If you stay straight on the road through Volcán rather than turning right toward Cerro Punta, you’ll head west and eventually end up in Río Sereno, a tiny town (pop. 3,289) with nothing to offer visitors but a little-used border crossing with Costa Rica that is not always open to foreign travelers.
The main reason to come this way is to visit Finca Hartmann, a combination gourmet coffee farm and private forest reserve with a couple of cabins for birders and other nature lovers. It’s 27 kilometers west of Volcán, 15 kilometers east of Río Sereno.
The road to Río Sereno is one of the prettiest in Panama. Bright, tiny flowers dot the shoulders. The road crosses over rivers and winds past splashing waterfalls, forested hills, coffee plantations, tall stands of evergreens, and plump cows grazing in fields.
But the road also features blind curves and trucks that barrel down the hills without a thought for what might lie around the bend. Count on landslides and washouts in the rainy season, though the road was repaved recently and should be in good shape. Be careful.
Though the countryside is attractive, Río Sereno itself isn’t. It consists of a couple of basic stores (the best bet for food), a central plaza, a bank, the border crossing, and little else. There’s an open-air market by the plaza with modest offerings, catering to Costa Rican day-trippers.
The Posada Los Andes (no phone, US$20 s/d) is the only option for those stranded in Río Sereno on the way to someplace more interesting. It’s in the building that looks like a factory looming over the plaza; rooms are upstairs from the shops. Don’t expect the Ritz. Finca Hartmann is a better, but more remote, alternative.
Given the limited services here, and the fact that even the immigration officials don’t quite know what to make of tourists, visitors should enter or exit Panama through the far less attractive but much more convenient crossing at Paso Canoa. For more information on what to expect when crossing the Panama border, please visit our Panama Border Crossings page.
Getting to Río Sereno
Buses run between Volcán and Río Sereno about once an hour, 5 a.m.–5 p.m. daily. The fare is US$2.65. The bus will stop at Finca Hartmann if requested. Taxi fare from Volcán is US$15–20 to either place.
Buses between David and Río Sereno run every 45 minutes, 5 a.m.–5 p.m. The trip takes nearly three hours and costs US$4. Tell the driver if you want to get off at Finca Hartmann (about 2.5 hours, US$3.65).
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition