Sixaola lies on the Costa Rican side of the border between Costa Rica and Panama. The vast majority of travellers pass swiftly through Sixaola, however there are a small few who stay overnight (mostly due to a complication). For travellers unlucky enough to have an issue, Sixaola has the very basics that will get you by.
The border crossing
On the southern edge of the town is Rio Sixaola, the official border of the two states, and the crossing, which consists of a bridge over the river and the immigration office. The border crossing is the only one on the Caribbean side of the country and is mainly used by travellers that are going to Bocas del Toro.
The immigration office is not 24 hours, and opens at 07:00 and closes at 17:00 sharp (Costa Rican time). Try to avoid arriving in the late afternoon as long lines or a small complication could force you to stay overnight.
Before entering the border, you will need to pay your departure tax (if you have not already done so) at the 'pharmacy' that is in a suspended building on the right before the bridge. The pharmacy sells a number of other border-related items including Tica bus tickets, photocopying, and vehicle insurance. After getting your documents in order, you can get your exit stamp at the immigration office and walk over the new bridge (the narrow, rickety old bridge that this crossing was famous for is now closed) and enter into Panama.
From Puerto Limon, simply head south along Route 36 until you reach Sixaola.
There are regular local buses going between Puerto Limon and Sixaola. These buses stop at the majority of towns along the way. The main bus terminal is in the south of town near the border crossing so getting there is easy.
The rail line that passes through Sixaola is closed and has fallen into disrepair.
The town is fairly compact and is mostly walkable. There are taxi services however for those that need it.
If you are short on cash, there is one ATM approximately 1 km to the north of town. The machine dispenses US dollars and CR colones however it does have a reputation for breaking down so try not to rely on it and get some before coming to Sixaola. If you are desperate, there is another about 4km by car from town.
There is a 'pharmacy' on the right just before you get to the bridge that sells a variety of things that can help you get across the border. This includes Tica bus tickets, photocopying services and Panama vehicle insurance if you have a car or motorcycle. You can also pay your departure tax here. The pharmacy does not accept debit r credit cards (as of March 2016) and therefore be sure to bring plenty of cash to pay your departure tax.
There are two supermarkets (one medium, one small) in town on the main road where you can buy your everyday needs.
There is a basic variety of food outlets in town. There are a couple of street food vendors while the El Escorpion Bar and Restaurant does four basic dishes (no vegetarian option). If these options don't tempt you, there is a supermarket where you can buy some fresh fruit and vegetables of some packaged food.
If you want to drink your border complications away, or simply mingle with some locals, there are a few drinking options in town:
- El Escorpion Bar and Restaurant - the biggest bar in town and also offers food.
- Bar Yelesky - A couple of doors down from El Escorpion is this basic little bar.
If you have a lot of time to pass, there is also a pool hall between the two bars mentioned above.
There is one recommended accommodation option available in town.
- Cabinas Sanchez - offers basic rooms with cold water en suite, wifi (not in rooms), cable TV and secure parking for US$20.
If you are heading north, the vast majority of travellers will visit the popular beach spots in Limon such as Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Cahuita or Manzanillo. For an off-the-beaten-path alternative, you could visit Playa Gandoca, a small beach town to the east of Sixaola.
If you are heading south, the first town you will see is Cruce de Frontera, which lies on the other side of the river and is where you immigrate into Panama. Most travellers however pass through quickly and make a b-line for Almirante to get the ferry to Bocas del Toro.