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 Cristobal, Panama

Following a ship into the Gatun Locks

Cristobal, Panama Information
Contributed by
Tom Ogg

Entry Requirements
Language and Currency
What is Cristobal Like?
What is the Weather Like?
Where Does the Ship Dock?
Where is the Shopping?
What is There to Buy?
What is There To Do?
Is There Anything of a “Don’t Miss Quality?
Are There Any Great Restaurants or Bars?

Cristobal, Panama Port Reviews

Entry Requirements

A valid U.S. passport is required for all U.S. citizens entering Panama. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months past the planned departure from Panama.

Language and Currency

The official languages of Panama are Spanish and English. The currency of Panama is the Balboa, but U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere for a 1 to 1 rate.

What is Cristobal like?

Cristobal is a port city that resides at the entrance of Limon Bay that leads to the entrance to the eastern side of the Panama Canal. Many ships cruising to the Panama Canal simply enter the locks and then are raised up to Gatun Lake where they then tender folks ashore for their shore excursions. Those that do not take a shore excursion, generally stay aboard to retrace their steps back down the locks and then to Cristobal. Some ships do not enter the locks at all, but simply start their shore excursions in Cristobal.

Cristobal itself is not much to look at and there is limited shopping in the city.

What is the weather like?

The driest time of the year is from January to March where it can still rain heavily. The wettest season is from April to December. Look for temperatures in the mid 80s year around with high humidity during the rainy season.

Where does the ship dock?

Entrance to the Cristobal Cruise Terminal

The ship docks at Cristobal Pier in Cristobal. It is not suggested that you try to walk into town from the pier, but rather take a taxi to where you want.

Where is the shopping?

The Flea Market in the Cristobal Cruise Terminal

There is limited shopping in Cristobal, but the pier itself houses a huge shopping complex and flea market.

What is there to buy?

Darien Indians Selling Weaved Baskets

Local crafts from various Indian groups that reside in Panama including the Cuna Indians.. Hand weaved baskets, wood carvings, shell and silver jewelry and souvenirs are plentiful. There are also several stores in the complex selling perfumes, clothing, pharmaceuticals and more. The Cuna Indian molas are very collectible. Molas are fabric designs made from various colors of cloth to create a multi-colored unique picture that is worth framing.

What is there to do?

Sightseeing Along the Panama Canal

Of course, the main draw of a port call at Cristobal is to visit the Panama Canal. There are several ways to do this. Most ships offer a partial cruise through the canal that you may book. The train that traverses the canal is also an excellent way to see the entire canal. Finally, a motor coach tour of the canal that includes Panama City is also an excellent way to experience all the canal has to offer.

The Gatun Locks and Entrance from the Caribbean

If doing the Gatun locks is enough of the canal experience for you, then there are several other choices that are desirable. The Gamboa Aerial Tram is one of only three in the world to traverse the very top of the rain forest. This unique 60-minute tram ride through the top of the rain forest canopy is something not to be forgotten. Hiking in the rain forest, kayaking in Gatun Lake, Peacock Bass fishing in Gatun Lake and visiting various Indian settlements and markets are always available.

Is there anything of “Don’t Miss” quality?

Yes, I would say that traversing the Gatun Locks is an experience everyone will remember.

Are there any great restaurants or bars?

Not that I am aware of. Do you know of any?

 Port Reviews

  • Marilyn,

    The Panama Canal was of course outstanding – I managed to be right in the front of the ship to watch everything while my children went all around the ship more

    109 users found this review helpful.
  • John Watson,

    Here we did take a ship’s tour and it appears that this is the only way to get away from the ship in Panama. There is a very good shopping area on the pier but outside of the more

    191 users found this review helpful.
  • Lisa,

    After docking in Gatun Lake, only people on ship sponsored tours are allowed off the ship (this is controlled by the PCA - Panama Canal Authority.) You more

    209 users found this review helpful.
  • Linda,

    When we completed the Gatun locks we sailed into Gatun Lake. We dropped anchor there and those of us on excursions were taken off the ship on tenders. We more

    177 users found this review helpful.
  • Bob Hersey,

    We were booked on the Grand Tour of Panama.  By now, Coral Princess was in Gatun Lake.  The weather was warm and sunny.  We disembarked Coral by more

    84 users found this review helpful.
  • 1 2 (1-5 of 8)


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