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View of a mountaintop island on Panama river cruise

All inclusive Panama vacations bring tourists to what many people call Central America’s “Hidden Treasure.

Panama is the small country near the equator that connects Central America to South America. Though relatively small in size, it is brimming with culture shaped by European and Spanish traditions and a friendly population generally made up of Spanish speaking Roman Catholics.

Panama’s strategic geographic location makes it a gathering place of people from all over the world. In recent years Panama has gone to great lengths to attract worldwide vacationers and tourists to its country. Many of these tourists are eager to witness the workings of the engineering feat that often claims the title as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” – the Panama Canal.

Panama Canal Cruises

One of the most popular activities on Caravan all inclusive Panama vacations is a Panama Canal cruise. Getting to watch the gates in the canal open and close is exciting but there are also other great water adventures to take part in:

Gatun Lake Cruise

This man-made lake is one of the most important features of the Panama Canal. Strategically built in the Chagres Valley, Gatun Lake holds more than 5.2 cubic kilometres of water. What were once mountain peaks surrounding a valley are now hilltop islands. One of the highlights of this Panama boat cruise is a visit to Monkey Island.

Panama Locks Cruise

Travel by water through Panama as you experience the opening and closing of both the Mireflores Locks and the Pedro Miguel Locks. As transit and trade through the Panama Canal doesn’t slow down for tourists, this canal cruise allows vacationers to get first hand experience of how the 6 foot thick steel gates open and close as tugboats guide large vessels through the canal.

Chagres Rivers Cruise

Get up close and personal with the wildlife that inhabit the land along the Chagres River. The river cuts through Central America, crosses the Continental Divide and drains into the Caribbean Sea.

Panama Canal Top Destinations

While enjoying all inclusive Panama vacations make sure to visit this country’s most popular destinations:

Panama Viego Panama
Known to many as “Old Panama” this Spanish Colonial city was founded nearly four centuries ago when the Spanish came seeking gold. Panama Viego is one of two UNESCO World Heritage sites to take in while visiting Panama.

Playa Blanca Panama
Located on the Pacific Coast, Playa Blanca is a popular tourist destination because of its five star resorts built along pristine white sandy beaches.

El Valle Panama
This small town is built in the center of a dormant volcano and features charming homes surrounded by lush green scenery. El Valle is the perfect step away from the hustle and bustle of Panama City.

Panama City, Panama
The hub of the country whose downtown core is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean; Panama City has many tourist destinations on its own such as the The National Institute of Culture Building, Las Bóvedas, Plaza de la Catedral, Teatro Nacional and Museo del Canal Interoceánico.

Panama Vacation Activities

All inclusive Panama vacations don’t have to solely revolve around the opening and closing of the gates of the great Panama Canal. The country is full of other rich heritage sites, cultural experiences and local marketplaces that will spark your interest:

  • See the dormant volcano situated in Central Panama near the town of El Valle.
  • Explore the rainforest biodiversity – Panama is home to over 100 mammal species, over 500 bird species, and over 120 reptile and amphibian species.
  • Experience authentic Embera Indian villages in the heart of Panama’s rainforests.
  • Shop for local Panama handiwork such as fibre baskets or tagua nut carvings.
  • Stay in touch with modern society and be inspired by Panama City’s skyline, which resembles Miami or Manhattan but with a Latin America flare.
  • Walk the Amador Causeway Panama
  • Enjoy Panama’s culinary delights, which are inspired by Spanish, American, Caribbean, and indigenous palates and feature fresh seafood and tropical toppings.

Caravan Panama All Inclusive

Fully escorted cruises on Panama Canal Vacations by Caravan Tours take you through the waterways and canals of Panama and let you explore the rich cultural heritage of this small Central American country.

The All Inclusive Cruise Packages include food, accommodations, activities and transportation while on this fully guided vacation.

For details on current all inclusive Panama vacations, visit Caravan Tour’s Panama Itinerary page.

Request a free Travel Brochure or call 1-800-CARAVAN (227-2826) toll free to make a booking.

One of the comments made by travelers on Caravan Panama vacations is the surprise at how quickly Panama City’s downtown core and metropolitan area turns into lush rainforest.

More and more travelers from around the world come to vacation in Panama City. The vacation here to take in the many surrounding tourist attractions such as the Panama Canal or the Bridge of Americas. However, in most cases, it is the natural beauty of the country that is impressed upon their minds as they leave.

A popular must-see natural attraction in Panama is Monkey Island located in Gatun Lake within the Gamboa rainforest – just 40 minutes from Panama City.

Gatun Lake Tours – Featuring Monkey Island

When the Gatun Dam was built in the early 1900’s it stopped the Chagres River from flowing into the Caribbean Sea. The dam created Gatun Lake, which at the time was the world’s largest man-made lake. Gatun Lake is still one of the 5 must-see man made wonders in Panama.

Today Gatun Lake is an invaluable asset to the Panama Canal as each year it carries tens of thousands of vessels through 33 kilometers of their journey across the Isthmus of Panama.

Clues as to what the Chagres Valley might have looked like over a century ago, before the lake was created, are visible on a Panama boat cruise across Gutan Lake. Century old trees can be spotted floating to the surface of the water. For this reason there is a clearly marked channel to keep ships on track and out of trouble as they cross Gatun Lake. Small vessels, in particular, are susceptible to getting caught up in the debris.

Other clues include are the small islands that were once the peaks of the surrounding Chagres Valley hill tops. The peaks from the valley jut out of the lake’s water surface and form rainforest “hilltop islands.”

The most famous hilltop island in Gatun Lake is Monkey Island – known for its large population of monkeys. Some may say the island is infested but most tourists are delighted at the chance to see a variety of monkeys while on their boat tour.

Monkey Island Boat Tour

Most Gatun Lake tours make a stop at Monkey Island and allow passengers to get an up-close encounter with the island’s monkey population. The monkeys are known to be somewhat curious of tourists coming up to their island and often adventurously crawl into the boats to interact.

Monkey Island is home to four species of monkeys:

Gray-Bellied Night Monkey – Also known as the Lemurine Owl Monkey this specie is native to Panama. Vacationers often miss seeing this monkey because it sleeps during the day and hunts for food at night. You may expect the monkey to have a gray belly but in fact it has a gray coat on its back that turns into a reddish-brown coat on its underside. Unfortunately, the gray-bellied night monkey is vulnerable to becoming extinct in the future.

White-Faced Capuchin Monkey – Also known as the white-throated capuchin or white-headed capuchin because of its primarily ‘white’ upper body. These monkeys are very social and live in groups of about 20 throughout Central and South America. The lifespan of the Capuchin Monkey in Gatun averages about 50 years.

Mantled Howler Monkey – The Howler monkey often likes to make an appearance for vacationers on Gatun Lake Tours. Many agree that the Howler Monkey is the loudest animal in all of Panama as it communicates through a loud sound audible up to 5 kilometers away. You will likely hear the Howler Monkeys communicating with each other from your boat on Gatun Lake!

Tamarin Monkey – Found only in Panama and Colombia this is the smallest monkey in all of Central America. The Tamarin monkey especially enjoys the moist tropical rainforests located along the Panama Canal. If you take Gutan Lake tour between April and June you may see a Mother with her young, as this is their birthing season.

Wikipedia offers additional information on the Panamanian Monkey Species.

Other Wildlife Near Monkey Island

The rainforest covered hilltop islands of Gutan Lake are also home to a diverse variety of other wildlife besides monkeys. Green iguanas, three-toed sloths, crocodiles, osprey and Keel-Billed toucans can also be spotted by visiting spectators on Gatun Lake Tours.

A boat tour guide familiar with the islands and the island inhabitants are a great resource to learn about Panama’s ecosystem and its diversity. As most Gatun Lake Cruises use small 10 to 20 passenger vessels, the tour is often quite interactive and there is rarely a “bad seat” on the boat.

Caravan Panama Vacations Include Monkey Island

A Gatun Lake cruise with a visit to Monkey Island is included in Caravan Tour’s all inclusive Panama Vacations. Exceptionally priced and fully escorted, these Panama vacations are a great value; priced from just $1,295.

Call Caravan Tours Toll Free at 1-888-CARAVAN (227-2826) for Panama tour reservations or to check tour date availability.

Waiting to board the Caravan Panama Cruise boat.

Caravan Panama Canal Cruise Boat

Explore the Panama Canal with Caravan Tours

Rather than vacationing on a cruise liner that passes through the Panama Canal in less than a day, many vacationers are opting for our 8-day Caravan Panama cruise package.

Our Caravan tour features day trip cruise expeditions in addition to rainforest adventures, beach excursions, and a visit to an authentic Embera Tribal village.

Each year, more than 14,000 vessels pass through the Panama Canal. A fair number of these ships are Panama cruise liners filled with passengers eager to get a peak of one of the seven modern wonders of the world.

The Panama Canal is approximately 48 miles long. With the gateways and lock systems, it can take a Panama cruise ship between nine and fifteen hours to cross through the canal, depending on the canal’s efficiency.

Caravan Panama Cruise on Gatun Lake

One of the most popular day cruise packages is through Gatun Lake.

Gatun Lake is a manmade lake in Panama’s Chagres Valley. The lake’s waters form a speedy 33-kilometer passageway for vessels to move through the Isthmus of Panama. However, Gatun Lake has much more to offer than just a convenient passageway.

Gatun Lake is spotted with hilltop islands that were once mountain peaks. Day cruises along Gatun Lake take guests to some of these islands, including the very popular Monkey Island. It is here that glimpses of Panama’s diverse wildlife and in particular, monkey population, can be seen in a close-up setting.

Locks Transit Panama Canal Cruise

After seeing Panama’s lock system work from the solid ground, Caravan guests have the opportunity to see the gates function from the water level on a passenger’s vessel. While seated on the small Caravan Panama cruise boat, guests get eye-level views of the magnificent Panama Canal. Guests often get to see the steel gates open and close, depending on the schedule of the Canal that day.

A Locks Transit Cruise features both the two-step Miraflores Locks (the tallest gate) and Pedro Miguel Locks, which move vessels up from the Pacific Ocean into Lake Gatun. In addition to the Canal, this Caravan Panama cruise gives guests excellent views of the Bridge of Americas while crossing the Continental Divide.

All-Inclusive Panama Cruise Vacations

The benefit of these Panama all-inclusive cruise vacations is that once you arrive in Panama there is no need to spend an extra penny. Included in the price of the fully escorted Caravan Panama cruise package:

  • All meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) while in Panama
  • 3 nights stay in Panama City
  • 2 nights stay in Gamboa, Panama
  • 2 nights stay in Playa Bonita, Panama
  • Day cruises and land travel

Panama Canal is easily one of the Best Central America Vacations you can enjoy.

Panama All Inclusive Travel

Our fully escorted Caravan Panama Cruise Packages feature two daytime cruises and land travel along the entire Panama Canal.

Visit Caravan’s Panama Cruise FAQ page for more details about this 8-day all-inclusive vacation package.

To learn more about the Panama Canal visit this page by Britannica.

For more information or to check the availability of our Caravan Panama cruise package tour, please Call Toll-Free 1-800-CARAVAN.

More and more travelers from around the globe are discovering the beauty and impressive man made landmarks of Panama. You now have a lot of options for fully guided all inclusive Panama tour companies.

And, while many people vacation in Panama to explore this country’s Spanish colonial heritage or to enjoy world-class resorts, white sandy beaches and rainforest tours, Panama offers so much more.

Caravan Tours wants to show you the amazing man made landmarks in Panama. Explore the Panama Canal and Gatun Lake, both of which remain the most popular tourist attractions in Panama.

On your fully guided Caravan Panama tour, you will have a chance to explore many of these exceptional man-made wonders.

#1 – Gatun Lake Panama – 164 sq. miles

Completed in 1913, it took engineers six years to build the Gatun Dam across the valley floor. Gatun Dam is just six miles inland from the Caribbean Sea on the Atlantic side of Panama. At the time, Gatun Dam was the world’s largest dam, blocking off the Chagres River to create what was then the world’s largest man-made lake, Gatun Lake.

Water from Gatun Lake is integral to the operation of Gatun Locks,  a major part of the Panama Canal project.

Ships passing through the Panama Canal between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans travel approximately 15 miles across Gatun Lake. Canal ships must traverse around man-made islands; remnants of the flooded surrounding hilltops. One of these islands is home to the Smithsonian Tropical Research, a privately funded institute.

#2 – 48 mile Panama Canal Connects Atlantic & Pacific Oceans

Gatun Lake is a man-made lake and part of the Panama Canal. It is one of the largest man made landmarks of Panama and nothing short of an engineering marvel. The Panama Canal was completed in 1914. Cargo ships and pleasure craft (15,000+ annually) that want to travel between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean no longer have to journey for weeks and over 5,000 miles around the tip of South America. Instead, they can traverse approximately 50 miles in a matter of hours across Gatun Lake and through the Panama Canal’s three sets of locks.

#3 – Gamboa & Pipeline Road Trail Panama

The Gamboa Panama area was once a key stop on the gold trail during Spanish occupation. The town of Gamboa was established in 1911 as part of the Panama Canal project and is located in the original Canal Zone. Gamboa’s first inhabitants were employees of the Panama Canal construction.

Hidden by lush rainforests, Gamboa Panama is now a popular destination for biologists, zoologists and bird-watchers because of its thriving animal and plant populations. In fact, Pipeline Road is widely known for its bird species. The Pipeline Road Trail is used for guided tours that take visitors into some of the most highly regarded bird-watching locations in the world.

Gamboa has also become a favorite starting point for avid fishermen who want to try their luck on Gatun Lake. The Rainforest Resort offers excellent accommodations in this beautiful region.

#4 – 5,425 Ft. Bridge of the Americas Panama

Our Caravan Panama Canal tour also includes a canal cruise beneath the Bridge of the Americas, another one of the amazing man made landmarks of Panama. This is a “must see” man-made bridge for vehicle traffic. The Americas Bridge name is derived from the fact that it connects the North American landmass with the South American landmass. Bridge of the Americas took three years to build, is over a mile wide, and was completed in 1962. In fact, it actually crosses part of the Pacific Ocean at the Panama Canal entrance near Panama City, the capital.

#5 – 3,451 Ft. Panama Centennial Bridge

Completed in 2004, Panama’s Centennial Bridge is another one of the impressive man made landmarks of Panama. This structure spans nearly 3,500 feet. Earlier Panama bridges across the Chagres River were built to swing out of the way of the large ships that passed through the canal. Both the Bridge of the Americas and the Centennial Bridge are elevated, non-swinging bridge designs. The Centennial Bridge addressed the need for a new companion bridge to ease the volume of traffic across the Bridge of the Americas.

Panama Canal Tour by Caravan

Family owned and operated Caravan Tours has been conducting North and Central American fully guided tours since 1952.

As part of your all inclusive Panama vacation, Caravan includes a guided Panama Canal cruise across Gatun Lake plus a chance to witness some of the other Panama man-made wonders mentioned in this article. These are some of Central America’s most impressive man-made structures and major Panama tourist attractions!

Caravan Panama tours are exceptionally priced, fully escorted vacations that also include all ground transportation, tour activities, meals, and hotel accommodations. Visit Caravan’s Panama tour reservations page to check tour availability or visit our Panama Canal Tour page

Call us today toll free at 1-800-CARAVAN (227-2826) to reserve the best dates for your all inclusive Caravan Panama Canal tour!