3/21/2023     by Amy Mutscher

Top 5 Panama Canal Cruise Shore Excursions

It's been called the "world's greatest shortcut." The Panama Canal is one of seven man-made wonders of the modern world thanks to its engineering genius. Stretching 48 miles between Colón on the Atlantic coast and Panama City on the Pacific coast, it takes up to 10 hours to traverse. A cruise through this region shows you the highlights of Panama, Costa Rica, the Caribbean islands and more. Or book a one-way itinerary spanning the Pacific and Atlantic oceans that lets you experience what makes Panama Canal travel unique: the locks. Plan your week (or two) of adventure: Stroll well-preserved historic quarters, tour UNESCO World Heritage Sites and explore the natural beauty of Central America. Select our top activities for your Panama Canal cruise and come back enriched.
The chance to meet an adorable sloth is certainly nothing to slouch at!

Sloth Sanctuary
Limón, Costa Rica

Support the important mission of this animal enclosure that has been protecting and supporting rescued infant sloths since 1992. Go behind the scenes for an insider’s tour of the nursery, hear the animals’ rescue stories and learn why they're sooo slow. Wildlife rescue centers are so very important to Costa Rica, which covers just 0.03% of Earth’s surface yet contains nearly 6% of the planet’s biodiversity.


Panoramic vistas await those willing to ascend the Cathedral Tower.

Panama La Vieja Historical Monument Complex
Panama City, Panama

Bring your camera to capture the archaeological ruins of Panama Viejo, or Old Panama. This location is where Panama City was founded by Spanish settlers and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site as well as one of the city’s most popular attractions. Follow the self-guided, one-mile circuit among the crumbling walls of the ancient capital, pausing at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Asunción and taking in the views from the Cathedral Tower. The top of the lookout offers panoramic vistas of the medieval ruins set against the backdrop of the modern city.


A game of "I Spy jungle wildlife" while gliding through the jungle's canopy is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Rainforest Aerial Tram
Soberania National Park, Panama

Take a memorable ride on Soberania National Park’s Rainforest Aerial Tram. The tram is a 20-minute ride to a hilltop observation tower where you can train your binoculars on tropical birds in their natural habitat. View the jungle paradise below and keep a sharp eye out for movement as an onboard naturalist describes the park’s wildlife, consisting of more than 525 species of birds, 105 mammals and 120 reptiles and amphibians. Listen carefully for the distinctive cries of howler monkeys echoing through the trees. Located only 17 miles from Panama City, this national treasure is a must-see on your Panama Canal cruise. 


It's hard not to marvel at a miracle of modern engineering.

Gatún Locks
Panama Canal, Panama

Take in the engineering marvel of the Gatún Locks where three locks raise ships 85 feet above sea level. This is the first set of locks on the Atlantic entrance of the Panama Canal. A covered observation deck offers views of Lake Gatún and the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal. Take time to tour the Visitor Center, where you can watch vessels of all sizes traverse the canal and hear bilingual guides explain the crossing procedures.


Lake Arenal serves as the prime setting for a sublime outing.

Kayak, Windsurf or Cruise
Lake Arenal, Costa Rica

The chance to get up close to a real volcano is what draws visitors to man-made Lake Arenal. Kayak across the lake to the base of the Arenal Volcano, which dominates the skyline. More daring visitors may wish to try adrenaline-inducing sports like windsurfing, paddleboarding and sailboarding at one of the most beloved windsurfing destinations in the country. For those seeking a more leisurely pace, book a sunset dinner cruise around the lake for unbeatable views of the highlands of Costa Rica.


Panama on Princess®

There’s no better cruise line for exploring the Panama Canal than Princess Cruises, which has been sailing ships custom-built to handle the massive locks since 1967. Immersive onboard programs bring the Panama Canal and surrounding regions to life. Their Carnaval de Panama Festival of the World program focuses on indigenous music and dance, locally inspired cuisine, expert guest speakers and enrichment classes. Ten-day roundtrip sailings from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Caribbean Princess® boast exciting new amenities and shore adventures to make your vacation so much more than you ever imagined.


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