Shelter Bay Marina turned out to be a delightful surprise nestled in a national park surrounded by jungle and tranquility, we could work on the boat in the early mornings, then hike through amazing jungle trails with howler monkeys and sloths, then take a dip in the refreshing pool to cool off.
Just before sunset, we’d walk down to the jetty, walk out and watch the ships coming & going from the Panama Canal. What a treat!
Shelter Bay Marina was created when the US turned the Panama Canal over to Panama in 1999. It was formerly the docks of the US Fort Sherman. Click here for the official Shelter Bay Marina website and contact information. We left Shelter Bay in November 2009 after spending two hurricane seasons, one on the hard and one in the water.
The marina is trying to be a first class, first world marina, but the reality of life across the harbor from Colon, Panama provides extra challenges. When we were there, most of the time there was no hot water for showers, although it wasn’t a huge deal because it was so hot outside we didn’t really want HOT water, but lukewarm might have been nice. They were in the process of getting new water heaters shipped in so hopefully that may be resolved.
The pricing is definitely 1st world and they charge for every little thing. It didn’t bother us because we knew it in advance, but some cruisers complained. Be sure to keep tabs on your bill if you’re there awhile so you don’t get any surprises! They had a problem with crime but added a fenced yard to keep boats on the hard secure and after that I didn’t hear of any more missing stuff.
Fort Sherman is across the Panama Canal from Colon – providing a barrier for safety purposes since Colon is known as a “dangerous” city. For the record, we followed local advice for safety, where to go and where not to go, when to take a cab, etc. and never had any problem, never even felt unsafe. Your mileage could vary.
The marina provides a bus that goes to the Rey (supermarket) and other Colon locations multiple times a week. Sometimes a bus trip to Panama City will be offered, sometimes not. It is expensive to get anywhere via taxi since everyone has to stop and wait for the canal opening – it’s rather common to be delayed a half hour and an hour wait wasn’t out of the question. Plan accordingly!
Since it’s on the old US Army base at Ft Sherman, hiking the trails can bring amazing adventures … like this overgrown battery.
Complete with this howler monkey, one of a pack (is that what you call a bunch of howler monkeys? or maybe a troop?) …
The restaurant and bar overlook the marina and make a great place to sip a drink and exchange stories with new friends from around the world — this marina definitely had more international boats than anywhere we’ve been. And there’s always an air of excitement as boats prep to go through the canal and on to the South Pacific. Since the Panama Canal Yacht Club closed, Shelter Bay is the only marina in the vicinity, so most boats going through the canal come here.
There’s a really nice cruiser’s lounge upstairs, complete with a flat screen TV and large book trading library. The restaurant has mediocre food, but they’re constantly changing restaurant managers and the last one just before we left in November 2009 was better than prior. One of the challenges for the restaurant apparently is to keep FOOD … so just because there’s a nice restaurant, there’s not always FOOD in the restaurant … another of the mysteries of life at Shelter Bay! 🙂