With Panama Canal Tours, we boast quite a trip. Take in the abundance of luscious green forests, turquoise waters, sandy white beaches. You will also see a spectacular variety of wildlife.
Located to the north of Colombia, and to the south of Costa Rica, Panama is the only place in the world where you can watch the sunrise on the Pacific coast and set on the Atlantic. Rainforest Cruises has selected the best Panama Canal cruise to make your once-in-a-lifetime adventure the best yet!
What Other Travelers are Saying ...
Panama is a small country with a population of some 3 million people. Yet its culture and local traditions are entirely unique. Take this once-in-a-lifetime trip to make lasting memories.
Panamanian customs can vary when you visit. Partake in the local gran diablo dance, alluding to the struggle between god and the underworld. Or purchase the traditional pollera, a large skirt embroidered with colorful patterns.
Don’t forget to experiment with your taste buds. Satiate your appetite, and increase your palate. At restaurants, try the national dish, sancocho de gallina, made with chicken, corn, and cassava. Fried hojaldras will start your day with some savory pastries. Plantanitos and yuca frita -- strips of fried plantain and yucca root respectively -- make for tasty, salty snacks during your tours. On the hottest days, enjoy the local snow cones which are called raspados, and often come with condensed milk.
Panama’s tropical environment is the home to the most diverse wildlife in Central America due to having rainforest biomes. The biomes have at least 9,915 known species of plant, 218 known species of mammal and 302 known species of bird inhabiting the country. Scientists study these plants to cure deadly diseases, and you may see history in progress when visiting. Examples include jaguars, parrots, sloths and the harpy eagle, Panama’s national bird.
We've done the hard work for you by selecting the best Panama Canal cruise option, with an itinerary that covers just about everything: Panama City & Canal, Gatun Lake, Darien Jungle, Tropical Pearl Islands, and more. Remember that Panama Cruise departures are limited, the vessel typically fills up fast, well-ahead of time. Cruises often sell out 6 to 9 months in advance, so book ahead to avoid disappointment.
Panama Canal Cruises
Panama City & Canal
The capital and largest city in Panama with a population of more than 880,000, the city are located on the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. The city was initially founded in 1519 by the Spanish. They would use it as a base for conquests into the Incan empire, to obtain gold and other valuable resources.
In 1671, however, the city was burnt to the ground after Henry Morgan, a Welsh pirate sacked the city and then set it ablaze. The city was then reconstructed 2 years later in 1673, 5 miles Southwest of the original settlement. You can enjoy the modern capital, and visit the old one. The site of this previously destroyed city is still in ruins.
Despite the colonial devastation and legacy, the former capital is a popular tourist destination locally known as Panama Viejo. We want to honor the history and never forget the price of gold, which also had a cost of human lives.
The Panama Canal is a 48-mile long shipping lane that connects the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic. Constructed by the Americans in 1914, it can take between 8-30 hours to cross. Statisticians estimate that around 15,000 ships use the canal each year.
In the modern-day, we consider the Panama Canal an architectural wonder. This passage saves ships from having to travel across Cape Horn at the very tip of South America. Although it can cost a large ship some 3,000 dollars to pass, this is a mere fraction in comparison to the money saved from having to travel up and down the coasts of South America.
The history of the canal’s construction is also remarkable because it set trends for engineering and sanitation. Previous attempts to build the canal failed because the jungle’s hazards, along with yellow fever and malaria, endangered and stymied the laborers. When President Theodore Roosevelt approved the project in the 1910s, he ensured that a sanitation officer was on the job.
William C. Gorgas set standards for reducing mosquito infestations and increasing clean water supplies, both significant factors in reducing malaria. Since mosquitoes breed in stagnant bodies of water, making sure lakes and reservoirs were clean of the eggs made a difference. So did fumigation and establishing mosquito nets. Dozens of lives were saved from the deadly disease.
Don’t forget that when you visit the Panama Canal, you are seeing more than transportation in action. You are also witnessing human innovation in the face of insurmountable odds.
Darien National Park
You can find a vast jungle within Darien National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site. It is the largest national park in Central America covering some 3,500 square miles. Within the larger Darién Gap, the park is commonly known as a natural bridge between North and South America.
Darien National Park consists of a variety of different terrains and habitats. Each varies from rocky coastlines to sandy beaches, swampland to the tropical rainforest. This rainforest is commonly known as the Darién Gap. The gap acts as the only break in the 30,0000-mile-long Pan American highway that stretches from Patagonia up to northern Alaska.
The rainforest has maintained a vast diversity of wildlife. You may not see these creatures in zoos, or even in textbooks. They are quite unique and some are even endangered due to scarcity and habitat loss. By taking a visit, you get to appreciate natural wonders in your lifetime.
On land, you can find rare species that have adapted to humans, thanks to the crops we nurture to feed millions. Observe the endangered Spotted Paca, one example of a rodent that loves agricultural corn and sugar cane and can swim for miles on end. Watch out for anteaters, who always hunt for common insects. Local cats include jaguars and ocelots, which can prove remarkably territorial.
Take care when crossing the water, which is also brimming with life. While the American crocodile haunts our nightmares, they have smaller fish to fry while floating in the water and sunbathing. Tapirs, mammals with short trunks, enjoy rolling in the mud and walking along the river bottom
Would you rather see monkeys and primates? You can in the Darién Gap. Meanwhile, the Black-Headed Spider Monkey serves as the circus clown of the jungle. Their prehensile tail allows them to navigate the trees and vines with def acrobatics, acting as a fifth limb.
Darien Jungle also hosts two different indigenous tribes, the Embera and Kuna Indians. Despite centuries of invasion from outside forces, they have inhabited the area since before Spanish colonization. We will see these villages emerge from the dense jungle landscape as we travel upstream through the rainforest in motorized crafts.
When we pause to see these villages, the unique lifestyle and complete self-dependence of the people is overwhelmingly apparent. These indigenous tribesmen are master crafters in Cocobolo wood carvings and basketry. We will be able to see them make such treasures in action; feel free to make purchases to support the tribes. The Darien Jungle is one of the last remaining places in the world in which people inhabit a protected ecosystem.
The Pearl Islands consist of a group of around 200 islands and islets (most of which are uninhabited) that lie some 30 miles west of Panama. The Spanish gave the name ‘the Pearl Islands’ in 1513 due to the abundance of pearls that were found.
Due to its history, visitors can find multiple opportunities to enjoy themselves. The American Survivor show was filmed on the islands. You can also find pirate lore since the buccaneers would use the isolated spaces to lodge between voyages.
Contadora Island has the most luxurious lodges.
The Pearl Islands are simply spectacular. Crystal clear waters with white sand beaches and lush vegetation combine to give this island the aesthetically pleasing landscape that beach-dwellers and scuba diving enthusiasts can only imagine.
We will have the chance to swim, snorkel and kayak in the precious waters. In addition, you all will have the opportunity to view the remains of ‘The Explorer’ submarine, which was built in 1865 during the Civil War and sunk off the coast of San Telmo. We will also have the chance to join divers on their search for pearls.
The islands also hold some of the finest marine and bird reservations in the world. Humpback whales use the surrounding water as a breeding ground and dolphins are also commonly seen. You can see cetacean socializing in action, and baby whales coming to the surface.
The famous ‘blue-footed booby’ bird is also an inhabitant of the island. This spectacular species of bird as probably inferred from the name, has a very distinguishable feature - its bright blue feet. The male birds use their blue feet as part of an elegant mating ritual by lifting their feet up and down in front of the female bird whilst strutting around. Essentially, the best “dance” between the birds determine who will nest together.
These birds also face pirates of the sea. Frigate birds will harass the blue-foots when they hunt for fish in the open water, forcing them to drop their food. Despite that, the blue-footed hunters never give up, because they have families to feed. Seek out the piracy, and admire the battle between these seabirds.
Don’t forget to visit Gatun Lake when eyeing the canal. In 2017, it turned one hundred years old, to commemorate four years' worth of construction. This artificial lake is an essential part of the Panama Canal, which forms a water passage between the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean. Engineers dammed the Chagres River to make the lake, which at its formation was one of the largest artificial ones in the world.
On Gatun Lake, you can visit the man-made islands as well. Barro Colorado Island was one of the few hilltops that survived the flooding that ensued from damming up the Chagres. Later the US government established it as a nature preserve, which allows scientists to study the isolated ecology.
Gatun Lake also provides the millions of gallons of water necessary to operate the Canal locks. Each time a ship has to pass through, the water must flow. The lake also provides drinking water for the residents of Panama City. Such dual purposes make it highly useful and beautiful.