One of the most significant waterways in the world, the man-made Panama Canal, provides passage for almost 14,000 ocean vessels per year. The canal stretches approximately 48 miles between Colón on the Atlantic coast and Panama City on the Pacific Coast, and it can take between nine and 10 hours to traverse.
On Panama Canal cruises, you can explore this historic waterway and the stunning surrounding areas, taking in sights and trying new things that will make your journey meaningful. Use this guide to plan your Panama Canal shore excursions to get closer to the region than ever before.
- See Ruins in Old Panama
Still in ruins to this day, Panama Viejo (Old Panama), is a great place to visit if you'd like to take in some genuine Panama history, sight-see, or shop — all of which you can do on a Scenic Drive & Walking Tour excursion.
The former capital of Panama, this old city is a popular archaeological site that is visited by many tourists every year. As you walk among the broken walls, you will come across the well-preserved Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Cathedral of Our Lady of Asunción), the ancient city hall, and the massive ruins of one of the largest private residences in the area, Casa Alarcón. Make sure you pack a camera to capture the memories you make at this historic locale.
- Witness History at the Panama Canal Railway
The world's first transcontinental railroad, the Panama Canal Railway is a testament to the many hands that worked so hard to build it.
Completed in 1855, this historic route became very popular during the famous California gold rush. On a Panama Canal Railway excursion, you can ride this railway as you journey through the rain forest and past Gatun lake. While you enjoy the view from the train's full-length windows, or maybe grab a drink at the bar, you'll learn more about the railway, the canal, and Panama's history as a whole.
- Ride an Aerial Tram through Soberania National Park
Don't miss out on an excursion to this beautiful jungle paradise! Ride Panama's Rainforest Aerial Tram through Soberania National Park, and enjoy a bird's-eye view of the various wildlife and vegetation to which it is home.
Soberania National Park is located approximately 17 miles from Panama City, and it runs along the east side of the Panama Canal. At an impressive 50,000 acres, this amazing attraction is home to 525 species of birds, 105 mammal species, and 124 species of reptiles and amphibians.
- Lock Eyes on the Gatun Locks
The Gatun Locks are the first set of locks on the Atlantic entrance of the Panama Canal. They contain three lock chambers that are used to raise the ships over 85 feet above sea level, a site you won't want to miss. Take some time to tour the Gatun Visitor Center, where you can watch vessels of all sizes — and even grab a souvenir or two.
- Visit Lake Arenal in Costa Rica
As your cruise takes you to Costa Rica, you'll find just as many majestic rainforests and tropical landscapes as you did in the Panama Area, with one exception - Costa Rica is also home to some of the most popular volcanoes in the world.
Lake Arenal is a must-visit location for travelers who are interested in scenic views and the chance to get up close to a real volcano. Here, travelers can kayak along the lake to the base of the Arenal Volcano, which dominates the skyline. While in the area, visitors are also permitted to engage in a series of watersports, including windsurfing and sailboarding, with the volcano serving as a backdrop.
Panama Canal cruises are meaningful experiences that can't be beat. After experiencing the many things that make Panama travel unique, you're guaranteed to come back enriched.