If you want to marvel at the engineering behind this man-made wonder, a cruise is the best way to see the storied canal up close. Panama Canal cruises typically sail between Florida (or somewhere in the Caribbean) and Costa Rica or Mexico on the Pacific side. Ports vary widely on these cruises, including Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, and Cartagena, Colombia, on the Atlantic side, and points along Central America and Mexico on the Pacific.
In the huge lock system of the Panama Canal, ships rise to the level of Gatun Lake in the middle and then back down again. Some ships do partial transits, coming in from the Caribbean side to pass through one or two locks before going back.