Exploring Tourism in Costa Rica
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Carara Biological Reserve

Jaco, Costa Rica


This is 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. 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 Puerto Caldera, and a common destination for field trips by school children.

Carara is a favorite with bird watchers 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.


One advantage of the relatively large numbers of people that visit Carara is that if you just stop by, you are likely have several quite competent amateur guides at your disposal. Birders are a friendly lot, and they generally like interest from novices (as long as you don't interfere with their spotting. Walk quietly and slowly)

We made a spontaneous stop here, and found that one of the best ways to see wildlife was to look for people with their necks craned, peering into the brush or canopy. We would then stop at a respectful distance, and look where they were looking. More often than not the guide, or one of the birders would invite us over to look through their binoculars or telescope while they described the habits of the bird or animal we were seeing.

About 150 scarlet macaws nest and feed throughout the reserve and can usually be seen around dusk flying west down the Río Tárcoles towards the coastal mangroves where they roost for the night.


When to visit:
It is always hot and humid in the forests of Carara, even during the drier season from late December through April.Carara is a great place to stop off for a quick hike on a trip up or down the pacific coast any time of the year. If you are headed to or from slothful beach bumming, take a few hours to explore a trail. The rewards will be well worth the effort, and you will feel better after a little exercise.


Be somewhat cautious parking at the trail heads, and even the ranger station before sunrise or after sunset. The parking is just off the highway, and if you leave any valuables in your car, odds are pretty good that a opportunistic petty thief will grab them and be miles down the road before you return.           

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