The Panama Canal: Miraflores Locks

Panama Canal Miraflores Locks

See the locks in action as boats from around the world pass through the Panama Canal, considered one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century.

One of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century stretches 50 miles across Panama, connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, along with routes that serve 160 countries and 1,700 ports around the world. The French attempted to build the Panama Canal in the 1880s but failed miserably due to poor planning, engineering issues and tropical diseases that killed upwards of 20,000 workers. The United States stepped in in 1902, purchasing the French assets and supporting the Panamanian revolt against Colombia in order to gain approval to build the canal as well as have control over it via the Canal Zone: a 500-square-mile area including and surrounding the canal that was transferred to Panamanian governance in 1999. Ultimately, it took 56,000 workers almost 10 years of around-the-clock digging, excavating and building to create the Panama Canal. It opened on August 15, 1914, and was the most expensive construction project in U.S. history at that point, costing more than $350 million. It was also expensive in terms of the cost of life: Some 5,600 workers were reported killed between 1904 and 1913. It consists of three sets of locks that lift ships 85 feet above sea level and guide them from one ocean through man-made Gatún Lake to the other side. Some 14,000 ships use the canal every year; watch them make the 10-hour journey through the locks from the terrace at Miraflores Visitor Center. The center, located at the Miraflores Locks, also features a museum with interactive displays and a restaurant overlooking the locks. Word to the wise: Come after 2 p.m., when more ships pass through the locks.


  • Venture into the rainforest in Camino de Cruces National Park, a more than 9,000-acre tropical forest preserve with plenty of walking paths and boundless wildlife.
  • Climb up Ancon Hill to see the Panama Canal, Casco Viejo and Panama City’s modern skyline from 650 feet above.
  • Make your way to the observation deck on the western side of Bridge of the Americas for the best photo op and view of the bridge.

If You Go

Daily, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Public Transportation: 
A taxi from downtown Panama City will cost about $10 and take 20 minutes and is the fastest way to get to the locks.


Where to stay

Radisson Decapolis Hotel Panama City

The unbeatable downtown location of Radisson Decapolis Hotel Panama City boasts several excellent on-site dining options, a rooftop pool, a business center, a full-service aqua spa, and beauty salon. The downtown location provides easy access to shopping, a casino, and the historic Casco Viejo district.

Radisson Hotel Panama Canal

Radisson Hotel Panama Canal provides guests with easy access to Panama’s beautiful beaches, amazing architecture and excellent shopping. The Bridge of the Americas, which is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, is within sight from our pristine hotel location.

Radisson Colon 2,000 Hotel & Casino

Located just steps from the second-largest free-trade shopping zone in the world, Radisson Colon 2,000 Hotel and Casino is a spectacular choice for travelers who like to stay close to the action. The hotel features free high-speed internet, a free shuttle, as well as spacious meeting areas to accommodate any special events.

nearby attractions


Panama’s evolution and biodiversity in one stunning Frank Gehry building.

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Casco Viejo

Experience Panama City as it was in the 17th century.

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Cinta Costera

Panama City’s coastal strip is 86 acres of pedestrian-friendly bliss.

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