Carara National Park
Small in size, huge in biodiversity: that’s Carara National Park! Carara National Park is located on the central Pacific coast. A transition zone between the dry tropical forests of the north and the humid tropical forests of the south, it is Costa Rica’s last transitional forest.
It’s this particular ecosystem that makes the park so interesting. Formerly, the park was a large private estate called Hacienda Coyolar.
Although much visited, due to its proximity to San José, it is of particular interest for its wealth of flora and fauna. Bordered by the Tarcoles River, the park is home to crocodiles and numerous birds, as the wetlands are ideal nesting grounds for many species.
The park’s emblem is the Scarlet Macaw, an endangered species that is highly protected in Costa Rica. Dozens of pairs can often be seen at dusk on the outskirts of the park. More than 150 nests of this large, colorful parrot have been counted in Carara.
Several trails are open to the public, but it is advisable to take a guide so as not to miss out on the essential biodiversity.
The flora of Carara National Park
As far as trees are concerned, the forest boasts many Guanacaste or cafre ear (Enterolobium cyclocarpum), Guarumo or trumpet wood (Cecropia), Cornizuelo or Acacia Costa Rica, espavel (Anacardium excelsum), Ojoche or Noix-pain (Brosimu costaricanum), Christopher or Cristobal (Platymiscium pinnatum) and also the Cafecillo shrub (Erytrochiton gymantum), a Costa Rican endemic.
Beautiful varieties of heliconias and orchids can also be seen. At certain times of the year, the water hyacinths offer magnificent displays of mauve and white water.
The fauna of Carara National Park
The park is also home to many mammals, reptiles and birds. Sloths, anteaters, especially the giant anteater Myrmecophaga tridactylus, agoutis, peccaries, white-nosed coatis, ocelots, atel monkeys and howler monkeys.
But it’s certainly the birds that will delight amateur and experienced ornithologists alike. They will discover, among others : black hawk, Swainson’s hawk, caracaras, bat hawk, peregrine falcon, laughing macagua, aramides cajanea, white-chinned rail, violet talupine, northern jacana, lapwing, sandpipers, kites, red-fronted amazon, golden-chinned toui, barn owl, ouentou woodpecker, slate-colored synallax, Boucard’s ariana (endemic), orange-necked manakin, flycatchers, Baird’s trogon, greenish elenia, turquoise cotignac, blue-headed manakin and, of course, the Macao macaw.
The park is at its most interesting in the early morning, when the birds are not yet protecting themselves from the heavy midday heat.