Destination Landmark: The Panama Canal

Aerial view of a cruise ship at Pedro Miguel Locks in Panama Canal, Panama

The Panama Canal is one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World. An amazing engineering feat that was started by the French in 1881 and which the United States took over in 1904.  The 48 mile ship canal connects the Atlantic Ocean (via the Caribbean Sea) to the Pacific Ocean. The current locks are 110 ft wide.  The Panama Canal was officially opened August 15, 1914.

Since the Canal is 48 miles long, you have ample opportunity to see the Canal. But there are only 3 places where you can watch the ships going through, unless of course you are on a cruise going through:

  • Miraflores Locks – the most visited because it’s closest to Panama City and has a beautiful visitor’s center.
  • Pedro Miguel Locks – a single set of locks a few minutes north of Miraflores; it is not set up for visitors.
  • Gatun Locks – the three locks that are on the Caribbean side of the canal. They lie near the city of Colón, an hour’s drive from Panama City.

Though its two “lanes” make it look like the ships might be able to go in both directions at the same time, it’s not possible. For 12 hours a day ships go from north to south, and for the other 12 they go from south to north.

The Canal has an announcer who narrates details about the current ship that’s passing through – its nationality, size, cargo and other particulars – and explains how the canal system operate. The announcers do this in Spanish and English.

Seeing the Panama Canal and the ships going through it is an interesting experience which can invoke many thoughts about history, engineering, and the ingenuity of mankind.

Definitely check out the Panama Canal and enjoy some of the other excursions that Panama City has to offer.

  1. The Casco Viejo – UNESCO World Heritage Site – The 341-year-old Spanish settling is not only as sunbaked and vibrant as it was centuries ago, but also retains the same air of adventure it posed when the Spaniards first settled here in the 17th century. But the place has undergone been through a remarkable renaissance – hotels and restaurants have been restored, and the crumbling old buildings have been rebuilt handsomely. From here, you can sit back, forget your problems for a while and get lost in the sweep of sea breezes from Panama Bay.
  2. The Amador Causeway – It’s only in Panama where you’ll find a causeway built over turquoise waters. The six-lane highway that forms over the Amador Causeway was actually built by rocks got from the Panama Canal itself. This expansive highway connects the four small islands and also doubles as a breakwater at the entrance to the Panama Canal. While at this, we’d recommend you to rent a bike for just $5 an hour and get lost in the pure bliss of cycling on an open road.
  3. A Nature Hike Within the City Limits – The Ancon hill that is just on the outskirts of the city presents an excellent way of seeing the city’s past, present and future through a visitor’s prism. And it is not just because while at the top of this hill you’ll have a bird-eye view of the Casco Viejo below. But also because the trails through the rainforest are beautifully paved allowing you the luxury of a therapeutic stroll the tropical vegetation.
  4. The Exotic Panama Style Nightlife – There’s no dispute that Panama has boasts of the most vibrant and hottest nightlife hotspots in Central America. At dusk, the Casino, posh lounges, bars, and clubs come alive with tropical drinks and sensual Latin Music. From the Casco Viejo to the Tantalos Hotel, the beer is served cold and chilled and in the company of beautiful people. What’s more, Panamanians know how to dress to the nines; you’ll be undoubtedly spoiled for choice!