Of course, anyone who goes to Panama has to visit the Panama Canal. Located within Panama City itself, the Miraflores Lock is probably the most visited and that’s where I headed one of my first few days in Panama.
The Miraflores Lock isn’t right in the downtown – it’s out near the Ciudad del Saber or City of Knowledge but can be reached on your own if you have a rental car, by public bus (I’m not sure which bus, I just saw the bus stop), the Hop-on-Hop-off bus, or in a taxi. You’ll have to purchase tickets before entering and you can choose to visit just the observation deck or visit the observation deck plus the Panama Canal Museum and watch a movie about the Canal’s history and construction. It was unclear what the price of each section was because each sign I saw showed different prices for the various combinations (Panamanian vs. foreigner and observation only vs. observation and museum and movie) and when we actually purchased our tickets the total price didn’t match up with any of the signs. My friend and I paid a total of $5 for one Panamanian and one foreigner entry to the observation deck only (at all of the tourist attractions in Panama foreigners will pay quite a bit more than Panamanians).
I got lucky and was there while some ships were passing through so I was able to see the changing of water levels and the opening of the lock system’s gates. An employee explains over the loudspeaker what’s going on and a little bit about the history and operations of the Canal (in English and Spanish) while the whole process takes place.
While it wasn’t the most exciting tourist attraction I’ve ever seen, it was fun and worthwhile and something you should definitely do if you make it to Panama City.