If you want to see crocodiles in Costa Rica, then you have to stop at the crocodile bridge of the Tarcoles River. This river is one of the most well known in the country largely because of the crocodiles. It’s a popular tourist stop for those heading to Jaco, Manuel Antonio and the South Pacific.
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 already has many years of contamination so 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!
So when you’re driving to the South Pacific, don’t miss the crocodile bridge in Costa Rica!
Costa Rica Crocodile Bridge
The crocodile bridge in Costa Rica is a great stop to stretch your legs. It’s such a popular stop that there are souvenir stores, restaurants, ice cream shops and bathrooms right at the bridge.
If you’re driving, you can park on either side, there are spaces to park in front of the shops or restaurants.
After you park your car, walk onto the bridge. There is a pedestrian barrier running the full length of the bridge but be careful if crossing the street since cars drive very fast on the bridge.
The crocodiles move around sometimes so they’ll be on the right or left hand side, straight down. 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!
One of Our Favorite Restaurants to Eat Near the Bridge
If you want to get some food, use the bathroom or get a coffee, we recommend to visit the restaurant near the Crocodile Bridge called Hacienda NOSAVAR (Restaurant Nambi). It’s actually owned by the Doka Coffee Estate and they offer really good coffee and food.
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 via the Costanera Sur Highway(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.
Another nice stop close by if you have some more time is the Peñon de Guacalillo. It is a coastal viewpoint with picnic tables, bathrooms and a very cool view.
Paula Gimbel says
While visiting in February 2018 we stopped here to use the restrooms n grab a drink. I was astonished to find out and see that these crocodiles live under the bridge. What a Amazing time! These creatures were mesmerizing to watch! There was a Tico that was telling us story’s about how this guy was flying his drone over them, of course to capture up close videos. He said one of the crocodiles jumped up out of the water and caught the drone n that was the end of his drone people think they are slow moving Nope!! It’s a fun place to stop and take Beautiful pictures. I’m happy we stopped to use the restrooms! Happy Crocodile watching, it’s worth the stop Pura Vida Costa Rica
Any idea why they hang out there? Just asking for a friend.
The locals feed the crocodiles to get them to stay right under the bridge, so that the tourists stop at the bridge to see the crocodiles.
Just letting you know and any one else stopping by that the Hacienda NOSAVAR is no longer there. There’s two larger restaurants on both sides of the highway and lots of little shops afterwards but none that look like they have a view of the river. Crocs are still there 😀
hi Sam, thanks for the feedback, looks like they moved the restaurant onto the other side.
Can you suggest any other good places to stop at when travelling from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio?
Jaco is a good stop for food as it has a ton of options
No. Only that bridge!
Emily Jolliff says
Is this bridge worth driving out of your way to if you going from the San Jose Airport to Manual Antonio?
You’ll pass the bridge on this route if you’re going on ROute 34
Connie Hough says
What a ride! We saw beautiful birds, but the amount and size of the crocodiles was amazing! Keep your hands in the boat!!!
I am in Monteverde and want to go to the beaches (Manuel Antonio etc) next. I also would love to see these crocs. They offer a shuttle including the tarcolis for $159,- That is 109,- more then the just the shuttle to Manuel.
I figured it might be cheaper to go from Manuel to the crocs myself. Do you have any suggestion?
Is that with a tour down the Tarcoles river? Or you just want to stop at the bridge and see the crocs because an extra $109 just to stop and see the crocodiles is a lot. The river boat tour down Tarcoles river is $55 with transportation when you book the tour with the company like Jose’s Crocodile Tour. You could take the bus instead which is cheaper and take the bus from Monteverde to Puntarenas, Puntarenas to Jaco and then take the crocodile river tour from Jaco. And then you can take a bus from Jaco to Manuel Antonio easily.
Jim Wei says
I read in the news that someone fell( or jump) off the bridge and was met with the unthinkable fate of eaten alive by the crocs. Not a place I want to hang out for long. Sorry to hear about this person’s misfortune.
Hi Mr Wei,
Yes it was a Nicaraguan that was very drunk, very sad news but honestly I don’t know what what this guy had in his mind. Swim with crocs humm not a good idea.
Ashley @ A Southern Gypsy says
I’d love to see all these crocodiles in the wild! They always *seem* harmless because they hardly move…yes, i really just said that haha
Haha I agree, they are cool to look at… from a distance lol
Oh my goodness they are SO scary!!! I would love to see them in the wild like this but I would be so scared….those terrible little teeth!! Your photos are brilliant.
Thanks! I know the upclose picture of the one with all their teeth hanging out… I would not want to be in between those!
Marysia @ My Travel Affairs says
Wow, the crocodiles! So many in one place! Would love to see that!
It’s pretty cool!
Katie @ From Shores to Skylines says
I love that picture of the croc walking – it looks so awkward, but you know its deadly! The rest kind of remind of one of those Indiana Jones movies with all the crocodiles waiting at the bottom of the river to gobble you up. I can’t believe the guides get out and feed them – that sounds about as safe as a swim would be.
I know right? They are crazy! But I guess they love it and it does give a great thrill. No thank you for me though, I will be watching several (hundred) feet away!
Scary, scary, SCARY. Amazing that they have endured since prehistoric times.
I know isn’t that crazy? All those teeth… scary!
I hate to pick on your number but I have to say 25/mxm is not possible but more like 25/kmxkm. They sure look big in your photo. Each is probably over 2 meters long and weighs more than 100 kilos. Amazing sight to see so many crocs in one place. I am glad I was not there to do bridge survey when the bridge was built.
Thanks Dad 🙂