When one travels to Panama the one thing most people come to see is the Panama Canal. Rather than go through the history etc. I’ll let you either Google it for yourself or you can read more here or explore some of the suggestions from my other posts at the bottom of this one.
The Cliff Note version is the 48-mile-long (77.25 km for those of us on the metric system) canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It was finishd by the U.S. in 1914 after 10 years of work. The U.S. administered the canal until 1977, then handed it over to Panama. It is an income generating behemoth for the Republic of Panama and has allowed the country to complete many infrastructure projects while keeping taxes low.
The canal is almost finished its expansion, the first in a 100 years and it will be able to handle ships three times as large as what it can accommodate. There is some controversy ongoing about leakage in some points of the canal itself but it seems that now, neither the Canal Authority nor the contractors themselves seem too concerned about it, at least for now.
There are several outdoor viewing points where one can stop along the roadway but the Miraflores Visitors Center/Museum is the place to go to learn about the history of the canal, watch a few movies, pretend to sit at the command station and even pretend you’re a pilot bringing a ship through. The cost is $15.00 for non-residents, $10.00 for children 6 to 12, and $3.00 for residents, $1.50 if you want to use your Jubliado/Retiree Discount, and $2.00 for resident children/students.
Some people might find the Visitors Center crowded and a little too touristy. For this visit Prima Mejor and I went on a Sunday. It was off-season so it was actually quite pleasant. I usually like to have the lovely but pricey buffet at the restaurant for lunch but we skipped it this time. If you’d like to take in this option go mid-morning and when you arrive go up to the restaurant and reserve for lunch which is somewhat cheaper and more informal than dinner. We like to book a table outside where we can relax and watch the ships go through the locks. There are also other items on the menu but the buffet has among the best food we’ve ever eaten in Panama and is well worth the price for at least your first visit or if you have guests.
After exploring the Visitors Center we decided to take a cab and not wait for a Metro Bus or taking the much maligned “Red Tourist Bus” that was at the curb. The driver offered to take us up to Ancon Hill which we readily agreed to. At first, we had our doubts about his capabilities of delivering us safely because there was some confusion about where we were taking the bus to the following day. Once we got over the misunderstanding and questions about why we weren’t flying but that we were taking the bus to Pedasi and not Tennessee all was good and the conversation continued about his son that studied in Toronto what it is like living…in the campo.