The Famous Costa Rica Crocodile Bridge at the Tarcoles River

If you are looking to see larger than life crocodiles in Costa Rica, I insist you make a stop at the famous Tarcoles River!  This is on the way to Playa Jaco, Manuel Antonio, and the South Pacific, so if your Costa Rica itinerary has you heading that way, you may as well take a few moments to check out this very well known river.

As an aside, about 16 years ago, when I was on my way to Los Suenos Resort, I was feeding these crocodiles from the bridge and my footage was featured on Animal Planet!  While that is now banned, I enjoyed my moment in the sun and was one of many who lowered chickens to watch the massive crocodiles of Costa Rica battle for a meal.

Here’s a video overview of the famous crocodiles! Please subscribe to our YouTube channel for more videos like this one.

Key Takeaways

  • Experience the American crocodile in its natural habitat at Crocodile Bridge Costa Rica, with diverse wildlife and nearby attractions.
  • Follow safety precautions to have a safe and responsible visit, while supporting local businesses for sustainable tourism.
  • Choose from different tour options or transportation methods like renting a car or taking public transport to get there.

What to Know About the Tarcoles River

This river spans over 2,000 kilometers and leads right to the Pacific Ocean.  It’s beginning is where two unique rivers join forces which creates the border to one side of the Carara National Park.

It’s wild to me that wildlife thrives in this river due to the contamination that exists in the Tarcoles River.  However, on the bright side, the river assists in irrigating agricultural lands and acts as a method to generate electricity.  (Lake Arenal is man-made and serves the same purpose.)

There have been many programs launched from the government down to the locals to help clean up the Tarcoles River, but it’ll be a long process due to several years of contamination.  You won’t want to even entertain the thought of swimming here due to pollution, but putting that aside, I’ve heard stories of locals getting drunk and attempting to swim across it only to be devoured by crocodiles.

*** DO NOT ENTER THIS RIVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE. ***

With that disclaimer, make sure to check out the famous Costa Rica crocodile bridge and see something you won’t soon forget.

The Tarcoles River Crocodile Bridge, also known as the Tarcoles River Bridge or ‘puente de cocodrilo’, is a sight to behold. This highway bridge, located on the Carretera Pacfica Fernández Oreamuno, provides visitors with a unique opportunity to observe one of nature’s most formidable predators—the American crocodile—in action. The bridge overlooks the Tarcoles River, home to the world’s highest population of crocodiles. This intriguing wildlife spectacle has turned the bridge into a significant tourist destination.

Dozens of these prehistoric beasts can be spotted lounging in the river below from the bridge’s vantage point.

Wildlife at Tarcoles River

While the star attraction of the Tarcoles River is undoubtedly the American crocodile, the river’s ecosystem is teeming with other fascinating creatures as well, including the spectacled caiman. Expect to see a diverse array of wildlife like birds, iguanas, and other reptiles that have made the river their home.

The American crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus), also known as huge crocodiles, are the undisputed kings of the Tarcoles River. They typically range in size from 10-15 feet (3-4.5 meters) long. Despite the river being one of the most polluted in Costa Rica, these resilient predators thrive. They feed on a varied diet that includes:

  • birds
  • small-to-medium sized mammals
  • turtles
  • crabs
  • snails
  • frogs

This is a testament to the rich biodiversity of the Tarcoles River.

The Importance of the Tarcoles River

Despite its pollution, the Tarcoles River supports a broad range of wildlife and irrigates agricultural lands, marking its significance. It’s located near popular tourist destinations like Manuel Antonio National Park, making it a hub of biodiversity in the region.

Unfortunately, the river is highly contaminated due to urban development and untreated sewage from Costa Rica’s central valley, making it one of the polluted rivers in the region. The pollution affects the wildlife and ecosystem, potentially causing sickness in animals and threatening biodiversity. Despite these challenges, many species, including crocodiles, continue to thrive, underscoring the resilience of nature.

Planning Your Visit to Crocodile Bridge

Planning your visit to the Crocodile Bridge can enhance your experience, regardless of whether you’re a seasoned wildlife enthusiast or a curious traveler. Knowing about the location, accessibility, visiting hours, and fees associated with visiting the bridge can help you make the most of your trip.

The Crocodile Bridge is located on Route 34, near the town of Tarcoles. It’s completely wheelchair-accessible, ensuring everyone can enjoy this unique spectacle. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about entrance fees—you can visit the Costa Rica Crocodile Bridge absolutely free of charge!

Location and Accessibility

The Crocodile Bridge is located approximately 73 kilometers (45 miles) from San Jose, near Hacienda NOSAVAR, over the Tarcoles River—a prime location for wildlife enthusiasts. It’s a straightforward drive of about an hour and 20 minutes from San Jose, depending on traffic.

To reach the bridge from San Jose, the best route is to take Route 1, then Route 27 towards Jaco and Puntarenas, and finally drive on Route 34, where the bridge is located. If you’re already in Jaco, you’re just a quick 20-minute drive north from the thrill of the Crocodile Bridge.

Visiting Hours and Fees

One of the perks of visiting the Crocodile Bridge is that there are no specific visiting hours. However, for the best viewing experience, mornings and early afternoons are recommended.

While the bridge itself is free to visit, parking can be a consideration. There are free parking options available, but be aware of nearby restaurants that might charge for parking. If you’re traveling with luggage, consider taking turns to walk on the bridge, leaving one person with the car at all times. Alternatively, you can negotiate with nearby vendors—perhaps agreeing to purchase a smoothie or meal after your visit—in return for parking fees.

Safety Precautions and Responsible Tourism

While the visit to the Crocodile Bridge is an exciting adventure, prioritizing your safety and the welfare of the wildlife is essential. Here are some safety precautions to observe and promote responsible tourism:

  1. Keep an eye on your car’s security.
  2. Stay alert on the bridge and avoid leaning over the railing.
  3. Do not feed or provoke the crocodiles.
  4. Respect the Costa Rican wildlife and their natural habitat.
  5. Follow any instructions or guidelines provided by park staff.

By following these safety precautions, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience at the Crocodile Bridge.

Feeding the crocodiles is a big no-no. Not only does it disrupt their natural behavior and diet, but it’s also against the law in Costa Rica. Keeping a safe distance from the crocodiles and not engaging in risky behavior such as hanging off the bridge or climbing over the railing is fundamental to ensuring your safety.

Dos and Don’ts

A few basic rules need to be followed when visiting the Crocodile Bridge. Avoid risky behavior such as hanging off the bridge or climbing over the railing—these actions can put you in danger and disturb the wildlife. Adults should also keep an eye on children at all times to avoid any accidents.

Moreover, never attempt to feed the crocodiles. This disrupts their natural behavior, is harmful to their health, and contravenes the Costa Rican law. By respecting these dos and don’ts, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable visit, contributing to the preservation of this unique wildlife spectacle.

Supporting Local Businesses

Besides observing wildlife, visiting the Crocodile Bridge also presents an opportunity to support local businesses. Nearby, you’ll find several restaurants offering delicious local cuisine. One such place is Hacienda NOSAVAR (Restaurant Nambi), which is highly recommended.

Purchasing local crafts and wildlife-related souvenirs is another way to support the local economy. These actions help stimulate local job creation, boost spending, and foster community development in Tarcoles, ultimately contributing to sustainable tourism.

Exploring the Surrounding Area

View of Carara National Park with lush vegetation and wildlife

The adventure doesn’t stop at the Crocodile Bridge. The surrounding area offers a plethora of attractions and activities worth exploring. From the biodiverse Carara National Park to coastal towns with beautiful beaches, there’s something for everyone.

The surrounding area of the Crocodile Bridge has plenty to offer, catering to nature enthusiasts, beach lovers, and nightlife aficionados alike. After your thrilling encounter with crocodiles, why not explore the rest of what this vibrant region has to offer?

Carara National Park

A stone’s throw away from the Crocodile Bridge lies the Carara National Park, a haven for nature and wildlife lovers. The park boasts an array of hiking trails, such as Laguna Meandrica and Main Ranger Station trails, where you can enjoy the park’s diverse flora and fauna.

Birdwatchers will be in paradise, with the chance to spot species such as Raptors, Double-striped Thick-Knee, and Toucans. Meanwhile, wildlife enthusiasts can keep an eye out for monkeys, sloths, and Scarlet Macaws.

Visiting the park is a great way to further immerse yourself in Costa Rica’s spellbinding natural beauty, showcasing the best of costa rica’s diverse landscapes.

Nearby Beaches and Coastal Towns

If you’re more of a beach person, don’t worry—the area surrounding the Crocodile Bridge has got you covered. With popular beach destinations like Playa Hermosa and Playa Herradura nearby, you can enjoy activities like surfing, paddleboarding, and swimming.

For surfing enthusiasts, Jaco’s lively surfing scene is not to be missed. With spots like Playa Escondida and Playa Herradura, Jaco offers a variety of waves to ride, catering to all skill levels. After a day of adventure, you can unwind at one of the many beachfront restaurants, savoring local cuisine as the sun sets over the Pacific.

Guided Tours and Boat Excursions

Boat tour on Tarcoles River with wildlife and natural habitat

You might want to get a closer look at these magnificent creatures, even though observing the crocodiles from the bridge is a thrilling experience. Various guided tours and boat excursions offer the opportunity to safely venture into the crocodiles’ natural habitat, providing a more intimate wildlife experience.

These tours, led by experienced guides, offer an in-depth look at the crocodiles and other wildlife in the Tarcoles River. From covered boat cruises to guided river safaris, there’s a tour to suit every adventurer’s needs and budget.

Tour Options from Different Locations

Whether you’re starting from San José, Jaco, Puntarenas, or the bridge itself, there are various tour options available. Each tour offers a unique perspective of the Tarcoles River and its rich wildlife, catering to different interests and budgets.

From the Crocodile Man Tour in Jaco to the Tarcoles River Jungle Crocodile Safari from Puntarenas, each tour promises an unforgettable wildlife encounter. You can also embark on a river boat adventure starting right at the Crocodile Bridge, offering a close-up view of the American crocodiles in their natural habitat.

Transportation to Crocodile Bridge

With several transportation options to choose from, getting to the Crocodile Bridge is relatively straightforward. Whether you prefer the flexibility of renting a car or the affordability of public transportation, there’s a suitable option for every traveler:

  • Renting a car
  • Taking a taxi
  • Using a ride-sharing service
  • Taking a bus

Choose the option that best fits your needs and enjoy your visit to the Crocodile Bridge.

Choosing the right mode of transportation can enhance your experience, allowing you to explore Costa Rica at your own pace and according to your preferences. Let’s delve into some of the popular options to help you make an informed decision.

Renting a Car

Renting a car offers the most flexibility, allowing you to explore Costa Rica on your own terms. It’s an appealing option for those who wish to venture beyond the Crocodile Bridge and discover other attractions at their own pace.

Before hitting the road, it’s important to be aware of the mandatory insurance requirements in Costa Rica. Renting a car might seem a bit expensive initially, but it can turn out to be a cost-effective and convenient option in the long run, especially when split among a group.

Public Transportation and Shuttles

For those on a tight budget or looking for an eco-friendly option, public transportation and shuttles are a good choice. You can take a public bus from San Jose to Tarcoles, then grab a taxi to the bridge. Alternatively, tourist shuttles offer comfortable, air-conditioned rides from selected hotels and San Jose Airport.

While public transportation is an affordable option, it may require some Spanish-speaking skills and may not always be reliable. On the other hand, shuttles provide a more comfortable and convenient journey, often including pick-up and drop-off services at your accommodation.

Accommodation Near Crocodile Bridge

You’ll need a place to relax and recharge after a day of adventure at the Crocodile Bridge. Luckily, the area offers a range of accommodation options, from beachfront hotels and all-inclusive resorts to mountain lodges.

Whether you’re looking for luxury or budget accommodation, you’ll find a variety of options to suit your needs. Best Western Jaco Beach All Inclusive Resort is a highly-rated beachfront hotel in Jaco, while the Croc’s Resort & Casino offers a range of amenities including a casino, restaurants, and a spa.

For those who prefer a more rustic experience, Hacienda Restaurant is a popular mountain lodge near the Crocodile Bridge.

Summary

In conclusion, the Crocodile Bridge in Costa Rica offers an unparalleled wildlife spectacle that is sure to leave a lasting impression on any visitor. From the thrill of seeing the world’s highest population of crocodiles in their natural habitat to exploring the surrounding area’s rich biodiversity, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a thrill-seeker, or a casual traveler, the Crocodile Bridge is a must-visit attraction in Costa Rica. So, why wait? Plan your visit and experience the thrill of the Crocodile Bridge today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to swim in the Tarcoles River?

Swimming in the Tarcoles River is not recommended due to the large population of crocodiles inhabiting it. It is best to observe from a distance and avoid swimming altogether.

How do you see crocodiles in Costa Rica?

If you’re looking to see crocodiles in Costa Rica, head over to the Tárcoles River near Jacó for a popular tourist stop. You’ll be able to spot them along the banks of the river and experience the stunning views of this gorgeous country.

How can I reach the Crocodile Bridge?

To reach the Crocodile Bridge, you can rent a car, take the public bus, hire a taxi, or book a shuttle.

What wildlife can I see at the Tarcoles River?

If you visit the Tarcoles River, you’ll be amazed by its abundant wildlife– including crocodiles, birds, spectacled caimans, and iguanas.

What accommodation options are available near the Crocodile Bridge?

For those visiting the Crocodile Bridge, there’s a variety of accommodation options to choose from – ranging from beachfront hotels and all-inclusive resorts to mountain lodges.

 

 

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About 

Tim Schmidt is a 20+ year Entrepreneur and Digital Marketer. A Fort Lauderdale-based "Digital Nomad," he enjoys traveling as much as possible with family and friends. AllWorld is his escape to document all of his adventures, including being a hardcore "foodie." He has property in Costa Rica and visits several times each year and is happy to offer his expert advice for planning your trip.

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