Situated just 10-15 minutes north of Panama City, Miraflores Locks contains two chambers and is the Canal's southernmost set of locks. A visitor center, complete with museum, restaurant/bar, souvenir shop, and auditorium resides just in front of the locks' control tower, providing visitors with close-up views of the locks and vessels during transit. Visitors have the option of viewing the Canal from two distinct locations: the roof, which offers scenic views of Miraflores & Pedro Miguel Locks, Miraflores Lake, Centenary Bridge, and surrounding area or, the second level, which has comfortable, shaded seats and provides similar views. Pamphlets and other printed material about the Canal are provided upon entering.
Buses to Miraflores Locks depart regularly from the Albrook Bus Terminal and take only 15-20 minutes. Buses that read "Miraflores" will take you to the visitor center's entrance, whereas buses that read "Forestal" will drop you off along the main road that passes in front of the Miraflores Locks; from there, you'll need to walk 5-10 minutes to reach the visitor's center. (After passing through the entrance gate, continue walking until you cross over the steel bridge—the Miraflores Dam will be off to your right. Stay to your left and proceed until you reach the large staircase/elevator that leads to the main entrance. Metro buses to Miraflores Locks depart every 30–45 minutes.)
Pedro Miguel Locks, which consists of only one chamber, resides just north of Miraflores Locks on the northernmost part of Miraflores Lake. Unlike Miraflores, there is no visitor center, however, there is a large parking area in front of the locks allowing visitors to get a close-up view of the vessels as they enter into and out of the locks' chamber.
Buses to Pedro Miguel Locks depart regularly from the Albrook Bus Terminal and take only 20-25 minutes; you must take the bus that reads "Forestal." They will drop you off along the main road that passes directly in front of the locks.
Gatun Locks, which consists of three chambers, provides the best opportunity to view the Panama Canal in operation. Southbound and northbound vessels can be seen throughout the day, allowing visitors to follow the vessels as they navigate between Gatun Lake and the Caribbean Sea.
Situated directly across from and in front of the Locks' control tower is a large, comfortable viewing area, where bilingual speakers are always present to narrate and answer any questions you may have. There is also a small souvenir shop at the entrance.
There are no pubic buses that will take you directly to the Gatun Locks entrance, so you will need to take a taxi.
Partial and full Panama Canal transits are offered regularly, though their schedule depends on the time of year; November–April is considered the high season with daily transits the norm. Partial transits include a trip under the Bridge of the Americas, through Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks, through Gaillard (Culebra) Cut, under the Centenary Bridge, and on to Gamboa where you'll disembark. For those on full transits, your journey will continue northbound. You'll first pass Barro Colorado Island, which is the largest forested island in the Panama Canal Waterway and home of the Smithsonian Biological Station. Shortly thereafter, you will enter into Gatun Lake en route to Gatun Locks and then continue on to Colon where you'll disembark. Most partial and full transits depart from Panama City, however, on occasion, your tour will consist of a southbound transit in which case you will be transported, by bus, to Gamboa or Colon where you'll begin your tour in reverse order.