How to Visit Panama Canal - Engineering Marvel Connecting Two Oceans

One of the “must see” things when visiting Panama City is the Panama Canal. This artificial 82 km (51 mi) waterway was built over a 100 years ago to connect Atlantic and Pacific oceans and still remains as one of the most challenging projects ever undertaken. It shaves off 9,300 miles (15,000 km) from the journey between east and west coasts of the United States and more than 13,000 ships pass through it every year. If you are in Panama City, the closest place to see the canal is Miraflores Locks. They are easily reachable by a public bus or a taxi, but you can also join the tour to make things easy.

Towing mules pull the ship
Towing mules pull the ship towards the locks

Best time to visit the Panama Canal

The best time to visit the Panama Canal is from December to April. Panama in general has two seasons – dry and wet. Dry season runs from December to April. Naturally, it is also the busiest time to visit the Panama Canal.  The wet season lasts from May to beginning of December. And even though rain is frequent during the wet season, it rains in short bursts and the skies clear up again. The temperature is fairly constant throughout the year ranging from 25 to 30°C (75-85°F).

The best time to visit the Panama Canal is from the middle of January, when the holiday crowds leave, to the end of April, when the rains pick up. That is also when you can expect to find cheaper accommodation and also enjoy nice weather. If you travel between end of December to mid January you can expect more people, but it is still a good time to visit the Panama Canal.

The worst time to visit the Panama Canal is in November. This month boasts the most heavy and frequent rainfall. In addition, this time of year has the most public holidays when most places are closed. It is also the busiest time for local travelers and the hotels can be more expensive with scanty availability.

Miraflores Locks
Miraflores Locks - Panama Canal

How to visit the Panama Canal?

The easiest way to visit the Panama Canal from Panama City is by going to the Miraflores Locks. Miraflores Visitors Center is located just outside the city and is easily reachable from the center. It features an interactive museum where you can learn about the history and operations of the canal. It also has several viewing platforms where you can watch the transit ships enter the lock gates. When preparing for a visit, plan to go in the late morning or late afternoon when you can see the most ships in action.

Panama City Taxi
A taxi trip to Panama Canal can get much cheaper if you speak Spanish

How to get to the Panama Canal (Miraflores Locks)

There are several options how to get to Miraflores Locks to visit the Panama Canal. 

The cheapest option to get to Miraflores Locks

Take a subway to Albrook Bus Terminal. From there, you can take a direct bus to Miraflores Visitor center. It is the cheapest option, but the buses are not that frequent.

The fastest option to get to Miraflores Locks

Take a taxi. It costs about $10 to go to Miraflores by taxi, but it largely depends on your negotiation and Spanish language skills. It also may cost more to go back, because drivers know they have less competition taking the tourists back to the city. You can also negotiate with the taxi driver to wait for you while you visit the Miraflores Locks and drive you back, but it will cost more.

The easiest option to get to Miraflores Locks and to visit the Panama Canal

If you you don’t want to bother with organizing the trip yourself, you can join a tour. Some tours include transfers from your hotel and back, admission fees and a guide. But while it is the easiest way to experience the Panama Canal, it is also much more expensive than doing it yourself.

Panama City
On the way to the Panama Canal
Ship entering Miraflores Locks
A ship approaching Miraflores Locks

The lock system is a simple, bet yet very effective way for ships to go up and down the hills by altering the level of water in the canal. To go up, the boat enters from one side, then the lock is filled up with water thus raising the ship and then it cruises out from the other side. 

Ship entering Miraflores Locks
Panama Canal Lock Gates
Panama Canal lock gates
A ship entering MIraflores Locks
A ship entering Miraflores Locks


Always on a look out for a new place to visit and exciting food to try. Loves exploring Asia, snorkeling, mountain roads and hoppy ales. Hates crowded beaches, bland food and wet shoes.