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Border Crossing Costa Rica to Nicaragua by Boat

Border Crossing Costa Rica to Nicaragua by Boat – Most tourists who are traveling in Costa Rica also want to visit other Central American countries. Nicaragua, the land of volcanos and lakes, is one popular option. While most people cross the border in Peñas Blancas, I chose the more adventurous option.

At 5:30 in the morning, I took the bus from the Bus Terminal de San Carlos in San Jose to Los Chiles.

The bus drive took about five hours and cost 2.100 Colones (around $4). Los Chiles is the most northern town of Costa Rica, located at the Rio Frio.

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I went straight to the government house from the bus stop in Los Chiles, past some small shops, sodas, and a soccer field in midtown. The town is rather small, and I arrived at the office within a few minutes.

It was immediately my turn against the “normal” border crossing with long waiting lines and lots of paperwork.

I filled out the immigration form, handed it over to the officer together with my passport, and within a few minutes, I had my exit stamp.

From the office, I went down the road to the small port of departure. There were already 20 people, mainly Nicaraguan, waiting for the next boat to San Carlos in Nicaragua. The boat ticket for the one-hour drive costs $11.

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Port Of Departure In Los Chiles
Port of departure in Los Chiles

So far, everything went quite easy, and the boat tour feels more like an adventure than a border crossing. During the jungle drive, I was many birds, heard howler monkeys, and enjoyed the amazing landscape.

The kind of boat that is used for the border crossing from Costa Rica to Nicaragua

The actual border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua is not more than a pole and a sign.

We only stopped at a small military outpost. A group of three very friendly soldiers had a quick look at us, and we could continue our way. No controls, no endless waiting lines.

We did not even have to leave the boat. Soon we arrived at Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America.

Almost Arrived In San Carlos, Nicaragua
I almost arrived in San Carlos, Nicaragua.

The boat stopped in front of the arrival terminal. I said goodbye to the boat driver and got welcomed by very friendly border officials.

I filled out the immigration form and paid USD 14 arrival tax. After a small talk with the official, I was in San Carlos, Nicaragua. Wow, what an easy and fun border crossing!

Arrival Terminal In San Caros, Nicaragua
Arrival terminal in San Caros, Nicaragua

Before I continued my way, I walked around San Carlos. Clarisa, a local girl from San Carlos who I got to know on the boat, gave me a small sightseeing tour of her town.

It is a quiet place with nicely colored houses right on the lake. In the center, there is a playground and a small church. On the hill behind the park is a small fort that defended the town in the past from pirates.

View Over San Carlos, Nicaragua
View over San Carlos, Nicaragua

Normally border crossings are pretty stressful and a rather unpopular part of traveling. An unavoidable part. This border crossing, however, was the first highlight of my trip through Nicaragua.

When you have enough time and do not mind traveling a bit further to the next big town, I definitely recommend choosing this border instead of the main border in Peñas Blancas.

From Peñas Blancas, you can arrive quickly at all popular places like San Juan del Sur, Rivas Granada, and Managua. However, the border crossing is stressful; you must wait in line.

COMMENT: What was your most adventurous border crossing?

5/5 - (1 vote)

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  1. Angel and Michelle says:

    Wow! That must have been exciting. I, hopefully can do it on the same way in a few months =]

  2. Linda Basilick says:

    Thank you for this information. My husband and I will do this exact process next week. Are there any other boats that cross the border or is the only one in Los Chiles?

  3. nicaraguayestravel says:

    Yeah I agree this is the only boat..And I love that trip every time I do it!

  4. hanne says:

    Till what time the government house is open in Los Chiles? :-)

  5. Juli says:

    Thank you for sharing! Very helpful info to me right now!

  6. Tim Kroeger says:

    You are welcome :) Let me know if you have any questions and I will try to help :)

  7. Mathieu Bories says:

    Do you think it’s still possible to do this now in 2021 with covid restrictions ?

  8. Marie says:

    Hi Tim,
    We are planning to cross the border via boat this summer with our whole family (including a small child). Do you know if it is still an option?
    We are coming from La Fortuna and would hope to travel to San Carlos within one day. Is that realistic?
    Thank you very much in advance!
    Best, Marie