While in Panama, be sure to pay a visit to the impressive Gatun Locks, where you can watch ships and tankers being lifted up 85 feet to the level of Lake Gatun. And bring your camera - you'll want to capture the amazing views that surround this engineering marvel. Also, if you love a good fortress (and who doesn't), you've got to check out Portobelo National Park. This charming bayside village is home to 16th- and 17th-century Spanish forts, ruins and treasure houses.
Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly… lucky for you, Panama offers amazing opportunities to observe each in their natural habitat. If you're a bird watcher, head to the village of Achiote, where you can attempt to name the hundreds of species that have taken up residence there. Or if you're somewhat of a fish yourself, Isla Grande is a popular spot for diving and surfing. Its white-sand beaches and turquoise waters make it ideal for sunbathing as well!
Shopping for Bargains
Two words: Duty Free. Colón is actually the largest duty-free zone in the Americas, so whatever's on your shopping list - you're bound to find it here! Be sure to check out The Colón Free Zone. It consists of 1,600 showrooms for wholesalers and retailers who travel here to purchase consumer goods at cost, but you may find some showrooms that welcome tourists as well. It's worth the trip just to take in the scene.
Although American, French and Spanish cuisine is easy to find around Colón, you don't want to miss out on the hot and spicy local cooking. And remember, you're in a prime spot for fresh seafood, so take advantage. Try a regional specialty like Ceviche, a marinated fish dish. If seafood isn't your thing, order the Empanadas, turnovers filled with meat or cheese.
The official currency of Panama is the U.S. dollar (USD), known as the Balboa. Many stores and restaurants also accept major credit cards, which usually offer you a good exchange rate.