Off the Beaten Path: Secret Nicaragua Border Crossing
Options for border crossing from Nicaragua and Costa Rica are very few. Peñas Blancas is the main border; it is very congested with freight, locals and tourists. There is another alternative to this crossing that is out of the way and very beautiful — “Off the Beaten Path”. The Las Tabillas is a land crossing created two years ago. Located just an hour north of Caño Negro National Park, this border is very straightforward and not crowded. This border closes at 5pm daily, unlike the other borders and has the same exit and entry fees as Peñas Blancas.
The closest town to the Las Tabillas border on the Nicaragua side is San Carlos just forty five minute drive from the border, it is a rustically beautiful little town, where the Rio San Juan meets Lake Nicaragua. From Las Tabillas a $2 shuttle ride operated all day. Everything is within walking distance in San Carlos, and safe to explore. There are many choices of hotels/hostels/restaurants there. A local port offers ferry service to the Island of Ometepe and down the Rio San Juan.
Still in Nicaragua, two hours east by boat down the Rio San Juan you will arrive in El Castillo. The fort Immaculate Conception a fort founded in 1675, built to protect against pirates crossing Nicaragua, via the natural canal of rivers, to the other ocean. Pirates roamed these passageways looting from any ship or village they came across. Visible from anywhere in town is the flag atop the fort. El Castillo is near the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve, a 4,500 square kilometer wildlife haven, there are many tours to the reserve, fishing, birdwatching, kayaking and canoeing, stargazing, cinnamon and chocolate plantation tours. The town of 1500 people has no motor vehicles, only bicycles and walking paths. Workers and students every morning load up on water taxis to head out for the day. All local supplies are brought in on the river and delivered around town on hand-made wooden wheelbarrows. Sundays watch the local Nicaraguans participate in their national sport, baseball at the local diamond in the shadow of the fort.
Take a great road trip for your next border run or just for a nice place to visit and see the world that exists off the beaten path.