Ecologically vital PARQUE NACIONAL CARARA (daily 7am–4pm, May–Nov from 8am; $10; t 2637-1080), 90km west of San José, occupies a transition area between the hot tropical lowlands of the north and the humid, more verdant climate of the southern Pacific coast. Consequently, the park teems with wildlife, from monkeys to margays and motmots to manakins.

Carara’s well-maintained trails are split between the heavily canopied area near the park’s ranger station and the more open terrain around Laguna Meándrica, an oxbow lake that is home to crocodiles: it’s accessed from a trailhead 2km north along the highway, towards the Río Tárcoles Bridge. At the ranger station, the loop trails of Sendero Las Aráceas (1.2km; 1hr) and Sendero Quebrada Bonita (1.5km; 1hr 30min) take in primary and transitionary forest and are reliable places to spot agouti and other small rodents; you can also often see great tinamou on the paths here, and sometimes even catch the spectacular leks of orange-collared manikins. Both routes are reached via the Sendero Encuentro de Ecosistemas, a 1.2km loop near the ranger station that is accessible to wheelchair users. Birdwatching is perhaps even better along the rivers and in the clearings on the Sendero Laguna Meándrica (4.3km; 2–4hr), where the wide range of avifauna includes boat-billed herons. Whichever trail you take, it’s worth hiring a guide ($20 per person for 2hr) from the ranger station, as they can also take you into areas that tourists aren’t allowed on their own.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Costa Rica features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

9 tips for travelling in Costa Rica

9 tips for travelling in Costa Rica

Inspired by pictures of Costa Rica’s primordial-looking shores, rainforests bristling with exotic creatures and steaming volcanoes that tower above the clouds…

25 Oct 2016 • Chloe Cann insert_drive_file Article
14 magical sunrises that prove it's worth getting up early

14 magical sunrises that prove it's worth getting up early

Looking through the Rough Guides photography archive, one kind of shot stands out again and again: pictures captured at sunrise. Sure, there's nothing more temp…

16 Apr 2015 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
A Rough Guide to spotting wildlife in Costa Rica

A Rough Guide to spotting wildlife in Costa Rica

From world-famous national parks to little-known private reserves, Alex Robinson picks out six of the best places for wildlife-spotting in Costa Rica. Few cou…

19 Jan 2015 • Alex Robinson insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month