For those border crossing travelers entering or exiting either Panama or Costa Rica by land who are looking for a low-key border junction, look no further than Rio Sereno, Panama. Rio Sereno is only a few miles from the beautiful Costa Rican town of San Vito.
Rio Sereno is about a 45 minute drive from the mountain town of Volcan in the Chiriqui Province. The Rio Sereno to Volcan drive is one of the most beautiful scenic drives in all of Panama. A very well paved curvy road winds through the Talamanca Mountains with incredible river valley, cattle farm and coffee plantation views.
San Vito, Costa Rica is a small clean Costa Rican mountain town with great hotels, good restaurants and one of the best pastry and coffee shops I have ever enjoyed in Central America. Rio Sereno, though beautiful, does not have many lodging opportunities. I recommend traveling onto Volcan where there are many hotel and bed and breakfast options.
There are only three Costa Rica-Panama border crossings. One in Paso Canoas, one in Sixaola and one in Rio Sereno. The Paso Canoas border is located on the Interamericana or Panamerican Highway about 35 minutes from Panama’s second largest city David. Sixaola is on the caribbean coast, it’s the border cross over to travel to the famous tropical tourist destination Bocas del Toro. Rio Sereno is a great border option for those who want to spend some time in the mountainous highlands and visit La Amistad International Park or Parque Internacional La Amistad.
Sixaola and Paso Canoas at times are both very crowded with travelers, Rio Sereno is never crowded. I have been there a few different times and never seen a wait or a line except for once when the Costa Rican border workers were eating lunch.
If making the border crossing in Rio Sereno to San Vito or vice versa there are options to take a bus or taxi between the two towns. But remember there is no Customs office there to cross with your personal vehicle, that has to be taken care of in Paso Canoas. Buses run from San Vito and Rio Sereno every 30 minutes or so and there are taxis in San Vito lined up at the park waiting for fares.
Traveling with out a car between San Vito-Rio Sereno is easy. When I took this route we were entering into Costa Rica and grabbed a bus to San Vito. The ride is about 35 minutes, cost about $2.00 and was relatively comfortable. On the way back we grabbed a taxi for $20.00 and the ride was only 15 minutes or so. If you are interested in communicating with a taxi driver to pick you up in Rio Sereno for the fare to San Vito it can be arranged. At the bottom of this article is contact information for a dependable taxista from San Vito. Just give him a call or email a few days ahead of time.
When traveling from San Vito to Rio Sereno the border crossing is on the main road, but if coming from Volcan on the Panama side it is a little difficult to find. Like must of Central America there are few to no signs pointing the way. Just ask folks “donde esta la frontera?” and they should point you in the right direction. If you drive in any direction in Rio Sereno for more than a few minutes with out feeling like you are still in downtown then you have gone to far. Ask a local again to get pointed back in the proper direction.
Sorry for the poor quality of photos. This was a spur of the moment trip and I was without my camera and I forgot my iPhone charger. Oh well, next trip!
Taxi Driver San Vito Costa Rica
Name. Trino Garito