I have always liked the Ft. Gulick area. It’s on the Colon side of the Gatun locks and near the shores of Gatun Lake. It’s also near another former CZ fort, Fort Davis. Although there are many things to see in the area if you make Hotel Melia your base for a few days, there is not as much tourism as on the Pacific side. Most travelers with only a few days of vacation time head off to the beaches or the Highlands. Colon is not exactly considered a destination point. It’s more well-known as being extremely dangerous. But thankfully Hotel Melia is several miles away from the Colon area. As with all travel to foreign countries you can always count on the unexpected happening. There might not be water pressure for a well-needed shower, or the AC might go out. Consider yourself lucky if that’s the worst of it.
Directly down the road from the hotel are the massive Gatun locks. I highly recommend visiting the area and the small town of Gatun. Then cross over the canal and head toward yet another former CZ fort, Ft. Sherman. This was where the old Jungle Operations Training Center used to be. A few kilometers farther on you will come to Ft. San Lorenzo, a former Spanish garrison. It’s overlooked by most tourists so don’t be surprised if you are the only one there.
Back on the Colon side turn off the road at Sabanitas and head toward Portobello. There you will find more Spanish forts, the ones that are most visited, as well as the Black Christ. I recommend staying out of Colon unescorted for safety reasons. There are other things you can do around the hotel such as ecotourism, hiking and fishing. Even though now is the dry season, be prepared for rain, especially this year.