There are many ways to see the Panama Canal, ranging from visits to visitors centers and transits through the locks, to activities in its waters. The most popular way is by doing one of the Panama Canal tours available. If you want to have a broader idea of the best ways to see the Panama Canal, keep reading, soon you will know them in more detail.
At the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center
The Miraflores Visitors Center is a place where you can have a unique and different experience. Here you will be able to appreciate the Panama Canal through different recreational activities that you can do inside this establishment.
Among the activities offered by this center are:
- Exhibition rooms: Here you can appreciate the history of the construction of the Panama Canal as well as understand how it works.
- Terraces and Observation Gallery: Take a look of the operation of the Miraflores locks and the passage of ships through the locks live. You can also see from here, one of the new set of locks launched in 2016.
- Buffet Restaurant: Here you can have the most incredible and unique dinner with views of the locks of the Panama Canal.
- IMAX Room: Discover the largest theater with IMAX technology in Panama. This is located in a new building next to the entrance of the visitors center There is also a candy store in the building where you can buy everything you need for your movie. Generally the films shown are documentaries about the Panama Canal or films from Panamanian Cinema. Finally, a bar where you can enjoy a cold beer, although with the most expensive price in Panama. Even so, it cannot be compared with anywhere else, since you can enjoy it while you have the Panama Canal at your feet.
To get to the Miraflores Visitors Center on your own, you can take a taxi or Uber that would cost approximately 6 USD from Panama City. The most popular option is taking a private tour of the City and Canal where you will have a specialized guide to explain you during the tour and inside the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center (the cost of entry to the Miraflores Visitor Center is not included in the tour price).
Cost of the Entrances to the Miraflores Locks Visitors Center:
- National Adults and Residents: 5 USD per person.
- National and Resident Children (between 6 and 12 years old): USD 2.50 per person.
- Non-Resident Adults: 20 USD per person.
- Non-Resident Children (between 6 and 12 years old): 12 USD per person.
- Children under 6 years free.
By Doing a Transit Tour Through the Panama Canal
Transits through the Panama Canal are the most popular way to experience the Canal due to its proximity to the operation directly crossing through the Panama Canal locks. There are two types of transit tours through the Panama Canal: Partial Transits Tours and Full Transit Tour.
Partial Transits can be done in two tour directions: Northbound partial transit tour and Southbound partial transit tour. Both tours last 6 hours and include pickup and drop-off at your hotel in Panama City (only for foreigner tickets and in selected hotels). They also include a lunch and snacks during the journey. Low season prices are 135 USD for foreigners and 95 USD for residents. In high season the prices are 145 USD for foreigners and 95 USD for residents.
The Full Transit tour is, as its name says, the complete experience of transiting the Panama Canal. It lasts 12 hours. As it is a tour that takes a long time, it includes breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack throughout the journey. The Full Transit tour through the Panama Canal begins when you are picked up from your hotel in Panama City (only for foreigner tickets and in selected hotels). You will be taken to Amador to board the ship and disembark in Colon, on the Caribbean side of the country. The prices in low season are 180 USD for foreigners and 125 USD for residents. In high season the prices are 195 USD for foreigners and 125 USD for residents.
At the Viewpoint of the Americas
The Viewpoint of the Americas is one of the best ways to go see the Panama Canal as a family for free. It was built at the exit of the Bridge of the Americas that is one of the most important bridges, because it was the first that connected Central America with South America. From the viewpoint you can see the Bridge of the Americas, the entrance of the Panama Canal and the ships making the transit in Panamanian waters. Also, a monument was built here as a tribute to the 150 years of Chinese presence in Panama.
How to get there? It is very easy to get there, you just have to cross the Bridge of the Americas which is only 10 minutes from Panama City, while you cross the bridge you will be able to see the Canal from about 61 meters high. When you get to the exit of the bridge you will see on the right side, the entrance of the Viewpoint of the Americas.
At the Agua Clara Locks Visitors Center
The Agua Clara Visitors Center is a new tourist attraction located in the new set of locks of the Panama Canal on the Caribbean side, opened in 2016. This new set of locks was built so that much larger ships can do transit through the Panama Canal.
You will have a spectacular panoramic view where you will see the Gatun Lake on one side and the ships transiting through the lock on the other side, while a guide narrates the functions of the Panama Canal in different languages. There is also a projection room in which they project different footage of the history and the effort of thousands of Panamanians in the construction of this new set of locks.
The Agua Clara Visitors Center is 1 hour and 20 minutes from Panama City. You can use your vehicle and get extra help from one of the navigation applications like Google Maps or Waze to get there. If you are a tourist, the most popular option is to do a private tour to the Agua Clara locks and Portobelo from Panama City so you can have a much more complete experience when visiting these tourist attractions. The tour includes pickup and drop-off at your hotel in Panama City. You will visit the Agua Clara visitors center and the City of Portobelo. The activity lasts 8 hours. (does not include entrance to the visitor center)
Entrance fees to the Agua Clara Visitors Center:
- National Adults and Residents: 5.00 USD per person.
- National and Resident Children (between 6 and 12 years old): 2.00 USD per person.
- Non-Resident Adults: 15.00 USD Per Person.
- Non-Resident Children (between 6 and 12 years old): 10.00 USD per person
- Children under 6 years free.
By Doing a Helicopter Tour From Panama City (From 250 USD P/P)
By helicopter, it is one of the most exclusive ways to see the Panama Canal. It consists of being able to appreciate the Panama Canal from a very different perspective. During the helicopter tours over the City and the Panama Canal, the pilot will be giving you interesting information and data on each place you fly over. There are options with pick up from your hotel in Panama City.
Places that you will fly over:
The Centennial Bridge, the Miraflores and Cocolí Locks of the Panama Canal, Bridge of the Americas, Veracruz Beaches, The Amador Causeway, Flamenco Island, Biomuseum, Duty Free, Yacht Club, The Ruins of Old Panama, Outstanding Buildings, Old Town and Cerro Ancón.
By Doing Recreational Activities in its Waters
Another way to see the Panama Canal is doing activities in the Gatun Lake and the Chagres River, both very important for the operation of the Panama Canal. During these activities you will be able to appreciate the Panama Canal from a different perspective.
Kayak Through the Panama Canal (From 195 USD P/P)
On this kayak tour through the Panama Canal basin, you will have a different experience at the water level. You will also learn about the flora and fauna that you can find in the surroundings of the Canal basin. The tour includes pickup and drop-off at your hotel in Panama City, as well as a snack during the course of the tour.
Canopy Over the Gatun Lake (From 123.72 USD P/P)
This canopy tour on Gatun Lake from Panama City consists of 5 canopy lines with an approximate length of 2.5 km. You will be able to glide over the waters of the Panama Canal while observing the boats from above. The tour lasts approximately 4 hours. Includes pickup and drop-off at your hotel in Panama City, bilingual guide and security equipment under the strictest standards.
My Recommendations to See the Panama Canal are ...
If you want to have an experience of the Panama Canal near the city and in a few hours a visit to the Miraflores visitor center is the indicated. If you are looking for a closer look at the operation of the locks, I recommend any of the Panama Canal transit tours available on Tiqy.com. You will have a guide explaining the operation of the locks as you go through them and see them very closely. The best option, to live a more exclusive experience and from a different perspective, is definitely the helicopter tour where you can see the Canal from above.
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