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Adventure Cruises in Panama Canal
A Panama Canal Cruise offers you the chance to sail along one of world’s most famous man-made waterways. Constructed in the late 1800s and early 1900s, several countries were involved in the building of the 77-kilometre-long canal. A highly significant canal, it opened up numerous trade and transport possibilities; it was revolutionary for its day.
Connecting the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, there are locks at either end of the canal. Cruises through the Panama Canal, Panama, take you along historic trading channels, let you appreciate the area’s history, show you picturesque scenes of Panama’s life, nature, and landscapes, and offer a wealth of activities and fun.
Cruise areas that use the Panama Canal to transit
There are various cruise areas that use the Panama Canal to transit. These include:
Pearl Islands Archipelago - The Pearl Islands Archipelago is a group of more than 200 islands and islets, many of which are not inhabited by humans. Situated in the Gulf of Panama, they are scenic with plenty of wildlife. If you get a feeling of deja vu, don’t be alarmed; the islands are popular filming spots for various reality TV shows. Striking sandy beaches are backed by verdant patches and craggy volcanic rocks, the golden sands meeting sparkling blue waters. Dolphins and humpback whales are common sights during the summer, and you can take to the waters and explore by kayak, paddleboard, or skiff.
Guna Yala - Guna Yala is another favourite destination to discover onboard a Panama Canal cruise. The Caribbean Sea is to the north of the area, and the lands are the historic home of the Gunas indigenous people. Observe one of the best-preserved Native cultures in all of the Americas, and learn more about the local heritage. Wander past quaint homes with thatched roofs and buy local handicrafts. Molas, parts of traditional outfits, are especially great to take home as a gift or souvenir. Take it easy and sunbathe on breathtakingly beautiful shores, occasionally dipping your toes into the crystal clear waters. From your adventure cruise, you can discover an array of underwater life with snorkelling adventures and have a workout with kayaking or paddleboarding.
Darien Jungle - Make like an intrepid explorer and head into the Darien Jungle. A rugged and untamed area that has been largely untouched by humans, you can have more cultural encounters at a local Embera village. The welcoming locals will regale you with tales of local life and unusual customs. Take the opportunity to support local ventures and buy some of the lovely handmade baskets. Traverse the Mogue River in a dugout canoe and spot plenty of flora and fauna, including raccoons and various bird types. Creatures that live in the nearby waters include sea turtles, dolphins, and small sharks. The Punta Patino Nature Reserve offers excellent hiking.
Chagres River - Sail along the Chagres River as part of your Panama small ship cruise and travel along the same stretches of water that were used for the transportation of gold. Go ashore and visit the UNESCO-listed Fort San Lorenzo, feeling the whispers from the past in the evocative surroundings. It’s also a prime spot for birdwatching and activities on the water.
Gatun Lake - The artificial Gatun Lake is a key destination for nature lovers and was once the world’s biggest man-made lake. Created by the construction of the Gatun Dam, today it offers an assortment of leisure activities, including fishing. Barro Colorado Nature Monument is at the heart of scientific and ecological work, and a visit allows you to learn more about the rich flora and fauna of the island and the surrounding lake.
Top Tips for visiting Panama Canal on a cruise
- Take an umbrella and raincoat if you plan to visit during the wet season; showers and storms can be very unpredictable.
- Binoculars are handy for spotting distant wildlife and zoom lenses for your camera to ensure the best photographs.
- Whilst you will get some insights into the Panama Canal’s importance during your cruise, some advance reading about its construction and uses is highly recommended so that you fully appreciate the waterway.
Best time to cruise through the Panama Canal
Many people opt to visit Panama in the dry season, from mid-December to mid-April. This is also, therefore, when prices for a Panama Cruise are often at their highest. The best time to take a Panama Canal Cruise is, based on price, generally during the spring or autumn. A Panama Canal cruise in November can be quite wet, and there’s a high chance of storms and short showers from April to July.
Where do Panama Canal cruises depart from?
You can embark upon a Panama small ship cruise which uses the famous canal from several locations throughout Panama and neighbouring Costa Rica. Departure points in Panama include Colon and Flamenco Marina in the capital of Panama City. Costa Rican departure points include Puntarenas and Herradura.
The main airport to use for your Panama Canal cruise is Tocumen International Airport (PTY) in Panama City. There are good onward connections to all cruise departure points from here, though the closest is Flamenco Marina. Numerous international flights land in Panama City.
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