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The 2 mile (3.5km) Amador Causeway Panama (Calzada de Amador) is a must see tourist attraction located at the southern entrance of the Panama Canal near Panama City.

Built by the United States Government in 1913, Amador Causeway Panama is unique in that it is the road that connects Panama City (the capital) with four small Pacific Ocean archipelago islands.

For those unfamiliar with this Central American landmark, the Panama Amador Causeway is both a roadway and a walking path between Panama City and these four small islands:

  1. Naso Island
  2. Culebra Island
  3. Perico Island
  4. Flamenco Island

Amador Causeway Panama is a beautiful and picturesque causeway that captures the attention of the locals as well as global visitors enjoying Panama vacations. The roads of Amador Causeway are lined with palm trees and feature magnificent views of the Panama Canal, plus Panama City’s skyline, the Bridge of Americas, and Panama Bay.

You’ll find many recreational things to enjoy plus many great vendors, restaurants, and even nightclubs.

Amador Causeway Construction

The Calzada de Amador was built in 1903, around the same time as the Panama Canal. As a result, the Amador Causeway construction benefited from the 1,250 million cubic yards of rock excavated from the Panama Canal’s Culebra Cut.

The original purpose of the causeway was to prevent sedimentation in the Port of Balboa, which, if left untouched, eventually would clog the southern (Pacific) entrance into the Panama Canal. The causeway was also designed as a breakwater to protect the canal entrance.

The United States investment in the development of Panama, and in particular the Panama Canal, put the Americans at a beneficial position; the United States controlled the Amador Causeway from 1915 until World War II. The United States used the area as a military base, and restricted the Panama Canal’s access to only American ships. During both World Wars, the U.S. Military used the Amador Causeway as a powerful defense system.

Only in September of 1996 did the Amador Causeway become the property of the country of Panama. At this point, Panamanians had complete access to the area.

Amador Causeway Things to Do

Since 1996, when the Panamanians took over ownership, the Amador Causeway area has been redeveloped to attract more locals as well as tourists. Vehicle traffic is restricted to one side of the causeway only, leaving lots of room for foot traffic to access the many vendors and attractions along the Causeway.

Many visitors who enjoy Panama vacations also enjoy a leisurely walk, jog, bike, skate, or roller-blade along the Amador Causeway, visiting all four islands. Others enjoy relaxing along the island beaches and taking swims in the warm Pacific Ocean waters. From the Causeway, anyone can watch Panama cruise ships come and go through the Panama Canal.

Panama’s Amador Causeway provides wonderful views of the Bridge of Americas, Balboa Yacht Club, and Panama Bay. Several projects near the Amador include a cruise port, a marina, the Fuerte Amador Shopping and Restaurant Plaza, plus the Fiagli Convention Centers. Numerous Panama hotels and resorts have popped up in the area as well.

Also worth mentioning is the Marine Exhibition Center of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), which lets visitors get a close-up look at creatures native to the country of Panama.

While passing through the Panama Canal, it is also worth it to take some time to explore the Miraflores Visitor and Museum.

Caravan Panama Canal Tour

Caravan Tours is family owned and operated and since 1952 we have helped millions of global travellers discover North and Central American on our all inclusive, fully guided tours.

A visit to the Amador Causeway is included as part of your Caravan Panama tour, which is exceptionally priced. Visit Caravan’s Panama Canal Tour page to learn more. All ground transportation, hotel accommodations, meals, and tour itinerary activities are included for one low all inclusive tour price.

To check tour availability and reserve your preferred tour dates visit our Panama tour reservations page.

To speak with a Panama tour representative, please call our Caravan office toll free at 1-800-CARAVAN (227-2826)

old panama city

Old Panama and Panama City may well be some of the best unknown jewels of Central America, if not the world; yet to be discovered by vacationing world travellers.

Panama City

Some visitors to the capital have described it as a cosmopolitan metropolis, small in size but rivalling some of the world’s better known and favorite tourist cities. The city’s population is approximately half a million making it less congested and more attractive to visitors as well as new residents.

Panama City has retained its old world heritage charm yet it is modern in all the right ways. Tocumen International Airport offers efficient airport service and the city has strong financial and Internet communications, excellent entertainment facilities, plus modern hotels and restaurants to rival any large city.

In fact, this capital city consistently rated as one of the world’s optimal locations for retirement and boasts a vibrant stable economy. Surprisingly, many of the sights, tourist attractions and activities of here remain relatively unknown to most travellers.

While the majority of Central American tourism focuses on the beaches, rainforests, and biodiversity of Guatemala and Costa Rica, Panama has been slowly coming into its own.

Nonetheless, Panama City has earned its reputation as a symbol of American culture and was chosen as the American Capital of Culture for 2003.

Old Panama – Casco Viejo

The capital’s “old quarter” is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is commonly referred to as Old Panama or Casco Viejo. This is actually the original site of the first Spanish settlement that served as the base for the Spanish conquest over the Inca Empire back in the early 1500s.

Casci Viejo was the first European settlement in Central America and became an important trade route especially for the export of Central American gold and silver to Europe.

Over the past five hundred years the unique architecture of Old Panama developed into a pleasing blend of Caribbean, Spanish Colonial, and French Art Deco however, centuries of marauding pirates and fires have created many architectural ruins that continue to attract tourists and history buffs from around the globe.

The remains of the original cathedral, a bell tower and the bishop’s house still stand. Current residents here offer local crafts and market goods all along the ocean front near the architectural ruins.

French Quarter

Casco Viejo is considered to be the historic hub of this capital city. French-period homes in this part of Old Panama have marvellous balconies and line the narrow streets. This a popular place for strolling and taking in the unique atmosphere. The area is sometimes described as the “French Quarter” in reference to the historic and exciting section of New Orleans. There are plenty of opportunities for shopping, along with good restaurants and clubs.

Other Old Panama Attractions

The Golden Altar of Iglesia San Jose is another popular tourist attraction, as is the Vasco Nunez de Balboa Park, a monument to the explorer of the same name. Vasco Nunez de Balboa is believed to be the first European person to see the Pacific coast of Central America in 1513. The Balboa statue stands above the bay and its well-maintained flowerbeds and plant displays are a good photo opportunity.

Caravan All Inclusive Panama Tours

Whether you go to Panama City for the modern metropolis, or to explore the history and architecture of Old Panama, you will surely not be disappointed.

Both destinations are included as part of Caravan Tours’ all inclusive Panama Tours. These fully escorted 8-day tours are exceptionally priced, starting at just $1,295.

Visit our Tours Reservations to check availability.

Or call Caravan toll-free at 1-800-CARAVAN (227-2826).

Embera Village on Chagres River Panama

Although visitors to this central American country generally overlook the significance of the Chagres River Panama, we have included a river cruise on our fully guided Caravan Panama tour.

Our begins in Panama City, which is recognized internationally as a great place to live, work and even retire. As well, the architectural ruins and old world heritage buildings of Old Panama (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) continually attract tourists from around the globe.

Panama also gained worldwide recognition in 1914 with the opening of the Panama Canal, an engineering marvel that forever changed shipping and marine transportation between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

However, there is much more to this country than the historical ruins and man-made wonders and that’s why we have included a Chagres River Panama cruise on our tour.

Chagres River

Panama’s Chagres River cuts through central Panama, crossing the continental divide before draining into the Caribbean Sea. The Chagres River is an integral part of the Panama Canal. The construction of the Gatun Dam across the Chagres River created what at the time was the world’s largest artificial lake. Gatun Lake has since become an important waterway for the tens of thousands of ships and boats that traverse the Panama Canal annually.

National Park

The Panama Canal watershed is vital to the continued operation of the Panama Canal. In an effort to protect the natural forests and to ensure sufficient water supply to maintain water levels for the operation of the Panama Canal, the Panamanian government created the Chagres National Park in 1985. Although much of the surrounding environment was disturbed during canal construction, modern day efforts have been made to maintain and restore this important natural resource.

This glorious area and the virgin rainforest jungles of Chagres National Park are the native habitat of many unique species. There’s always a chance you’ll spot the elusive jaguar, a tapir, or several exotic species of monkeys, river otters, and colorful birds. Panama is a nature-lover’s paradise!

Chagres River Bridges

There are two main bridges that span across the Chagres River. The Bridges of the Americas was completed in 1962 and connects the North American continent with the South American continent. The second bridge is part of the Pan-American Highway. It is the newly constructed (2004) Centennial Bridge located just nine miles north of the Bridge of the Americas. Centennial Bridge was constructed to relive the traffic congestion of the older Bridges of the Americas.

Embera Indian Village

The Embera Indians of Panama are unique culturally and one of the original pre-Colombian indigenous peoples of the Central America. The Embera inhabit the lush tropical rainforests of Panama and a short Piedras river trip will bring you to thatched huts of an authentic Embera Indian village.

Here, deep in the rainforests of Panama, where the Embera Indians co-exist with nature and the River, little has changed in the past 500 years since Columbus first discovered America. Piedras River is much smaller than the Chagres River and a little removed from the international attention and congestion of the Panama Canal. The Piedras River is a naturally protected setting and well worth the visit.

River Wildlife

There are more than 240 species of reptiles and over 10,000 different types of plants, floral and fauna in Panama. Caravan Panama tours along the Chagres river also offers plenty of opportunity for visitors to witness the Harpy Eagle (the national bird of Panama) along with howler monkeys, toucans, and many other indigenous members of the wildlife population.

Caravan Panama Tour

River cruises along the Peidras and Chagres River Panama are included as part of our all inclusive Panama Tours. These are exceptionally priced, fully escorted 8-day vacations by Caravan Tours, starting at just $1,295.

To check tour availability, call Caravan toll free at 1-800-CARAVAN (227-2826) or visit Panama Tours Reservations.

bridge of americas

The Bridge of Americas Panama Canal (or Puente de las Américas in Spanish) was built along the Pan-American Highway in 1962. This four lane Panama land bridge offered a more efficient way for vehicle traffic to travel between land masses on the North and South of the Panama Canal.

The United States initiated and funded this first Panama Canal Bridge, which cost 20 million U.S. dollars at the time (equivalent to 161 million in 2017).

Up until its completion, the only way for vehicle traffic to cross the Panama Canal was by a small swinging road bridge at the Gatun Locks, or a swinging road and rail bridge at Miraflores Locks. Both of these swinging Panama bridges had a very limited capacity. The United States hoped to make it much easier to cross the Panama Canal and to reconnect Colon and Panama City, which were cut off from the rest of their republic by the building of the Panama Canal.

Construction of the Bridge of Americas

When the Panama Canal was first built in the early 20th century it was recognized that it would create a physical barrier between the two major cities, Colon and Panama City, and the rest of the country. Up until 1942 (and 1962), two ferries shuttled vehicles from one side of the canal to the other. Two swinging bridges with limited capacity were eventually added to help move vehicle traffic to either side of the Panama Canal.

Even back in 1923, the need for a permanent Panama land bridge spanning the canal was given priority. Finally in 1955, the Remon-Eisenhower Treaty commissioned the United States to initiate and fund the Panama Bridge of the Americas building project.

At 5,425 feet long (just over a mile wide) the Bridge of Americas Panama Canal took three years to build and upon completion stood 384 feet above sea level, leaving a clearance of 200 feet (61 meters) for ships passing below during high tide.

At first, the Bridge of Americas Panama Canal was actually called the Thatcher Ferry Bridge in honor of the original ferry that helped vehicles cross the Panama Canal. Just a decade after the Americas Bridge was officially commissioned, it was unofficially renamed as “The Bridge of the Americas,” which was much preferred by the Panamanian government. Only in 1979 was the name, “The Bridge of the Americas” officially recognized.

More Bridges Over the Panama Canal

Up until 2004, The Bridge of Americas Panama Canal was the primary method of crossing the Panama Canal by car. The Americas Bridge eventually experienced high levels of congestion and bottleneck as vehicle traffic increased into the 21st century.

Panama Centennial Bridge – In 2004 the new six-lane Panama Centennial Bridge was opened as the second bridge across the Panama Canal. Located just 25 Km inland from the Americas Bridge, the Centennial Bridge did much to ease vehicle traffic congestion. Spanning 1,380 feet and at 262 feet high, the new Panama Centennial Bridge now gives residents and Panama visitors a second option for crossing the Panama Canal by car.

Atlantic Bridge Panama – In 2013, construction began on the third bridge over the Panama Canal. The new four-lane Panama Atlantic Bridge, which is being built on the Atlantic side of Panama near Colon, will have a span of 1740 feet and will be completed by the summer of 2018.

About Caravan Panama Canal Tours

Since 1952, Caravan Tours has been offering all inclusive, fully guided vacation packages throughout North and Central America.

As part of your Panama vacation with Caravan, you will enjoy a guided Panama Canal cruise that passes beneath Bridge of Americas Panama Canal as you cruise through locks and across the Continental Divide. Later on in the tour, you will also be crossing the Panama Canal via the Panama Centennial Bridge and The Bridge of the Americas.

Caravan offers fully escorted, all inclusive Panama Canal vacations that are exceptionally priced and include all meals, accommodations, activities, and gratuities. See our Panama Tour FAQs here.

Visit our Panama Canal Tour page for more information about this tour or to book your Panama vacation call us today at 1-800-CARAVAN (227-2826).

This Caravan Tours’ blog will explore some interesting Vasco Nunez de Balboa facts.

The Port of Balboa Panama is Central America’s busiest port and is located on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal in the Balboa District, which is part of Panama City. Both the town of Balboa and the Port of Balboa were named after the Spanish Conquistador Vasco Nunez de Balboa.

But who was Vasco Nunez de Balboa?

Vasco Balboa – Discovered the Pacific Ocean

Panama City is full of rich heritage that dates all the way back to 1513 when Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa was the first to cross the Isthmus of Panama. To his delight Balboa discovered the Pacific Ocean. He was the very first explorer to make it to the Pacific coast after traveling the Atlantic Ocean and exploring the New World, then crossing by land to the Pacific side of Central America.

Vasco Nunez de Balboa Facts

Born in 1475 in Badajoz, Spain, Spanish explorer Vasco Balboa was one of four brothers. Most of his childhood is unrecorded, although he was the descendent of Lord Mason of the Balboa Castle.

Perhaps Balboa was inspired by Christopher Columbus’s successful voyages the ‘New World’ in the early 1500s when he decided to begin his own journey to find out what the New World had to offer. Balboa joined Rodrigo de Bastidas’ expedition, which was licensed to discover and bring back New World treasures for Spain’s king and queen. In 1501, only 9 years after Columbus discovered America, Balboa sailed across the Caribbean Sea and along the east coast of Panama in exploration of South America.

The crew eventually ended up sailing to Hispaniola (the large island we now know as Haiti and the Dominican Republic) because Balboa’s ship was too small to return to Spain. Balboa settled in Hispaniola as a pig farmer and planter. When debt overcame his livelihood, Balboa needed to escape and did this as a stowaway on one of Martin Fernandez’s expeditions. When he was discovered on the ship, Balboa’s knowledge of the area he traveled 8 years earlier kept the crew from getting rid of him.

With much adversity, trials, and attempts to settle in the area, Vasco Nunez de Balboa set out in 1513 to “discover the South Sea.” He had a few men to support the expedition who had a little information about the Isthmus of Panama. When he started out, Balboa had only 190 Spaniards, a couple Native guides, a small brigantine, and ten canoes. The crew grew in size as they traveled across Panama and just 25 days after starting the expedition, Balboa stood in the mountain range along Chucunaque River, where he could see the South Pacific Sea from the summit point.

Traveling more than 68 miles, Balboa and his team reached the South Sea waters on September 29th, 1513. The purpose of the Balboa expedition was more than just reaching the Pacific Ocean; the main purpose was to find gold-rich kingdoms and to conquer the gold and pearls it contained. And this Balboa did.

Panama’s Vasco Balboa Statue

The significance of Vasco Balboa to the people of Panama is huge.

Today along Panama City’s bay front, visitors can see the statue of Vasco Balboa. In this bronze monument, donated by the King of Spain, Balboa is standing on top of the world holding a sword in his right hand and a large Spanish flag in his left. The statue pays tribute to Balboa as he is claiming the Pacific Ocean for the Kingdom of Spain. Perfectly manicured lawns and gardens in Vasco Núñez de Balboa Park, along Balboa Avenue, beautifully surround the Balboa statue.

In addition to the Balboa statue:

  • Panama’s currency is called the Balboa, and his image appears on many of Panama’s coins.
  • Panama City’s main port is called the Port of Balboa, which is the main entrance to the Panama Canal from the Pacific Ocean.
  • Finally, there are numerous streets and public parks throughout Panama that are named after Balboa.

Caravan All Inclusive Panama Vacations

As a locally owned and family operated all inclusive tour company in Chicago, Caravan Tours has been offering fully guided tours of North and Central America since 1952. All of Caravan’s Central America tours are conducted by local, knowledgeable tour guides.

Although Caravan offers a fully escorted all inclusive Panama Tour, the package no longer includes an official visit to Balboa Park. While in Panama City, Caravan travelers are encouraged to make their own visit to the Balboa monument before or after their tour ends!

Call our Caravan toll free line today at 1-800-CARAVAN (227-2826) to book your next Panama vacation!