were out on the river in a boat so we got to see them up close. Thanks for reading Jean.

      Like

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