World Wonder Collecting: Panama Canal


Yes, we’re one of those annoying people that will go out of their way to experience World Wonders. You know, remember the Grand Canyon and Volcan Paricutin? Yeah, we were stoked about the Panama Canal.

The first thing someone should know about when trying to see it is that unless you’re with a tour group, it is a royal pain in the ass to get out there. It is by no means accessible and quite far out of the city.

Secondly, once you do get out there, good luck trying to find your way back. Luckily we saw droves of people leaving and sprinted past them to snag some of the only taxis hanging around.

Thirdly, after all the hassle, while I do appreciate the engineering and ingenuity that went into building something of that magnitude that is still working today, the canal overall is just not that exciting. It was cool to learn that trains pull the boats through the locks.

But this is what the canal really looks like.



And, a video of the trains pulling a boat through – which is kinda cool (sped up quite a bit to save your sanity):

There ya go. That is the Panama Canal. Woo-eee.

PanamaCity-2At least we were blown away at the beauty of the buildings in Panama City. It is supposedly the new Dubai. Most of the high rises there didn’t exist 4 years ago. They are installing an entire metro system in a period of 2 years. It took 10 to build an overpass in Austin!

So my suggestion?

Watch the canal from afar or on the internet. Save the $8 for the small museum tour and packed bleachers in hopes that you’ll catch a glimpse of a boat floating by.

Go sightseeing through the city. Go replace all the rags you call clothes that are in tatters from backpacking. This city is so much more than the Panama Canal.



21 Responses to “World Wonder Collecting: Panama Canal”

  1. Boz November 25, 2011 at 3:12 am #

    Seems you saw it the wrong way round! In 1975 I went through the canal by ship. It was a magic day!

    • Erica November 25, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

      @Boz: If I could have gone THROUGH the canal it would have been freaking AMAZING! It was so hard to get past all the people on the balcony trying to look at a boat go through. 🙁

  2. Peg November 25, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    Thanks for the good info. We might just pass on going to see this one, unless we happen to be ON one of those boats for a world cruise or something.

    I’ve been enjoying your site. I love all the photos!

    • Erica November 25, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

      @Peg: As I was telling Boz – being on the boat would have been a phenomenal experience. You are experiencing the canal rather than simply being a voyeur.

  3. Tran November 25, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    Solid review. Can you believe I’ve been twice! Haha…. If anyone is considering going, here’s how you get there from the main bus terminal:

    • Erica November 25, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

      @Tran: Thanks! Thank you SO MUCH for the info on how to get out there. There isn’t much information about the whole thing. We damn near broke our budget trying to get out there with a taxi. I tried to negotiate and some people would refuse, knowing we couldn’t get out there without them and even drove off with me still holding onto the car!

      • Tran November 25, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

        I hate it when taxi drivers do that. So rude! But you are very welcome. We love sharing tips from our travels. That’s why we started Backpack Forever, and we’re guessing that’s why you started this blog! Looking forward to reading about your adventures in Colombia.

  4. Jason November 26, 2011 at 2:54 am #

    Hey guys. I was waiting for this one. Sounds like you had a bit of a drama on the day. I can honestly say that I may have the same opinion as yours if I had such a hassle getting there and away.

    Also having to watch what is only a small part of the whole operation from a viewing platform would also detract from the day.

    I feel to experience the Panama Canal proper, you must do so from a ship as it sails it’s length, from Atlantic to Pacific. It was something I wanted to see for many years and I’m glad it did it in the manner I did (from a ship).

    Safe travels and enjoy the rest of your journey. It looks like your guys are having a great experience.

    p.s.: I’m like some of your HDR shots Erica. Good work….

    • Erica November 26, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

      @Jason: I really do wish I had the opportunity to go through the locks. It seems like the more authentic way to experience it for sure. Hell, people on the boats were waving to everyone on the balcony.

  5. Amanda November 26, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your honest opinion! While it may be cool to tick off a world wonders list, I’m not sure if I’d bother with the Panama Canal after reading this!

    • Erica November 26, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

      @Amanda: I’ve been mostly impressed by everything we have visited up until this point. Maybe I’m jaded? Regardless, I’m apparently not the only one who wasn’t a fan. 😛

  6. Roy Marvelous November 26, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    Yeah I was distinctly underwhelmed by the Panama canal!

    • Erica November 26, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

      @Roy: I almost wish people knew more about what they were getting into.

  7. Leslie (Downtown Traveler) November 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    Glad I read this! When I finally make it to Panama I’ll skip the canal and check out the city instead 🙂

    • Erica November 27, 2011 at 6:16 pm #

      @Leslie: If you take Tran’s advice it may take a bit longer but it will definitely be cheaper. Still quite expensive to see off a crowded platform.

  8. Victor November 28, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    OK. Chanel is not Wonder any more.

    • Erica November 29, 2011 at 12:37 am #

      @Victor: Sorry! 🙁

  9. Rebecca December 27, 2011 at 1:15 am #

    I was so excited to see the Panama Canal! True, though – where you went is just crowds, crowds, crowds! Highly recommend getting away from the Miraflores Locks and heading to the Gatun Locks, at Colon (which is rated as one of the worst cities in Panama!). We had the whole place practically to ourselves and the guy looking after the place gave us a personal tour. Was pretty cool. There are also a few places close by that you can visit by bus with some interesting history.

    • Erica December 30, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

      @Rebecca: See, I definitely feel like I missed out.

  10. Sky January 18, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    Interesting post! I’ll be heading down to see the Panama Canal in April but my expectations have definitely been lowered…maybe lower expectations will mean I enjoy it more!

    • Erica January 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

      @Sky: Shaun always goes on about how I have high expectations for everything. I need to adopt a mantra like that.

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