Scroll To Top
panama travel and tourism

Fort Portobelo

fort portobelo ruins, colon, panama

The town of Portobelo is one of the oldest Spanish settlements along the Caribbean coast and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981. The fortifications were built to protect the settlement and Portobelo Bay.

The ruins are scattered in three distinct sections over an expanded area. Two of them-those most commonly visited- reside within or near the town, and a third on the hillside across the bay.

fort portobelo ruins, colon, panama
Second Set of Ruins

Further up the road and off to the left is the Customs House, which is just one of several historical sites in Portobelo. Behind the Customs House, you will find the second set of ruins. It consists of a large fortification wall and a long row of cannons that extend out into Portobelo Bay. At the far end, there is a large outcropping that includes a single look-out tower. To the right of the wall is an open courtyard. It’s impressive and well worth a visit. You can walk from the first set of ruins to the Customs House in just a few minutes. At the moment, the Customs House is closed for renovation.

a view of the ruins at portobelo, colon, panama
a view of the ruins at portobelo, colon, panama

Across the bay and separated into three distinct parts, you'll find the third section of ruins. A stone trail connects the lowest portion, which resides along the water's edge, to the middle sector, which is nearby and visible from below. It's an easy, short walk. To visit the third and highest installation, you'll need to hike up a steep trail. The upper fort provides no views of the two lower sections but offers stunning views of Portobelo and its surroundings. To visit these ruins, you will need to take a water taxi from the public dock, which resides just to the left of the first section or ruins you encounter when entering Portobelo.

Lookout Area

Across from the ruins, there is a short, unmarked path that leads to a look-out area. As you are nearing the ruins, the road climbs ever so slightly and bends to the right. After passing the entrance to the ruins, the road turns left and begins to descend. The path entrance is off to the right, where the road initiates its descent. The floor is comprised primarily of cement cinder blocks and relatively easy to climb. Along the left side of the path are a series of steel posts connected by a thick rope, which serves as the handrail. It’s not very well cared for, and the views aren’t spectacular, but it will give you an elevated point of view of the ruins. To reach the top of the trail, it shouldn’t take any more than a minute or two.

a view of the ruins at fort portobelo in panama, as seen from the top of the hiking trail

Getting to Fort Portobelo

From Colon, buses to Portobelo depart regularly throughout the day. Buses to "La Guaria" also pass through Portobelo. If you're traveling by bus from Panama City, there is no need to as far as Colon. Get off in "Sabanita," which resides approximately 30 minutes outside of Colon; most buses traveling between Panama City and Colon stop here. There is a REY Supermarket on the corner (see Google Map below). The same buses that depart Colon for Portobelo and La Guaria passes in front of the supermarket en route to Portobelo. From Sabanita, the trip to Portobelo takes about 40-60 minutes. See the map below for Sabanita.

Google Map - Portobelo Ruins
Google Map - Colon Bus Terminal
Google Map - Villa Principal of Sabanita

fort san lorenzo ruins, colon, panama

All Categories