The Tarcoles River of Costa Rica

The Tarcoles River may be known as the country’s dirtiest and most polluted basin but it is ironically considered as one of Costa Rica’s tourist attractions. Its clame to fame is that it houses one of the world’s largest crocodile population with about 25 crocodiles living per square kilometer. This river isn’t only important to over 2000 crocs in the area, it also acts as a very significant watershed of the Central Valley.

One of the four rivers that flows out from the Nicoya Peninsula into the Pacific Ocean, the Tarcoles River measures 111 km long and its watershed covers upto 2,121 km. More than its crocodiles, this rio also boasts of a hefty number of bird, reptile and animal species.

The Murky Side
The Tarcoles River is not a friendly water to swim in. It is very polluted considering the fact that it carries 67% of sewage and industrial wastes of over 50% of the country’s population. Moreover, about 400 liters of diesel fuel which came from the Costa Rican Petroleum Refinery leaked back in the year 2000, causing an even more contaminated water.

Although it is is a risky water to dip your toes in, the Tarcoles River more than makes up with a promising river safari adventure that can make you forget all about its unappealing quality.

Touring the  Tarcoles River
Touring the entirety of the Tarcoles River will take you about 5 hours. Of course, its main attraction are the crocodiles who grow as big as fifteen feet (or more). They can be found swimming in the waters or enjoying the warmth of the sun along the banks. But there’s a lot more to see than the crocodiles living in the area. As soon as you ride the boat, you’ll be amazed at the abundance of the river’s flora and fauna.

The Tarcoles River is home to 50 species of birds. These native, migratory and coastal birds have considered this rio their home. Near the mangroves, you’ll be able to spot the Panama Flycatcher, Mangrove Vireo, Mangrove Warbler, American Pygmy Kingfisher and a lot more. The very rare Scarlet Macaw can also be found here and of course, the occasional hawks, parrots, toucans, herons, egrets and other waterfowl settling in the area.

Reptiles such as iguanas and the Jesu Cristo lizards can also be seen here as well as anteaters, monkeys and bats to name a few.

Mangrove trees are very abundant in the Tarcoles River. In fact, four species of this fascinating tree can be found growing here.

Carara National Park
The Carara National Park is located at the northern tip of the Tarcoles River. It houses both the rainforests of the Pacific side and the dry tropical forests in the northwest side.l The flora and fauna of the Osa Peninsula and the province of Guanacaste can be found here. Apart from the 50 bird species you’ll find around the area of the river, this park is home to more than 400 more.

The Carara National Park is crucial to Costa Rica as the commercialization and industrialization in the Pacific area is quickly increasing.

The Tarcoles River is still considered as a very important wildlife and nature sanctuary. Even if it’s known to be the coutnry’s most contaminated river, this water is still known as the rio de vida for those who call this their home.


Getting to Around the Tarcoles River 

The best way to get to and around the Tarcoles River is by boat. There are tours scheduled everyday and it’s most advisable to sign up for one. There are private charters which can pick you up in your hotel or cars for rent that can lead you there.


Places to Stay Near the Tarcoles River 

Cerro Lodge

Hotel Carara

Villa Sunni Daze


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