Los Chiles, Alajuela

Rio Frio in Los Chiles
Rio Frio in Los Chiles
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Near the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the beautiful town of Los Chiles is a river front gem in province of Alajuela. This remote town is often overlooked, but it boasts uncanny natural scenery along the river and at Medio Queso Wildlife and Marsh Reserve and Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge. Los Chilies is a mere three kilometers from the border of Nicaragua along the banks of the Rio Frio.

Still thought of largely as a thoroughfare for locals needing access to neighboring villages, Los Chiles remains one of Costa Rica's best kept secrets for natural scenery and wildlife. Many people living in this area make their living from the cultivation of beans, cacao and corn, so travelers who wish to see a working town in action may enjoy walking alongside the area's fields.

If you'd rather head into the thick wilderness, a visit to the neighboring Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, a marshy jungle that is often submerged in water from flooding rivers, is a must. This remote location is one of the most difficult to trek solo, so travelers should expect to go on a group tour of the park. Due to the often inclement conditions, the area surrounding typically the region toured, yet is often considered just as stunning in terms of its natural beauty.

Tours go up the slow-moving, Rio Frio, (which translates to the Cold River), a waterway that winds through canyons to the Caño Negro Lake. Along the way, it's possible to spot a howler, spider and white-faced monkeys, three-toed sloths, caimans, turtles and freshwater sharks.

Travelers coming here during the wet season, which is typically from July to November, will notice a large amount of migrant American birds. The region welcomes the most birds during its dry season, between December and April, when the largest variety of birds make their nests here. If you are a fan of ornithology, this time slot is the best one in which to visit. This is one of the best places in the world to view of the Nicaraguan Grackle, a species whose only Costa Rican habitat is the Caño Refuge. It's also possible to spot the extremely endangered Jabirus, the largest bird in Central America.

With its riverside location, Los Chiles serves as a prime launch point to the Solentiname Islands of Lake Cocibolca, or Lake Nicaragua. The 36 volcanic islands are known for their lush flora, distinctive bird species and its remote location in the lake that can only be reached by motor boat – although kayakers can travel between islands.