Carara National Park, Central Pacific, Costa Rica

 Known as one of Costa Rica’s many beautiful national parks, the Parque Nacional Carara National Park lies two hours from the capital of San Jose. A pleasant day trip from Playa Jaco Beach in the Central Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Located some 20 km south of Orotina, this Costa Rica national park is a very important ecological transition zone. Bordering the Pan-American Highway, this park is unique as the Amazonian and Mesoamerican ecosystems converge here to form a distinct biological reserve where the climates of the Pacific dry north meet the humid south coast.
 A 5,242-hectare park, the Carara National Park has an amazing diversity of flora and fauna, making it a must to visit while in the Central Pacific area. The word “Carara” is an indigenous term, reputedly meaning “river of crocodiles”. The area in which the reserve is located was occupied by an indigenous culture that is thought to have been allied with groups located in the Central Valley from 300b.c. to 1500a.d. Extensive tomb sites have been excavated here, and the burial places of people of high status are remarkably complex.
 Carara national park is home to several ecosystems such as marshlands, lagoons, and gallery forests. With a fantastic array of wildlife, visiting this Costa Rica park makes for a great family day trip. Monkeys, crocodiles, armadillos, peccaries, waterfowls, opossums, sloths, boas, aouti, kinkajou, tayra, margay cats, jaguars, whitetail deer, and zealots can be found here, as well as a wide assortment of Costa Rica birds and other reptiles and amphibians. Birdwatchers are interested in the Carara National Park area because it presents two life zones and a variety of birds, including one of the largest remaining wild populations of Scarlet Macaw in Costa Rica. The Carara National Park is also one of the few places where visitors can see Jacamars and Trogons.
 With one of the highest diversity of trees in the world, the Carara National Park has 10 of the most uncommon and rare hardwoods in Costa Rica. The huge trees here are often covered with vines and epiphytes. However, since there is very little undergrowth the animals and birds in this national park are easier to spot. A great place to get a fantastic view of the park is from the Rio Tarcoles Bridge where one can stop to watch the crocodiles or get a glimpse of the Scarlet Macaws. In the park, there are a number of pre-Columbian archaeological sites dating back 2,000 years.
 Guided tours through Carara National Park can be arranged in San Jose, Jaco, Manuel Antonio, or Puntarenas. March and April are the ideal months to visit as there is little to no rain. Repellents and long pants are a must to avoid being bitten. There is a visitor center in the park as well as exhibition halls and auditorium. There is no camping allowed.
 Driving Directions to Carara national park
 From San Jose, Central Valley, Costa Rica, take Avenida 10 to Parque La Sabana, where it becomes Highway 27. Follow this highway west for 34 miles to the town of Orotina.
 Three miles after Orotina, turn left onto the coastal highway. Then drive about 11 miles to the bridge over the Tarcoles River and the park boundary. The Quebrada Bonita Ranger Station and park headquarters are another 2 miles after the bridge.
 Park Facilities and Hours 
 The Quebrada Bonita Ranger Station is open for visitor attention from 8 am to 4 pm, and has potable water and restrooms. Telephone (506) 383-9953
 There are two hiking trails in Carara National Park. One-half mile south of the Rio Grande de Tarcoles bridge, as you head towards the rangers station, there is a parking area on the left. The 2.7-mile Araceas Nature Trail that begins here parallels the Río Grande de Tarcoles and has short branches to the Laguna Meandrica and marshes.
 At the Quebrada Bonita Ranger Station, you will find a 1/2 mile loop trail.

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