A stunning feat of engineering and a breathtaking display
of nature, the Panama Canal is waterway that begs to be
explored. A Panama Canal cruise has become the best new
way to visit Central America.
The Panama Canal connects the Pacific to the Atlantic
Ocean, and ever since it opened in 1914 it has become
a hub for trade and tourism. Control of the canal was
handed over to Panama five years ago, in 1999 by the United
States as part of an agreement made in 1977. While not
being as developed as other tourist destinations around
the world, Panama Canal cruises have experienced a boom
in visitors, and today growing to be a scenic and approachable
place with great value.
Panama cruises enter the Miraflores locks, where hundreds
of tourists marvel as the enormous ships are lowered and
raised in a feat of engineering. Lake Gatun is where most
of the water in the canal comes from. For the adventuresome
there is a nighttime expedition to watch the crocodiles
The Amador Causeway, formerly part of a military base, is made up of stones salvaged from the Culebra. The causeway is a raised roadway lines with shopping, restaurants, bars and hotels. You can find the Smithsonian Institution Tropical Research Institute, home to stunning displays of the exotic creatures that inhabit the Caribbean and the Pacific.
Over half the population of Panama lives in the capitol,
and Spanish is the primary language that is spoken here.
It is an adventure to try Sancocho , a well-known
dish throughout the Caribbean that is a savory stew of pork and vegetables. In Panama
many excellent restaurants are to be found - from Spanish
inspired seafood restaurants to well prepared and fresh
Mexican restaurants. Whether the cuisine they serve is
French, Spanish or English the restaurant usually has
a Spanish name.
Old forts and enormous canons are testament to the history here. Spanish ruins and dollar friendly shopping await you in Panama City. Gleaming luxury vacation homes and interesting colonial architecture, as well as the gleaming pure gold altar of the Church of San Jose give you a feel for the historical significance of Panama Viejo, or old Panama.
Although it is the highlight of every visit, Panama has more to offer than the canal. One of them being the Gamboa Arial Tram, a ride through the upper rainforest canopy, where you can see animals such as the sloth, the toucan, the howler monkey and many others in their native habitat. For another singular experience visit the shores of the Gatun Lake, where the Embera Indian villagers continue to live today much as they did in the time of Christopher Columbus's arrival in 1519.
Mountains, rivers, coasts, rainforest, and of course the canal provide a diversity of experience that is unlike any other Panama Tours. If you had the money you could purchase one of the tiny islands that dot Gatun Lake, but you would be allowed to build only a grass hut on it.
Visiting Panama is a great value. Your dollar goes far here, and there is always room for negotiation. You will enjoy the lively culture, spectacular views, rich and hearty food, and more than anything the warmth and spirit of the people of this Central American country.