It is a mesmerizing scene, the massive machinery - some 700 tons of it, reinforced against the mighty Pacific - of iconic Miraflores Locks in operation. It is particularly impressive when Panamax barges, specifically designed to thread the world's most important shipping bottleneck with only centimeters to spare, slides through.
You can watch it all from the four-story Miraflores Visitor Center, a fascinating museum complex adjacent to the locks. Peruse the exhibits and enjoy the short film to fully appreciate the scale of the awesome undertaking that was the Panama Canal. Three observation decks and an onsite restaurant offer outstanding views.
The Miraflores Locks are located about 15 minutes outside Panama City, and convenient by taxi or public bus.
The restaurant is, unsurprisingly, a tad overpriced, but you won't enjoy another view like this anywhere in the world. At least stop in for a drink.