Looking for the best Panama Canal day tours from Panama City? You’ve come to the right place!
An engineering marvel built as a shortcut across two oceans, the Panama Canal is a bucket list activity in Panama.
Visiting the Panama Canal and seeing the ships sail along was a highlight of my trip.
From exploring historic sites to riding the canal to tropical landscapes, each tour offers a unique way to experience this iconic waterway.
Let’s get right into the 15 best Panama Canal day tours for your trip to Panama City Panama!
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My Top 3 Picks: Best Panama Canal Tours
Ocean to Ocean Panama Canal & Jungle Tour
✅ 8 hours
✅ Travel from Atlantic to Pacific Ocean
✅ Plus more stops
Panama Canal Full Transit Tour
✅ 12+ hours
✅ Pass all 3 Locks
✅ Meals & hotel pickup
Panama Canal Partial Tour – Southbound
✅ 6 hours
✅ Travel towards Pacific Ocean
✅ Pass 2 sets of Locks
15 Best Panama Canal Day Tours from Panama City
The Panama Canal is one of the most fun activities in Panama City. Several different Panama Canal day tours from Panama City Panama include:
- Boat tours
- Train Tours
- Car tours
- Helicopter tours
Each of these top Panama Canal tours from Panama City offers a unique perspective and experience.
And while getting around in Panama can be easy when you know what you are doing, all these tours organize roundtrip transportation, entrance, and other details for you. So, all you need to do is show up and enjoy.
Panama Canal Day Tours from Panama City – By Boat
1. Ocean to Ocean Panama Canal and Jungle Tour
⭐ 5/5 (1000+ Reviews)
The Ocean to Ocean Panama Canal and Jungle Tour is an 8-hour adventure from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean on the Panama Canal.
The first stop is along the Panama Canal, where you will ride along on a boat next to ships passing through the canal.
From there, you will stop at Lake Gatun (the second-largest artificial lake on the continent), Agua Clara Locks Visit Center, and enjoy lunch at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Fort San Lorenzo.
This is one of the most popular tours of Panama Canal and offers a perfect balance of historical learning of the canal and natural learning about the rainforest and environment. You can see monkeys, sloths, birds, crocodiles, and lots of other wildlife.
It is an early start, so get a good night’s sleep the night before.
“We only had 48 hours in Panama and this was a perfect way to spend one of our days. Pick up was communicated perfectly and we were picked up promptly at the time John told us. John was very knowledgeable and full of information. The tour included a little bit of everything, including things you didn’t know you needed to see.” – Kathleen A. (see more reviews)
2. Panama Canal Full Transit Tour
⭐ 4.5/5 (180+ Reviews)
This Full Transit Panama Canal Tour is one of the best Panama Canal one day tours. It’s got a packed itinerary, so prepare for at least 12 hours.
You will pass through and learn about all three sets of locks and view Lake Gatun and Chagres River while learning about the history and construction of the Panama Canal.
While a full-day tour may be exhausting for some, it’s well worth it if you’re interested in the history behind the Panama Canal.
The tour provides breakfast, lunch, snacks, drinks, and roundtrip transportation from your hotel in Panama City. All you have to do is wake up early and enjoy a day of hearing about a fascinating piece of history from a knowledgeable guide.
“This is a long day, but, for me, I thought a brilliant and unique trip. The staff were all extremely helpful and polite and the guide gives a great deal of interesting information. I am happy to recommend this trip to anyone who has a voyage through the Panama Canal on their bucket list.” – Russel W. (see more reviews)
3. Panama Canal Partial Tour – Southbound Direction
⭐ 4.5/5 (200+ Reviews)
If you don’t want to commit to a full day on the Panama Canal, consider a partial transit tour. This Panama Canal Partial Tour – Southbound Direction toward the Pacific Ocean is a great starting point.
This 6-hour, small group tour takes you southbound along the Panama Canal, where you will see the Miraflores Locks and Pedro Miguel Locks up close.
The tour provides transportation and lunch on board. While you won’t see the entire canal, you will catch the most essential parts.
“It was a delightful experience going through the locks and participating with another boat journeying through the Canal locks. Our guide, Jose, was extraordinary! He was fun, engaging and shared lots of history. It was also impressive that the tour was conducted in Spanish and English, and he did not miss a beat.” – Crystal B. (see more reviews)
4. Panama Canal Partial Tour – Northbound Direction
⭐ 4.5/5 (85+ Reviews)
The Panama Canal Partial Tour – Northbound Direction is a similar 6-hour tour, but this time heading north along the canal toward the Atlantic Ocean.
You will still stop at all the major points of interest along the Panama Canal, including Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks. Your guide will explain the engineering marvels, the canal’s construction, and constant maintenance.
The tour also provides continental breakfast and lunch, roundtrip transfers from selected hotels, and soft beverages. If you’re looking for fun six-hour tours of the Panama Canal with everything provided, this is a great, affordable option.
“I’m glad we did this tour and actually travelled through the locks as opposed to just watching from the visitor’s center. If you’re going to see the canal, this is the way to go.” – Ouillma D. (see more reviews)
5. 5hr Combo-Panama Canal Boat Safari & Jungle Walk w/ Local Brunch
⭐ 5/5 (445+ Reviews)
This 5-hour Combo-Panama Canal Boat Safari & Jungle Walk tour is one of the most popular tours through Panama Canal. It includes a partial tour of the Panama Canal, with a heavy emphasis on the wildlife and jungle in the region.
First, the tour drives you halfway up the Panama Canal to Gamboa. From here, you hop on a covered boat to begin the eco-cruise to Gatun Lake, Monkey Island, Soberania National Park with a Panamanian breakfast, and Centennial Bridge.
At Soberania National Park, go on a nature walk, where you will learn more about the animals and plants in the region.
Although this tour isn’t as focused on the Panama Canal as the engineering behind it, it’s a unique experience filled with memorable moments.
“The transportation was on time and very comfortable. The tour guide was superb, with extensive knowledge, and spoke fluent English and Spanish. The boat driver was good at placement for the best experience, and the monkeys actually came on board. Being in the Canal with the ships was a great experience.” – Paul C. (see more reviews)
6. Boat Tour and Wildlife in the Panama Canal
⭐ 4.5/5 (105+ Reviews)
This Boat Tour and Wildlife in the Panama Canal is a 3-hour tour along the Panama Canal and to Lake Gatun.
You will enter the Panama Canal at Chagres River and ride along the canal to Gatun Lake. You’ll spend about 45 minutes on the channel, passing by ships and learning a little about the history from your guide.
Because this is a short tour, it’s great for those that don’t have much time. You can pair this with a visit to the Panama Canal Visitor Center to learn more about the region.
It’s important to note that you won’t learn much about the Panama Canal here, aside from the brief boat ride through.
“Fernando was a great guide. We saw a few different types of monkeys, various birds, gators, lizards. Some monkeys got close and personal, and to actually have them eat out of your palm was surreal. The Panama Canal is something to marvel at – a historic engineering of progressive transportation!” – Ivanna K. (see more reviews)
7. Panama Canal Partial Transit Tour
⭐ 4/5 (380+ Reviews)
The Panama Canal Partial Transit Tour is a 7-hour tour that takes you halfway across the Panama Canal. It’s much shorter than the Panama Canal full transit day tour, but still informative.
The tour includes the Miraflores Visitor’s Center and the Pedro Miguel Locks, where you will cross a total of three levels of locks. You’ll also see the beginning of Gatun Lake.
“Going through the locks was a fascinating experience. The guide was knowledgeable and interesting. The crew were friendly and attentive. We really enjoyed the catering, but the biggest impact was the scale of the engineering and the achievement that is the canal. We had a thoroughly enjoyable trip.” – David G. (see more reviews)
8. The Panama Canal: Kingfisher Experience Tour
⭐ 5/5 (6+ Reviews)
The Panama Canal: Kingfisher Experience Tour is perfect for fishing enthusiasts or those who want something different.
Get a partial-day rundown of the Panama Canal and its history, followed by an 8-hour fishing experience right on the Panama Canal.
On the way to your designated spots, you will pass massive ships going through the Canal and learn more about the canal.
You will be catching Oscar Bass, Snook, Tilapia, Peacock Bass, and Tarpon, all while observing wildlife. You can choose to catch-and-release or take your catch home for dinner.
This may not be for everyone, but for those who love fishing or want to say, “I’ve caught a fish in the Panama Canal,” this tour is for you.
“John was an amazing guide. Best snacks and took us around so many places for fishing. He has a ton of wildlife knowledge!! Would recommend!!!” – Tara S. (see more reviews)
Panama Canal Day Tours from Panama City – By Train
9. Historic Portobelo and Panama Canal Sightseeing Tour with Train Ride
⭐ 5/5 (10+ Reviews)
The Panama Canal Railway stretches 76.6 km (47.6 mi) between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, from Colón to Balboa.
This Historic Portobelo and Panama Canal Sightseeing Tour with Train Ride is a 10-hour tour that takes you to some of the most important sites along the canal and a few museums.
The tour includes a drive through Portobelo National Park, a visit to the Museo de La Real Aduana de Portobelo, a one-hour ride on the Panama Canal Railway, and the Aguas Clara Locks Visitor Center, and a few other brief stops.
If you want an all-out train experience, this is one of the best Panama Canal tours that includes a train ride.
“Great tour. A large amount of Historical information shared by our tour guide. He was extremely helpful and knowledgeable. Did not rush. Explained things thoroughly. Tour was lengthy, so come prepared for a long day but was well worth the effort.” – Lawrence O. (see more reviews)
10. Panama Canal Train, Agua Clara Canal Lock Center & Colon Fort
⭐ 4/5 (7+ Reviews)
This Panama Cana Train, Agua Clara Canal Lock Center & Colon Fort is another exciting way to visit and learn from one of the best Panama City canal tours.
The 8-hour tour begins with a trip on the Panama Canal Railway, where you can admire the beautiful fauna and wildlife from the comforts of a high-end train with air-conditioning.
After the hour-long train ride, you’ll visit Agua Clara Locks, Fort San Lorenzo, and Port Colon 2000 for lunch.
The tour guides are incredible and take care to make sure things go smoothly, and you leave with much more information than you arrived with.
“Aqua Clara Canal system is absolutely amazing. We observed 2 ships pass through the locks. Truly breathtaking.” – Prakash P. (see more reviews)
Panama Canal Day Tours from Panama City – By Car
11. Half Day City and Panama Canal Tour
⭐ 5/5 (910+ Reviews)
This Half Day City and Panama Canal Tour blends the best nearby activities in Panama City.
The 5-hour tour begins with a stop at the Miraflores Visitor Center, which is a great place to learn about the history and construction of the Panama Channel.
You can head up to the observation deck to watch boats come through. I loved watching the ships pass by.
After the Panama Canal portion, you will make brief stops at Amador Causeway, Casco Viejo, Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria the Ancient, Arco Chato, and Plaza Carlos V. You will also pass by several other points of interest. I really enjoyed seeing all these places in Panama City.
The tour only lasts about one hour in Casco Viejo, so you can also look into another Casco Viejo tour to learn more about this historic neighbourhood.
This is one of the best Panama Canal day tours from Panama City for those who want a more general experience.
“This was a small group of 4, and our tour guide was Juan Carlos who was extremely knowledgeable of all the topics about the city, and the Panama Canal. We had a great time learning and having fun on the way. He also speaks perfect English and had the answers for all our questions. I would recommend for everybody visiting Panama City to take this tour.” – Dusha P. (see more reviews)
12. Layover (Stopover) City Tour and Panama Canal Visit
⭐ 5/5 (38+ Reviews)
The Layover (Stopover) City Tour and Panama Canal Visit is a great tour for anyone with a 6+ hour layover in Panama City looking for some day trips.
Dedicated tours to Panama Canal are a must-do for all travellers and adventurers, but if you only have a few hours in the city, make the most of it with a layover tour.
The tour is 4.5 hours, so you need at least a six-hour layover. But if you have the time, it’s a great Panama Canal day trip from the airport.
You’ll be picked up from Tocumen International Airport (PTY) and taken to the Panama Canal, Casco Viejo (Old Town), Amador Causeway, Panama Canal Administration Building, and Panama City sign.
“I had a six hour layover in Panama City and decided to book this tour, especially since the reviews were great. I arrived in Panama at about 6:00 a.m., and Miguel picked me up at the airport. To keep it short. This tour is well worth its price, and Miguel is an excellent tour guide. The tour significantly added to my journey and allowed me to explore some of what Panama offers. It makes me want to come back.” – Awab H. (see more reviews)
13. Tour of Panama City and the Panama Canal
⭐ 5/5 (50+ Reviews)
This Tour of Panama City and the Panama Canal is a Panama Canal half-day tour around the city that includes all the important highlights. It’s one of the best tours Panama has to offer.
The 4.5-hour Panama Canal tours from Panama City take you to the Panama Canal, Miraflores Locks, Amador Causeway, Casco Viejo, and Plaza de la Catedral.
One of the best things about this tour is the incredible guides, who go out of their way to accommodate all guests and Panama Canal tourism. Transportation is organized, and you will get a complete history run-down on Panama while exploring.
“Roberto gave us a very interesting and informative tour of Panama City and the Panama Canal Miraflores Locks and Visitors Center.” – Clifford D. (see more reviews)
Panama Canal Helicopter Tours
14. Private 30 Minute Panama Canal and Panama City Helicopter Tour
⭐ 5/5 (43+ Reviews)
If you want the most unique and thrilling experience of the Panama Canal, consider this Private 30-minute Panama Canal and Panama City Helicopter Tour.
Before the ride, you will get a brief history of the Panama Canal from the captain and everything you can expect to see. The captain is excellent at maneuvering the helicopter and knowledgeable about the Panama Canal.
You can upgrade to a 60-minute helicopter ride with a 30-minute tour of the Panama Canal and a 30-minute “jungle” cruise that takes you on a flight above the rainforest.
“I’ve done quite a few helicopter tours all over the USA, and this was by far the greatest tour of them all. Fernando starts with a history lesson of Panama and the Canal; you can tell he is genuinely passionate about his country. Great facts and background. The ride itself is smooth, and he is very knowledgeable of the various kinds of ships that go through the canal…” – Marco M. (see more reviews)
15. Canal of Panama by Helicopter
⭐ 5/5 (10+ Reviews)
This Canal of Panama by Helicopter is another excellent choice for thrill-seekers who want a birds-eye view of the Panama Canal.
The tour includes 30 minutes of air time, where you will get some of the most beautiful views of the canal and Lake Gatun. The pilots and guides are all professional and go out of their way to ensure you leave happy and satisfied with the trip.
“Great trip and overall experience seeing the canal and Lake Gatun! The pilot was experienced, and I had a relaxed and competent feel about him. His English was very good.” – George R. (see more reviews)
FAQs about Panama Canal Tours
Can You Do a Day Trip Through the Panama Canal?
Yes, you can do a day trip through the Panama Canal. Several tour operators offer the chance to transit through the canal’s locks, either in partial or full transit, providing a unique perspective on this engineering marvel. A day tour is a great way to experience the Panama Canal if you have limited time in Panama.
What is the Best Way to Tour the Panama Canal?
The best way to tour the Panama Canal depends on your interests and time availability. If you’re seeking a unique and exciting perspective, a helicopter tour gives an impressive bird’s-eye view of the canal or for those who prefer to experience the canal more directly, day tours that transit through the canal’s locks are highly recommended.
Can Tourists Take a Boat Ride Through the Panama Canal?
Yes, tourists can take a boat ride through the Panama Canal. Boat tours are among the best Panama Canal day tours from Panama City, offering a first-hand experience of the canal’s impressive lock system and a chance to sail along the same route that has been frequented by countless commercial and passenger vessels over the years.
Can You Tour the Panama Canal On Your Own?
Yes, you can tour the Panama Canal on your own. However, a self-tour involves visiting the canal’s visitor centers: Miraflores Visitor Center and Agua Clara Visitor Center. They offer observation decks from where you can watch ships transit through the canal’s locks. While this is more economical, you won’t get the same hands-on experience as you would with a boat ride.
A tour also makes sure you end up in the right place. On my second trip to Panama, I met some people at my hotel who tried to take an Uber to the Locks and ended up going to the shipyard (which was far away) and not seeing the canal.
How Long is a Boat Ride Through Panama Canal?
A boat ride through the Panama Canal lasts between 4 to 8 hours for a partial transit and up to 12 hours for a full transit. It depends on the type of tour you opt for. The partial transit takes you through some of the locks, whereas a full transit, often considered among the best Panama Canal one day tours, navigates the entire length of the canal.
What is the Best Month to Go Through the Panama Canal?
The best time to go through the Panama Canal is the dry season, from mid-December to mid-April. During these months, you’ll experience less rainfall, making your boat tour more pleasant. Keep in mind that this is also the peak tourist season, so it’s advisable to book your tour ahead of time to secure a spot on one of the best Panama Canal tours.
Enjoy the Panama Canal, a Boat Safari, and a Jungle Walk on this tour!
Final Thoughts: Best Panama Canal One Day Tours
Touring the Panama Canal is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Ocean To Ocean Panama Canal and Jungle Tour is one of the best boat tours of the Panama Canal.
The Half Day City and Panama Canal Tour is great for those who are short on time and who want to see the canal but not ride a boat.
Whether you’re seeking an adrenaline-filled helicopter ride, an in-depth historical overview, or a serene cruise through the lush rainforest, there’s a tour for you.
Seeing the Panama Canal is just one of many must-do activities when planning your Panama itinerary!
Travelling to Panama? Read more:
- 7 Day Panama Itinerary
- Fun Things to Do in Panama City Panama
- Best Panama Canal Day Tours from Panama City
- Getting Around Panama
- Best Places to Visit in Panama
- Best Casco Viejo Walking Tours
- Hiking Cerro Cara Iguana
- Volcan Baru Jeep Tour
- Boquete Coffee Tour Review
- Scuba Diving in Bocas del Toro
- Casa Acuario Hotel Review
- La Selva Nomad Treehouse Review
- Best Bocas del Toro Hotels Over Water
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- How to Get to Bocas Del Toro
- How to Visit Nivida Bat Cave, Bocas del Toro