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Sail from sunny Southern California to the engineering wonder of the Panama Canal while stopping in stunning destinations throughout Central America and the Caribbean along the way.

Take an authentic Mexican cooking class in Cabo San Lucas and zipline through the Costa Rican jungle in Puntarenas. Explore Mayan ruins in Guatemala’s Puerto Quetzal and walk down the romantic streets of Cartagena.

Come fall, set sail on one of these unforgettable Panama Canal cruises from San Diego and Los Angeles and discover all the treasures these exotic destinations have to offer.

When can I cruise from California to the Panama Canal?

Palm trees with Los Angeles skyline as backdrop

Eastbound Panama Canal cruises departing from San Diego or Los Angeles sail in September, October, and December.

In these months, you’ll avoid the high temperatures of summer when it can get quite hot and humid in Central and South America. Instead, you’ll enjoy more comfortable weather during the fall, although it will still be warm since you will be traveling around the tropics, after all.

Read: One Day in San Diego

How long are cruises from San Diego or Los Angeles through the Panama Canal?

Panama Canal cruises from Los Angeles or San Diego last either 15 or 16 nights, since they sail from the West Coast of the United States all the way to Florida.

Cartagena, Colombia landscape including Church of St. Peter Claver

On our Panama Canal cruises, not only will you travel through the Panama Canal locks that connect the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, but you’ll also stop in tropical destinations such as the beaches of Puerto Vallarta, the walled city of Cartagena, and the jungles of Costa Rica.

Read: Best Beaches in Puerto Vallarta

What should I pack for a Panama Canal cruise from San Diego or Los Angeles?

Onboard passengers of Celebrity Panama Canal cruises from Los Angeles

For your Panama Canal cruise, we suggest packing all the warm weather essentials you would bring along to any beach vacation, which include:

  • Swimsuits
  • Swim coverups
  • Sunglasses and sun hats
  • Casual attire for lunch and port visits
  • Dinner or smart casual attire
  • Flip flops and sandals
  • At least one pair of comfortable walking shoes
  • Sunscreen
  • Camera

The late fall weather in California can get quite chilly, so before you leave on Panama Canal cruises from Los Angeles or San Diego, make sure to pack a light jacket, sweater, or scarf to keep you warm before you sail.

Read: Tips for Visiting the Panama Canal

What ports will I visit on a Panama Canal cruise from San Diego or Los Angeles?

Panama Canal cruises are one of the most versatile cruises you can take. Sailing along this region, you’ll experience some of the best places to visit in Central America, Mexico, and South America. Explore sandy beaches, cosmopolitan cities, tropical rainforests, and colonial towns all in the same trip.

Ports of call include Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Cartagena, Colombia; and Colon, Panama.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Famous rock formation El Arco in Cabo San Lucas

Panama Canal cruises from San Diego or Los Angeles first stop in Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula in Cabo San Lucas, where you can spend the day enjoying fish tacos and a margarita while soaking up the sun on a sandy beach.

If you’re looking for a little more activity, take a catamaran, kayak, or jet ski out to Land’s End, home to rock formations and some of the best beaches in Cabo San Lucas, where you’ll want to pose for a photo under its famous El Arco arch rock.

Read: Shopping In Cabo San Lucas

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Beachfront buildings in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

In the resort city of Puerto Vallarta, there’s plenty to do aside from lounging by the ocean. Take a horseback journey around the countryside and cap off your trek with a typical lunch and tequila.

Explore the hills of the Sierra Madre on a 4-wheel ATV motorcycle, or take an eco-tour that includes snorkeling and kayaking around the nearby Marietas Islands. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience some of the best whale watching in Mexico while you’re here.

Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

Old city street in Antigua, Guatemala with bmountain backdrop

You might feel like you just stepped back in time after docking in Puerto Quetzal, where shore excursions allow you to explore Mayan ruins in Tikal.

Journey through the colonial streets of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Antigua, where you’ll discover the wonders of Guatemalan architecture, textiles, and coffee.

Puntarenas, Costa Rica

People carrying surfboards at Playa Jaco beach

In Puntarenas, you’ll enjoy the best that Costa Rica has to offer. Surf in Playa Jaco, where international surfers often compete, or zipline over treetops nestled in the rainforest.

Experience the best of Costa Rica’s nature by exploring the inner jungle on a safari jeep excursion, discovering hundreds of marine species while snorkeling around coral reef systems, and riding horses through secluded beaches. There’s an activity for every kind of adventurer here.

Read: An Insider’s Guide to Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Cartagena, Colombia

Residential street with yellow houses in Cartagena, Colombia

The colonial city of Cartagena will captivate you at first sight. Step into the Old Town and fall in love with its cobblestoned streets, colorful balconies, and lush bougainvillea draping from balconies all around.

Enjoy the sunset while sipping a cocktail on top of the city’s all-encompassing wall or cap off your night with a romantic horse-drawn carriage around town.

Read: Best Things to Do in Cartagena, Colombia

Colon, Panama

Aerial view of Panama including Gatun locks

Think of Colon as the gateway to the Panama Canal. There you’ll be able to view the canal and marvel at the Gatun locks from land and enjoy a number of activities on and around Gatun Lake, including kayaking, eco cruises, and a visit to a historic fort.

Shopaholics will also be happy to learn that Colon is the world’s second-largest duty-free port, so if you’re thinking of doing some shopping while on vacation, this is the place to do it. You can also explore nearby restaurants serving authentic Panamanian food.

Read: Things to Do in Panama

The Panama Canal

Bridge of the Americas with Panama landscape

Aside from the Central and South American port visits, you will also spend a day cruising through the Panama Canal. During this journey, hang out on your stateroom’s veranda or one of the cruise ship decks in order to fully soak in the experience.

Feel the excitement as you cross through the channel, built in 1914, and witness how its locks system completes its impressive process to lower and raise water and effortlessly move your cruise ship through the passage. Once you’ve made it through, you’ll have a newfound appreciation for this groundbreaking engineering feat.

If you’re thinking of booking Panama Canal cruises from San Diego or Los Angeles, browse our itineraries and start planning your vacation today.

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Free Vacation Planning Services