Suscribe Newsletter / Suscribase Boletin Facebook twitter YOUTUBE Idiomas: Languajes:
Costa Rica Explorer Guide
Costa Rica's best
online magazine
Costa Rica Articles News Cultural Agenda About us Rent a Car Advertising & Services Red Cultura Main
Jaco - Herradura
  • General information
  • Recomendations
  • How to get there?
  • Nearest hotels
  • Make your comments
General information


It is located 91 km west from San Jose, the capital, in the plains of the Central Pacific, bordering the Grande de Tarcoles river, 25 km southeast from the city of Orotina, in the province of Puntarenas.
Conservation Area:
Central Pacific Conservation Area (ACOPAC)
5.242 hectares Height: 650 meters above sea level
Schedule: every day from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm
When to go?

Dry Season: March and April

Conatct information
Regional Office:
(00506) 2637-1054
(506) 416-7161
Send mail
Web Page:
Visit Wen Page
Camping permissions:
General information
The Carara National Park protects the only area in the country that has a transitional forest. This means that it has ecosystems that are typical of the dry forest of the North region and humid forest of the South. This sanctuary for the scarlet macaw has over 26.000 visitors every year.

Since this area is a transition zone between the driest region in Costa Rica and the most humid one, it shows a very wide variety of species (more than 1.400), with evergreen forest species as the most common ones. The streams that cross this park flow constantly throughout the year, which makes this area an incredibly important oasis for plants and animals during the dry season.

Carara has many ecosystems, such as swamps, which are caused by seasonal floods of the Grande de Tarcoles River; gallery forests, which are very dense and have very tall trees but only a few species, and are located along the riverbanks; secondary forests, in lands used for farming activities, like Lomas Entierro, with much less diversity and many deciduous plants (they lose their leaves in a determined season); and primary forests, which cover most of the reserve and have a great diversity, many layers and also many lianas and epiphyte plants (in Lomas Pizote, in the central area and in Montańas Jamaica).

Likewise, there are archaeological relics more than 2.000 years old in Carara. However, these sites do not have public access; to visit them, you must have previous authorization from the park’s administration.
This biological island was created in order to ease investigation processes, scientific studies and environmental education. It protects many endangered species that live and reproduce here, such as the American crocodile, the scarlet macaw and the purpleheart tree.

The average annual temperature is of 27şC, and the average annual rainfall is of 2.800 mm.
Dry season: March and April
Rainy season: September through November

The park has more than 1.400 species of plants, and since it has a transitional forest, you can see species of the dry forest and the humid forest, like the cecropia tree, the fever tree, the wild cashew, the breadnut tree, the cristobal and the ajillo. You can also find cassia bushes along the trails, which are endemic species of the Central Pacific, unique on Earth.

The species of the tallest trees (taller than 40 meters) are: the ceiba, the Guanacaste, the Caribbean albizia, the red guacimo, the shortleaf fig, the guayabon and the sandbox tree. Other tree species are the lechoso, the purpleheart tree (its wood is purple), the cork tree, the pochote, the blackberry tree, the goldenfruit tree and the ron ron tree.

The secondary forests cover lands that were used for agricultural purposes, have less diversity and have more deciduous species. The royal palm, the viscoyol (has many thorns), the pochote and the cane apple tree are often found in this type of forest.
The area surrounding the lagoon is almost entirely covered by water lilies and other floating aquatic plants.

There are three life zones in Carara: the humid tropical forest that changes to perhumid, the very humid tropical forest that changes to humid and the very humid pre-montane forest that changes to perhumid.

The park has a very large variety of species, with mammals such as the giant anteater, the paca, the peccary, the mountain hog, the coati, armadillos, opossums, white-tailed deer, Central American agoutis, honey bears and tayras.

There are also raccoons, white-faced monkeys, two-toed sloths, gray four-eyed opossums, and felids like the puma, the jaguar and the ocelot.

This park has more than 360 different bird species, such as the scarlet macaw, which is endangered and has a population of more than 330 individuals. You can also find aquatic birds like the roseate spoonbill, darters, black-headed and purple trogons, the rufous-tailed jacamar, the guan, hummingbirds, the collared arcari, the black-crowned night heron and the boat-billed heron.

There are many reptiles and amphibians where you can find the fer-de-lance snake and crocodiles that can reach 4 meters in length (in the Meandric Lagoon).

Services and facilities on the Park
Ticket office (basic English spoken)
Visitor center with:
Facilities for disabled people
Red Cross stand
Garbage cans
Parking lot
Local guides (basic English spoken)
Biological station: located in Las Araceas trail, it offers conferences for groups with previous scheduling
Auditorium: conferences (scheduled previously, at least 15 days before arrival), stay facilities for volunteers and investigators (scheduled previously, at least 15 days before arrival and depends on availability)

Inside the Park:
Walking along the trails
Visiting the viewpoints
Crocodile watching
Assisting to conferences (scheduled previously)
Volunteering: the Biological Station has 2 large rooms for 20 people each and 4 small rooms for 4 people each

Outside the Park
Restaurants, hotels or cabins and payphones in Orotina
Banks and drugstores in Orotina
Watching the crocodiles in the Tarcoles River

  • Recomendations
  • Interesting data
Tips para el viajero
Access recommendations
Schedule: every day from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm.
If you would like to enter the park in hours different from its regular schedule, you must ask the administration for authorization at least two days prior to arrival.
It is better if you can visit the park in the driest months: March and April.
It is recommended to take a guided tour when visiting the park. You can arrange it from San Jose or Puntarenas.

General recommendations inside the park
Get to know and respect the park’s regulations. Website
If you need any help, go to the park rangers, they will be more than glad to assist you.

Clothes and accessories recommendations
Bring comfortable and light clothes and shoes, photo camera, binoculars, sunglasses, hat or cap, sunscreen and umbrella.

Stay recommendations
Camping is not allowed inside the park.

Recommendations for a responsible tourist
Please do not litter; pick up the garbage and throw it away properly in the labeled recycling bins.
Loud noises are not allowed (stereos, horns, speakers, etc.) as they may disturb the peace and calmness of the park and its animals.
Please remain inside the marked trails and take care of the signs.
Smoking is not allowed, as well as alcoholic beverages or any other drugs.
Respect the plants and the animals that live in the park.

Recommendations with the animals
It may be hard to find some animals because of different reasons, like the fact that they're night creatures, their reproductive or migratory behavior and the forest's density.
Birdwatching is recommended in the early morning because of their feeding schedule.

Volunteering recommendations
The Biological Station is shared with biologists and has restrooms, showers, electricity, drinking water, fridge and a gas range.
You get three meals a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and they are made with typical Costa Rican food: rice and beans, pasta, meats, vegetables and fruits. The meals are given out in the park rangers’ house, which is 1.5 km from the Biological Station.

Datos interesantes
Datos interesantes:
Las Araceas natural trail: a circular trail that is 1.3 km long and has a low difficulty level, with access all year long. Here you can find very tall trees (even 40 meters tall) of the primary forest. You can also see many plants and birds.

Quebrada Bonita natural trail: a circular trail that is 2 km long and has a medium difficulty level, with access all year long. It is ideal for watching birds and tree species since it has nice viewpoints and a resting area (for picnic). You will go through some bridges in this trail.

Laguna Meandrica natural trail: a straight trail that is 2.6 km long and has a medium difficulty level, with access during summer but sometimes closed during winter. It goes along the lagoon, home to many crocodiles. This trail is usually used at dawn by ornithologists for birdwatching.

Acceso Universal trail: a straight and circular trail that is 1.2 km long and has a medium difficulty level, with access all year long. Used for birdwatching and has signs that provide information about the different species, the forest and the environment. IMPORTANT: It has access for disabled people.

Laguna Meandrica or horseshoe-shaped lagoon:
U-shaped lagoon that is 600 meters long and 400 meters wide. It used to be part of the Grande de Tarcoles River and is now covered by aquatic plants where some animals live, like crocodiles and birds like the roseate spoonbill.

Native territories
There have been found 15 archaeological sites in this park from the pre-Columbian era. This communities performed agricultural activities for a living and belonged to two different occupation times: the Fase Pavas (Pavas Phase, 300 B.C. – 300 A.D.) and the Fase Cartago (Cartago Phase, 800 – 1500 A.D.).
However, these places do not have public access, they are strictly restricted. You can only visit them with previous authorization from the park’s administration.

Important areas:
Carara: rectangular platform that has an extension of 6 x 4 meters, built with river rocks and porous limestones.

Lomas Entierro: located in the northeast section of the park, it used to be a large area with residential zones and mortuaries in the highest parts of the hills in front of the Tarcoles River. It was a main settlement during the pre-Columbian era, with political and economic domains in the region. The tombs have diverse pieces made out of clay, stones and jade.

Historical review
This park used to be part of Hacienda Coyolar, one of the largest farming private properties in Costa Rica. Its territory extends from Orotina to Parrita, having thousands of hectares that belonged to Dr. Fernando Castro Cervantes. After some time, the doctor sold this lands to the IDA (Agricultural Development Institute) and the IDA gave these lands to the National Park Service (SPN).
In April 27th, 1978, these lands were declared as Biological Reserve. Carara was created as a solution to the national and regional needs of preserving natural resources. In 1998, this Reserve was stated as National Park due to an increase in the number of visitors.

Origins of the name
“Carara” is a word from the Huetar language that means “river with plenty of crocodiles”. Native tribes settled in these areas in the years 300 B.C. – 1500 A.D.

Details on its location
The closest communities to this park are: Bajo Capulin, Tarcoles (2 km), Playa Azul, El Barro, Bijagual, Hacienda Vieja (grocery stores and marketplaces), Quebrada Ganado (Internet access), Jaco and Orotina (these two towns are 20 km away from the park, where you can also find restaurants, banks, Internet access, etc.).
The protected areas that are closest to the park are: Manuel Antonio National Park, Tivives Protective Zone and Playa Hermosa – Punta Mala Wildlife Refuge.

como llegar?
How to get there?
Transportes Morales (Coca Cola Terminal, Street 16, Ave. 1-3, San Jose)
From San Jose, passing through the entrance of the park:
Every day: 6:00 am, 9:00 am 12:00 md, 2:30 pm, 6:00 pm and 7:30 pm
From Jaco/Quepos, passing through the entrance of the park:
Every day: every 2 hours (many buses from different routes pass in front of the park’s entrance to go to San Jose)
Office phone number: (506) 2223-5567

From San Jose, taking the route #1 on the Pan-American Highway towards the Juan Santamaria airport. About 10 km after the landing strip you will find an exit for the route #3, which goes to Jaco and Quepos (going uphill). Take this exit and keep driving until you pass the towns of La Garita and Atenas, finally reaching San Mateo. Once you’re here, take the exit for Orotina, and keep going until you get to an intersection where you should turn left in direction towards the Tarcoles River. The park’s administration is about 2 km south from the bridge over the Grande de Tarcoles River.

Other kind of transportation


Hotel Villa Caletas (Hotel)

The Hotel Villa Caletas is located in the top of a hill with a splendid view to the Peninsula of Nicoya and the beaches of Jaco, Herradura and (...)
Sus comentarios son importantes para mejorar la calidad de nuestra publicacion. Muchas gracias
Comments See all comments
Find the best services to enjoy your vacations in Costa Rica
Where to go?
Manuel Antonio National Park
The Manuel Antonio National Park is located in the life zone named very humid tropical forest. This (...)
Carara National Park
Since this area is a transition zone between the driest region in Costa Rica and the most humid (...)
La Cangreja National Park
La Cangreja keeps in its lands the last natural areas in the entire region of Puriscal that remain (...)
Hermosa Beach
It has dark sands and a sunflower ocean, with Uvita and Dominicalito Beach on it sides, making of (...)
Jaco Beach
Visitors from different parts of the country and of the world come to this place. Many of them (...)
Jaco - Herradura
Playa Jaco is one of the most important and popular tourist
Mal Pais-Montezuma-Tambor- Teresa
This region of Costa Rica has beautiful beaches with strong waves
Manuel Antonio - Quepos
The town of Manuel Antonio has the privilege of being the gateway to
The city-port of Puntarenas is known by Costa Ricans as “the pearl of