If you want to see crocodiles in Costa Rica, then you have to stop at the crocodile bridge at the Tarcoles River. This river is one of the most well known in the country, largely because of the crocodiles.
This post was updated June 2020.
A Little Information About Tarcoles River
The entire river watershed covers over 2000 kilometers (1242 miles) and empties into the Pacific Ocean. Additionally, Tarcoles River begins at the point where two different rivers meet creating the border of the Carara National Park.
Unfortunately, Tarcoles River is one of the most contaminated and polluted rivers in Costa Rica. Despite the contamination, an abundance of wildlife depends on the river for survival due to its key location. Furthermore, the river also helps irrigate agricultural lands and generates electricity. The government and local community has implemented programs to clean up the river but it has already had many years of contamination and it will take a long process to clean.
It is considered an unsafe place to swim obviously. It is best to check it out from a distance, especially because of the sheet amount of crocodiles in this river!
How to Get to the Crocodile Bridge
You have to pass this bridge if you are going to Jaco, Manuel Antonio, the South Pacific or Osa Peninsula if you plan to drive on the Costanera Sur (Route 34). The crocodile bridge is in the small town of Tarcoles, about a 20 minute drive north of Jaco.
From San Jose Airport, you will get on the Route 1, then Route 27 and exit at “Jaco.” Continue driving down south on this road, the Route 34 for about 45 minutes before reaching the bridge.
Tarcoles River (Crocodile Bridge) Location
Costa Rica crocodile bridge map
The Costa Rica crocodile bridge is 73 kilometers (45 miles) from San Jose, about a 1 hour and 20 minute drive.
You’ll know you have reached the bridge when you see lots of cars, a hotel, small market, several souvenir shops and lots of people walking around.
After you park your car, walk onto the bridge. As of June 2020, the pedestrian barrier has been completed all the way and it is a much safer walk on the bridge.
The best side to see the crocodiles is on the right hand side (coming north from San Jose). Peer down slowly and you will be blown away by the sheer amount of huge crocodiles laying right under the bridge.
The amount of American crocodiles in this river is simply astounding. So much so that this river is considered to have the highest population of crocodiles in the world. And these guys are massive.
Thanks to the large numbers of these feisty reptiles, the crocodile bridge is a fascinating stop. People love to see these animals in the wild!
If you book a private shuttle, you can ask the driver to stop at the crocodile bridge. Shared shuttles and public buses don’t stop.
If you decide to stop and walk onto the bridge, PLEASE do not do anything stupid like pretend to hang off the bridge, climb over the railing or drop food down into the river. Be a responsible tourist please!
If you want to get some food, use the bathroom or get a coffee, we recommend to visit the restaurant right next to the bridge called Hacienda NOSAVAR. It’s actually now owned by the Doka Coffee Estate and they offer coffee and food. Doka has amazing coffee and their breakfast is very good so it’s a really nice rest stop, especially as the restaurant has an exclusive view point below the bridge for clients.
There is a barrier between the river and you can see the crocodiles very well.
So when you’re driving to the South Pacific, don’t miss the crocodile bridge in Costa Rica!