The Queen Victoria navigating the Panama Canal, Panama
The Queen Victoria navigating the Panama Canal, Panama

Panama Canal

The basics

The best way for Panama visitors to see the canal is to literally get in the middle of it—on a transit or partial transit boat tour at sea level. You can experience the sensation of cruising directly through the canal, watching as the locks fill with water and your ship passes steadily through the three sets of double locks(the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel locks on the Pacific side, plus the Gatún locks on the Atlantic side).

Between the locks is the artificial Gatún Lake (Lago Gatún), created by the Gatún Dam across the Chagres River (Rio Chagres), and the Culebra Cut, the narrowest section of the canal, hewn out of the mountains. It's also possible to see the locks by train, as you pass by the banks and through pristine rain forest en route to Gatún.

Most full- and half-day tours include roundtrip transportation and a visit to the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center, which tells the story of this incredible engineering feat through exhibits. The center's restaurant, theater, and terraced decks also provide comfortable vantage points for watching ships pass through. You can also visit the Gatún locks (about an hour from Panama City) to learn about the Panama Canal expansion.

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Ocean to Ocean Panama Canal and Jungle Tour
Ocean to Ocean Panama Canal and Jungle Tour
$135.00 per adult
Traveler Favorite
Well planned and operated.
The tour guide, driver and bus were excellent. Our boat trip to islands to find wildlife and lunch were very enjoyable.
George_S, Apr 2024

Things to know before you go

  • By booking ahead with a guided tour, there's a much higher likelihood of actually seeing the famous Panama Canal in action.

  • Travelers can make self-guided visits to the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center in Panama City and the Canal Expansion Observation Center in Colon on the Caribbean Sea.

  • Stop in for a meal at the Miraflores Restaurant at the Panama Canal to dine while viewing the ships cruise by.

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How to get there

Arrive at the canal via boat, train, bus, or car. The Miraflores Locks Visitor Center has parking, but most visitors arrive as part of a group sightseeing tour with a tour guide.

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When to get there

The morning hours and late afternoon are the best times for actually watching a ship pass through the canal.

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Nearby attractions

A few tours depart from the town of Gamboa, situated at the end of the Gaillard Cut on the Chagres River in the Gamboa Rainforest. Neighboring SoberanÌa National Park—home to diverse bird species, sloths, and jaguars—and Embera village are also popular. The Amador Causeway (Calzada de Amador) is also worth a trip; this narrow strip of land is a popular spot for recreation.

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Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
What are the nearest attractions to Panama Canal?