Colón is a sea port on the Caribbean Sea coast of Panama. The city lies near the Caribbean Sea entrance to the Panama Canal. It is the capital of Panama’s Colón Province.
Gatun Locks are the biggest locks in the Panama Canal and they are open to visitors interested in the workings of this piece of fascinating engineering.
Tours of the city are available but there isn’t much to see apart from the stone built Episcopal Christ Church cathedral, the monument to Christopher Columbus (for whom Colón was named), the shopping mall at Colón 2000 and of course the Panama Canal itself.
Portobelo is a picturesque, Spanish town and UNESCO World Heritage Site, located not far from Colón. It features pretty sea views, the ruins of five Spanish forts and a Spanish treasure house, the Aduana Real, restored in 1998.
Langosta beach is located on a bay about 5 miles from Portobelo. Quiet during the week, it gets busier at weekends.
Isla Grande is a small island about an hour’s drive from Colón. The island itself is about a 5 minute boat ride from the small village of La Guayra and offers water sports, a relaxed Caribbean atmosphere and beach bars.
Local dishes include ‘patacones’ (fried plantains) and ‘ceviche’ (spiced fish, cooked with onions and lemon juice). There are also lots of seafood options available.
The disabled cruiser visiting Colon
Where You’re Docked
Cruise ships utilize two ports for visits to Colon: Colon 2000 and Cristobal Pier.
Colon 2000: As its name reflects, Colon 2000 was constructed at the turn of millennium to encourage cruise ships to bring their passengers into Panama, rather than heading straight through its canal. The port provides a clean, protected environment and well-regulated taxi services. As soon as you enter the terminal, you’ll notice how its secure facilities contrast with the “rough around the edges” appearance of the surrounding area. An overhead walkway leads passengers to the facility’s small selection of shops (many are closed or vacant with the urban renewal project underway) and larger department-type store with bargain-priced liquor, electronics, perfumes and other goods (including free-zone goods), as well as a few restaurants and bars.
Cristobal Pier: Cristobal Pier is about 3 miles from Colon 2000, the main port and duty-free shopping zone at the Caribbean end of the Panama Canal. Regulated taxis run between the two, and the journey takes about 10 minutes. The gigantic warehouse-cum-hangar has been converted into a pleasant, welcoming passenger facility with a flea market at one end and an internet cafe and indoor/outdoor, sea-view bar at the other. There you’ll find a range of wood-fronted vendors selling local craftwork (like embroidered sundresses, tablecloths, elaborate baskets and woodwork produced by local Panamanian-Indian tribes) and free-zone goods, including sunglasses and electronics at bargain prices. The shops are arranged around an indoor courtyard area where local dance troupes give folkloric performances.
Good to Know
Protect your wallet. Street crime is a real possibility in Colon, so don’t flash cash or wear expensive jewelry.
If you’re going alone by taxi (rather than taking a ship’s shore excursion), be prepared to wait until the tours have departed. Taxi drivers can only pick up passengers from the port complex once the last tour coach has left.
Local currency in Panama is the Balboa, which has parity with the U.S. dollar. Dollars are accepted everywhere, and the port shops take credit cards (though stallholders in the flea market do not). If you run short, there are ATM machines at both ports.
Spanish is the official language. Some taxi drivers and shop owners speak enough English to have a conversation, as do several employees at the grocery store in port, but the majority know only a few words. Be sure to bone up on common phrases before leaving home, download an app to your smartphone, or bring a phrasebook.
Beautifully crafted wooden puzzle boxes — shaped as fish, flowers, exotic birds and other animals — make great collectibles or presents for the folks back home. They’re made from the hard wood of the Cocobolo tree, which varies in color from black and reddish-brown to yellow.
Other great options are Panama hats, which came into popularity in the early 1900s when President Theodore Roosevelt wore one on a visit to the country as the canal was being constructed. You can find them in various sizes, colors and styles at shops all over the immediate port area. Browse a bit first, though, to be sure you’re getting the best price.
Local dishes worth trying include patacones (fried plantains) and ceviche (spiced fish, cooked with onions and lemon juice). Do have a Colombian coffee. It really is some of the best in the world.
Mexico isn’t the only place where margaritas reign supreme; they’re popular in Colon and Cristobal, too. Try a melon margarita — a mix of melon juice with tequila and lime — for a refreshing twist on the classic recipe. It’s best enjoyed on the sea-view terrace of Cristobal Pier’s pretty blue-and-white bar.
Points of Interest
- Colon – a seven-
Colon Accessible Excursions
Whether your cruise ship stops in
Colon Accessible Guided Tour
This 4 hour accessible