Panama Canal

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Panama Canal: Our most recommended tours and activities

Panama City: Small-Group Miraflores Locks and City Tour

1. Panama City: Small-Group Miraflores Locks and City Tour

Starting the day early will give you the chance to learn even more about the Panama Canal. Skip the traffic and arrive at the Miraflores Locks visitor center when it opens, so you can watch the action in peace. After the canal, head to Casco Viejo, the second city of Panama built in 1673. Walk around and enjoy the architecture and hear about its historical relevance.  Drive over the Bridge of the Americas for amazing views. Stop at the viewpoint to hear more about Panama City and its future. The Amador Causeway, Panama City's bustling boardwalk, is one of the most refreshing places in the city. End the tour with some recommendations for lunch and further exploration from your guide, leaving you with the tools to get the most out of your visit to this beautiful and modern city.

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From Panama City: Panama Canal and Monkey Island Tour

2. From Panama City: Panama Canal and Monkey Island Tour

Benefit from pick-up at your hotel or other location in Panama City, and journey to the Panama Canal Visitors Center to get a detailed explanation about how the canal and famous Miraflores Locks work. Visit the museum to learn more about this important water passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Return to the vehicle and pass Miraflores Lake and the Pedro Miguel Locks as you make your way to the town of Gamboa. Upon arrival at the Chagres River, climb aboard for a scenic boat trip across artificial Gatun Lake. Marvel at the surrounding landscape of the biggest and most important lake in the Panama Canal. Watch the large ships passing through the canal to get a sense of the magnitude of this masterpiece of engineering. Arrive at a group of islands to see 2 different species of monkeys. Return to Panama City and get dropped off at your hotel.

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Panama City: Ocean to Ocean Panama Canal and Jungle Tour

3. Panama City: Ocean to Ocean Panama Canal and Jungle Tour

Begin your tour with hotel pickup at 7:00 AM. Travel west of Panama City to start your exploration of the Panama Canal. Embark on a 90-minute boat tour on the Canal and Gatun Lake. Ride along the canal and get an up-close view of the ships passing through as well as the abundant wildlife along the shores. Visit the famous Monkey Islands, where you can see capuchins, howlers, and tamarins. Then, head 45 minutes north to the Caribbean side of Panama to visit the Agua Clara Visitor Center to see the new expansion locks operating up-close. Observe transiting vessels passing through the Agua Clara Locks on the way to the Pacific or the Atlantic Ocean from a scenic lookout point. Learn first-hand about the various operations of the Panama Canal, the history of its construction, its participation in world markets, and the importance of its watershed. Make your way to a scenic and quiet spot beneath the Gatun Dam and have a picnic lunch at the fork of the French West Diversion Channel and the Chagres River. Next, travel to San Lorenzo National Park, where you can visit a remote rainforest full of flora and fauna, followed by a tour of Fort San Lorenzo. Discover a 400-year-old Spanish fort on a scenic cliff overlooking the Caribbean. Hear about the many attacks by pirates and privateers at one of the most historically important places in Panama. Finally, be returned to your hotel in Panama City.

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Panama: Miraflores, Canal, & Casco Viejo Private City Tour

4. Panama: Miraflores, Canal, & Casco Viejo Private City Tour

Discover the sights of Panama City on this private multi-stop day tour with a local guide. Visit the Miraflores Locks and the Panama Canal and its museum before continuing to Amador Causeway and Casco Viejo, Panama City’s colonial quarter. In the morning, meet your private Panama guide at your hotel or residence, then set out for an unforgettable excursion to the city’s most historical sites and the Panama Canal Miraflores Locks. Take a 30-minute ride to the Miraflores Locks to observe the huge vessels passing the Panama Canal. The busiest hours are from 9 AM to 11 AM and from 2 PM to 5 PM, so you will be able to see many ships getting lifted or lowered 16 meters in two distinct steps. Take in the views on the locks from a sheltered terrace and listen to the explanations of your guide. To complete your visit to the Canal, visit the Panama Canal Museum and Visitor Center to get a good idea of the construction of the canal, a masterpiece of engineering. Before the next stop, learn about the history of the canal and its significance for Panama and the entire world trade as well as on the current expansion project. Continue the tour to the Panamá Viejo, the ruins of Old Panama. Old Panama was the first European settlement and community on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. This first Panama City was looted and destroyed by the notorious English buccaneer Henry Morgan in 1671 and therefore was abandoned. Today, there are only ruins left of Old Panama. Still, the tower of the ancient cathedral is standing and has become a landmark of the town. Head to Amador Causeway next, a road that connects three Islands in the Pacific Ocean and offers unbeatable views of the canal on one side and of the city skyline on the other. Lunch will be served in a Panamanian restaurant on the causeway (cost not included). After lunch, the tour continues to the Casco Viejo, where you will feel set back in time as you admire and enjoy the view of the characteristic colonial houses, the narrow roads, and the awe-inspiring churches. Before drop-off back at your hotel or residence, get a better picture of Panama’s history by driving or walking through the main attractions of this historic quarter. 

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Panama: Panama Canal, Colón Rainforest and San Lorenzo Fort

5. Panama: Panama Canal, Colón Rainforest and San Lorenzo Fort

Benefit from pick-up at your hotel in Panama City, and then journey by air-conditioned vehicle for approximately 1.5 hours as you make your way to Colón. Upon arrival, board a ferry for the 20-minute crossing to a rainforest, and then get back to nature as you explore the ecological paradise by minibus. Discover the home to 159 different species of mammals, 98 species of reptiles and 65 amphibious species. Observe the amazing wildlife in their natural habitat, and enjoy plenty of stops to take souvenir photos.  Next, go to the historic monument of San Lorenzo Fort, renowned for preventing attacks by the real pirates of the Caribbean for almost 75 years! Learn the history of the fort, now in ruins after the Spanish largely abandoned it in the mid 19th century. Continue to Agua Clara to spend about 45 minutes learning about the new canal system, built to support the passage of super tankers and large cargo ships as they pass along the Panama Canal.

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Panama City Day Tour

6. Panama City Day Tour

A day of fun in cosmopolitan Panama City. See the town that the world built and of course, its famous canal. Usually, your first stop will be Miraflores Locks and the Panama Canal. Miraflores Locks and the Panama Canal is your next stop. Here you will watch the ships maneuver the canal's locks, learn more about the canal at the museum. You will visit an artisan market for the best Panamanian-made souvenirs before heading to the Amador for lunch (not included). Then you will take a short nature trail walk in the Punta Culebra's open-air musuem, which is owned by the Smithsonian Foundation of Panama. Save the best for last with a walking tour of the old town: Casco Viejo. Marvel at its spectacular architecture and learn about the history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will be back back in your hotel around 16:00, unless you stay in Casco to soak up the rest of the afternoon on your own.

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6-Hour Panama Canal Ship Cruise

7. 6-Hour Panama Canal Ship Cruise

Experience the Panama Canal in the most authentic way, by crossing it on board a ship. This 6-hour tour from Panama City will take you to the world famous Miraflores Locks, where you can watch huge ocean-going vessels transiting the canal just a few feet away. Your partial Panama Canal transit starts with a coach ride to Gamboa, where the Panama Canal Dredging Division is located. On arrival, board the cruise ship and enter the canal at the north end of Gaillard Cut, where the Chagres River flows into the canal. The Gaillard Cut, also known as Culebra Cut due to its serpent-like curve, was carved through the Continental Divide, making it one of the canal’s most popular attractions. Travel for 8.2 miles (13.7 kilometers) on the way to Pedro Miguel Locks. As you transit the Cut you will observe the continuous maintenance that the area requires, and the work in progress for the Panama Canal expansion project. View the new Centennial Bridge before you enter Pedro Miguel Locks. Here your vessel will be lowered 29.5 feet (9 meters) in one step. You will then enter Miraflores Lake, a small artificial body of fresh water that separates Pedro Miguel from Miraflores Locks. At Miraflores Locks the vessel will be lowered another 52.5 feet (16 meters) in 2 distinct steps. Once at the Pacific Ocean, sail to the beautiful Flamenco Marina to disembark. On the way to Flamenco, pass under the Bridge of the Americas, and admire the Bay of Panama and Panama City's spectacular skyline.

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From Panama City: Gamboa Rainforest Guided Tour with Lunch

8. From Panama City: Gamboa Rainforest Guided Tour with Lunch

Explore the Panamanian rain forest while gliding smoothly through treetops on an aerial tram. Learn the jungle´s most interesting facts from a naturalist guide. Watch colorful birds fly around you. Take a boat ride through the Panama Canal, observing marine life. End your tour with a delicious lunch. Board a tram bound for a 280-feet peak surrounded by leafy jungle. While going up to the observation tower, enjoy fabulous views of the Chagres River, the Embera indigenous community, and much of the Soberania National Park. Gamboa is home to many natural labs including a butterfly farm, an orchids center, and a frog pond. See around 20 species of butterflies native to Panama at the Butterfly House. Get up close to the sloths at the Sloth Sanctuary. This sanctuary hosts a rehabilitation and training program for injured, sick, and orphaned sloths. Enjoy a scenic boat tour along the Panama Canal's waterways. Observe the fascinating tropical wildlife of Gatun Lake and the surrounding forest. Get a chance to spot crocodiles, caimans, sloths, monkeys, and a host of birds with the help of your guide.

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Monkey Island and Indian Village Tour

9. Monkey Island and Indian Village Tour

Leave the city behind in the morning and head to the Chagres River where you will board a boat for a 2-hour tour in Lake Gatun (once the largest manmade lake in the world) and the Panama Canal! Explore the ins and outs of the nearby bays, search for wildlife, and visit the famous Monkey Island, home of the amazing white faced monkeys! Also, keep an eye out for turtles, crocodiles, caiman, tons of bird life and all kinds of other surprises. Return towards Gamboa, pass the dock and head upstream to the Indian village. Unlike most Indian village tours, this one is authentic! Learn about the local culture, history and crafts. Then, hike along a short trail to see the plants that grow in this area and how the locals use them (practical, artist or medical uses) and see dance that is part of their custom. After visiting the village, return towards Panama City and stop along the way for lunch and arrive at your hotel in the late afternoon.

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From Panama City: Gatun Lake and Monkey Island Tour

10. From Panama City: Gatun Lake and Monkey Island Tour

Following a convenient pickup from your hotel in Panama City, head to the town of Gamboa in the Soberania National Park. Get on board a boat and depart along the Gatun Lake next to the huge ships that cross the Panama Canal. Marvel at the fauna and vegetation of the tropical forest, as well as the residents of Monkey Island where you can admire the white-faced capuchin, Geoffroy’s tamarin, and howler monkeys in their natural habitat. In Gatun Lake you’ll also can find many species of birds like toucans, hawks, herons, snail kites, and other mamals like agoutis, coatis, and capybaras. After the boat trip and Monkey Island experience, return back to your hotel with a drop-off.

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Other Sightseeing Options in Panama Canal

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What people are saying about Panama Canal

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 653 reviews

Our guide could not have been more friendly & knowledgeable, he was marvelous. The canal visit was great and truly a "must see". But the Monkey Island part was total surprise and utterly wonderful. We went on a small outboard boat through the canal, seeing large vessels go by us, towards several virgin jungle islands were we saw loads of birds and three different varieties of monkeys truly close-up. This was a great experience and I highly recommend it.

Gonzo was an amazing guide who went above and beyond to ensure his guests had a great tour. He knew so much about the indigenous tribe as well as the local plants. He also could call the monkeys and ensured we saw three different kinds! I would definitely recommend him and this tour!

Our tour was fantastic. Our guide John Acosta was very kind with the kids, very knowledgeable and always ready to assist us in any needs. Would definitively recommend this trip for anyone coming to Panama.

Our guide was knowledgeabl and friendly yet professional. We felt we learned quite a bit about Panama and very much enjoyed the tour. Highly recommend

Good experience to discover the Panama way from the Pacific to the Atlantic and the Canal story from the Carlos Quintos project to the actual one.