Fuerte Amador is a peninsula that is no ordinary piece of land – it’s an engineering marvel formed in the 1990s when humankind decided to give Mother Nature a helping hand. They filled in the spaces between four islands – Flamenco, Perico, Culebra, and Naos – using excavated material from the mighty Panama Canal itself, and thus, Fuerte Amador came to be.

Fast forward to the present day, and this man-made wonder has become a center of holiday activity. Whether you’re an avid foodie, dedicated shopaholic, enthusiastic explorer, or a devoted cruiser, Fuerte Amador is a great place to visit. It’s a vibrant venue with welcoming hotels, delightful eateries, and charming shops.

It’s a premier port of call for cruise ships, placing them conveniently close to the Panama Canal for visitors to explore the region. So, whether you want to marvel at the vastness of the Canal, delve into local life, or relax in a heavenly hotel, Fuerte Amador offers it all in abundance.

Panama canal locks partially open Fuerte Amador Panama
Panama Canal control tower Fuerte Amador
3D movie at the Pamana Canal observation center Fuerte Amador

An Engineering Marvel: The Miraflores Locks Observation Centre

Our adventures in the picturesque port town of Fuerte Amador, Panama, led us to the bustling heart of the Miraflores Locks Observation Centre. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure type of place where you can soak up the sun on stadium-style seating, watching enormous ships navigate the intricate lock system, or cozy up inside for a cinematic experience like no other.

With the hordes of visitors and the tropical heat bearing down on us that day, we opted for the comfort of the air-conditioned building. We passed through the locks as part of our Princess Cruise, and the Centre’s cool interior was a welcome retreat.

Inside, we found our seats, the lights dimmed, and up sprang a 3D film narrated by the matchless tone of Morgan Freeman. We were instantly transported into the world of the Canal’s history and its mind-boggling engineering genius. The film enlightened us with insight into the complex lock system, the human strength and struggle required to build it, and the architectural grandeur of the Panama Canal, with a side of buttery popcorn for that authentic movie experience!

Whether sailing through or just sightseeing, there’s no better way to marvel at the magnificence of the Panama Canal than at the Miraflores Locks Observation Centre. We enjoyed our time there.

Old Town Fuerte Amador
Building in Old Town Fuerte Amador Panama
Statue in small square in Fuerte Amador Panama

A Day in the Historic Heart of Panama - The Casco Viejo Neighborhood

After our visit to the observation center concluded, we headed to the vibrant neighborhood of Casco Viejo. This district is a small town of captivating Spanish colonial architecture, artistic treasures hidden in quirky art galleries, and charming boutiques.

However, this neighborhood bears witness to time and neglect. The artistry of the area is intermittently disrupted by the remnants of scorched or bombed buildings and the disarray of scattered rubbish. A discernible police presence hints at the urban challenges faced by the area.

Driving through Casco Viejo can be somewhat of a patience-testing endeavor, thanks to the narrow, meandering lanes. Finding a parking spot can prove as elusive as hunting for treasure in the bustling city. Hence, we suggest you park in the public spaces outside the district’s periphery and walk to Casco Viejo’s central area.

Outside of historic building in Fuerte Amador Panama
Outside of historic church in Feurte Amador Panama
Inside historic church in Fuerte Amador Panama

Structural Designs

Numerous styles make up Casco Viejo’s architecture. The neighborhood showcases a mixture of Spanish colonial flourishes, Neo-classical influences’ grandeur, and Art Deco design’s charm.

Sprinkled across this area are many historical landmarks, with the San Felipe Neri Church, the stately Presidential Palace, and the grand Teatro Nacional. Check out the Panama Canal Museum, where you can explore its impressive origin story and pivotal role in transforming global commerce (if you haven’t seen the movie at the Observation Center).

While you weave through the streets of Avenida Balboa, don’t forget to hunt through the maze of shops, each with unique offerings – hand-woven crafts, locally produced goods, or everyday valuable items.

Several magnificent churches are dotted throughout the neighborhood of Casco Viejo, each capturing a unique piece of history and distinct architectural style. San Felipe Neri Church reigns as one of the neighborhood’s oldest churches with its 18th-century baroque façade.

Don’t miss the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria la Antigua; its tremendous columns and beautiful stained-glass windows dominate Plaza Mayor. The Iglesia de la Merced, another 18th-century marvel, has an ornately embellished altar and a beautiful bell tower.


Casco Viejo's Hot and Humid Climate

Visiting Panama under its blazing sun can prove a tiring day’s adventure. As we visited Miraflores Locks Observation Center and Casco Viejo, we encountered an unyielding foe – an unforgiving heatwave that reached a blistering 96 degrees!

So, brace yourselves for Panama’s sizzling climate and equip yourselves with these vital precautions:

• A hat or cap is not just a stylish accessory but a protective barrier against the harsh tropical sun.
• Wear sunscreen: Regular application aids in fending off the tropical sun’s intense rays, ensuring your skin’s safety.
• Drink water: Keep hydrated even if you’re not thirsty.