The Central Pacific has many important National Parks and private protected areas. These pristine green zones provide sanctuary for many endangered species. The two most well known areas, Carara National Park and Manuel Antonio National Park, are readily accessible natural laboratories that nature lovers will enjoy immensely. Carara National Park, which borders the Tarcoles River, is a transitional zone encompassing several ecosystems and harbors an incredible variety of wildlife including the largest population of Scarlet Macaws in Costa Rica.
Just past Carara on the left is a road leading up to the mountain to Villa Lapas. Following this road another eight kilometers through rich forest and past breathtaking views brings you to a small tourist complex called La Catarata (The Cascade). Here you can take a four-hour trek on horseback through a private, reforested cattle ranch to a magnificent waterfall. Along the way you’ll see several expansive vistas and are likely to spot scarlet macaws, toucans, and monkeys. Herradura Beach is a small, quiet, protected cove with just enough infrastructures to make it comfortable. Sport fishing charters, visits to Tortuga Island, and romantic sunset tours round out a full fare of water-related activities including snorkeling, wind surfing, and water skiing.
Jaco Beach is what Herradura isn’t. This is where “Ticos” traditionally come to play in the sun. There’s plenty of infrastructure, shopping, nightlife and accommodations to provide anything one might want in a beach vacation.
The road follows the coast out of Jaco providing spectacular scenery along the beaches. At the top of the hill is a great spot for a final look back on Jaco. A little further is a perfect view looking down on the long expanse of Playa Hermosa. There are many uncrowded beaches along this stretch, and many gravel roads provide access to these oases with names like Esterillos Este and Oeste.
How to get there Take the Interamerican Highway out of San Jose west towards Alajuela then exit onto Highway 34, which swings to the South and on down towards Jaco. From there the coastal road continues southeast.
Climate Temperatures hover in the 80’s F. During the rainy season, May to November, the climate gets very humid but lends to the tropical atmosphere and tends to bring down the temperatures.
What to bring With the humidity come the mosquitoes so bring along plenty of insect repellant as well as soothing aloe lotion for the itching. As with other areas in Costa Rica, a hat, sunglasses and sunblock are essential. Lightweight cotton clothing, hiking shoes, a rain poncho and snorkeling equipment are all you should need.
What to see Agua Viva Waterfall, just before the small town of Bijagual is a great day trip destination. The 45 minute walk down the steep trail will reward you at the end with cool pools of water and an almost 200 meter high waterfall that cascades down a rock face.