Gatun Lake

Gatun Lake, Panama City: Address, Phone Number, Gatun Lake Reviews: 4.5/5

About
After Lake Mead, this is the world's largest man-made lake that forms the central part of the Panama Canal.
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The area
Best nearby
We rank these restaurants and attractions by balancing reviews from our members with how close they are to this location.
Attractions
3 within 6 miles
Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
Popular mentions

4.5
1,068 reviews
Excellent
628
Very good
344
Average
83
Poor
11
Terrible
2

TravelingSoccerLoon
Saint Paul, MN1,407 contributions
Oct 2021
Gatun Lake was created by the flooding of the area by the Chagres River during the construction of the Panama Canal and is where ships traverse after going through the locks at each end of the Canal. There are many tour operators that offer trips to Gatun Lake and Monkey Island. I had a good experience with Safe Transportation and their Monkey Island and Panama Canal Eco Tour. I had a terrific guide who was very knowledgeable and was a great communicator. On the 4-hour tour, we stopped along the canal at the Pedro Miguel Locks and then continued to Gatun Lake on a speedboat. In addition to seeing the wildlife on Monkey Island, this is also an opportunity to get close to several container ships as they make their way between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

On the way to Gatun Lake, we made a brief stop at the Pedro Miguel Locks for some viewing of ships as they navigate the canal. After hopping on a small speedboat, we headed out on Gatun Lake and to Monkey Island. Our guide knew several spots to find the monkeys and we had a couple different species including the white-faced capuchin monkeys climbing onto our boat enjoying taking the food that we offered from our hands. We additionally saw and heard some howler monkeys and spotted a crocodile. Getting close up to the huge container ships in the lake was pretty cool as well. 4 hours was plenty of time needed to enjoy this experience.
Written May 17, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Anna M
Encinitas, CA567 contributions
Feb 2020
Lake Gatun was full of surprises at every turn of the tour boat we were on. We saw so much wildlife! I spotted a manatee! There were so many birds. We also saw a few lodeges along the shore. It would be a great place to stay.
Written March 1, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

NieSam
Maine903 contributions
Feb 2020
It was incredible trying to count all the ships in the lake crossing the Panama Canal. They were lined up everywhere. We were also able to see the dam creating the lake. Frigate birds were abundant and gorgeous to watch.

We spent time here watching other vessels enter and work their way through the locks. Seeing the tugs line up the ships was interesting.
Written March 6, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

gomezrue
Bogota, Colombia7 contributions
Jan 2020
I went on a three-hour fishing trip to the lake. And actually caught some fish. The lush lakeside environment is nice to experience, and then to hear the howler monkeys!! The best part is boating next to the big ships that are heading either East or West. I'm glad I went
Written January 20, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Happiness9657
Virginia Beach1 contribution
You have not caught a bass until you catch a PEACOCK BASS, your live minnow will not hit the bottom before you get a strike. eight of us caught 173 bass in 3.5 hours. largest 8 lbs most were 2 to 4 lb range. less then 2 lbs we through it back. our guide took us to three of his honey holes and they swam by in schools of 50 or more at a time. we paid $20.00 ea, giude provided everything, boats, (400 minnows) poles. his family even cleaned them for us. he made a little extra at his beer stand while we waited for our cleaned fish. they are the hardest fighting bass you will ever catch. when they hit you will think each one is 5 lbs. wish I had a picture to share.
Written December 20, 2005
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

physio2
Campbell River, Canada324 contributions
Feb 2011
My husband and I recently visited Panama during a cruise. We had initially booked an excursion through Celebrity; the ‘Gatun Lake Safari’ but cancelled it when they changed the venue. After posting some questions on Cruise Critic about alternative excursions, a gentleman told us about a private Gatun Lake excursion that he highly recommended. Here is the link to his review:

http://www.newsroompanama.com/travel/panama/1853-jungle-exploring-from-lake-gatuns-only-houseboat.html

We found further information about this tour from two websites:
http://junglelandpanama.com/ and http://www.gatunexplorer.com/

We contacted Carl by e-mail: info@junglelandpanama.com and booked the tour.

We were nervous about booking this private excursion since it was our first cruise and were scared that we’d miss our departure time. We also felt uneasy because Carl uses another company to collect payment. We had to give our credit card info by fax or e-mail and pay for the tour in full in advance. We were worried that we would get ripped off, but decided to go for it after reading Richard’s review.

We were relieved when we were met at the Colon port by Olga from Ocean 2 Ocean transfer service. This was the most organized pick-up out of all of our excursions. She took us to a private van with a driver where we began the 1 hour drive to Gatun Lake. Olga was a really knowledgeable and friendly girl who answered any questions that we had and told us about the history of the area.

We met Carl at a lake dock where we began our adventure aboard a small motorboat with about 16 other people. He drove us around many islands on Gatun Lake including Monkey Island for a couple of hours. He told us all about the history of the lake and the canal. Carl is a really fun guy who made learning fun as we laughed almost the whole time! We saw howler monkeys, white-faced capuchins, sloths, and alligators. At one point, 3 white-faced capuchins boarded our boat and we were able to feed them by hand! Here is a link to some of the pictures that we took:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuartclark/5464966075/in/photostream/

We arrived at Carl’s houseboat where we had a delicious hot lunch, dove into the lake from a 2nd story platform, and relaxed on hammocks. The houseboat is in the middle of nowhere and is surrounded by lush rainforest; it was extremely beautiful and peaceful. He has many ‘critters’ on board including a cayman, a snake, a parrot, lizards, a bush baby and a toucan. Although we believe that Carl love’s these animals and cares for them well, we couldn’t help but feel sad that they live in captivity.

We were then given the option of fishing or kayaking. We went on the kayak trip where we traversed small inlets and enjoyed nature. Our destination was a pretty waterfall flowing into a pool of freshwater where we could jump from a ledge at the top; exhilarating!

Carl drove us all back to the dock where we were again met by Olga and driven back to the cruise port with plenty of time to spare.

Overall, we both felt that this excursion was the highlight of our cruise and very good value at $95 USD per person for 7 hours including lunch. We would highly recommend booking this excursion either during a cruise or land visit to Panama. If you are an adventurous nature lover; you won’t be disappointed!

Before booking this tour, it is important to note that you will not see the canal during this tour. We were much more interested in nature so this was great for us!
Written April 2, 2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Ruddiger77
38 contributions
Jul 2017 • Family
If planning on seeing the Gatun Lake and some of the ecological items such as wildlife, this tour is a must. It's awesome to see how this lake was created. You won't see any locks but, that's a different tour all in together.

We rented a car and drove to the Gamboa Public dock just prior to the Gamboa Rainforest resort, on the right side prior to the one way bridge. We don't like overpaying for tour companies so like to explore on our own. We tried our luck and showed up at the dock hoping to find a private boat to tour us for an hour or so.

We were totally in luck and found a gentleman named Rodrigues. He took 4 adults and 5 kids (4 of the kids were 5 years and under) on board his boat and toured us through the lake alongside large ships transiting the canal.

We saw a baby crocodile, 2 different types of monkeys who we fed and lots of greenery. Rodrigues is an expert as most of the other boats were unable to call the monkeys however he tied his boat to a tree and went into the bush and found many monkeys to come out of the bush to be fed by us. The tour was amazing and not over priced like all the other tour companies. We paid $120 US for 9 people and gave him an extra $20. Our parents went the next day and did same tour for $50 for 2 people so average $25 per adult.

Rent a car, take a local cab or uber and show up at the dock someone will take you out or just ask for Rodrigues, this place is safe we did it with young kids. See pictures attached of him and his boat.

Good luck!
Written July 13, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

savannahsue
Savannah, Georgia50 contributions
We thought the eco-cruise would be a great way to see some of the flora and fauna on Gatun Lake close-up. Until recently this was the largest man-made lake in the world. While the boat was small enough to get close in to the forested islands on Gatun Lake there were only sloths to see. We saw very few birds and no monkeys at all. We think this is due to having too many small boats patrolling these islands and scaring the animals back into the interior. We were quite disappointed. We did enjoy seeing the operation of the Panama Canal facility which was part of this shore excursion from a cruise ship and the time allowed at the Canal was ample. However we thought the cost of this excursion was high ($77 per person). You would be better off hiring a taxi just to see the Canal operation.
Written February 27, 2008
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Larry M
Dewey, AZ716 contributions
Oct 2012 • Couples
Take the Gamboa Rain Forest trip. You will go through mangroves, monkey island where there are Howler and Capuchin Monkeys, iguanas, hawk, and crocodile.
Written October 29, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

redeco
Warren, MA9,332 contributions
Apr 2012 • Friends
Gatun Lake was created in 1908 through the building of Gatun Dam just south of Colon. At the time, this was the largest dam in the world (surpassed by Hoover Dam in 1936; and China's Three Gorges Dam currently holds the world record).

There are lots of boat rides that take tourists out on the lake for fishing and ecotourism. I took a boat ride offered by the Gamboa Rainforest Resort where I stayed on a Collette Vacations tour of Panama. The boat ride took us to Monkey Island, about 20 minutes from the hotel.

On the way we saw some of the dredging which is deepening the channels used as part of the canal. The dredging makes the water muddy and the excavated mud deposited on shore is actually changing the shoreline. We also saw the island where the indigenous peoples from this area - the Embera - settled. The Embera offer hand crafted baskets and other items for sale. Once a week, they also put on a show of their native dances and drumming for tourists.

The flora and fauna are pretty exciting for me because the habitat is so different from my native New England. We saw Capuchin and Howler Monkeys, Iguanas, Turtles, Kites and other birds, a small crocodile, etc....I strongly suggest getting out onto the lake. It's a world apart from Panama City.
Written May 17, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Gatun Lake

We recommend booking Gatun Lake tours ahead of time to secure your spot. If you book with Tripadvisor, you can cancel up to 24 hours before your tour starts for a full refund. See all 17 Gatun Lake tours on Tripadvisor