Volcán to the border

From the fork at the police station in Volcán, the left branch loops 48 very scenic kilometres west, climbing over the Cerro Pando, and passing through beautiful cattle country and coffee plantations on a well-paved, little-travelled, winding road to the Costa Rican border.
Los Pozos
, an area of small thermal pools beside a rushing river, is a good campsite, but only accessible by 4WD vehicles and hard to find as the turn-off from Volcán-Río Sereno road is unmarked. Enquire at
Panadería Mollek
(good espresso and pastries), opposite the police station in Volcán. Sr Juan Mollek has a farm at Los Pozos and can provide information. At
Río Colorado
, 15 km from Volcán,
Beneficio Café Durán
, a coffee processing plant whose delicious aroma of fermenting pulp and drying beans will announce its proximity from kilometres away, is hospitable to visitors.
At
Santa Clara
, 25 km from Volcán, is the
Finca Hartmann
, 1300-1800 m, where the US
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
maintains a biological research station devoted to ecological studies.
Enter the unmarked drive 50 m west of petrol station, next to a green house with 'Ab Santa Clara No 2' sign and proceed 1 km on a dirt road. Latest birdwatching checklist compiled by researchers lists 277 species observable on the densely wooded coffee and cattle farm which borders La Amistad International Park to the north. Biologists and the Hartmann family welcome visitors and have information in Spanish and English.

Border with Costa Rica - Río Sereno

The village of Río Sereno has the air of a cowboy town. The Panamanian businesses are centred around the plaza, and the Costa Rican businesses along a street right on the border. Approaching the village from Volcán, abandoned installations from the era of military government are visible on the right. The bus station is just to the right of the
alto
(stop) sign. Follow the main street left along the plaza to where it ends at a steep road crossing diagonally. This is the border with Costa Rica, otherwise unmarked. Numerous vendors' stalls, especially Sunday during coffee harvest (October to December or January). It is safe to park (and lock) your vehicle in the open area of
Almacén Universal
. Costa Rican shops selling leather goods, a few crafts, clothing, gladly accept US dollars at current rates. Do not miss the upper floor of
Super Universal
and
Supermercado Xenia
. If crossing into Panama, sell your colones here; it will be much more difficult in Volcán or David and rates are worse in Panama City.

Río Sereno to Paso Canoas

A paved winding road runs 50 km south along the Panama side of the border to Paso Canoas, about two to two and a half hours by bus. At Km 41 an impressive cascade over 100 m high pours over a cliff on the left of the Río Chiriquí Viejo below. There is a good view of the river valley at Km 47, with Volcán Barú visible to the northeast.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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