For the average TICO the Rio Tarcoles might just be another river, but for many tourists who arrive daily this happens to be one of the popular spots to see the crocodiles.  Just how popular is this river?  Well the National Geographic did a feature story about Pocho a crocodile that was rescued by a local.   Read more about it here>> National Geographic

The river starts in San Jose and runs all the way to the ocean on the Pacific side.  The Rio Tarcoles is the 3rd largest in the country filled with many birds like the Frigatebird, Roseate Spoonbill, several types of Egrets, Herons, Caracara and even at times Scarlet Macaws can be seen soaring overhead.  This area is one of the best for avid birders to explore.

So the next time you visit the Central area of Costa Rica plan to take a riverboat tour.


Explore the best with the Jungle Crocodile Safari Tour

One of our providers for this tour is the Jungle Crocodile Safari Tour.  They started their business in 1993 here on the river.  The Jungle Crocodile Safari Tour is located in the small town of Tarcoles just a little north of Jaco.  As you drive into the city on the main street take a right and go to the very end which you will see the river.  The Jungle Crocodile Safari Tour is located just to the left.  When cruise ships are in port don’t be surprised to see a few tour buses and smaller mini vans parked in the lot.  Not to worry there are 4 departures daily from 8:30 am, 10:30, 1:30 pm & 3:30pm.  Entrance fees can be combines with your tour operator or paid upon arrival.

Expect to be greeted with traditional Costa Rica music by our wonderful musicians.


Take a moment to browse through the shop while you’re waiting for your tour to begin and see some of the local crafts.

When it’s time to board your river boat you will take a short walk down the ramp.   The boat is comfortable equipped with lifejackets, a covered roof for shading its guest, and enough seats without feeling too crowded.  Hanzel stands at the head of the boat leading the tour with his microphone in hand pointing out the birds as you travel down the river.  They give you a small brochure so you can follow along to locate the birds.  Although we didn’t see every bird on the brochure many were present on this hot summer day.  Hanzel gave us a great description of each bird’s characteristics.

Among other things to see besides birds is lizards and crocodiles.  Did you know the Jesus Christ lizard with its webbed feet can walk on water taking 22 steps per second?  WOW!  I didn’t know that.


As our boat ventured towards the bridge on the river banks edge were banana trees but not the kind you want to eat.  They had a beautiful red flower dangling.  Apparently they are full of seeds and only produce bananas once so they chop it down and use it for paper afterwards.  Banana paper that is.

You should see many crocs throughout the river.  They are very territorial and range in size from about 3 feet to 16 feet long.  Did you know crocs can swim fast but only for short distances and if you get caught in their path be prepared to be swallowed not chewed for dinner.  Another interesting fact about crocs is they have powerful jaws with about 66-68 teeth in their giant mouth.  Their metabolism is quite slow so eating one fish may last the whole day.  Sometimes you’ll see horses or cows along the riverbanks as well.  If a croc attacked one of these animals it would last them for a whole year without having to eat anything else.  You may see them submerge like a submarine underneath the water.  They can actually last up to 2 hours before coming up for air.  Female crocodiles lay eggs in the riverbanks.  With all the eggs that are hatched only about 1 in 60 actually survive because they are eaten by other animals on the river as well as the male crocodiles.

Mangroves are so peaceful


As our boat travels downstream towards the river mouth we spot lots of Frigatebirds searching for fresh fish from the ocean.  The tour boat takes you right into the mangrove area where you can quietly listen to the calming sounds of the river and many birds chirping in the distance.  Sounds so peaceful.

frigerate birds

It is here that we saw a tree filled with many Roseate Spoonbills resting on the branches like giant rosebuds.  Their beautiful pink color comes from eating shrimp.  You can find these birds in Florida on the Atlantic Coast, Mexico, Central & South America, and in regions of the Caribbean.

roseate spoonbills

As our wonderful tour ends we head back to the dock.  We take away some amazing photos, wonderful facts shared from our tour guide Hanzel who I might add did a fabulous job.   He gets a great applause for a job well done by the guests.  If you are wondering about his name, yes we had someone who seemed to think they were Gretel on board.  Hanzel just laughed it off in good humor.

We highly recommend a riverboat tour on the Tarcoles River.  Not only will you see many crocodiles but you might just spot a Basilisk lizard on the rocks or in one of the many holes along the riverbanks if you’re lucky.

You can see why exploring the Tarcoles River is one of the best for wildlife sightings.

As always our opinions are our own.

If you like our travel article, follow us on our social media for more reviews, and inspirational photos.

like us on facebook icon