Dedicated to providing you with credible information about living overseas
Best Places In The World To Retire Community Questions and Answers about living and retiring abroad

Questions & Answers

Q & A Menu Q & A BY TOPIC
To navigate, use menu bar to the left
Captain Carl Davis of Jungle Land Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
There are many, many ways to the see the Panama Canal. Which one is the "best way" depends on each person's tastes and interests. Basically, I can sum up all the different ways as follows:
  1. As others have mentioned, the Miraflores Visitor's center gives you one of the most complete ways of seeing the Canal, as it combines the locks, vessels and history of this giant undertaking. 
  2. Another popular way is to enjoy the train ride that is parallel to the Panama Canal. The train takes you from Panama City to Colon and follows the Canal passageway, which gives you a unique perspective on the Canal.
  3. Many people enjoy the Panama Canal transit, as it is the only option that actually takes you through the locks. 
  4. The last way to see the Panama Canal is to experience it from within. Some might not know this but Lake Gatun and the Chagres River make up 70% of the Canal. Visiting either of those two will give you a unique perspective on the wildlife, flora and other interesting things that make up the Panama Canal. 
Ship transiting through the Panama Canal, as seen from within Lake Gatun – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingI have taken the liberty to post a very interesting video that shows some of the huge ships and vessels going through the Panama Canal. All of the scenes where taken from within Lake Gatun (Option number 4). I hope you enjoy it!
Barbara Socarraz of Panama Vida – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Panama Canal Museum in Old Town Panama City Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingI just took a 6 hour boat trip through the canal.
 
The guide spoke English and Spanish and I found that it was not only informative but I was actually experiencing the canal.
 
A "must see" is the canal museum in the old town.  I spent over an hour in there with my son and we both walked out with our jaws dropped open.
Alexandre Moreno  of EPA Español en Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The Panama Canal is awesome; one Overlooking the Panama Canal at the Miraflores Locks – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Livingof the iconic and touristic places to visit in Panama. I have been there many times and every time I discover a new feature and story.
 
There are different options to see the Panama Canal.  For example, you can go to the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center and you will have the opportunity to see the history, process and functions of the Canal.
 
It's amazing how the Panamanians administer the Canal, as one of the most important sources of income to the Panamanian economy. You will see the ships process at 10 AM or 2 PM but everything will depend on the schedule that the ships have that day.
Lourdes Townshend of Multimodal  & Logistic Transports Magazine – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account

1)  History – construction.

The PANAMA CANAL runs for 48 miles across the Isthmus of Panamá

A significant event that influenced the construction of the Panamá Canal was the discovery of gold in California around 1849, which made it very important to be able to cross between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  To serve this need to cross the isthmus, the Panamá Railway was constructed and opened in 1855.

The original construction of the Panamá Canal had innumerable problems.  One of them was health-related, for which a man named  William Gorgas was appointed as chief of sanitation in order to protect the tens of thousands of workers.  Given that these workers were from all over the world, it set Panamá as a place of with many different ethnic groups, a status that it keeps until the present.

The building of the Canal required approximately 47,000,000 cubic yards of excavation, creating, in part, the Gatún Dam and Gatún Lake, both of great size, and which are essential for the Canal to function.

Since 1999, the Canal is fully run by Panamanian  “Autoridad del Canal de Panamá” (ACP).  The Canal was completed and formally opened  on August 15, 1914 (which is also the date of the founding of the city of Panamá), so the country is celebrating the Canal centennial this 2014.  The first ship that crossed the Canal was the “Ancón”.  In different ways (primary among them the engineering necessary to complete the canal), the Panamá Canal was named by UNESCO as one of the Eight Wonders of the World.  The significance of the Canal is also due to its importance for the worldwide commerce, in which Panamá has played a very important role since the 15th century, when all the gold was passed through from South América to Spain, which history tells us happened 400 years after Balboa first crossed the Isthmus of Panamá.

Today, the Panamá Railway is one of the attractions must visited by tourists, traveling from the city of Panamá to the city of Colón on a daily basis, as well as transporting thousands of tons of freight containers from the large ports of Manzanillo (Atlantic) and Panamá Ports (Pacific).  This is of great importance in the world, taking freight into and from the ships going into the Panamá Canal.

The Panamá Canal has 3 pairs of  locks:

  • Miraflores (Pacific Ocean)
  • Pedro  Miguel (Pacific side)
  • Gatún (Atlantic Ocean)

Currently, these locks are 110 feet wide, but with the expansion under construction due to be completed in 2015 or maybe a bit afterwards, the Canal will have capacity for bigger ships, the "Post-Panamax", saving millions of dollars to maritime companies.  Each year, 14,000 ships transit the canal.  The expansion of the locks are expected to double or triple that in the future.  The approximate time for a freight ship to transit by the Canal is 25 hours.

2)  Visiting the Canal:

Visitors are always attracted to visit an exceptional worldwide tourist site, so in response, tour operators and cruise lines have designed several ways by which visitors can enjoy every aspect of it, from the original construction to the great ongoing expansion (which is expected to cost over $US 5 billion).

The best known are:

  • By a Panamá Canal cruise, which stops at the Gatún locks (Atlantic Ocean) and where visitors are taken to different places in Panamá.  Or, they continue to Europe, through a complete Canal transit.
  •  Local visitors go to the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center in the city of Panamá.  The entrance fee is about $10, which includes access to the 4 story museum, a 10 minute video and all the time you want at the center, watching the ships passing by at a very short distance of about 30 meters from you.  You can easily take pictures or interact with ship passengers as they transit.  This is an exceptional experience.  You can also enjoy eating lunch at the restaurant by the terrace as you watch the ships pass by.  The best time to visit is from early morning through 3 PM, when the fluidity of ships are better.
  • Others like to visit the Gatún locks, if they are in the area, which are a little smaller but equally informative.  There is a restaurant available in which you can be eating and watching the ships at the same time.  If you go before the new lock doors are installed, you can view history by seeing these new locks.  After they are installed, they will be inside the canal forever.
  • If you go via a small cruise ship or have your own yacht, you can enjoy stopping at Fort Amador, better known as the “Causeway”, which is the entrance of the Canal at the Pacific Ocean.  There is also a nice hotel by the Canal, and several picturesque restaurants and shops to enjoy during your stay.  If not, you may enjoy just a visit here, and experience an “oasis” on your trip.  There's the ocean on both sides and the nicest breeze.  You might like to ride a bicycle or skateboard for exercise, and then, complete your experience with a yummy ice cream (after all that exercise).  Due to traffic, it may take you about 45 minutes to get to the Causeway from the center of the city. (On Sunday there is much less traffic.)
  • Locals love to go to the Pedro Miguel locks and park their cars while watching the ships crossing the Canal.  This is an open area that's also free, and you can stay for as long as you want, as long as you comply with requirements of cleanliness, security, and no radios.
  • Take a trip by train.  Especially if you have children, this is a wonderful and fun way to see the Canal.   It takes 1.5 hours, and you can purchase coffee or pastries on board.  It´s air conditioned and very pleasant.  The train departs the city of Panamá at 7 AM, and returns at 5 PM.  Upon your arrival into the city of Colón, you might like to contact (in advance) a professional tour operator to take you to the Free Zone, the Gatún Locks Visitor Centrer, or the Meliá Hotel and Visitor Center and enjoy a pay-day at a pool and lunch, or just hang around the pool.  If you visit Colón, always take a tour operator in advance, with references, as the train station is an isolated area, and not recommended if you do not know the area.​​
  • Partial or full Canal transit is another good option, in the city of Panamá.  Boats leave from Fort Amador (Causeway) and you can book in advance.  Tours include lunches and snacks.  The partial tour is 4 hours (from Panamá to Gamboa), and full tour is 8 hours, from Panamá to Colón.   From there, they bring you back via special and comfortable buses, through a modern express highway between the two cities.

 

 

 

 

 

Dennis Dean Smith of DennisDeanSmith – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account

There is now a new way to view the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal Expansion Observation panama canal expansion, panama, colon – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingCenter (Centro de Observación de la Ampliación del Canal de Panamá) is open. The center overlooks the construction of the Gatun Locks on the Colon entrance to the Panama Canal from 50 feet up. A visit is a nice, comfortable way to see something unique. (You can get to it by car, Canal boat tour or the Panama Canal Railway.) Facilities include restaurants, souvenir shops, exhibits and video presentations. There are also nature trails to relax on. Nice. The Center is open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  

Dennis Dean Smith of DennisDeanSmith – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account

Is seeing the Panama Canal up close and personal a great experience? Bill Gates thinks panama canal, panama, bill gates, tour, locks, miraflores – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Livingso. Last year he brought his wife and family to do the half-day tour to the Miraflores Locks (near Clayton). The Panama Canal Authority even let him push the button to open the locks. Did Mr. Gates think the Canal was worthwhile? Gates wrote on his personal blog how much he enjoyed the trip and how amazing the Canal engineering is. If you are in Panama you owe yourself the pleasure of seeing the Canal.

Anne Gordon de Barrigón of Whale Watching Panama/Emberá Village Tours – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
One of the best ways to see the Panama canal is on the Colon or Caribbean side of the canal at the Gatun locks.  I recommend doing both the Miraflores locks as has been very well described in the other posts, and the Gatun locks. 
Gatun Locks, Colon, Panama
At the Gatun locks you have all three chambers of locks right in front of you.  From the upper viewing area, you are literally so close to the ships, you can hold a conversation with the ship's crew as they pass in front of you!
 
After spending time at the Gatun locks, you can drive across a small swing bridge in front of the lock gates, where you could easily throw a rock and hit the gates as you pass by.  You can make a fun day out of your excursion by continuing on a short distance through the jungle, often passing howler monkeys in the trees out to the 16th century Spanish Fort San Lorenzo. 
Fort San Lorenzo, Colon, Panama This fort is located at the mouth of the Chagres river and is fun to explore and feel learn about the history of the Spanish, and pirates that all once inhabited this place.
 
You can use the historic Panama canal railway to get to Colon to see the Gatun locks and Fort San Lorenzo and/or hire a tour guide to take you there or drive a rental car over.  We offer this tour among others at Emberá Village Tours.
 
Nicolas Baldrich of Coronado Golf & Beach Resort – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The Panama Canal is one of the engineering marvels of the world. Its a MUST SEE if you are visiting Panama. 
 
I would say that the best way to visit the Panama Canal is to do one of the many transit cruises. Its not everyday you can say you have transited the Panama Canal. The cruise I have done stars in Gatun Lake, 85 feet above sea level. The cruise takes you through Gaillard cut the most narrow stretch of the Panama Canal. First set of locks are the Pedro Miguel locks witch takes you down to the Miraflores Lake where you are served lunch while you wait for the last set of Locks. The Miraflores locks takes you down to sea level on the Pacific side. Then you cruise all the way to the Causeway where you get a great panoramic view of the Panama Canal and the Skyline of Panama.
 
I Also recommend visiting the Miraflores Visitors Center, preferably first thing in the morning. That is where the Panama Canal Museum is. They also have a little movie theater where you will be shown a short documentary explaining how the Panama Canal was built, how it works, and the Panama Canal expansion project due to be finished in 2014. From the Miraflores Visitors Center you can also see from the side lines how the boats go up and down the locks.
 
 
 
gabriel illescas of SIUMA REALTY – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The best way to see the Panama Canal is by going to the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center. It is going to be the most amazing experience since you can see the past, present, and future of the Panama Canal. The museum is absolutely wonderful.  Then you can go the main deck and watch the vessels do their transit from Atlantic to Pacific or vice versa. If you want to take your experience further, then you can google "Panama Canal Transit" and instead of being at the Visitor's Center you will be in a boat crossing the Canal with a bunch of people. The transit includes a meal and drinks.  It's a one in a life time experience. 
Natalia Gomez of Panama Travel Unlimited – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
One of the best ways to visit the Panama Canal is taking a taxi to Amador (it should be between $5 and $8 if you are in the central area of Panama City)... Once in the visitor center, you will have to pay a fee ($8 for adult tourists) and you can stay there as long as you want. The best times to see ships crossing the Canal are early in the morning (between 8 AM and 10 AM) and after noon (between 1 PM and 3 PM).
 

Go Here Next

Go Here Next

 
Best Places In The World To Retire Expat Stories contains text, video, and photos by people just like you who are already living abroadUse the menu on this page to go to categories of Stories.
Best Places In The World To Retire Community Questions and Answers about living and retiring abroadUse the menu on this page to go to other categories of questions.
The Best Places In The World To Retire Location Advisor makes personalized recommendations for where to live and retire overseasGet matched to your ideal location to live abroad.
Best Places In The World To Retire Community Questions and Answers about living and retiring abroadAnswers about living, working or visiting abroad.
Best Places In The World To Retire Expat Stories contains text, video, and photos by people just like you who are already living abroadStories by expats & others about their life aborad.
Best Places In The World To Retire - MarketplaceFind for profit, non-profit and religious organizations.
 

Go Here Next

 
Best Places In The World To Retire Expat Stories contains text, video, and photos by people just like you who are already living abroadUse the menu on this page to go to categories of Stories.
Best Places In The World To Retire Community Questions and Answers about living and retiring abroadUse the menu on this page to go to other categories of questions.
The Best Places In The World To Retire Location Advisor makes personalized recommendations for where to live and retire overseasGet matched to your ideal location to live abroad.
Best Places In The World To Retire Community Questions and Answers about living and retiring abroadAnswers about living, working or visiting abroad.
Best Places In The World To Retire Expat Stories contains text, video, and photos by people just like you who are already living abroadStories by expats & others about their life aborad.
Best Places In The World To Retire - MarketplaceFind for profit, non-profit and religious organizations.
 

Our Pledge To You

Best Places will present information from the Community in a transparent way, unedited, except to conform with our Conditions of Use.

You can trust that Best Places does not manipulate content to sell you anything. All opinions in the Community Q & A and Expat Stories are those of its authors, not Best Places.

Get Known To The Community

Those who contribute to the Best Places Community are our heroes! And being a Best Places hero is fast, fun, and easy. Just go to Questions & Answers, find your first question to answer, click on it, and then click the Contribute Your Answer To This Question Button. If you’d rather enter a Story, go to Expat Stories and click the Contribute Your Story Button".

Contact/Support

Please contact us. We would love to hear from you! Customer Service
Technical Support
Business Development
Suggestions
Press
Phone: (US) 520-940-0481