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Carara National Park and Tarcoles River

Carara National Park and the Tárcoles River are fantastic birding sites. The location marks the northernmost limit of the Pacific Rainforest and it is also here where the Tropical Dry Forest finds its southernmost reach. This wonderful phenomenon of habitats converging into one spot produces incredible biodiversity. Carara and Tárcoles then contain a wonderful sample of species proper of wet tropical pacific habitats and species that would be common in the drier areas of the Northwest of Costa Rica. Over 400 species of birds have been registered in the area.

Royal Flycatcher
Carara National Park offers three excellent trails: the Meándrico Trail not far from the Tárcoles River offering mostly secondary forest along an old country road, good for mixed species flocks , Also Gartered Trogon, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Rufous-breasted Wren, Black-bellied Wren, Orange-collared Manakin, and ocassionally Yellow-billed Cotinga and Turquoise Cotinga, and two loop trails starting from the ranger station and heading south, Quebrada Bonita and Araceas, trails, which contain second growth and mature forest, also offering excellent mixed species flocks and wonderful sightings of Great Tinamou, Streak-chested Antpitta, Golden-naped Woodpecker, White-whiskered Puffbird, Bicolored and Chestnut-backed Antbirds, Spot-crowned Euphonia, Red-capped Manakin, Blue-crowned Manakin, Baird´s Trogon. Other typical wildlife includes White-faced Monkeys, Mantled Howler Monkeys, Green Iguanas, Black Spiny-tailed Iguanas, Central American Agouties, Brown-throated Three-toed and Hoffman's Two-toed Sloths, and White-nosed Coaties.

The Tárcoles River offers great habitats too, the best way to explore this is by boat, and occasionally reaching portions of the mangrove by foot from the village. The muddy banks of the river and the surrounding mangroves branching off the main canal contain a vast number of shorebirds, seabirds, and mangrove specialties.
Mangrove Cuckoo
Targets for Tárcoles River typically include Mangrove Vireo, the resident subspecies of Yellow Warbler, known locally as Mangrove Warbler, the endemic Mangrove Hummingbird, Mangrove Cuckoo, Panama Flycatcher, Northern Scrub Flycatcher, American Pygmy-Kingfisher, the endangered and endemic Yellow-billed Cotinga, the rare Rufous-necked Wood-Rail, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Boat-billed Heron, and Common Black Hawk.

We recommend a minimun of two nights in the area, ideally three nights.
Two hotels are available in the area, Cerro Lodge and Villa Lapas Hotel, both only one hour away from the Juan Santamaría International Airport and within 10 minute drives from Carara National Park.

Cerro Lodge offers a great location nestled right into the dry habitats, close to the influence of the Tárcoles River, with a lot of good birding around. The rooms are comfortable, equipped with air conditioning, TV, and hot water. The hotel also offers a small swimming pool to cool off. The open air restaurant offers good food, and great gardens with porter weed bushes attract a good number of hummingbird species. Regular birds around the grounds are Scrub Euphonia, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Rose-throated Becard, Gartered Trogon, Black-headed Trogon, Scarlet Macaw, White-fronted Parrot, Stripe-headed Sparrow, the diurnal Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Blue-throated Goldentail, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Hoffman´s Woodpecker, Lineated Woodpecker, Crane Hawk. The dirt road into and past Cerro Lodge offers good birding too, frequent species are Yellow-headed Caracara, Crested Caracara, Laughing Falcon, Orange-fronted Parakeet, Yellow-naped Parrot, Striped Cuckoo, Blue Grosbeak, Painted Bunting, Olive Sparrow, Yellow-green Vireo, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Nutting´s Flycatcher, Rufous and White Wren, Long-tailed Manakin, Double-striped Thick-Knee, Southern Lapwing, Bat Falcon, more good chances for Crane Hawk, and even opportunities to find, the endemic to Costa Rica, Yellow-billed Cotinga. Scarlet Macaws flying to their roosts in the late afternoon is one of the shows is one of the shows you can enjoy by staying in Cerro Lodge. The night produces in many occasions looks of Pacific Screech-Owl and Black and White Owl.

Villa Lapas is a larger hotel, located near Tárcoles Village, next to the road that heads into the small town of Bijagual. The hotel is set along a rippling stream and surrounded by secondary rain forest, and open grounds with large trees. It offers air conditioning, TV, hot water, a small swimming pool, two large restaurants (typically opening one of the two) and a souvenir shop. Birding can be good, typically recording in the property Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Green Kingfisher, White Ibis, White-winged Becard, Rose-throated Becard, Cinammon Hummingbird, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Gartered Trogon, Yellow-crowned Euphonia and at night some chances to observe a resident pair of Spectacled Owls. The road uphill past the hotel can be productive in the early morning, producing Painted Bunting, White-whiskered Puffbird, Yellow-green Vireo, Long-billed Starthroat, Lesser Greenlet, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Plain Xenops, Rufous and White Wren, and more.

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