Carara National Park

From $ 135 per person
  • Departure: 5:00 am
  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

A Great Tinamou saunters onto the trail and gives its beautiful whistled song. The calls of White-shouldered Tanagers reveal the presence of a mixed flock with beautiful blue-bellied Bay-headed Tanagers, the chickadee-like antics of a Plain Xenops, endemic Black-hooded Antshrikes, Rufous-breasted Wren, woodcreepers, and other species. One new bird after another calls or comes into focus when the sounds of the forest are suddenly overpowered by the screams of a pair of Scarlet Macaws. These aren’t the only huge red, blue and yellow parrots seen that day. More are also seen flying over a river frequented by huge American Crocodiles, others feeding in trees near the beach. This is Carara National Park, one of the main strongholds for Scarlet Macaws in Central America, and one of the top birding sites in the country if not the world.

We don’t make that statement lightly. Carara National Park and adjacent areas host a truly astonishing array of biodiversity. Literally hundreds of species of birds have been identified in the area on account of this unique site acting as a major crossroads of habitats. The national park acts as the northern edge of a lowland rainforest ecosystem that mostly occurs in southern Costa Rica and barely crosses into western Panama. Tropical dry forest ecosystems are just across the river from Carara, and that same river hosts wetlands, mangrove forests, and an estuary. Include open and edge habitats in the mix and the end result is a meeting of birds from several major tropical habitats.

A visit to Carara is a must for every birder, these are some reasons why this is the case:

  • Located just an hour and a half from the San Jose area, Carara is easily accessed from a highway.
  • Easy trails with many birds acclimated to people. Normally shy birds like tinamous, Ruddy Quail-Dove, and Streak-chested Antpitta can be tame!
  • Many, many species to choose from including multiple wrens, Turquoise-browed Motmot, and many other birds, eBird Hotspot list.

Since a day of birding at Carara can start in more than one way, depending on what clients would like to focus on, we can begin the birding around the seaside village of Tarcoles, in a good area for dry forest species, or along a birdy road adjacent to the national park. No matter how we start the day, we are going to see a lot. However, a typical day might begin with watching from the bridge over the Rio Tarcoles to see if we can find Southern Lapwing, flybys of macaws and several parrot species, and a wide variety of species of open and edge habitats like Striped Cuckoo, saltators, wading birds, euphonias, Stripe-headed Sparrow, and many others.

previous arrow
next arrow
previous arrownext arrow

In dry forest areas, birding from the roadside is productive and can yield looks at raptors such as caracaras, Crane Hawk, Laughing Falcon, and maybe even Collared Forest-Falcon. Other species that might be seen include Turquoise-browed Motmot, Yellow-naped and White-fronted Parrots, a White-necked Puffbird or two perched in the canopy, Black-headed and Gartered Trogons, Nutting’s and Brown-crested Flycatchers, Stripe-headed Sparrow, and other species.


When the national park opens, the top notch birding continues. On the trails through beautiful lowland rainforest, we will be looking for mixed flocks, ground birds, various flycatchers, manakins and other birds at fruiting trees, and many other species. Flocks may have Tawny-crowned Greenlet, woodcreepers, Riverside Wren, Black-hooded Antshrike, and various other species. Keeping an eye on the forest floor could reveal Great Tinamou, Black-faced Antthrush, Streak-chested Antpitta and others, and fruiting trees and bushes can have tanagers, Blue Dacnis, Blue-crowned, Orange-collared, and Red-capped Manakins.

Some of the other key bird species regular in the national park include Golden-crowned Spadebill, three species of trogons, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, and White-whiskered Puffbird. With so many species possible, there are really too many birds to mention but suffice to say, any day of birding the Carara area isn’t just a good day of birding, it’s usually a fantastic day of birding.

The birding gets even better around Carara because after leaving the national park, additional bird species are possible in edge and wetland habitats including the likes of King Vulture, Gray-cowled Wood-Rail, Panama Flycatcher, Olivaceous Piculet, Turquoise-browed Motmot, and even the endangered and endemic Mangrove Hummingbird.

A day of birding at Carara can be busy but it’s the best kind of busy; one where the day is filled with birds, one new species after another. We look forward to sharing Carara with you as well as other birding days in Costa Rica.

Price from:

$ 135.00 p.p.

Price based on

2 participants


  • Private guide for a full day tour.
  • Private transportation
  • Entrance fees

We can make arrangements for lodging, transportation, activities, car rental and all the fun you want to have while in Costa Rica.

Our specialty is Custom Made Birding Tours to the best birding destinations in Costa Rica.