Tarcoles River, Puntarenas – Costa Rica
The Tarcoles River is one of Costa Rica’s biggest rivers and flows in the Pacific Ocean between Orotina and Jaco in the Province of Puntarenas. The river collects the rainfall of a wide and heavy populated area. Its watershed covers 50% of the population of Costa Rica and includes a big part of the Central Valley. It might come as no surprise that this makes the Tarcoles the most contaminated river of Costa Rica.
Besides from sewage of the main cities it also suffered from the damage of an oil leak in 2000, when almost half a million litres of diesel flowed in the Tarcoles, because of an accident in Costa Rica’s state owned refinery. Despite the pollution the Tarcoles River hosts one of the world’s biggest populations of American Crocodiles, with an average of 25 per square kilometre.
You can book a boat tour that will take on the Tarcoles River and enables you to observe these prehistoric reptiles that can measure up to 4 metres. Another more easy way to observe the crocodiles is from the bridge crossing the Tarcoles River when travelling on Route 34 from Orotina to Jaco.
On both ends of the bridge you can park your car, walk on the balustrades towards the centre, from where you have a good spot to observe and photograph the humongous crocodiles in the water and sunbathing on the river banks.
The Tarcoles River forms the northern border of the National Park of Carara, a more than 5,000 hectares protected area that contains in interesting transitional zone from the dry rainforest to the wet rainforest on the coastal plains. The meandering Tarcoles River forma a marsh delta with a unique ecosystem, and has many more interesting wildlife besides the crocodiles.
The Carara National Park also has a rich pre-Colombian history. Archaeological finds traces of Indigenous inhabitants, occupying the area from 300 BC to 1,500 AD, making a living of agricultural activities.
The first bigger town you encounter coming down from the Braulio Carilllo on Route 32 going to the city of Limon, the gateway to the Southern Caribbean beaches. Just before reaching Guapiles is the intersection to head for Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui. Although Guapiles has a central location, from where Tortuguero, the Braullio Carillo National Park, Aerial Tram and the white rafting river Pacuare can be accessed.
So far Guapiles has not taken advantage of this touristy advantage and there are little or none accommodations for tourists. Most people only drive through on the town on their way to and from the Caribbean Beaches.
The road from San Jose to Limon is one of the busiest of Costa Rica and the town Guapiles offers a wide range of bars, restaurants and low budget roadside motels and cabanas. The area around Guapiles is mainly agricultural and famous for it’s heart of palm and pineapple.
Route 32 is a very busy road for truck drivers and there are some excellent sodas where you can enjoy some real good typical food. Just look for a parking lot full of trucks and cars and you’ll be sure that the food is good and cheap.
Guapiles is a good place to stop for a while after you have finished the exciting drive through the mountains. If you want to pass the night in Guapiles you have a good option in the Hotel Country Club Suerre, which offers good standard accommodations and belongs to the same chain as the Suerre Hotel on the Caribbean Coast close to Puerto Viejo.