Fuerte Amador, Panama

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Located west of Panama City at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal, Fuerte Amador is a gateway to exploring the many faces of this unique Central American country. The impressive engineering of the canal itself is a wonder to behold; a quick trip to the Miraflores Locks' visitor center with its panoramic observation decks offers the chance to watch behemoth barges thread their way through the legendary manmade waterway. Just minutes from the cruise port, the recently opened Biomuseo is a Frank Gehry–designed natural-history museum dedicated to Panama's ecological marvels. And Fuerte Amador sits within easy taxi distance of Panama City, the bustling, multicultural capital metropolis where visitors can wander a conquistador-era UNESCO World Heritage Site, sip coffee in street cafés and peruse modern malls. For a rural escape, it only takes an hour or two by car to trade the city for the tropical rain forests of Soberanía National Park, where an aerial tram carries passengers through treetops, or to meet Emberá tribespeople in their traditional village along the Chagres River.

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