Most famous for its proximity to the Miraflores Locks – an important section of the mighty Panama Canal – Cristobal is becoming more and more known for its cruise terminals than anything else. Indeed, Cristobal – which serves as the port for nearby Colon – has skyrocketed in popularity as a tourist destination and offers visitors much more than a quick glimpse at the famous canal. Lush, verdant rain forests and a stunning array of wildlife combine to make Cristobal and its surrounding area a true oasis in terms of natural delights. If your cruise ship is going to stop at this port of call, be sure to step out and experience a bit of the wonders of this region.

Sightseeing & Things To Do

Whether you choose to take an up close and personal look at one of the modern man-made marvels of the world – or whether you choose to pay tribute to the colonial past of Central America by visiting Portobelo – Cristobal and its surrounding areas are fascinating to explore. Phenomenal beaches on Isla Grande and the welcoming charm of local residents converge to make Cristobal a truly one of a kind port of call. Step off the ship to take a look around, sip some real Colombian coffee and experience what Central America is all about.

There are plenty of great ways to enjoy your time while in Cristobal and Colon. Happily, the area is designed with tourists in mind so you never have to wander far to find something appealing to see or do. Try one of the following:

Isla Grande

This island – whose name, which means “large island,” is a misnomer – is actually a tiny little place that offers up some of the best beach entertainment in this part of Panama. Locals and tourists alike flock to Isla Grande for its stunning beaches and exceptional water sports. A laid back vibe permeates Isla Grande, with beach bars and other places dotting the landscape. Spend a few hours – or even an entire afternoon – here.


Get a feel for how the Spanish colonists lived when they arrived in Central America by heading up the coast a little ways to the lovely colonial town. Within its boundaries are the remains of five separate Spanish forts, which make it easy for you and your traveling companions to see a variety of different architectural styles in a single place.

Monument To Christopher Columbus

The names Colon and Cristobal are both an homage to famed explorer Christopher Columbus. It’s not surprising, then, that a lovely monument to the Italian seafarer can be viewed right in Cristobal. Be sure to check it out, and bring a camera so that you can have a photograph memory of your visit to this charming little place.

Gatun Locks

As close as Cristobal is to the mighty Panama Canal, it makes sense to shoot over to the nearby Gatun Locks – the largest along the canal – to get a feel for the size and scope of this man-made wonder. By visiting Gatun, you will also be able to view a scale model of the entire Panama Canal; this model really puts the amazing feat of the Panama Canal into stark relief, especially for those who haven’t ever really studied it.


Although there are several shops and stores around Cristobal, the best place to find what you need is the Colon 2000 cruise ship terminal and its accompanying shopping center. Indeed, the very best prices and the largest assortment of goods can be found here, simplifying the process of shopping and looking for souvenirs in Cristobal.

Best Souvenir To Bring Back To the Cruise Ship

Puzzle boxes carved out of the wood of the Cocobolo tree are one of the most popular souvenirs to be had in Cristobal. They come in a variety of different shapes and sizes; some of them are even carved into the shapes of animals and other objects. It’s a lovely way to remember your brief stint in Cristobal by.

Eating – Sample the Local Cuisine

Make sure to try a taste of Panama when you are in Cristobal. Ceviche – a spicy fish dish that includes lemon juice and onions – is one extremely popular local dish. Another suitable choice for doing some serious noshing while in Cristobal would be the fried plantains known as patacones. Don’t forget to enjoy a fresh, hot cup of Colombian coffee, too.

When, Where, and How

When To Go

Summers are wonderful in Cristobal. Keep in mind that summers in Panama fall between December and April. Truly, though, any time of year is fine for spending time in this lovely Central American region.

Where You’re Docked

Cruise ships that visit Colon and Cristobal dock at either the Colon 2000 cruise terminal – the sleek and modern option – or the older, more antiquated Cristobal Pier. Beyond their diverging ages, both options are conveniently located and do not present any logistical problems for people who want to sight-see in the area.

Which Cruise Ships Go Here?

Many of the major cruise lines have itineraries that include stops at Cristobal. A few of the largest cruise lines that stop in Cristobal are Holland America, Carnival Cruises, Azamara and Princess Cruises. However, there are many other options available in terms of ships, dates, days at sea and in port when it comes to Cristobal.