Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Panama City Cruise Port: Shopping Aplenty

Panama City overview
Panama City overview. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Panama City is one of the busiest cruise ports in Central America because of its location at the Pacific side of the Panama Canal.

As a result, it is a hotbed of cruise and cargo ships that use the canal to travel from the Pacific to the Atlanta and highly popular with U.S. expatriates that take advantage of the country’s generous programs for immigrants.

It’s more than just an entrance to the Panama Canal. It’s a destination in its own right with plenty of shopping, attractions and restaurants to fill an entire day—or multiple days.

Anyone taking a Panama Canal cruise from the west coast of the United States to the east coast or vice versa is certain to stop in Panama City. Cruise ships dock at Port Fuerte Amador, which resides on a man-made peninsula.

Cruise Port Tips

  • Some cruise ships lay anchor in the bay and tender their passengers to shore.
  • The city is a 10-minute taxi ride away.
  • Old Town is one of the most popular attractions.
  • Spanish is universally spoken; a minority of locals speak English. English is common in the tourist areas.


Panama City stands out more as a shopping destination than a place to visit for beaches or natural attractions.

In fact, the city has more in common with U.S. metropolitan areas when it comes to shopping. It has quite a few malls for anyone with transportation.

They include Albrook Mall, Multiplaza Panama, Multiplaza Pacific Mall, Metromall Panama, Multicentro Mall and Westland Mall.

But of course it does have one major attraction that doesn’t involve mall shopping: the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal.

Attractions and Shore Excursions

Metropolitan Cathedral Church in Old Town, Panama City, Panama.
Metropolitan Cathedral Church in Old Town, Panama City, Panama. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

The majority of shore excursions in Panama City focus on the city’s history, the Miraflores canal locks or a combination of both. Guided tours are especially common.

Most guided tours range in price between $50 and $100 depending on the length of time, transportation and amenities. Budget-minded visitors can spend less than $50 on just a city tour or just a visit to the locks.

The locks are an educational experience especially for anyone with an interest in history, commerce and engineering.

One of the more common tours is a “partial transit” of the Panama Canal. Visitors can board a ship that takes them through the Miraflor locks. It pauses while filling waters lift the ship by 54 feet to pass through the locks. These tours cost about $125 per person.

City tours emphasize the area’s extensive colonial history starting with Old Town. Highlights include the Saint Joseph Church, which has the Golden Altar, one of the country’s most famous treasures.

Ancón Hill is the highest spot in Panama City at about 600 feet above sea level. Visitors have expansive views of Panama City, the Panama Canal, Amador Causeway and Albrook. It offers plenty of photo opportunities.

While at Ancón Hill, visitors can see Mi Pueblito, a village that displays traditional people, customs and foods.

The southern entrance of the Panama Canal, near the township of Ancón, has the Amador Causeway. The causeway connects Panama City with an archipelago of four islands—Naos, Perico, Culebra, and Flamenco.

The Museum of Biodiversity, or Biomuseum, at the entrance of the causeway.

“Seven interactive halls in the museum will explain Panama’s role as a ‘Bridge of Life’ in not only providing a pathway for species to migrate north and southwards, but also in separating the Pacific Ocean from the Atlantic and thus altering the marine currents in a way that changed the climate and gave rise to human development,” says the Panama Tourism Authority.

Walkers and joggers who want to see more of the city up close can try the Coastal Strip with four miles of sidewalks and about two miles of bike lanes along wide strips of green space.

Beaches Near the Cruise Port

Panama City Cruise Port Map

Panama City is not known as a beach destination because so few are nearby, and the quality is low. Cruise passengers may have to arrange their own transportation.

Las Perlas Archipelago has some of the best beaches in the region, but it is a one hour and 40 minute ferry ride. However, the islands there are worth visiting for more than just beaches, so anyone who has a full day to spend in Panama City should consider it as a day trip.

A quicker and less expensive option is Taboga island, which is a 30-minute ferry ride from the Amador Causeway. It has no cars and only a few shops and restaurants.

Getting Around / Transportation

Taxis are plentiful in Panama City. Rates are inexpensive as well. But like many destinations, it pays to ask for the rate before getting into the cab.

A public bus system is available, but schedules are not readily available. Look for the destination on the front of the bus.

Although rental cars also are plentiful, taxis are usually so inexpensive to it is more economical to use them instead.

Weather / Best Time to Go

Panama City monthly rainfall
© 2022 Scott S. Bateman

Panama City has a dry season from January through April with average rainfall of less than two inches a month, according to the Panama government meteorology department. These are the best months to visit the city for good weather.

The rainy season goes from May through November with an average rainfall of 10 inches or more for most months. December is a transition month between the dry and rainy seasons with about four inches historically.

Temperatures stay mostly the same throughout the year with average highs in the low 90s Fahrenheit or low 30s Celsius.

Nighttime temperatures hover in the mid to high 60s Fahrenheit or around 20 Celsius.

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.
September 29, 2023

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