The Panama Canal, completed in 1907, spans the 50-mile isthmus of Panama and connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Ships traveling from the Atlantic are raised 85 feet through a series of locks, making it a feature on many cruise itineraries. Ships either transit the entire canal on voyages from South Florida to California (or vice versa) or enter the canal and turn around on Gatun Lake during Caribbean voyages. The ports along these itineraries offer a wealth of activities for sports enthusiasts.
Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala
Puerto Quetzal, on the Pacific coast of Central America, is the gateway to the UNESCO heritage city of Antigua. The town is also the home of the Quetzal bird, revered by the Mayan civilization. Visitors can take a walking tour of the charming city, tour nearby coffee plantations or spend the day relaxing on the black sand beach.
Colon, located at the Caribbean (Atlantic) entrance to the Canal, is Panama's second largest city. The town is one of the world's busiest duty-free ports and is known for its shopping. Visitors can also tour the nearby ruins of the Spanish colonial Fort San Lorenzo or see what's left of the 17th-century custom house where gold was weighed before being shipped to Spain.
Fuerte Amador, Panama
Fuerte Amador sits at the Pacific Ocean entrance to the Panama Canal. Located on a man-made peninsula, the port is home to a visitors' center where you can see the canal locks in action. The town is also the closest port to Panama's capital, Panama City, and many cruise lines offer day trips into the rainforests of the country's interior.
Puerto Limon, Costa Rica
Puerto Limon, on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast, is an ideal base for exploring that country's lush rainforests and abundant wildlife. Visitors can also go jungle kayaking, visit a banana plantation or take a canopy tour high above the forest floor on your cruiseline's sightseeing excursions.