Fuerte Amador: The Gateway to the Panama Canal

Old town panama

Fuerte Amador is a man-made peninsula located at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. It is made up of four islands: Flamenco, Perico, Culebra, and Naos. The peninsula was created in the 1990s by filling in the area between the islands with material excavated from the Panama Canal.

Fuerte Amador is now a popular tourist destination, home to a variety of hotels, restaurants, shops, and attractions. It is also a major cruise ship port, and is a convenient base for exploring the Panama Canal and the surrounding area.

Panama Canal
Panama Canal
FA visitors center port movie

Miraflores Locks Observation Center

While visiting the port town of Fuerte Amador, Panama, we stopped by the Miraflores Locks Observation Center. At the center, you can go to an area with bleachers to watch the ships transit the locks or go inside the building and watch an IMAX movie.

The observation area was very crowded, and it was a hot and humid day. Although a ship was passing through the locks, we opted to see the movie and visit the shop inside the building to keep cool. We cruised through the locks while on a Princess cruise. More information about cruising the Panama Canal is available here.

The 3D film gave us an in-depth look at the history and engineering behind the locks, accompanied by the iconic voice of Morgan Freeman. It was genuinely fascinating to see how the locks work and to understand the impressive engineering feat of the Panama Canal. Of course, the popcorn wasn’t bad either!

Casco Viejo neighborhood
Casco Viejo neighborhood
Casco Viejo neighborhood

Casco Viejo Neighborhood

After visiting the observation center, we went to the Casco Viejo neighborhood. This charming neighborhood has Spanish colonial-style architecture, vibrant art galleries, and charming boutiques. However, the area surrounding Casco Viejo appears run down and poorly kept. There are remnants of burned and bombed-out buildings, discarded trash, and a significant police presence in the area. Driving and parking in this area are challenging; the roads are narrow, and parking is nonexistent. You’ll need to find a public parking area outside the neighborhood and walk in.

Casco Viejo neighborhood
Casco Viejo neighborhood
Church in Casco Viejo neighborhood


Casco Viejo’s architecture is a blend of Spanish colonial, Neo-classical, and Art Deco styles. This neighborhood has many historic landmarks, such as the San Felipe Neri Church, the Presidential Palace, and the Teatro Nacional. You can also visit the Panama Canal Museum to learn about the canal’s creation and its impact on global trade. We explored the shops on Avenida Balboa and the surrounding streets, where you can find handcrafted souvenirs, locally sourced products, and much more.

There are several beautiful churches in the Casco Viejo neighborhood, each with unique history and architectural style. The San Felipe Neri Church, built in the 18th century, boasts a beautiful Baroque-style facade and is one of the oldest churches in the area. The Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria la Antigua, located on Plaza Mayor, features impressive columns and beautiful stained-glass windows. Another must-see is the Iglesia de la Merced, built in the 18th century and features an intricately decorated altar and a beautiful bell tower.

The Weather

After experiencing a scorching hot day exploring Panama, I highly recommend you take precautions to stay safe under the sun. The day we visited the Miraflores Locks Observation Center and Casco Viejo, the heat was intense, and the temperature climbed to 96 degrees. If you plan to visit Panama, prepare accordingly by wearing a hat and applying sunscreen regularly to protect your skin from the harsh sun rays. You would also want to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

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