As it is a transition zone between a drier region to the north an a wetter on to the south, Carara presents a wide diversity of plant life with over 1.400 plant species and with evergreen species predominant. Crossed by diverse streams mostly with permanent waters, in the dry season the park is an oasis of freshness and greenery.
Northeast of the park the seasonal flooding of the river Grande de Tárcoles forms numerous swamps that are very rich in wading birds, as well as amphibians and reptiles. A U-shaped lagoon some 600 m long and 40 m wide and 2 m deep occupies an oxbow lake left by this river. This lagoon is practically totally covered in water hyacinths (Eichornia crassipes) and other floating aquatic plants. In this environment, several species of amphibians and reptiles like crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus) up to 4 m long, and of birds like the rosate spoonbills (Ajaia ajaja), anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) and jacanas (Jacana spinosa) are present in large numbers. It is also easy to see crocodiles in large numbers in the Río Grande de Tárcoles.
Primary forest occupy most of the park. Lomas Pizote and the Jamaica Mountains are two areas that are representative of the habitat with 20-60% slopes, very wet, with different storeys and a great many lianas and epiphytes. the gallery forests at the edges of the river are tall, dense and diverse in tree species with a predominance of espavel (Anacardium excelsum), ojoche (Brosimum alicastrum) and possum-wood (Hura crepitans), which has a very caustic latex. Many of the trees have buttresses. The secondary forests grow on land that was previously used for arable and livestock agriculture. Carara represents the most northerly distribution limit of several tree species such as purple heart (Peltogyne purpurea), butternut tree (Caryocar costaricense) and the cow tree (Brosimum utile).
Besides the abundant aquatic fauna in the lagoon and the swamps, there is varied animal life, including the rare two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni) and the rare scarlet macaw (Ara macao), which has practically disappeared from the rest of the Dry Pacific. In Lomas Entierro a native cemetery was excavated, and in the rest of the reserve a further 14 sites have been located.
Carara is situated and the Central Pacific plain. Access to the park offices 2 km south of the bridge over the Río Grande de Tárcoles river is from San José via Orotina and Costanera Sur (91 km). There are three paths: Las Aráceas, El Pizote and Laguna Meándrica. In the administrative zone there is a picnic area with tables, toilets and drinking water. A bus service runs between San José - Orotina - Quepos with a stop in front of the offices. In Orotina and the area near the park along the Costanera Sur highway, there are hotels, restaurants and grocery stores. For information on this reserve and the Central Pacific Conservation Area, call (506) 416-7161.