A little more than 17.5km (11 miles) north of Playa Herradura is Carara National Park ((tel) 2637-1054; daily 7am–4:30pm; $10/person), a nesting ground for scarlet macaws. It has a few kilometers of trails open to visitors. The Sendero Acceso Universal (Universal Access Trail), which heads out from the national park office, is broad, flat, and wheelchair-accessible. The first half of this 1km (.6-mile) stretch leads into the forest and features various informative plaques, in both English and Spanish, pointing out prominent flora. About 10 or 15 minutes into your hike, you’ll see that the trail splits, forming a loop (you can go in either direction). The entire loop trail should take you about an hour. The macaws migrate daily, spending their days in the park and their nights among the coastal mangroves. It’s best to view them in the early morning when they arrive, or around sunset when they head back to the coast for the evening, but a good guide can usually find them for you during the day. Whether or not you see them, you should hear their loud squawks. Among the other wildlife that you might see are caimans, coatis, armadillos, pacas, peccaries, and, of course, hundreds of species of birds. Bring along insect repellent or, better yet, wear light cotton long sleeves and pants.
Although you can certainly hike the gentle and well-marked trails of Carara independently, my advice is to take a guided tour; you’ll learn a lot more about your surroundings. Most hotel desks can arrange for a guided hike to Carara National Park, or contact Vic Tours ((tel) 8723-3008; www.victourscostarica.com) for one. Also, there are almost always bilingual guides available to hire at the park entrance.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.