Complete Guide to Visit the Panama Canal

Panama… Just a few know where it is located in this country, but almost everyone has heard about its “Canal”; a key element in world trade. Every person that visits Panama has the desire of knowing the famous “Canal de Panamá”, but they ignore the reality that there is not just a single thing to visit and know… While the Miraflores locks are the most popular, in this article we compile all the possible alternatives.

THE MIRAFLORES LOCKS:

Price: nationals 3 USD, foreigners 15 USD
Directions: taxi (10-20 USD, location destination) or bus from Albrook terminal to Miraflores or Ciudad del Saber (0.25 USD)

This is located at the entrance and exit of the canal on the Pacific side, these locks are the closest to Panama City and, therefore, the most visited. It have a large visitor center, with multiple levels to observe the way of operation of the locks and the transit of ships through them while a guide from the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) explains its operation and history.

The best time to visit is between 9:00 and 11:00 and between 14:00 and 17:00 when boats are most likely to pass through the locks. The Atlantic & Pacific Co. A restaurant offering buffet lunch from 11:30 to 16:00 and a la carte dinners from 16:00 to 23:00. Dining in this restaurant is a good option to admire the locks if you don’t arrive in time to enter the visitors center.

THE PEDRO MIGUEL LOCKS

Hours: 24 hours
Price: free of charge

Directions: taxi (10-20 USD, depending on pick up location) or bus from Albrook terminal to Forestal-Chilibre, Gamboa or Paraiso
Located less than 5km northwest of the Miraflores Locks, the Pedro Miguel Locks do not have any infrastructure for visitors beyond a few parking lots next to a fence through which you can see the locks and boats pass by, while in the distance you can see the Puente Centenario (Centennial Bridge). It’s a free option that can be enjoyed 24 hours a day, so if you only have one night to get to know the canal, look no further.

THE AGUA CLARA LOCKS:

Hours: 8:00 to 16:00
Price: domestic 5 USD, foreigners 15 USD

How to get there: tour to Colon with Panama by Taxi, 250 USD for 8 hours including other attractions
Inaugurated in 2017 as part of the Panama Canal expansion project, the Agua Clara locks are part of the so-called third set of locks that allow the passage of the colossal Neopanamax ships. They are the only locks of the extended canal that can be visited and the best place to see the Neopanamax.

They are located in the province of Colon, on the Atlantic side of the canal, so visiting them from Panama City requires a drive of at least one hour. For visitors arriving by cruise ship to the ports of Colon, this is a better option than Miraflores, as it is closer. I don’t regard it an essential visit since Miraflores is more than enough for most tourists, but if you have a great interest in the canal or its extension, you shouldn’t miss these locks and their visitors center.

The timing of the passage of boats is unpredictable, because of the short time the locks have been in operation, but so far, the chances of seeing the Neopanamax are higher after noon. The visitors center has an audiovisual projection room and a restaurant.

THE GATUN LOCKS:

Hours: variable
Price: free of charge

How to get there: tour to Colon with Panama by Taxi, 250 USD for 8 hours including other attractions
In the past, the Gatun locks were the ones that could be visited on the Atlantic side, but since the Agua Clara locks were put into operation, the Gatun visitor center has been closed and cannot be visited nowadays.

 

However, the Gatun lock swing bridge, the only way to cross the canal on the Atlantic side by road, continues to operate to benefit communities on the Costa Abajo de Colón (Lower Columbus Coast), albeit on a shortened schedule. Since December 12, 2016, the bridge opens Monday to Friday from 5:00 to 9:00 and from 17:00 to 21:00, Saturdays from 5:00 to 9:00 and from 15:00 to 19:00, and Sundays from 15:00 to 19:00. Crossing this bridge is impressive, as it is the only way available for the general public to get as close as possible to the lock chambers.

What makes it especially spectacular if there’s a boat in the chamber, as it allows you to better see the real scale of the ship and the channel. When the bridge is not working, the canal can be crossed with a ferry service that the ACP has established a few kilometers below. This is also free and an interesting experience, even if you don’t go near the locks.

THE AMADOR CAUSEWAY

Entrance to the Panama Canal from the Amador Causeway

Hours: 24 hours
Price: no charge

Directions: taxi (10-15 USD) or bus from Albrook terminal to Miraflores (0.25 USD)

The Calzada de Amador, popularly known as the Calzada. is a street that was built between the islands of Naos, Perico and Flamenco using material that was extracted during the construction of the canal. Once a US military base, it is now a major recreation center for the people of the capital, with bike rental services, a bike lane, a marina, restaurants and bars, and other options of leisure.

Although the locks, the most famous part of the canal, cannot be seen from here, the canal’s entrance to the Pacific is as are the hundreds of ships waiting their turn to enter. The views of Panama City, its skyline and the bay are spectacular, especially at sunset.

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