Introducing Los Chiles
Seventy kilometers north of Muelle on a smooth, paved road through the sugarcane, and just three rutted kilometers south of the Nicaraguan border, lies the sweltering farming and fishing town of Los Chiles. The humid lowland village, arranged with dilapidated grace around a ragged soccer field and along the unmanicured banks of the leisurely Río Frío, is almost charming by border-town standards, sex workers and foreboding 'import-export' types notwithstanding. It was originally settled by merchants and fisherfolk who worked on the nearby Río San Juan, much of which forms the Nicaragua–Costa Rica border. In recent history, Los Chiles served as an important supply route for the Contras in Nicaragua, and was home to a strong US military presence throughout the 1980s.
Gringo traffic is on the rise in Los Chiles as it’s a great base for enjoying the scenic water route to Caño Negro, and an early-morning excursion by small motorized boat is an adventure in itself. The second big draw is the scenic route to Nicaragua, a one-hour boat ride across the border that is becoming increasingly popular among foreign tourists. Crossing the border via the river is a relaxing, hassle-free way to go. Although the road continues past Los Chiles to Nicaragua, this border post is closed. The police patrolling this line in the sand are heavily armed and extremely bored, so don’t waste your time and energy trying your luck there.