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Carara National Park (Parque Nacional Carara)
Carara National Park (Parque Nacional Carara)

Carara National Park (Parque Nacional Carara)

Ranger station is open 7am - 4pm daily.
Highway 34, Puntarenas

The Basics

Trails through the 12,950-acre (5240-hectare) reserve accommodate all types of hikers. Two short (.6-mile/1-kilometer) trails meandering through the wilderness and past waterfalls are perfect for families and less active travelers. A longer 2.7-mile (4.5-kilometer) trail follows the river and mangrove marshes, where the crocodiles and scarlet macaws settle in for the evening.

Basic park tours include a hike with a naturalist guide who points out flora and fauna you’d otherwise miss. If you’d rather have another mode of transportation, there are plenty of options. Jump into a wagon drawn by a large grasshopper truck, fly down the zipline course, drive through the countryside in a four-wheel buggy or in an ATV, or cruise along the river to get up close to the crocodiles.

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Things to Know Before You Go

  • Carara National Park is an ideal place for nature lovers, birdwatchers, and trekkers of all levels.
  • A small entry fee is required.
  • The main trail is paved and includes bathroom facilities, benches, and informational signs.
  • Bring long pants, appropriate hiking shoes, mosquito repellent, sun protection, and water.
  • Don’t leave belongings in your car, as the parking lot is open to the highway.
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How to Get There

Carara National Park (Parque Nacional Carara) is located off the Costanera Highway, about 14 miles (22 kilometers) north of Jaco. A bus leaves regularly from Avenida Pastor Diaz in Jaco. The journey takes approximately 45 minutes, and the bus drops you off at the entrance to the park. If you travel by car, stop at the Quebrada Bonita ranger station, which is under 2 miles (3 kilometers) south of the Tarcoles River Bridge.

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When to Get There

The park is open daily year-round. During the dry season, from December to April, there is less rain, though expect high levels of humidity. During the wettest months, August to October, the trails near the river get flooded. The ideal time to visit is March and April, but keep in mind that the forests are always hot and humid.

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Playa Hermosa Punta Mala Wildlife Refuge About 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of the national park is Playa Hermosa Punta Mala Wildlife Refuge. Stretching along the Pacific coast, the refuge covers different habitats, including mangrove estuary, tropical rain forest, wetlands, and a small lagoon. Less crowded than Carara National Park, thexa0 refuge offers the chance to explore fauna and flora unique to Central America.

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