If you want to go see some big crocodiles in Costa Rica, the Rio Tarcoles is the one you will visit. This river is one of the most well known in the country, not just for the crocodiles but for other various reasons as well since about half of all of Costa Rica’s population lives along the river’s basins.
Rio Tarcoles (Tarcoles River)
When you are driving to Playa Jaco from San Jose, you will pass a bridge where you can get out and walk onto to see the river. This area has become a big tourist attraction because of the immense population of crocodiles that live just several meters below the bridge. You can see them easily with the naked eye, they look like giant logs!
The entire river watershed covers over 2000 kilometers and it is one of the most contaminated and polluted rivers in Costa Rica. Despite the contamination, an abundance of wildlife thrives and depends on the river for survival.
Emptying into the Pacific Ocean, Rio Tarcoles begins at the point where two different rivers meet creating the border of the Carara National Park.
Additionally, the river also helps irrigate agricultural lands and generates electricity. However the pollution derives from a combination of sewage, industrial waste and in 2000, a petroleum refinery accidentally leaked nearly 400 liters of fuel into the river.
It is considered an unsafe place to swim in. Obviously. There have been some freak moments when someone either fell or jumped over and well, their fate wasn’t pretty. Let’s just say the crocodiles were a bit heavier when they discovered what was left of the body.
Some wildlife that can be seen in Rio Tarcoles are migratory and native birds, iguanas, basilisk and macaws but the prize creature to see are most definitely the crocodiles.
The amount of American crocodiles in this river is simply astounding. So much so that it’s considered to have the highest population of crocodiles in the world.
If you have a keen interest in seeing these big reptiles up close and personal, there are several river cruises you can take that showcase these spectacular beasts.
You take a nice safari ride on the river and at certain points near the mudflats, the guides will get out and feed the crocodiles just a couple feet away from you and you will see a great display of the strength and power of these creatures.
Rio Tarcoles’ main attraction is the crocodiles. Along the river are some hikes and waterfalls in the valley but other than that, there is not much else to enjoy at the Tarcoles River. There is the small Tarcoles town nearby if you want to explore a small Costa Rican community.
It’s a nice place to stop, stretch your legs and see some huge crocs on the way to Jaco or Manuel Antonio. At the entrance of the bridge, you will see a restaurant, a hotel and several souvenir shops taking advantage of people stopping. It is quite the sight to see with so many crocodiles congregated in one area!
More posts on beaches/attractions in the area: