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Monkey Island

monkey island tour gatun lake the panama canal

A visit to Monkey Island(s) is one of the more popular excursions for a good reason. Monkey Island, and the islands surrounding it, are teeming with white-faced, howler, and mono-titi monkeys.

Your excursion commences and concludes at the Gamboa public boat ramp, which offers expansive views of the "upper" Chagres River and Gamboa Resort. No, it isn't the French Riviera, but it is a pleasant setting and a nice place to begin your tour, offering expansive views of the upper-Chagres River.

monkey island tour gatun lake the panama canal
Gamboa Boat Ramp
monkey island tour the panama canal
monkey island tour the panama canal
Your Trip to Monkey Island

After departing from the dock, your tour boat will pass under two bridges. The first and recently completed is limited to vehicular traffic, whereas the second is used exclusively by the Panama Canal Railway. Before the completion of the new bridge, the old wooden bridge served dual purposes.

Upon entering the channel, your tour boat will turn right and pass in front of the Panama Canal Dredging Division, where you should see cranes, tugboats, barges, and other heavy equipment.

The Buoys

Make sure to keep an eye on the red and green buoys along the channel; the red buoys are along the left or west side and green to the right or east side. For example, at Gamboa, the red buoy reads #101, and at the entrance to Monkey Island, it reads #69/69A. Knowing this will help you familiarize yourself with the channel and give you an idea of how far or close you are to Monkey Island.

monkey island tour the panama canal

The trip to Monkey Island includes a beautiful boat ride along the channel that takes approximately 15-20 minutes. The boat trip alone is well worth the price of admission. This portion of the canal is relatively narrow and shallow, so the water, even on windy days, is customarily flat and calm; the resident tugs and barges make the tallest waves. Aside from a bit of water spray, everyone should remain dry unless it rains. While en route, you are likely to pass several commercial vessels making northbound or southbound transits. If you have never seen them up close, you will be shocked to see how large they are.

And those Monkeys!

Monkey Island resides just east of the channel and is blessed with and limited to a sizable colony of white-faced capuchin monkeys. Like the other two species of monkey, white-faced monkeys have grown accustomed to touring boats and tourists. So it is common, even expected, to see them converge on the tour boats when they arrive. But unlike howler monkeys, which are larger and more vocal, and tend to remain higher in the canopy, white-faced capuchin and mono-titi monkeys are surprisingly friendly and adventurous. They love to introduce themselves and pose for photographs. At times, they parade through the boat like they're on a catwalk and will even sit on your lap. It's incredible how unrestrained they are. So if you want to see monkeys up close and personal, this is the place, and this is your tour.

After Monkey Island, your tour boat will head elsewhere in search of howler and mono-titi monkeys.

monkey island shore excursion the panama canal
monkey island shore excursion the panama canal
a white-face monkey on monkey island the panama canal
The Islands

The area, consists of several small islands and quiet coves, and the guides, after so many years of running tours, have a knack for finding wildlife. You should see all three monkey species on your trip, several species of aquatic birds, caiman (small alligators), bats, and more. Just keep your eyes open and your camera ready!

monkey island gatun lake shore excursion the panama canal

Getting to Monkey Island

Google Map - Albrook Bus TerminalGoogle Map - Gamboa Publlic Boat Ramp

A trip to Monkey Island lasts about 1.5‒2 hours and is a whole-lot of fun. There are no trails to hike. You can enjoy everything from the comfort of your seat. Now who could ask for more than that?

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