Los Chiles, Alajuela

Rio Frio in Los Chiles
Rio Frio in Los Chiles
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If you want to enjoy beautiful scenery and wildlife, Los Chiles is a great town to include on your itinerary. Located in the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica, this town has a small population of only 11,000 but don’t be fooled into thinking small towns have nothing to offer. The citizens of Los Chiles cultivate corn, cacao and beans. Enjoy the experience of daily life in rural Costa Rica while you take in the scenery and wildlife.

Los Chiles is situated three kilometers from the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua and offers visitors beautiful views of the Río Frío (the Cold River in English). Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge is located nearby so you can enjoy the pristine wilderness and the wildlife in peace.

Visit the Solentiname Islands

Because Los Chiles is situated right on the Río Frío, this is a great destination if you’re an avid birdwatcher. Take a boat to Lake Nicaragua (Lake Cocibolca is the indigenous name) to visit the Solentiname Islands. These volcanic islands are home to a stunning array of birds. Look for 76 species, such as different kinds of toucans and parrots, and enjoy their beautiful colors. Lake Nicaragua is also home to roughly 46 species of fish and if you look carefully, you might see swordfish and freshwater sharks. Are you an avid explorer? Kayak from island to island to enjoy the beauty of the tropical trees and look for deer and other wildlife.

Tour the Río Frío

Another great way to enjoy the Costa Rica wildlife is a guided boat trip up the Río Frío. This river moves slowly through a wildlife reserve to Caño Negro Lake, a sweet water lagoon. Along the way, you’ll travel through marshland, pastures and canyons. The wildlife in this area is spectacular, so you’ll want to make sure you bring your camera and binoculars. During your trip, you might spot many types of reptiles, such as lizards, turtles and caimans (part of the alligator family). You might also see a three-toed sloth and white-faced, spider and howler monkeys. These tours usually last a few hours, so don’t forget to bring your sunscreen and a hat.

See the Wildlife Up Close

If seeing wildlife up close is one of your top priorities, you won’t want to miss Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge. This area is among the world’s most important wetlands and is also the home of diverse ecosystems. Many types of endangered and migrant animals make their homes in this wildlife refuge. This is one destination where you’ll want to keep your binoculars handy. Over 200 bird species have been spotted here and you might see anhingas, ibises, roseate spoonbills, cormorants and northern jacanas. You might also see the Jabiru stork. This bird is on the endangered species list and it’s also the largest Central American bird. Additionally, Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge is the only place in Costa Rica where you can see the Nicaraguan Grackle. Make sure you bring the camera so you can snap a photo!

The wildlife reserve is also home to many species of mammals and reptiles. Look for monkeys, pumas, ocelots and jaguars and keep an eye out for river turtles, caimans, iguanas and emerald basilisks. The rivers often flood parts of the jungle and the reserve is in located in a remote area of Costa Rica. Because of this, it’s a good idea to make sure your hike is part of a group tour.

When to Go

Los Chiles is a great destination year-round. The dry season lasts from December to April. This is a great time to come if you want to go birdwatching, as this is when many species make their nests. If you come between July and November, you will experience Costa Rica’s wet season and likely see many migratory birds from North America.