We many times get (future) guests asking us about the best way to see the Panama Canal. Most think that a (partial) canal transit is the best way to do this. We beg to differ.
First of all, the transit leaves at about 9:30 a.m. and transits the Miraflores locks around 10-10:30 a.m. That’s after all the big ships have gone through. I’ve done the trip 2x and in both cases there was no other ship in the locks. That kind of eliminates the ‘ohhhh and ahhhhh’ factor to a large degree. You have a much better view – at the right time – from either the visitor tribunes at Miraflores or Gatun locks.
Secondly, it’s about $ 120 per person including taxi to Amador. Finally, you are doing this trip with 80-200 other people who all want to take that great picture from the same spot on the boat : the front.
Now picture this:
- Pick-up at the Balboa Inn and transfer to Panama Railroad train station (minimum 2 people).
- Take a comfortable one-hour trip across the Isthmus with great views of the Canal or surrounding jungle.
- Have a bilingual guide wait for you in Colon.
- Take a quick tour through Colon, then head for the Gatun locks while passing through the old installations of the Canal zone.
- Watch huge ships going through the Gatun locks.
- Cross the locks to go to Ft. Sherman, the former training base of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force and then on to Ft. Lorenzo. Howler monkeys 90% of the time to been seen and certainly heard!
- Check out historic Spanish fortress Ft. Lorenzo at its beautiful location at the mouth of the Chagres river.
- Visit a nearby secluded beach only insiders know about.
- Return to Panama City in your comfortable van.
- Get dropped of at the Miraflores locks for a great late afternoon drink at the terrace of the Miraflores restaurant, visit the Albrook Mall or return to the Balboa Inn.
And all this for $ 65 per person (trip), $ 22 train ticket + food.
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If you have a rental car, you can still do large part of this trip yourself (obviously without the train and no guide). We have detailed maps at the reception desk with instructions to make this a great (family) day. It’s a very easy drive.
And last but not least, get a copy of the book ‘Path between the Seas‘ byDavid McCullough. A must-read for anybody visiting Panama. Truly fascinating.