Granted, crossing the border at Los Chiles isn't the most popular travel route between Costa Rica and Nicaragua- Penas Blancas holds that distinction- at Los Chiles it's mostly backpackers who want to venture off the beaten path, 'perpetual tourist' types looking for an easy passport stamp and renewal of their VISA's and Nica's looking for work or visiting families, who mostly utilize this border crossing. The reason it's less traveled is simple- there's just not many 'convenient' Nicaraguan travel options once you're made it to San Carlos, although there's a couple boats that go to Granada as well as an airstrip with flights to Managua. So Penas Blancas is far away the border crossing of choice being it's an easily accessible GATEWAY to many points of interest in Nicaragua- San Juan del Sur, Rivas, Granada, Managua, Ometepe etc. But no matter, since we've received numerous e-mails asking for a 'video' process of the crossing, we thought we'd oblige.
So, D'Angelo, myself and 5 of our friends decided to make a day of it. We rented a driver/van for $80. and left at 8:00am from La Fortuna. Stopped at Muelle (about 35 minutes from La Fortuna) and checked out the iguanas and then headed up to Los Chiles, Costa Rica, another hour away from Muelle.
Los Chiles is a border town located on the banks of the Rio Frio, which in turn is the river 'border' between Costa Rica and Nicaragua that you must navigate by boat in order to reach San Carlos. The tiny town of San Carlos is located on banks of Lake Nicaragua just opposite from where the Rio Frio empties into the lake.
This border crossing at Los Chiles is about a thousand times less stressful than Penas Blancas for obvious reasons, and so you can compare the two, I posted both border crossings BELOW.
Once you're gotten your passport stamp at Immigration, located a block from where you get the boat, you'll have to make a decision as to whether to take the 'public' boat to San Carlos or negotiate a price for your own boat. Obviously, if you're traveling by yourself, negotiating for a boat probably wouldn't be the most cost effective option. We made the mistake of negotiating price per person as opposed to haggling over the price of renting the boat itself. I think we paid $50. too much doing it this way. The public boat is about $20. per person TOTAL (there and back). We paid $25. per person to have our own boat, go much faster and we could leave San Carlos whenever we wanted as opposed to the public boat that left San Carlos at 5:30 regardless. All in all, not a bad price, just think we could have done a little better.
Here's the VIDEO crossing the border from Los Chiles Costa Rica to San Carlos Nicaragua:
Crossing the BORDER at Penas Blancas:
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