Miraflores Locks Visitor Center and the Panama Canal
The Panama Canal, an early 20th-century industrial marvel, continues to amaze engineering, construction, history, and maritime buffs. An expansion to double its capacity is in progress and slated for completion in 2015. The upper deck of the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center, on the Panama City side, offers views of massive cargo ships being raised and lowered (depending on the direction) through the giant lock gates.
Start at the Panama Canal Museum (which is far more interesting than it sounds) then move on to Miraflores, one of three locks forming part of the Panama Canal. Ships are lowered or raised here, allowing them to transit to or from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The lock is worth seeing: it’s only one meter wider than the largest ships that pass through it.
Boat action: The best hours for viewing vessels are around opening (9:00 a.m.) and closing (5:00 p.m.) time.
While making preparations for a future high profile voyage, the Panama Canal Authority gave us a tour of the control room for the Miraflores locks. The original hydraulic and analog control valves are still in place, but everything now is fully automated by a modern computer system.