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Panama Canal Shore Excursion Tips

Photo By Stan Shebs, Wikimedia

Panama Canal shore excursions offer a wide variety of educational, historical and natural attractions.

First-time cruise and resort visitors to Panama may think that canal excursions are either boating on the canal or simply viewing the famous locks that control the water levels.

Although those excursions are popular, the canal has created plenty of other opportunities that aren’t just educational.

For example, during our cruise visit, we did visit the locks, saw them in action and learned how they worked as well as the history of the canal. It was a good educational experience for our slightly interested children. But then we went kayaking on the Gatun Lake for fun and great views of nature.

Half-Day Excursions

Western Caribbean cruise visitors will dock at the port of Colon, which is near Gatun Lake and the Miraflores locks.

Shore excursions to the locks cost about $100 to $150 per person depending on whether any extra amenities are part of the package. Extras may include an aerial tram or a visit to the Embera Indians.

A less-expensive excursion includes round trip transportation to and from the cruise pier, a visit to Fort San Lorenzo, a view of the Chagres river, and a trip to the Gatun Locks.

The Gatun Locks are said to be the most impressive of the three in Panama, as all three chambers (steps) connect at the Gatun Locks.

Driving tours of the historic city of Colon are available at the port. This taxi tour escorts visitors around the city, showing them the monument of Christopher Columbus, the Episcopal Christ Church cathedral and the Panama Canal.

Pacific Coast cruise visitors to Panama City, which is less than an hour by car from Colon, can take a half-day city tour and a visit to the Miraflores locks at the western end for less than $100.

Whole Day Excursions

Panama City is a popular Panama Canal excursion. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Cruisers with a little bit more time to explore Panama may enjoy a tour of Panama City and the Canal.

A full tour of the Panama Canal is about eight and a half hours in length. Visitors have the opportunity to ride the Pacific Queen through the Snake Cut. The Snake Cut is the most narrow portion of the canal, only 152 meters wide.

Panama City is full of history and rich in heritage. The city has a variety of museums to explore, including the Museum of History and the Museum of Religious Art.

Old Town Panama City features delicate historic structures dating back to 1673. It is a popular area with tourists.

Tours of Panama City and the canal can be purchased as a combination through Shoreline Excursions.

Best Excursions for Active Travelers

Cruisers to Panama looking for recreation and adventure will find it. Diving on Old Colon Island is a popular excursion. Tour operators provide all necessary equipment.

Kayaking on Gatun Lake is a great way to explore nature and watch some of the large vessels travel through the canal. Many tourist organizations combine kayaking tours with a visit through the Sovereignty National Park.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
July 03, 2024

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