Tarcol area and Carara National Park “Home of the Scarlet Macaw”

Mangrove canal on Rio Tarcoles

Scarlet Macaw

Introduction: When you think of the tropics you probably imagine colorful tropical birds like macaws, toucans, and dancing manakins, dazzling butterflies, troops of monkeys hanging by their tails, large iguanas sunning in the trees, beautiful tropical flowers, warm humid rainforests, palm-lined beaches, and radiant sunsets over the ocean. The Carara and Tarcol area is that and a whole lot more. Here, the dry Guanacaste of the northwest meets the Pacific lowland rainforest of the southwest at the Tarcoles River. The mouth of the river is lined with mangroves before it empties onto the beaches of the Pacific Ocean. The wildlife is phenomenal due to this high diversity of habitats. Over 400 species of birds, (see checklist), have been recorded here within an area of just 20 square miles! We recommend three distinct lodges in the area to choose from, each offering its own unique setting and experience.

Location: Carara National Park is located along the Central Pacific lowlands west of San Jose, less than 2 hours by vehicle, (see map). Its proximity to a wide variety of habitats makes it a must for birders and nature enthusiasts visiting Costa Rica.

Chestnut-backed Antbird

Collared Forest-Falcon

Accommodations: There are two lodges that we recommend, Punta Leona and Villa Lapas, both of which are within 5-15 minutes from Carara NP by vehicle. A description of these lodges along with the advantages of each is discussed in depth under “Lodges near Carara and Tarcol.” Reservations for these lodges can be made directly with CRG.

Climate: It is consistently warm and humid in this area and the weather patterns closely follow the typical rain and dry season periods, (see rain and temperature chart). It is unlikely that you would encounter rain in this area from Dec to mid April, Feb, March being the driest months. Bird and wildlife activity is highest in the early morning and late afternoon and you should take advantage of these cooler periods. A siesta in the middle of the day is often a good idea. Take drinking water on the trails to avoid dehydration. Mosquitoes are typically not prolific here unless after heavy rains, a few are always present. See chigger warning under “Health and Safety” in the Costa Rica A – Z section.

Birding and Wildlife Attractions/Specialty Birds of Tarcol area and Carara National Park