Do you want to know why Panama has been romanticized so much in the movies?
Step into Colón and you will know. No, seriously — there are lots of better places in Panama for tourists, those that have been manicured over the years to give you that true-blue Caribbean feel. Compared to those, Colón is fairly backward, with high crime rates and a tension that could make the queasy tourist look over his shoulders every now and then.
But that’s just part of the fun, for the brave-hearted folks. Beneath its veneer, Colón is rich in local history and a colorful architecture, two things that make it worth visiting. From the tourist “safe haven” on Colón 2000 (their local cruise port), you could venture out to see the beautiful Columbus Cathedral and the Christ Church by the Sea. It would be best not to wander around too much (or at all), but it’s worth at least a picture. You could even see the Gatun Locks of the Panama Canal a few kilometers south, where the ships enter and leave the Caribbean. There are lots of monuments, too, all best seen within the safe confines of your rented vehicle or taxi.
Oh, and don’t miss the La Zona Libre, the second biggest free trade zone in the world after Hong Kong! Colón is a visceral adventure, one for the eyes and one for the heart — so if you will, try it at least once!