There are two principal attractions here in Colón. The Colón Free Zone (www.coló; no central phone) is a walled-in, city-within-a-city located on the southeastern edge of town. Its 1,600 showrooms are for wholesalers and retailers in Central and South America who travel here to buy consumer products at cost. The Free Zone is open to the public, but most showrooms sell to wholesalers only, and others only reluctantly sell to individual tourists. Really, you can't buy anything here that isn't available in an airport duty-free store, and legally, any purchase here must be sent by the retailer to the airport for pickup, which is another hassle. To visit, you'll need to sign in and show your passport at the Free Zone office, located at the right of the Free Zone entrance at Calle 13 near Avenida Roosevelt.

Running the length of the city's eastern shore is the modern cruise-ship port, Colón 2000, with two restaurants, a grocery store, and a dozen shops selling duty-free electronics, jewelry, and other handicrafts. There's really nothing interesting enough to keep you here, and the port is more of a jumping-off point to explore the area outside Colón. Excursions for cruise ships are provided by the port-owned Aventuras 2000 tour agency.

Tip: ATMs in the central Caribbean region are scarce. Major hotels and most restaurants accept credit cards, but your best (and safest) bet is to use the ATM inside the grocery store in the Colón 2000 cruise-ship port; there is also an HSBC cash machine at the Gatún Locks, next to the entrance at the visitor center; or bring enough cash to cover your visit.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.