miraflores locks visitor center, the panama canal
Inaugurated in 2004, the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center is a beautiful, towering edifice that lies only 150-200 ft. from the canal and provides unparalleled views of Miraflores Locks and the surrounding area, including Miraflores Lake, Miraflores Dam, and Pedro Miguel Locks.
If you want a close-up view of the Panama Canal, there is no better place than the Miraflores Visitor Center.
Unlike the Agua Clara Visitor Center, with its open, sprawling landscape, the visitor center at Miraflores consists of two large buildings. The larger of the two, and the one directly in front of you when exiting the elevator, is the official visitor center. The smaller building to the left is a 3D IMAX movie theater, which opened in 2018 and reportedly has one of the world's larger cinema screens. Visitors enjoy a 45 minute-long documentary about the Panama Canal, narrated by Morgan Freeman.
When entering the visitor center, there is a large open atrium with tall glass windows and doors along the back wall. Illustrations and photographs relating to the canal decorate the walls and pillars. Immediately to the right, you will find a gift shop, public bathrooms, and two elevators. Behind the elevators is a staircase that provides access to all four floors. Further back, behind and to the left of the gift shop, is the museum entrance. Along the left wall is a presentation room for short video productions.
Two Viewing Platforms
The rear doors lead to the first observation deck, which resides on the second floor. The bleacher seats are padded and spacious and give you clear ground-level views of the locks. Around the seating area, there is ample space to walk around and view the setting. Along the edge is a waist-high handrail that at no time obstructs your view.
The second viewing platform, which resides on the fourth floor, or rooftop, can be accessed using the staircase or elevators. Like the second-floor viewing platform, there is a roof overhead. The additional elevation delivers a more panoramic view of the locks and their environs. Weather permitting, Miraflores Lake, Pedro Miguel Locks, Centenary Bridge, and even parts of Cocoli Locks—the new set of locks— can be seen. The control tower, chambers, electric mules, and tug boats—they are all right in front of you. You can watch as the vessels are lifted and lowered, as the chamber doors open and close, and as each ship moves from one chamber into another with the assistance of electric locomotives.
It is important to note that Miraflores Locks was built during the initial construction era over 100 years ago, whereas Agua Clara Locks are only five years old. They are two completely different designs and, therefore, their respective visitor centers deliver different experiences. Each is unique with something special to offer. Electric locomotives, for example, are not utilized in the new set of locks, so you will only see them in Miraflores.
Due to its proximity to the locks, museum, 3D IMAX movie presentation, and open viewing platforms, I prefer the Miraflores Visitor Center to its sibling at Agua Clara Locks. Overall, it is a more comprehensive presentation, and it feels more connected to the canal.
For more information, we recommend you visit their website.
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" and "Summit Gardens" will drop you off along the main road passing in front of the locks.
If you take the latter, you will need to walk 5-10 minutes to the visitor's center. From the roadside, walk along the right side of the entrance road; there is a yellow metal railing.
After passing through the entrance gate, continue walking until you cross over the newly built cement bridge; you will see the Miraflores Dam off to your right. Depending on the ocean tide, you may see crocodiles basking in the sun in the shallow water under or near the bridge.
After crossing the bridge, follow the walking path to the left, and proceed until you reach the large staircase/elevator that leads to the main entrance. Do not follow the asphalt road up the hill.