9 Awesome Reasons to Book a Cruise Through the Panama Canal

The idea of creating a passage that allows ships to cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific without braving the icy waters of Cape Horn has been alive and kicking since Charles V of Spain ordered a survey of the best options in 1534. From conception to the first completed passage of a single vessel, it took 380 years, 27,000 lives, and the excavation of 170,000,000 cu yards (129,974,326 m3) of earth to accomplish. It’s a modern world wonder, and for most people, seeing it for themselves is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are lots of options for visiting the Panama Canal, but booking a cruise is one of the best, and here is why:

9. Luxury Amenities and Incredible Food on Board

Who doesn’t love trying new cuisine when they travel? For many, food is a primary reason to travel. Unfortunately, the human digestive system isn’t set up to handle the introduction of new foods without a little indigestion. Add in foreign bacteria, unpurified water, and new eating schedules, and your gut might be in for an unpleasant shock. The plus side? Travelers who book cruises have access to plenty of familiar cuisine on-board, included in the price of passage. Keeping more familiar foods in your diet can help your stomach handle new foods more easily, and cruise ships help keep that in balance. I would never recommend ignoring local cuisine completely for the tried and true staples found on-board a cruise ship, but I don’t advise indigestion and food poisoning either. Enjoy the local fare, but when you need a break, cruise cuisine is there.

cruise ship dining hall

8. To Fully Understand How it Works

Wrapping your mind around just how the locks in the canal work can be tough if you haven’t experienced them for yourself. There are three sets of locks: 1 on the Atlantic side, 1 on the Pacific side, and 1 connecting Gatun and Mira Flores Lakes. The purpose of the locks is to raise and lower the water level in each chamber using water from the lakes, and thereby allow ships to pass through what used to be solid earth. The sheer amount of water it takes to get just one ship through the canal – 26,700,000 US gal (101,000 m3) times 12 lock chambers – is staggering. All of the water comes from natural runoff into the lake and empties out into the ocean through the process. In wet, winter months, there’s plenty of water to go around. In the dry season, however, Gatun Lake may experience a shortfall.

panama canal locks

7. See the Bridge of the Americas and Centennial Bridge

The Bridge of the Americas, or Puente de las Américas in Spanish, was built in 1962 at a cost of $20 million USD. It was the first permanent bridge to cross the canal, and it is located right at the Pacific locks. It’s a cantilever bridge, which allows it to extend across the canal without any structures holding it up in the middle. The Centennial Bridge is a gorgeous cable-stay design, much like the Brooklyn Bridge in New York and the Jiang-Shaoxing Sea Bridge in China. The Centennial Bridge was completed in 2004, and completes the Pan-American Highway today. Reading about these two monumental bridges here is nothing compared to the thrill of sailing underneath them. The gorgeous harp design of the Centennial Bridge is simply stunning from any angle, and the Bridge of the Americas is imposingly impressive as well.

Centennial Bridge  Panama

6. Learn About the History of Such a Feat First Hand

Reading about the canal’s history on the web or in a book really leads to missing out on understanding the accomplishment of such a feat. It’s hard to understand the difficulty of cutting and blasting through tons of rocky terrain that reached 360 feet above sea level to create a water-bearing canal. Or the disaster that malaria and yellow fever presented for the workforce charged with creating this monumental achievement. Nearly 28,000 people – nearly a third of the total workforce – died creating this engineering masterpiece. Much of the Panama landscape and culture was effected by the canal as well. The builders agreed to lend a hand to create lasting infrastructure in the country, like schools and hospitals, which visitors can see in person. Visitors can also meet some of the locals and talk to them about how the canal’s history has changed Panama.

Tiago Lopes Fernandez / Shutterstock.com
Tiago Lopes Fernandez / Shutterstock.com

5. Cruisers Get to See Other Great South American Destinations

What’s the best South or Central American Country to visit? Can you really know without visiting them all? One of the best thing about booking a cruise, any cruise, is that passengers get a little taste of several, if not many, destinations on their floating hotel. Popular ports of call for Panama Canal cruises are Cartagena, Colombia; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; and Montego Bay, Jamaica. A trip that includes all of these locations is rare indeed, especially when you consider the travel time and cost of booking flight after flight (or passage after passage) between these ports. For around $150 USD per night (the cost of many hotels), travelers literally cruise to their next destination in their sleep. While spending just a day in these ports of call isn’t enough to sate every travelers’ curiosity, it’s a great way to help them figure out which ports they’d like to return to later for more exploration.

Cartagena, Colombia

4. The Mind-Blowing Size of Ships Allowed to Pass

Most people in the world only ever see the Panama Canal on a map or hear about it from other travelers during a slide show presentation of their vacation photos. As with most adventure tales, however, something always gets lost in translation. For the canal, that thing is the mind-blowing size of the ships that are allowed to pass through. The canal is a mere 110 feet wide and has a usable length of just 1,000 feet. Cruise ships traveling through the canal can be as large as 106 feet wide and 965 feet long. Believe it or not, this length actually has an industry-created name: Panamax. And you better believe both shipping and cruise companies use every inch! Standing on deck and gazing down at the measly 2 feet of space between the ship and the concrete edge of the canal is enough to awe any seaman, not to mention the average vacationer.

Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com
Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com

3. Booking Passage

The average fee for a passenger ship passing through the Panama Canal is a whopping $54,000 USD. These fees can quickly skyrocket even higher if you want to cut in line. The Panamax tanker Erikoussa once bypassed 90 other ships to avoid a 7-day delay, turning a fee of $13,430 into a jaw-dropping $220,300. To avoid priority passage fees, ships normally snag a spot in line a year or more in advance. These astronomical fees usually only apply to large vessels, like freighters and cruise ships. For travelers looking to book passage on a small vessel for themselves, fees start at $1,300 – about the cost of passage on a 10-day cruise that includes food, stops at several ports, and maybe a few excursions, too. Plus, cruise passengers don’t have to own or rent their own boat or worry about booking so far in advance. The cruise line takes care of it all.

briefcase full of money

2. Monkeys, Birding, Boating, and More

Along with incredible views of the canal, Gatun and Mira Flores Lakes, and an inside view of the locks, there’s plenty to explore in Panama off-ship. Walking tours and hikes are plentiful in the area for anyone who wants a close-up view of Colon, Panama City, or the surrounding jungles. Historical and educational tours of the locks are also available. There are even small passenger boat tours, where monkeys will literally climb into the seat next to you from branches that hang over the water for a slice of banana. The best part? All tours booked through the cruise company are booked with vetted, quality tour companies. Cruise passengers don’t have to worry about scheduling tours in a foreign language or getting ripped off. Rest assured, bad tours don’t generally make it onto the itinerary, and if they do, they don’t stick around for long.

sloth panama

1. The Perfect Trip

What’s the number one reason to book a cruise to the Panama Canal? Why, to enjoy the canal, of course. Let’s face it: travel can be expensive, complicated, and stressful, especially if you like to have a certain level of luxury on your trip. The point of travel is not to throw away money or stress yourself out so that you need a vacation after your vacation. Travel should be simple, and, above all, enjoyable. And for many adventurers, it is. If you’re not a seasoned traveler, or only have a limited time to experience both adventure and relaxation, book a cruise. You get all the staples, like food, lodging, and transportation for one, uncomplicated price. You get an on-board spa and pool-lounging time, plus the chance to explore numerous destinations, led by some of the best guides in the business. So the only real question is, why wouldn’t you book?

relaxing cruise couple

15 Amazing Film Locations From the James Bond 007 Franchise

Since 1962, the suave secret agent known as Bond has been thrilling cinema-goers with his climatic action sequences, high-tech gadgets and steamy romance scenes. Everyone loves a good action movie (after all, these films have been in production for over 50 years) but one of the best parts of any 007 film is seeing all the magnificent scenery on the screen as Bond tours around the world chasing evil villains. But did you ever wonder where exactly were these amazing films shot? In fact, these beautiful locations do exist in real life. Here are 15 amazing real life locations featured in the Bond films:

15. Altausse Jagdhaus Seewiese, Austria

Aston Martins. Designer suits. The rugged beauty of the Austrian mountains in the background. High stakes espionage never looked so good. In Spectre, follow James Bond (Daniel Craig) on his globetrotting adventures across Europe. As he tracks down an international criminal conspiracy, he finds himself at Altausse Jagdhaus Seewiese for a daytime spy rendezvous. The historic mountain cottage is nestled in a small village with a stunning backdrop of the Austrian mountain range. Dating back to the Triassic and Jurassic periods, the hills of the quaint mountain town are dotted with houses for postcard perfect surroundings. The cozy log cabin is a favorite spot for hearty food and beer with a view of the waterfront and surrounding mountains. A bit of fresh mountain air, a high-speed chase through the forest, and a snack at this gastropub is the perfect combination to keep 007 in top form.

Photo by: Mi6 Community
Photo by: Mi6 Community

14. Blenheim Palace, United Kingdom

As 007 suits up and jet sets his way across the globe, he stops by the Blenheim Palace in hot pursuit of dangerous villains. In Spectre, he dodges bullets and combats criminals at the Blenheim Palace, an Oxfordshire country house in the United Kingdom. Built in the early 1700s, the palace is a rare example of English Baroque architecture and is considered one of England’s historical treasures. Over the centuries, it has been home to dukes of Marlborough, a prestigious group of aristocrats whose family still owns the revered palace. Plan for an unforgettable day in the English countryside at the World Heritage Site, which consists of an impressive 12,500 acres of grand estates, gardens, and ancient forests. While touring the exquisite and well-preserved grounds of the palace, get ready to imagine the dukes and ladies of the Old World sipping top shelf brandy in the parlor while the butlers and maids did the dirty work.

Amra Pasic / Shutterstock.com
Amra Pasic / Shutterstock.com

13. Vauxhall Bridge, London

In the world of high stakes espionage, James Bond (Danile Craig) returns to his old stomping grounds of London in his latest feature Spectre. In between high-speed chases and sniper rifle shootouts, we catch a glimpse of the historic Vauxhall Bridge, a steel and granite arch bridge situated along the River Thames. Built in 1906, the historic bridge stands out with its original ornate detailing and bright red color. Often used in establishing shots for films set in London, the bridge is featured in a daytime establishing shot right before 007 gets entangled in a deadly spy tryst. Formerly known as Regent Bridge, Vauxhaull Bridge still retains its early 20th century splendor and continues to serve as a main artery of London’s highway system, carrying the A202 over the Thames.

Vauxhall Bridge, London

12. Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice

Follow in the footsteps of the legendary 007 as he suits up for a dangerous mission in Casino Royale. First stop is the historic Church of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, Italy, for a spy meeting and deadly combat, because in the world of espionage, anything could happen. In this case, the setting is the ancient and revered water city that contains some of the world’s best-preserved buildings, including the San Giorgio Maggiore that dates back to the 16th century. While Bond gets entangled in a deadly showdown with international criminals, the cherished church sits in the background with its unique Renaissance architecture. Get ready to travel back in time to the Old World in a city that still retains its original magnificence of centuries past. Venice is also rare in that it is one of the few remaining walking cities in the world.

Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
kavalenkau / Shutterstock.com

11. Kaiserbad Spa, Czech Republic

Set in a world of backstabbing, deadly combat, and death-defying stunts, James Bond (Daniel Craig) heads to the heart of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic for the final showdown at Casino Royale. Standing in for the exterior of the high-end gambling palace is the Kaiserbad Spa, the lavish and opulent former spa that is considered the crown jewel of the historic village. Although it is now closed to the public, it is worth seeing its preserved neo-Baroque architecture up close on a stroll down the nearby Goethova stezka and Marianskolazenska near the Tepla River. Once inside the high stakes casino, Bond has one chance to take down Le Chiffe as he hedges his bets on the poker game of a lifetime. In this deadly game, Bond either wins or dies, but for travelers to the spa town of Karlovy Vary, it’s a leisurely stroll through a charming old-world village.

Photo by: Panoramio/Sergey Brandys
Photo by: Panoramio/Sergey Brandys

10. Venetian Lagoon, Italy

After completing his death-defying mission in Casino Royale, James Bond (Daniel Craig) follows up with M (Judi Dench) with his latest espionage intel while cruising around the Venetian Lagoon on a luxury speed boat. Travelers to the historic water city of Venice, Italy can opt for a more traditional tour of the famous lagoon in an authentic gondola ride. Making up part of the Adriatic Sea, the enclosed bay stretches from the River Sile in the north of Venice. Visitors have the option of booking a tour of the Lagoon or making their own trip in a rented speedboat. Another option is hopping on a cheap water taxi mostly filled with locals who work or live on one of the islands. With hundreds of islands in the Lagoon, get ready to explore the glass-making center of Murano, the cemetery in San Michelle, and the colorful painted houses of Burano.

Venetian Lagoon Italy

9. Grand Hotel Pupp, Czech Republic

In the next generation of the Bond Franchise, 007 (Daniel Craig) puts on his best dinner tux and gathers his high tech spy gadgets for the final showdown between Le Chiffre, a deadly arms dealer. In Casino Royale, the dangerous mission takes him to the historic spa village of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. In between combat with deadly assassins, the luxurious old world Grand Hotel Pupp stands majestically in the background. Dating back to 1701, the hotel is a unique example of neo-Baroque architecture in all its well-preserved splendor. Today, the luxury hotel offers vintage style opulence and world-renowned spa treatments in the heart of the popular spa village. After some rest and relaxation, wander around the historic town full of ancient gems like the famous hot springs, the Thermal Spring Colonnade, and Church of St. Mary Magdalene. Bond may fight dirty, but he does it in style.

Irina Burmistrova / Shutterstock.com
Irina Burmistrova / Shutterstock.com

8. Santa Maria della Salute, Venice

Top secret missions, spy rendezvous, exotic locales. Looks like James Bond is back to take out some deadly assassins in Casino Royale, the latest installment of the blockbuster franchise. Along the way, he makes a stop at the Santa Maria della Salute, a well-preserved historic landmark. Situated in the celebrated water city of Venice, Italy, the Roman Catholic Church dates back to 1681 and is quite an impressive structure with its domed ceilings, intricate and opulent Baroque details, and exclusive works by Titian, a celebrated artist of the Italian Renaissance. Designed by Baldassare Longhena, the church was built as a dedication to Our Lady of Health in the desperate hope that it would end the devastating outbreak of the plague. Although the holy structure didn’t curb the deadly disease, Venetians continued to pray and offer sacraments to the saints on the steps of the magnificent Santa Maria della Salute, the gem of Venice.

Santa Maria della Salute

7. Big Ben, London

For international secret agent James Bond, London is spy headquarters in the 1964 Goldfinger, a classic of the blockbuster franchise. As 007 (Sean Connery) gears up for a risky espionage mission involving an international criminal conspiracy, the Big Ben is featured in a daytime establishing shot. One of the most iconic and recognizable symbols of London, Big Ben is the nickname for the clock situated at the north end of the Westminster Palace. Established in 1858, Big Ben holds the honor of being the world’s largest four-faced chiming clock. The best way to get an up close look of the clock tower is a walk on the footpath of Westminster Bridge where you’ll get a breathtaking view of Big Ben, the House of Parliament, and the Lambeth and Vauxhall Bridges nearby. It might be a classic from the 60s, but the historic icons still retain its original splendor.

Big Ben, London

6. Fontainebleau, Miami

In the classic 1964 Goldfinger of the James Bond franchise, the first scene opens up to a sky view of Miami Beach and an establishing shot of the Fontainebleau, one of the most iconic and recognizable hotels in the world. Established in 1954, the hotel has seen stars like Jackie Gleason, the Rat Pack, and other celebrities throughout the decades come through its doors, lounging in swanky jazz clubs and oceanfront cabanas. In the 50s, Miami experienced an economic boom and quickly became the Hollywood hotspot for celebrities on vacation. The hotel has also been featured in several movies, and in the case of Sean Connery’s 007, he’s busy getting some massage action with a cute blonde, and with the pool and a martini close by, of course. After a cocktail and a swim, Bond is ready to talk shop with Felix before suiting up for his next mission.

Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com
Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com

5. Swiss Alps, Switzerland

Channel your debonair spy swagger and head for the hills, literally. In Spectre, Bond (Daniel Craig) finds himself speeding in his vintage Aston Martin along winding roads of the Swiss Alps in pursuit of deadly international criminals. After arriving in Zurich by train or a direct international flight, hop in a rental car and head to the Klausen Passis, the first large alpine pass and also the passageway directly into the heart of the Central Alps. Another benefit of the Klausen Pass Highway is that it isn’t typically busy, just a few locals, driving enthusiasts, and the occasional suave secret agent. Once inside the Alps, get ready for breathtaking scenery, including ancient forests, and granite plateaus and peaks typical of the Swiss Alps. Along the way, there are several waterfalls, which are the most powerful in the spring and early summer.

Swiss Alps, Switzerland

4. Barbican Center, London

Set in the glamorous but deadly world of international espionage, 007 (Daniel Craig) makes a stop at spy central in London. In Quantum of Solace, the Barbican Center is featured in a daytime establishing shot right before James Bond meets with his MI-6 handlers for intel on his next mission. Standing in as the main office of the Secret Intelligence Service is the Barbican Center, a major cultural venue located on Silk Road. Home to the London Symphony Orchestra, plus several art galleries, theaters, a concert hall, and cinemas, the Barbican Center is a popular hotspot for upscale shopping and entertainment. One of the largest culture centers in Europe, it is easy to spend a day and evening filled with films, concerts, and art exhibitions that are offered almost every night of the week.

Claudio Divizia / Shutterstock.com
Claudio Divizia / Shutterstock.com

3. Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panama

Standing in for the Andean Grand Hotel and the setting of James Bond’s showdown is the Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panama, a popular building in San Felipe. As he battles deadly assassins with spy gadgets and designer suits, you might catch a glimpse of the San Felipe neighborhood in a high-speed chase sequence in Quantum of Solace. Housed in a white colonial style mansion, the institute is located in the old courthouse and is responsible for promoting arts and culture of the Republic of Panama. The building is also home to the Anita Villaluz theatre, a popular space for film exhibitions and performances relating to the history of Panamanian tradition and the voices of the future. In the case of 007, it’s just another day of espionage in paradise.

«Instituto Nacional de Cultura Panama» por Mel Ortega - http://www.flickr.com/photos/melortpanama/4294352559/in/set-72157618470965651. Disponible bajo la licencia CC BY 2.0 vía Wikimedia Commons.
«Instituto Nacional de Cultura Panama» por Mel Ortegahttp://www.flickr.com/photos/melortpanama/4294352559/in/set-72157618470965651. Disponible bajo la licencia CC BY 2.0 vía Wikimedia Commons.

2. The Langham Hotel, London

Get ready to enter a deadly world of the elite class and James Bond in hot pursuit of criminal masterminds. In Golden Eye, Pierce Brosnan has a license to kill but first he needs a relaxing evening with a femme fatale. In this case, he finds himself at the Langham Hotel in London, one of Europe’s finest historic hotels. Since 1865, the grand hotel has attracted royalty, celebrities, and high-class villains of 007 fame. Feel like an English aristocrat in the same hotel where Charles Dickens, Prince of Wales, and high society of the Victorian era flaunted their wealth and prestige. If you’re feeling especially extravagant, splurge on The Sterling Suite, an opulent palace fit for a king.

"Langham london" by The Langham, London - The Langham, London. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.
Langham london” by The Langham, London – The Langham, London. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

1. Regent Street, London

In the mid 90s, the Bond franchise was still going blockbuster with non-stop action, and Golden Eye (1995) was no exception. Follow Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond as he tracks down an international criminal conspiracy on a high-speed chase through Regent Street, a major shopping area in the west end of London. He’s driving his BMW 73 at lightening speed but visitors can take a more leisurely stroll to get a closer look at the streets bustling with locals or tourists who are busy shopping or lounging in stylish cafes. Close by the Picadilly Circus and Oxford Circus underground stations, the historic neighborhood dates back to the early 1800s with its well-preserved Georgian architecture as a magnificent piece of old London. Although it took a few centuries to break ground, the result was Regent Street and its stately elegance of Neo-Georgian style.

pisaphotography / Shutterstock.com
pisaphotography / Shutterstock.comslideshow

10 Things to See and Do in Panama

This stunning country has been opening its arm to tourists for centuries, but is just starting to become one of the hottest countries to visit in Central America. Packed into this little country is an amazing amount of diversity from its hip nightlife scene to tropical rainforests to mountain reserves to thousands of islands featuring white sand and stunning azure waters. Take a visit to one of the villages of indigenous people or scuba dive in a marine national park. Whatever it is you are after; Panama is where you will find it. Here are 10 amazing things to see and do in this country.

10. Canoe to Embera Indian Village

Visiting an authentic Indian Village in the luscious jungle should be at the top of your list of things to do in Panama. These agricultural people live in small communities deep in the jungle and have survived by growing their own crops, fishing and hunting. There are many guided tours that are being offered out to these tribes who welcome tourists with warm arms. Groups will take a canoe ride through the jungle to the shores of the communities where you will have the chance to immerse yourself into their culture. Learn about the history of these indigenous people, learn about their way of life and enjoy lunch with the community. Visiting an Embera Village is not only a fun experience, but gives visitors the chance to understand this culture and its values.

Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com
Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

9. Surf in Santa Catalina

This quiet fishing village located off Panama’s Pacific Coast may just be its best kept secret, but probably not for long. As of now the village is remote and unspoiled, drawing surfers and divers from all over the world to explore its landscape. You won’t find shopping malls or famous landmarks here though; instead visitors will be privy to a laid-back atmosphere, sandy beaches and some of the most regular and best surf breaks in all of Central America. You will have your choice of surf camps here as a number of them have sprung up in the last several years, as well as your choice of many restaurants. The surf here is best for experienced surfers as the bottom is rocky and the waves roll in all year round ranging from four to 20 feet. If you are looking to catch a wave in Panama, this is where to do so.

shutterstock_106046411

8. Hit the Beach

Panama is home to hundreds of kilometers of coastline, both on the Pacific and Caribbean sides and it should come as no surprise that hitting the beach should be one of the first things to do when you arrive. The key to finding a good beach in Panama though is to head to one of the many islands, you will have your choice with over 1,500 islands in total. The Pearl Islands offer white-sand beaches, excellent snorkeling conditions and calm waters. They also happen to be relatively un-crowded, a major bonus if you are looking for some privacy. San Blas is a paradise unlike any other and boast an archipelago of over 100 islands, some just rings of white sand. The atmosphere here is relaxing and think relaxing in a hammock while sipping a tropical drink.

Pearl Island

7. Visit the Museum of Biodiversity

If you want to learn more about the history of Panama and the diversity of nature in this country, the Museum of Biodiversity should be one of your first stops. This museum was built in 2014 and designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry who donated his design to the people of Panama. The result is a brilliant colored building placed right near the water, offering an extraordinary learning experience for all. Visitors to this museum will find a plethora of exhibits in place, as well as many more on the way as this museum develops over the years. For now you will learn about the biodiversity of Panama through an audio guide, a rainforest and nature centre and an aquarium. Part of the admission price goes back into developing the museum and while the architecture is truly marvelous, make sure to go inside and educate yourself.

Photo by: BioMuseo Panama
Photo by: BioMuseo Panama

6. Summit Volcan Baru

It is one of the only places in the world in which you can see both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea at the same time with the naked eye. This dormant volcano is no easy mountain to summit though and hikers who make it their goal to be on top will need to be prepared. Perhaps that is why this feat is one of the most rewarding things to do in Panama. The hike itself will last anywhere from four to six hours and is a combination of gentle slopes and steep inclines. The best time to start your hike up this volcano is midnight as it offers the best chance of seeing both oceans from the summit. Many times just after the sun has risen, the clouds roll in making it impossible to see much of anything from the summit. The sight of both oceans, from the naked eye is something you will never forget.

Photo by: Ariel Rodriguez-Vargas via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Ariel Rodriguez-Vargas via Wikimedia Commons

5. Dive or Snorkel at Coiba National Park

Located 30 miles off the Panamanian coast in the Gulf of Chiriquí lay the incredible Coiba Marine National Park. There is a total of 800 marine species that call this area home and therefore offers some of the best diving along the Pacific Coast. Because of its remoteness most visitors rely on a tour operator to get them out to the Island where beautiful beaches and warm waters await. Diving and/or snorkeling here is absolutely breathtaking. From schools of colorful fish to coral to rays, dolphins and turtles; the marine life is plentiful in every direction. If you want to spend the night on the island the only place to do so is at the ranger station in a rustic dorm style room with bunk beds. Staying overnight will give visitors the chance to explore the hiking trails on the island and the many exotic bird species that call this place home.

Cobia National Park

4. Bike Along Amador Causeway

Located at the mouth of the Panama Canal the Amador Causeway is a four km biking and running path that links the Canal Zone neighborhood of Balboa to Flamenco and Perico Island. The causeway offers some of the greatest views of the Panama City skyline and the Pacific Ocean entrance of the Canal. The easiest way to enjoy the views is to rent a bike from one of the nearby bike rental shops. Along the causeway are numerous restaurants, shops, the Museum of Biodiversity and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute which is home to a few animals and numerous species of fish. Biking along here at sunset is one of the best times to do so as the views get even more incredible. Along the way expect to see other tourists walking and biking, fisherman hauling in their lines and locals enjoying ice-cream. A true taste of what Panama really stands for.

Amador Causeway

3. Discover Panama City

One of the best ways to explore Panama City is to take a self-guided walking tour, a guided walking tour or hop on a sightseeing bus. Panama City is actually comprised of three cities, the ruins of the 16th century original city Panama Viejo, the Spanish colonial city Casco Viejo, and the modern skyscraper city. The favorite of the three happens to be Casco Viejo, the city built in 1671. This vibrant and colorful neighborhood recently went under renovations and now features many restored hotels and restaurants that lie side by side with crumbling buildings. This city also offers the hottest nightlife scene and enjoys sweeping ocean and city bay views. The ruins of Panama Viejo on the other hand are extensive and incredibly remarkable. There is a small museum with a number of displays but it is recommended you take a Spanish guide along with you as many of them are not in English.

Casco Viejo

2. Visit the Bocas del Toro Archipelago

It is Panama’s most visited eco-tourism destination featuring nine main islands, 52 cays, and thousands of islets along with being one of the most biologically diverse places on earth. It is here where you will find natural raw beauty in cloud forest mountains, palm lined beaches and clear waters teeming with colorful fish and coral. The activities here are endless from zip lining through the jungle canopy to horseback riding along the beach to discovering indigenous communities. This destination offers the rare combination of premium accommodations set in a lush tropical paradise. Whether you are coming here to explore the Home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Panama’s first National Marine Park or to relax on one of the beautiful Caribbean beaches; this archipelago has it all.

Bocas del Toro Archipelago

1. See the Panama Canal

The best way to see the Panama Canal, which stretches 80 km, is to head to the Miraflores Locks. Here there is a very informative visitor’s center which is home to a theatre, three observation terraces, gift shop, restaurant and four exhibition halls. For history and engineering buffs the sight is truly spectacular, a system of locks that was built over 100 years ago, yet operates as it were just built yesterday. Watching the water rush in to fill the locks and lift the ships is simply remarkable to watch and this canal is responsible for providing passage for nearly 14,000 ocean vessels a year. We suggest grabbing a beer and sitting at one of the bars and watching the huge ships pass by, as well as checking out the museum and 3D movie. It wouldn’t be a trip to Panama without exploring the Canal.

Panama Canal

The 15 Coolest New Tourist Attractions for 2015

The year of 2015 is promising to take monumental steps forward in technology, science and innovation and tourist attractions are benefitting from this trend. With more people traveling than ever before, older attractions are reinventing themselves and offering visitors new exhilarating experiences. From the new floor in the iconic Eiffel Tower to a bicycle path turned glow-in-the-dark; tourism imagination is at its fullest. Besides the revamped tourist attractions are a number of fabulous brand new attractions including state of the art museums focused on helping our planet, sustainable distilleries and skyscrapers and cable cars that can whisk visitors up mountains at lightning speed. From an ice tunnel in a large glacier to what feels like the top of the world in New York City; visitors around the world have no shortage of epic and cool new tourist attractions to explore. Join us in discovering the top 15 coolest new tourist attractions in 2015.

15. Shanghai Tower -Shanghai, China

Set to be the second tallest tower in the world, the Shanghai Tower could not be left off this list of coolest and most amazing attractions of 2015. Towering over the Huangpu River with 125 stories the shape of the tower is most unique. With a curved façade and a spiraling form the tower provides nine indoor zones for public visitors offering 360 degree views of the city. Each zone is home to its own atrium with gardens, cafes, restaurants and retail space.

Sustainable design is at the heart of the Shanghai Tower and at the center of its design is the second skin that wraps around the building creating the atriums that help reduce the heating and cooling efforts needed for the building. Other features include water conservation practices, wind turbines and extensive landscaping. The tower truly represents the future in the way cities are being created and is redefining the role of skyscrapers in big cities. The building is set to be the second tallest only for a short while as the Ping An Finance Centre in Shenzhen is set to surpass it in 2016. Regardless of whether it is the second, third or tenth tallest building in the world, the Shanghai Tower features unique components and a breathtaking design that can only truly be appreciated in person.

TonyV3112 / Shutterstock.com
TonyV3112 / Shutterstock.com

14. Eiffel Tower Glass Floor -Paris, France

One of the attractions on our list that has been re-vamped into one of the coolest new attractions of 2015 is the infamous Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. To celebrate the 125th anniversary of Paris the Eiffel Tower went through a 40 million dollar face lift and includes a new museum, solar panels and a dizzying glass floor. The museum tells the story of the history of the museum through seven screens while the solar panels will help produce hot water and energy for the tower.

The main new attraction here and the one that has everyone talking is the glass floor located on the first floor, almost 200 feet above the ground. Visitors will feel as they are literally walking on air as the non-slip coating applied to the see through panels allow people to walk, lay, sit and take “selfies”. If you didn’t think you were scared of heights take a jaunt up to this unique twist on an already iconic tourist attraction and step out onto the glass floor; this addition only makes us want to visit the Eiffel Tower even more.

Eiffel Tower looking up

13. Flyway Taiwan -New Taipei City, Taiwan

One of the most exciting attractions on our list takes place in New Taipei City in Taiwan, amongst the rolling green hills and breathtaking landscapes. Flyway, a company founded by a man from California is set to open in spring of 2015 offering a two hour zip-line canopy tour. With over ten cables to whiz down through the forests and over valleys as well as swings, rope ladders and “free fall” experiences there is no shortage of adrenaline rushing activities.

Located on the eastern edge of Taipei, Taiwan this is not for the faint-hearted. Visitors that have done zip-lining before should think twice about skipping this tourist attraction as the varying landscapes, professional commitment and interesting course offers something very different than the typical jungle zip-line experience. The trend-crazy island of Taiwan is full of beauty, lush green rolling hills and the perfect choice to go flying through the air Tarzan Style at one of the coolest attractions set to open in 2015.

Valley Taipei Taiwan

12. Bombay Sapphire Distillery -Laverstoke, United Kingdom

When one of the most iconic gin brands in the world creates a distillery with a visitor’s center it promises to be amazing and out of this world. Bombay Sapphire has managed to transform a 300 year old paper mill that sits amongst a conservation area with over a thousand years of history into a state-of-the-art sustainable distillery. The renovated Laverstoke Mill showcases the natural beauty and heritage of the site while letting visitors see the unique Vapour Infusion distillation process.

The two giant greenhouses showcase the botanicals that Bombay uses in their gin and are composed of 793 individual pieces of glass. The Dakin Still House lets visitors get up close and personal to the distillation process while the Botanical Dry Room will invigorate your senses and uncover your preferred tastes. The Mill bar is where the tasting happens and all the drinks can be tailored individually depending on your botanical preference.  A combination of incredible history, beautiful glass architecture and some of the best gin in the world makes this our number twelve coolest attraction of 2015. Discover the village of Laverstoke; home to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery.

lev radin / Shutterstock.com
lev radin / Shutterstock.com

11. Whitney Museum of American Art -New York City, USA

The largest column-free museum gallery in New York City is set to open in spring 2015; The Whitney Museum of American Art has packed up its collections and moved to its new location. Situated in the meatpacking district between the High Line and Hudson River in Manhattan the building promises to include approximately 50,000 square feet of indoor galleries and 13,000 square feet of outdoor exhibition space. The special exhibit section is set to encompass 18,000 square feet making it the largest column free gallery in NY.

The cantilevered entrance creates a large public space where visitors can see views of the Hudson River, the park, industrial structures and mingle with others that are passionate about art. The education center that is part of the Museum includes classrooms, a 170-seat theater, conservation lab, reading room and black box with adjacent outdoor gallery for performances, film and video. Combined with a retail store and choice of restaurants; the new and improved Whitney Museum of American Art looks to be one of the coolest attractions of 2015.

Stuart Monk / Shutterstock.com
Stuart Monk / Shutterstock.com

10. One World Observatory -New York City, USA

The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere is the size of six statue of liberty’s stacked one on top of each other and is set to open in the spring of 2015. The One World Observatory occupies floors 100-102 at One World Trade Center spanning 120,000 square feet. Not only does the observatory offer a spectacular 360 degree view of New York City, surrounding waters and iconic landmarks but offers dining options, a gift store and interactive exhibits.

Visitors will first experience a multimedia gallery of the construction and engineering of this fabulous attraction. They are then whisked upwards 102 floors in just 60 seconds; the fastest elevator ride in the world. The observatory includes the “See-Forever” theater which shows a film celebrating the city of New York. A fun fact about this building; architects and designers built the tower to the specific height of 1,776 feet, to represent the year the US Declaration of Independence was signed. One World Observatory promises to be one of the hottest tourist attractions of 2015 and should be on your list of places to visit.

Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com
Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com

9. Sapa Cable Car, Sapa -Vietnam

The world’s longest and highest cable car is set to open in Vietnam in 2015. The three rope cable car system is designed to take people from the foot of Fansipan Mountain to the top in just 15 minutes. In the past only avid hikers could make the two to three day trek to the top. The summit of the mountain is described as the roof of Indochina and offers stunning views across the landscapes below to those who have been unable to view it from the top in previous years.

The sleepy hill station of Sapa will be transformed into a high attraction tourist spot making some residents uneasy about the number of visitors trekking through their culturally diverse environment. Other residents however are looking forward to it; some residents have never been to the top as the trek is too hard while others plan to open restaurants and markets for the visitors. The cable car will be able to carry a maximum of 2,000 people per hour up the mountain with 35 people per car; that is the same amount of people that stood atop the mountain last year, total. The longest and highest cable car is set to open in time for National Day in the fall of 2015 and is certainly going to be a unique attraction.

Hoang Cong Thanh / Shutterstock.com
Hoang Cong Thanh / Shutterstock.com

8. Springfield at Universal Studios Hollywood, -Los Angeles, USA

For anyone who has watched the legendary TV show “The Simpsons”, this new attraction coming to Universal Studios Hollywood is sure to be one of the coolest attractions on the list for you. The town of Springfield is being re-created in Hollywood, modeled after the already popular Simpsons attraction in the Orlando Park. Universal Studios Hollywood is home to the very popular Simpson’s ride which is a medium-level thrill ride with gut busting humor and outstanding displays.

The new attraction promises replica eateries including Krusty Burger, Luigi’s Pizza, Phineas Q. Bufferfat’s 5600 Flavors Ice Cream Parlor, along with Moe’s Tavern and the Duff Brewery. Slide up to the bar at Moe’s Tavern and grab a Duff Beer and make a prank phone call. Or visit the Kwik-E-Mart and indulge in a Squishee frozen drink. Other attractions include Mr. Burn’s mansion and the nuclear power plant. It seems as designers have stuck to the true essence of the show and have worked hard to make the iconic TV show come to life. Whether you spent years watching the show or have only watched one episode this attraction is sure to delight any visitor to the park.

Supannee Hickman / Shutterstock.com
Supannee Hickman / Shutterstock.com

7. TITLIS Rotair -Engelberg, Switzerland

Whether you visit Switzerland in the winter or the summer this brand new attraction is going to be something you want to do. The TITLIS Rotair is one of the world’s only revolving gondolas and it transports visitors to the summit of Mount TITLIS. Passengers load onto the gondola at the middle station located in the town of Engelberg and take a short five minute trip up to 9,926ft; the top of the summit. Passengers are provided with 360 degree views of the surrounding landscape; steep rock faces, snow covered mountain peaks, and deep glacial crevices.

There is no bad place to stand as the gondola does a full rotation up to the top and offers great views from any position. At the top another adventure awaits visitors as the Glacier Cave is free to walk through, as is the adrenaline pumping suspension bridge that is Europe’s highest suspension bridge and offers breathtaking lookouts into the abyss. The Glacier Park is also accessible from the summit and one should try the quick and slippery snow tubes or minibobs that take you down the hill; while a magic carpet waits to pull you back up. A chocolate shop, a watch store and a breathtaking Mountain view; what more could you want?

prosiaczeq / Shutterstock.com
prosiaczeq / Shutterstock.com

6. Langjökull Ice Tunnel in Langjökull Glacier – Iceland

Deep in the heart of the country’s second largest ice cap; Langjökull Glacier near Reykjavik an underground tunnel is being dug for the sole purpose of letting visitors get up close and personal to the ice and educating them on such matters as global warming. Set to open in June 2015 visitors will be privy to exhibitions, information, restaurants and even a small chapel for those wishing to marry in the midst of the dense ice. Make sure to bundle up in this tourist attraction though!

Visitors will get a chance to walk through the tunnel and observe the varying ice levels and colours. From the newer white ice to the colder blue ice visitors will get a better understanding of how the glacier formed. The size; 200-300 metres long at 30 metres below the surface makes it the largest man made ice structure in the world. Lights are installed on the walls of the tunnels and numerous nooks and dens will house information about the glacier and global warming. Guided tours will be available and will require a short trip aboard an 8-wheel truck across the glacier to reach the entrance to the tunnel. Discovering the layers of ice, finding out how they formed and witnessing a truly spectacular man-made creation is what awaits you at Langjökull Ice Tunnel.

Langjökull Ice Tunnel Iceland

5. Starry Night Bicycle Path -Nuenen, Netherlands

One of the most unique tourist attractions created for this year is located in Nuenen, Netherlands. Dutch designer Daan Roosegaard has created a glow-in-the-dark bike path with swirls of patterned lights that are based on Vincent van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night. The pattered lights look remarkably like the falling stars in the painting. This kilometer long stretch was made in tribute to the artist who passed away 125 years ago. Van Gogh was born and raised in the Dutch County of Brabant and spent a couple years working and living in the city of Nuenen.

The glowing path is created with a combination of special paint that gathers light through the day and LED lights that charge throughout the day from a solar panel. The result is a breathtaking display that is entirely self-sufficient and remarkably poetic.  The path is part of the 335-kilometer Van Gogh Cycle Route that is free to use and open to the public all year round. Discover this beautiful piece of art that pays tribute to the great artist while you wander the breathtaking country of the Netherlands.

Photo by: Ferdinand van Oostrom
Photo by: Ferdinand van Oostrom

4. BioMuseo -Panama City, Panama

The BioMuseo or the The Biodiversity Museum: Panama Bridge of Life as it’s actually called is located in Panama City, Panama and is number four on the list of the coolest attractions of 2015. The museum was designed by Frank Gehry, world-renowned architect whose works have been cited as the most important works of contemporary architecture of our time. The building is brilliantly colored with each panel painted a different color and overlooks the Pacific Ocean at the front and the entrance to the canal from the back.

Inside visitors will find a plethora of exhibits to explore. Keep in mind that as of January 2015 the museum was open but still not fully completed. An overview of the biodiversity of Panama starts you off and there is an audio guide available in Spanish and English to guide you along. The movie theater boasts screens on the floor, ceiling and three sides taking you into the rainforest and nature. Visitors should look forward to the aquariums that are set to open in 2015 and will offer a look at the difference in the Pacific and Caribbean Oceans. A beautiful piece of architecture loaded with education on Panama this is one spot you shouldn’t miss out on.

Photo by: BioMuseo Panama
Photo by: BioMuseo Panama

3. The Yellow Submarine -Península Valdés, Argentina

One of the newest and coolest attractions of 2015 has taken an older attraction and turned it into something new and exciting. Whale Watching is a popular activity for tourists to do in certain parts of the world but there is often the complaint that only the backs of the whales can be spotted as they breach up for air. Lucky visitors will watch as the spectacular mammals jump and play but this is rare and unseen most times. A company in Argentina has solved this problem and taken whale watching to a new level with a chance for visitors to go underwater.

Yellow Submarine is the first company to build a semi-submarine specifically designed for watching whales and sea lions. The submarine offers visitors the chance to walk around on the outdoor upper deck or go down to the underwater lower viewing area. Watch as the whales and sea lions glide right past the viewing windows and feel as if you are truly diving amongst them. You will want to head here from September-December for the high season where the whales are in abundance. As you watch the enormous majestic whales glide right beside you it will be easy to understand why this attraction made our top 15 list.

Photo by: Yellow Submarine
Photo by: Yellow Submarine

2. Museum of Tomorrow -Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazil’s “Marvelous Port” program is revitalizing Rio’s urban waterfront district and at the forefront of this project is the Museum of Tomorrow. The museum’s focus is on science and the sustainable and ecological future of our planet. Set on the highly prominent Pier Maua, the gleaming white sculptural structure extends 300 m into the sea and is surrounded by water on three sides. A recreation area, park and 5-and-a-half acres of gardens along with pools of recycled rainwater also surround the building.

The roof is made with huge steel structures shaped like wings that help control the climate and act as solar panels. This sustainable museum has a floor space of over 5,000 square meters with four main areas of exhibits, interactive games, and projection screens. The idea behind the museum is to connect science with everyday life and to recognize that we must be proactive in environmental practices. This breathtaking piece of architecture promises to dominate the downtown waterfront while offering a unique look at our planet and the history of humankind in regards to it. Just in time for the 2016 Olympics, this museum is a treat for the eyes and mind.

Photo by: Museum of Tomorrow
Photo by: Museum of Tomorrow

1. Markthal -Rotterdam, Netherlands

The first covered market hall in the Netherlands has opened after five years of construction and promises to be something unique and special. Starting with the design, the building is a massive arch that was designed by Dutch architects MVRDV. It houses a public market with 96 fresh produce stalls, 20 hospitality and retail units and 228 apartments. The breathtaking building holds the biggest piece of artwork in the Netherlands inside of its arches; a colorful mural consisting of oversized images of the produce one will find inside, flowers and insects.

The motto of Markthal is “work, live, shop and enjoy it” and it certainly offers visitors the chance to do all of that. From well-known bakeries to local producers to a cookery school this extraordinary piece of art and retail space is truly one-of-a-kind. A staircase in the center of the market offers visitors the chance to learn about the history of food and witness the artifacts that were found during the excavation of the site. Open 7 days a week with over 1,200 underground parking spots anyone is welcome to enjoy this space at anytime. The quality and uniqueness of the design coupled with the endless amounts of choice for food, drink and shopping makes this our number one coolest destination of 2015.

Gerard Koudenburg / Shutterstock.com
Gerard Koudenburg / Shutterstock.com