San juan puerto rico royal caribbean port: San Juan Hotels with «Free» Shuttle to Cruise Port
San Juan Hotels with «Free» Shuttle to Cruise Port
Old San Juan Pier and Pan American Cruise Ship Terminal
The Port of San Juan was founded in 1521 by the Spanish. Today it’s one of the busiest cruise ports in the Caribbean.
Located in the heart of the Caribbean Islands, cruises depart from the port to Aruba and Curaçao, and to exotic islands of the Eastern Caribbean such as Sint Maarten, St Thomas, Dominica, Saint Lucia and the island of Barbados.
San Juan Cruise Terminals — cruise ship tie up at one of 3 piers located along San Antonio Canal ; Old San Juan Piers 1-6, Navy Frontier Pier, and the Pan American Pier.
From the closest terminal (Old San Juan Piers 1-6), which is just across from the Sheraton Old San Juan (formerly known as the Wyndham), you can walk off the ship right into the heart of the old city. If your ship is docked just across the bay at the Pan American Pier, it’s recommended to take a taxi.
Major cruise companies operating from the cruise terminals are Royal Caribbean (RCL), Celebrity Cruises and Carnival Cruise Lines. Cruise lines departing from San Juan will embark or disembark cruise passengers from either OSJ Pier 4 (4-E or 4-W) or the Pan American Terminal (PAD-E or PAD-W). Cabs are lined up and waiting all the time when ships are in port right at the piers. No shuttles are available.
3 Recommended Hotels close to Port
1. Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino ★★★★
Distance from Cruise Port : 5 minutes to the Pan American Pier, and 10 minutes to Old San Juan
No Shuttle Service but taxis are waiting 24 hours outside the hotel. Uber is another option.
2. Hyatt House San Juan ★★★
Distance from Cruise Port : Pan American (5 minutes), Old San Juan (10 minutes)
Top Rated Hotel
Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel ★★★★
Distance from Cruise Port : Walking distance from Old San Juan cruise terminal
No shuttle needed as the terminal is just accross the street
# More hotels: What are the best hotels in San Juan ?
Address of Cruise Terminals
Address Old San Juan Cruise Terminal
Calle Marina, Paseo Gilberto Concepcion de Gracia, Pier 4
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901
The closest hotel is the Sheraton, which is almost across the street from the terminal building.
Address Pan American Cruise Terminal (managed by Royal Caribbean International)
Pan American Pier, Isla Grande, Santurce, Puerto Rico
San Juan in Puerto Rico is one of the most visited islands on a cruise vacation which mostly start from mainland United States. Vessels depart mainly from the Port of Miami (see Hotels in Miami fl.), Fort Lauderdale from Port Everglades cruise terminals, Cape Canaveral (see hotel deals) or some even from Bayonne New Jersey Cape Liverty cruise port. Various voyages also depart from other Caribbean ports such as Bridgetown in Barbados and Pointe a Pitre in Guadeloupe.
Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport SJU — San Juan is served by SJU airport, located 7 miles from the cruise ship docks. It’s the main airport of Puerto Rico and one of the most important hubs in the Caribbean, alongside Miami and Panama City.
The airport is about 15-20 minutes from the piers.
Pre or Post cruise accommodation with free shuttle service to the Airport — some hotels offer a shuttle service to and from Luis Munoz Marin International Airport.
Lovely City with Cobblestone Streets
San Juan is a lovely city with narrow cobblestone streets, fabulous museums and historical colonial architecture. Wander around Old San Juan and admire the beautiful plazas which are dominated by old churches and surrounded by historical buildings.
Take a look at the Iglesia de San José, considered to be the second oldest church in the New World.
Visit La Cathedral de San Juan Bautista, the final resting place of Juan Ponce de León. The family home of this famous explorer and first Spanish Governor of Puerto Rico is La Casa Blanca (The White House). Nearby is La Fortaleza, the Governor’s Mansion. Check out El Castillo San Felipe del Morro, guarding the mouth of the harbor. This old fortification from the sixteenth-century is named in honor of the Spanish king Philip II of Spain.
A trip to the inland of the island gives you the opportunity to discover all natural beauty of Puerto Rico. Explore El Yunque tropical rainforest, filled with hundreds of colourful orchids, birds and tumbling waterfalls.
Take a hike and look for the Puerto Rican parrot or swim in Baño Grande, a natural swimming pool. Sun worshippers will enjoy the fine beaches.
Stunning beaches and beachfront hotels and resorts in nearby areas of Condado and Isla Verde are a 5- to 20-minute taxi ride from the cruise passenger pier.
The only beach in Old San Juan is Escambron. It’s a small beach, but very easy and quick to get to.
Beaches — San Juan is blessed with some superb beaches. El Escambrón public beach is the closest one from the Old Town. Located right next to the Caribe Hilton, it’s a beach with lifeguards, bathing and changing rooms, and showers.
A famous beach area is Condado Beach, close to the centre of San Juan. Lined with high-rise hotels, it seems more like Miami Beach than any other beach in the Caribbean. Some of the island’s most exclusive shopping, lodging and dining is just a few steps away from this beach. East of Condado is Ocean Park Beach, one of the most attractive beaches in the Greater San Juan area.
Isla Verde Beach is a soft sandy beach and good for swimming. It’s located next to the airport and lined with a variety of hotels including the Intercontinental San Juan and Hampton Inn & Suites.
Things to Do in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
I love a port day San Juan, especially to visit Old San Juan to be exact. Almost every cruise to the eastern Caribbean includes a stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Old San Juan is located just a very short walk from the ship and there are plenty of things to do to fill your day. I chose a guided walking tour to see places I may have missed on my last visit.
On a sunset walking tour of Old San Juan to the Fortress.
In This Post…
Things to Do in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Here are my recommendations for an easy breezy, day in Old San Juan.
Instead of spending a long day on a shore excursion, I always recommend a walking tour through Old San Juan. Either on your own or with a tour group.
There’s plenty of time to explore the old city, even if you arrive at 3pm and depart at 8pm. The pier is right across from Old San Juan.
Wake Up to See El Morro
First things first. Grab your camera and stake out your space on the port (left) side of the ship for the magnificent approach into historic San Juan harbor.
You’ll sail past what is possibly the most spectacular sight in the entire Caribbean.
Rising majestically 140 feet above the sea, flying US, Puerto Rico and Spanish military flags, is Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
Nicknamed El Morro, the massive stone fortress sits on a rocky promontory surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the San Juan Bay.
Built between 1540 and 1783 to protect its harbor and city from invasion, El Morro features a maze of secret access tunnels and dungeons.
Welcome into San Juan Harbor with Old San Juan in the distance.
To get to El Morro, it’s about thirty minutes to walk from the port. There are two ways to walk to El Morro.
Go straight uphill from the port through Old San Juan. Along the way you’ll pass small shops, quiet cafés, centuries’ old churches and interesting architecture.
The other way is to cross the street and go left and keep walking. It’s a much more level walk (just a few stairs) and you’ll pass some historic and scenic lookout points.
The second option, turning left from the dock, is how our Sunset Walking Tour guide chose to take us to El Morro and Old San Juan.
Our Sunset Walking Tour guide shows us the route we’ll take. On my Sunset Walking Tour through Old San Juan.I never would have found this lush park and fountain on my own.Beautiful Bougainvillea were in bloom on every street.
After our walk through several parks and neighborhoods, we arrived at El Morro. Just in time for sunset.
What to Do at El Morro Fortress in San Juan
Our first stop was El Morro Fortress at just before sunset.
There is a small entrance fee to get into the fortress complex, but it’s worth it. This is a great place to bring the kids. Intrigue abounds with tales of daring pirates and sunken ships to keep their interest.
Outside of the fort, there’s an enormous park and gardens where kids can burn off some steam. If you’re into history, there’s a small museum that’s run by the U.S. National Park Service.
Kids need to run? Let ’em loose here. Great for kite flying, too.
After touring El Morro, allow yourself at least a couple of hours to meander your way back through town. Old San Juan is a charming area where colonial ambiance is maintained with a good dose of national pride.
From magnificent 18th century Spanish architecture to cobblestone streets and well-kept doorways, a visit to this old city is like a journey back in time.
Though our tour didn’t include a meal or snack, I’ve included a couple of places that I’ve had lunch in Old San Juan.
Where to Eat in Old San Juan
- El Convento
Stop for a cold drink and lunch in the tropical courtyard patio at El Convento Hotel, a 356-year old former convent turned into an incredible 5-star hotel. It’s easy to miss this ochre-colored building with its black and white stone steps and heavy, dark wood entrance.
Here’s how to find El Convento. Simply walk downhill from El Morro to 100 Cristo Street. There are many helpful uniformed police in Old San Juan ready to assist with directions.
READ MORE: Try This Old San Juan Food Tour
Enjoying lunch in the courtyard at El Convento Hotel.
After a snack and a drink at to El Convento, take a short detour into the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista. It’s the burial place of Juan Ponce de León, the famous explorer who was looking for the Fountain of Youth.
Some people believe the magical waters are somewhere in the rugged mountains of El Yunque. Or maybe it’s in one of the mojitos at El Convento!
- El Jibarito
Lunch option #2 with a local flare; a visit to the El Jibarito restaurant. Located at 280 Calle Sol, El Jibarito is bustling at lunchtime with families, shoppers and a few tourists who have stumbled upon this Old San Juan favorite.
While my friend ordered the minute steak, I went for a traditional Puerto Rican dish, roast chicken, plantains and rice. I was not disappointed.
Lunch at El Jibarito in Old San Juan Puerto RicoWalking through Old San Juan at the Quincentennial Square.
Where to Have a Drink in Old San Juan
Wind your way over to Barrachina, located one block from the Governor’s Mansion. This is the restaurant in Old San Juan that claims to be the birthplace to the famous Pina Colada.
Some people believe that, in 1954, it was Don Ramon “Monchito” Marrero, the bartender at the Caribe Hilton Hotel, who came up with the idea of a drink from mixing rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream and ice in a blender. It’s the island’s favorite drink.
Make it a Beach Day Instead
Alternatively, if you’d rather make it a beach day, a short taxi ride from the port takes you to the popular Condado Beach, a small slice of paradise. Adjacent to pristine beaches, this lively tourism area hosts countless shops, restaurants, night spots, casinos and of course, hotels.
You can stroll Condado’s main road, Ashford Avenue, and end up walking along a lovely seaside pathway. The avenue ends at a beautiful, intimate beach and the other side reveals the lovely Condado Lagoon.
Personally, I’d rather spend my day in Old San Juan, walking the narrow streets, taking photos of beautiful architecture and always stopping for lunch and a cool drink.
On my first visit, I didn’t know what things to do in Puerto Rico. I signed up for a shore excursion to El Yunque and really enjoyed the experience.
If it’s your first visit, you may want to take a morning shore excursion. Then discover things to do in Old San Juan after your morning tour.
On this recent visit aboard Wonder of the Seas, we arrived into San Juan at 3PM. That’s why I purchased Royal Caribbean’s “Sunset Walking Tour of San Juan”. Definitely worth the $60.00.
When your ship has a full day in Puerto Rico, purchase a morning shore excursion that guides you through Old San Juan.
Then go off on your own to explore and stop to enjoy an authentic Puerto Rican lunch. There will be plenty of time for shopping, too.
What ever you decide to do, you will surely enjoy your time in Old San Juan.
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I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com, a solo traveler cruising the world on waves and wheels, collecting recipes along the way. I hope my articles and photos entertain, advise and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Take a breath…stop for a local meal and a glass of wine along the way.
Greater Caribbean 2020
Great trip to the Lesser and Greater Antilles of the Caribbean. 13 islands and 13 countries in 20 days. Flights, ferries, transfers, hiking, beaches, bars, castles, volcanoes, ruined cities, yachts, rum — a vibrant world on small patches of land. This is probably my favorite place on the planet.
Below are my travel notes from each country along the route.
Turks and Caicos
Almost a country. Several islands. Not even the Caribbean. Why go here? What can be seen here? One good beach, closed by reefs from waves in the north wind. Lots of expensive villas. Not a very pleasant audience with a low level of intelligence from a neighboring superpower. Your own flag and license plate. I don’t have my own money, the US dollar is adapted.
To be honest, it’s worth coming here for the sake of show. I did not find any other motivation for this country.
P.S. after visiting all the islands on this trip, I will say that the beach in Caicos is really one of the best in the region. So opinion changes over time and distance.
Departure from Caicos Islands
I saw something like this just before the New Year in Domodedovo or Sheremetyevo. Crowds of people, departures every 5 minutes. The last day of the American New Year holidays. From the Caicos Village Airport, large planes take off every 5 minutes to all cities in the United States. All local flights are postponed by 3-5 hours. After departure, the airport resembles a large garbage dump. Sloppiness and the ability to litter everything around you with leftover food is a unique ability of many American families.
Our flight to the Bahamas was the last. Nobody even checked their passports. Behind us, the lights were turned off and the airport was locked.
An ancestral shrine in the very east of New Providence Island. Wooden statues dedicated to people from Africa. And in the neighboring bay, stingrays swim. I wanted to swim in the evening, but I stopped in time.
And most importantly — not a single tourist. It’s an hour’s drive from Nassau. There is not a single bar here, which means that tourists from cruise ships will not go here.
We drive a left-hand drive car (as in Russia) with left-hand traffic (as in England). Vladivostok is the opposite.
What is the Bahamas. Hundreds of islands, of which only 30 are inhabited. White sand and turquoise water. Nassau, a Caribbean port town filled with thousands of tourists every day from cruise ships and dying out at exactly 6 pm after the departure of the liners. Poor little houses of the locals and huge palaces-hotels. A legacy of black slave migration to the islands from Africa during the sugar cane boom.
It’s not cheap here. A small bottle of beer in a bar costs about $10, but at the same time in a good restaurant you can taste seafood for $30. There is something to see here — lonely limestone cliffs, the ruins of villages with sugar plantations and even pine forests.
It is worth going to the Bahamas not only for the sake of a beach holiday. And if you go to one of the uninhabited islands, you can find yourself in the pristine nature of tropical islands. True, drinking water may not be there.
And by the way, the Bahamas is not the Caribbean. They are in the Atlantic Ocean, opposite Miami. And this is an independent country with its own currency, license plates, flag and prime minister, not a US state.
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago. Poverty, skyscrapers, oil on the first island, and fishermen, rum and beaches on the second. Trinidad is an extension of continental Venezuela. Oil is produced on the shelf here. With this money, large tall houses are being built in the capital. There are beautiful mansions in the embassy quarter. And in the center at night rampant drunkenness and drugs. Yes, and in the south of the island there is one of the largest bituminous lakes in the world. Asphalt in its natural form. This is probably the most interesting thing in Trinidad.
Tobago is much smaller and very different. Small villages, long deserted beaches with white sand and turquoise water protected by reefs. There are no tourists. You can get here only by plane or by ferry from Trinidad. No international flights or cruise ships. There were 6 or 7 people on 5 kilometers of the best Buku Bay beach. In bars, rum with a strength of 75 degrees is drunk from 8 in the morning, and fish and shrimp are served in restaurants right from the sea.
I am here for the second time. Trinidad — garbage, Tobago — time has stopped here.
Hillsides, rainforest, long beach and English style capital of 3000 people. Grenada. 100 thousand inhabitants. Saint George’s is a UNESCO town. In 1985, the country survived the American invasion. Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, a supporter of communist development and an alliance with Cuba, was assassinated. The local airport is now named after him.
Here we climbed to Fort St. George, crossed almost the entire island along narrow serpentines and went on a hike to Mount Kva-Kva, the second highest in the country. The route started from the Concord Falls and along the mud flowing down from the steep slopes, through the tropical rainforest, we climbed 800 meters above sea level.
Soiled up to their knees, they went to the Grand Etang lake and went to dinner right on the Grand Anse beach. 5 kilometers of white sand, tables 5 meters from the surf.
I took a swim and immediately for dinner.
The calmest and most interesting thing here is in the morning before 10 and in the evening after 6. This is the time when there are no cruise ships in the port, and only locals walk on the streets and beaches.
Rain once an hour, a boiling volcano, drunk and stoned islanders at 8 in the morning, sailboats and caribou Indians. Dominica is the brightest of all Caribbean islands. The most natural, the poorest, the most non-tourist, the most real. There is not a single white sand beach here, there is no large airport, there are not even normal roads here.
But the primary rainforests, which were cut down on neighboring islands, have been preserved here. Caribou Indians live here, 2000 people, the indigenous inhabitants of the archipelago, who were exterminated on all other islands by the Spaniards 400 years ago. Here is the Boiling Lake in the crater of the volcano, reaching which is a whole adventure. 6 hours of mud, rock climbing, rainstorms, 60kph winds, sulfate rivers and a real valley of bubbling geysers. For dessert, local bars in wooden shacks serving rum, lobster, shrimp and more rum.
This is Creole in the south of the island and English in the north. Therefore, the country is called the Commonwealth of Dominica. And these are people for whom the human is more important than the dollar.
This is my third time in Dominica. I have been to almost every island in the Caribbean. And this is the best place in the area!
Hike to the Boiling Lake
Only 7 kilometers ahead. You need to dial 400 meters. The way back is the same. And it will take 6 hours. The montane rainforest of Dominica, not to be confused with the Dominican Republic. We go to the real Boiling Lake, which is in the crater of the volcano in the center of the island. Muddy path, up and up. And after 2 hours, the descent along the stream bed, almost vertical, without any insurance, every now and then begins a tropical downpour, a height of 1000 meters above sea level. You need to drop 200 meters, it takes an hour. And below, the valley of geysers filled with sulfur smokes and stinks. No paths, you walk along the bed of a stream with hot water, where you can warm up right in your clothes after a cold downpour. The last 500 meters you climb over pieces of basalt, tuff and sulfur. There is a persistent smell of methane (rotten eggs) in the air. Everything is covered with haze — it is a lake boiling in a crater. It boils, seethes due to hot gases rising from the mouth of the mountain. Minutes of joy, bananas and chocolate taken on the road.
And on the way back. Rivers, mud, jungle, climb and long descent in a downpour through the rainforest.
Dominica, the Boiling Lake Trek is the best trek in all of the Caribbean. And the heaviest.
Storm. Ferries have been cancelled. 8-seater planes manage to land on a 500-meter runway with a crosswind. So we got to Montserrat, an English island in the Caribbean near Antigua. The flight was delayed by 5 hours due to bad weather. 18 minutes in the air and we are there. 3 hours to explore the island with a population of 6,000 people. The capital Plymouth on the slope of the volcano Soufrière is covered up to the roof with ash after the eruption of 1995 years. You can only get here by bribing the police. Officially, this is an exclusion zone, where it smells very strongly of methane.
Having climbed the former hotels and supermarkets, where food, cash registers and counters are still under the ashes, we returned to the north of the island, drank a sip of rum, and went to the airport. But it was not there. Small planes fly only during daylight hours. Due to bad weather, a lot of passengers accumulated, and the departure of all foreigners was postponed until the morning. And we only have a phone and swimming trunks with us. At the expense of the airline, we were placed in the best and most likely the only hotel on the island. And then we met Ian Morley, the devil’s advocate. Prosecutor of the Hague Tribunal, defender of Milosevic, etc. A gentleman with an aristocratic London accent, an expensive suit, a tie and a local escort was hard to miss. In the evening in the bar we had a pleasant conversation over a glass of rum. Upon arrival in Antigua, he was met on the runway by people with large shoulder straps. By the way, when we were expecting a flight from Antigua to Montserrat, members of the government of this island were with us in the company. I’ll get ahead of myself — in Jamaica we met the mayor of Kingston.
So, 7 am, we are back at the airport. Gradually, all passengers are put on planes. Our girls too. And Alexander and I are left in an empty barn of the air harbor all alone. And a minute before departure, we were called to take off and put on the plane, I was in the co-pilot’s seat. We were not on the list of passengers on board.
The whole trip to Montserrat did not go according to plan. The island left a depressing impression, although the percentage of the prosperous white population on it is the highest. But in the atmosphere hangs the feeling of the decline of a better life. I remember the adventures themselves rather than the country. By the way, she has her own flag, car number. Money common with many Caribbean islands is the East Caribbean dollar.
On one side of the island there are shabby houses of the locals, on the other — luxurious villas. There are cruise ships in the port, huge multi-masted yachts from all over the Anglo-Saxon world in the marina. Poverty and luxury seasoned with white sand beaches and turquoise waters. This is Antigua. Although almost every island in the Caribbean could be described that way. Paradise for tourists and varying degrees of poverty for most black islanders. Cuba could be the same if not for the revolution. The poor disappeared, and with them the rich. Americans and Europeans rest on other islands, they also own and earn on everything of value that is there. These islands raised their flags, but the owners remained the same.
Antigua is perhaps the most prosperous of all the independent countries of Western India. It is small, there are many good beaches. For example, the Crescent Bay on the side of the Atlantic, closed from ocean waves by reefs. There is even a natural attraction — the Devil’s Bridge — a coral bridge washed by the surf. The surf is always strong here, and columns of spray rise to many meters high. There is a UNESCO monument here — Nelson Docks, the bay and forts of the 18th century, built as the main naval base of the British in the Caribbean.
All this can be seen in a day. What about lying on the beach? It’s not my first time here, and for some reason I don’t want to come back again. Is it possible to use Antigua as a transit base for getting to Barbuda or Montserrat.
West Africa in miniature is Jamaica. In Kingston, the capital, in the central square and in Downtown, we were the only tourists. When exchanging money, a security guard immediately approached us and warned that after 4 days it was better not to walk through the streets, and you should not look into the alleys before. Many of the old colonial buildings are abandoned and slum life flourishes. The suburban part with villas, embassies and government buildings differs sharply from this. Almost like in Johannesburg.
The Bob Marley Museum is the main attraction where tourists are brought from the seaside resorts of Jamaica. In this country people smoke weed everywhere and without hesitation. As a result, there are huge traffic jams in cities due to the very slow driving of some drivers.
In the countryside, Jamaica resembles some areas of our outback. There is no work. True, there are a lot of young people who gather in the morning at some shack called a bar and start smoking and drinking. Marley named his first son Gigi, which is slang for the butt of a joint. What kind of people, such a country.
Yes, there are white sand beaches and resort hotels, but beyond that, there are slums. Egypt, for example, looks much more civilized against this background. Or the same neighboring Dominican Republic.
We flew here for the Blue Mountains, a UNESCO natural monument. Rain fairy forest. The blue mountain with a height of 2256 meters, on which we climbed. Climbing and descent of 1000 meters for 7 km in one direction. 4 hours. True, we saw almost nothing, because we were walking in clouds and wet suspension.
They drive badly on the roads. Everyone drives with high beams at night. The roads themselves, with the exception of a single motorway, are in an ugly state. Pits and collapses. There are a lot of motorcyclists in the village, they drive fast and without helmets. On many cars, dents are visible from collisions with them. They romp without letting the joint out of their mouths.
I will say this: +1 to visited African countries. From the rest of the Caribbean, Jamaica is very different.
P.S. We haven’t reached Haiti yet…
Trash, beauty of nature, black king and copy of Bastille. Haiti is the brightest, most memorable, most difficult, most African country in the Caribbean.
It’s poor here, very poor. Many still live in ruins after the 2010 earthquake. In the villages, water is taken from wells, there is no electricity. Port-au-Prince is littered with rubbish. The roads are rally tracks. But there are also Mercedes salons, expensive jeeps and hotels with armed guards.
Public transport is old pickup trucks and ancient minibuses turned into works of art. We traveled by car with a driver, so we were able to avoid getting to know such minibuses.
There is nowhere to eat outside the capital. Unless you buy bananas, or look for a closed hotel area.
The village looks more decent and organic than the city. Wooden huts look very harmonious against the backdrop of mountains and savannah. The rainforest is only in the north. Lots of kids around. Here they give birth to 5-6 in a family, or even more. Their favorite pastime at the sight of tourists is to ask for money or gifts. Although there are 10 million people living in the country, there are plenty of free mountain landscapes.
From Port-au-Prince to Sanssouci, the capital of the first black king of Haiti, it takes 5 hours, or 160 kilometers. Most of the way is broken dirt road. But it’s worth the trip! Henri Christopher was king of northern Haiti from 1811 to 1820. He fought with the French, married an Italian, executed white babies and built a palace and a mountain fortress, very similar to the Bastille. It has no equal in America. The truth is, no one stormed her. He ended his life by suicide, not wanting to become a victim of a military coup. Since then, everything began in the country: dictators, emperors and coups. Now it is one of the poorest countries in the world. 203rd place in terms of GDP per capita.
We examined the fortress on horseback, which lifted us several hundred meters up. Each nag was pulled by 2-3 more human assistants who were expecting at least some tip.
Haitians speak Creole, a black Caribbean interpretation of French. There is nothing to do with English here, and it’s just not easy with French.
They returned to the capital at night, and watched how the Haitian village was walking. There is no electricity, but there is a disco here and there. Crowds of young people are dancing behind the truck, which is equipped with huge speakers. No Burning Man needed.
Before we got to Jacmel, a colonial town in the south, the highway was blocked by a demonstration of schoolchildren demanding higher salaries for their teachers. But we walked through the center of the capital. The buildings of the ministries gleam against the backdrop of the surrounding slums. The National Museum, although modest, is very decent. At the foot of the monuments to the founders of the state, the homeless sleep perfectly. The monument to the 200th anniversary of independence is slightly destroyed. Haiti, by the way, is the second country after the United States in the Americas to achieve independence from the Europeans in 1804.
The country has its own money, Gurdys.
But dollars are accepted with pleasure. And dominican pesos do not disdain.
It is only 50 km from Port-au-Prince to the border with the Dominican Republic, but it takes 2 hours to drive. Plugs, holes. The Haitian border is passed quickly. A small bribe at the entrance, persuasive words from our driver, and all the formalities in the concrete shed were completed in 10 minutes. Everything is more complicated with the Dominican Republic. Queues of Haitians, extortion at customs and the migration service, a police survey.
Danger. At the entrance it seems that zombies will attack you, rob you and so on. But you quickly get used to the external torment. Everything is very similar to Togo or Benin in West Africa. And with a neutral assessment, you understand that Tegucigalpa in Honduras or San Salvador in El Salvador is much more dangerous than Port-au-Prince. I’m not talking about the village at all.
Cause of poverty. This is more difficult. Earthquakes, tsunamis, upheavals, high birth rates and a population of 10 million. It used to be said that slaves themselves cannot build a rich state. Is it possible to change the country for the better? I think no. Too many people, unreliable political and geological situation and as a result — no investment. 25% of GDP comes from private transfers from relatives abroad. Another 60% for foreign grants. To condemn refugees from Haiti is simply unfair.
Truck races, sudden potholes, garbage streams, lively bars and neat peasant huts. The Dominican Republic, or the Dominican Republic, passed on our way. Flight from Antigua was delayed, customs took 2 hours. Huge lines, unhurried workers. Even slower I picked up the car at the Europecar office, it took more than an hour. As a result, we left the airport at sunset instead of 2 pm. 200 kilometers towards the Haitian border. Many people drive with high beams, trucks make it difficult to overtake them, and every now and then motorcyclists come across without dimensions and in general any kind of light. In the villages, there are frequent speed bumps and police ditches, about which no sign warns. You can be left without wheels instantly. But without them, the locals would drive through the villages, not noticing the downed pedestrians.
Spent the night in the town of Barahona in the west near the Caribbean coast. Both the hotel and the neighboring bar were very surprised by the foreigners. A lot of questions about where and why we are going. Of course, in English, no one here understands a word. At the border, they tried to extract money from us for any services, realizing that ordinary tourists from the Dominican Republic do not go to Haiti. On the way back, at the entrance from Haiti, the situation repeated itself. Even the first 100 kilometers at military posts they checked our passports and car in search of drugs and illegal immigrants.
In the daytime, passing through the villages, I remember the bright wooden houses of the peasants, who have not changed their design over the past few hundred years.
We went for a walk around Santo Domingo already at 10 pm, standing in traffic jams on the highways in the city caused by heavy rain. Streams of water carried heaps of garbage through the streets of the colonial center, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
I will not talk about the exceptional beauty of Santo Domingo. In Latin America, the Spaniards managed to build a lot of things. Mexico and Cuba are number one. But! It’s worth coming back here, especially for hiking trails in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. It is very convenient to combine them with halts on the white beaches of the Caribbean Sea and the openness and hospitality of the villagers.
Puerto Rico — the name sounds richer than the essence. Pompous colonial San Juan, Spanish stronghold of the 16th-19th centuries. Tourist American gloss of our days. The United States took the island from Spain in 1898. Then they got Guam, the Philippines and almost Cuba. Two forts protect the city from the east and west. The old city has a regular layout and bright colors, like all colonial cities in Latin America. Every day the streets, bars and restaurants are filled with crowds of amphibious assaults from cruise ships.
But outside of San Juan, another life begins. Abandoned towns, from which almost all the inhabitants left. Broken windows, broken wires. No one eliminates the consequences of the last hurricane and earthquake. All fences are covered with barbed wire. Everything is locked, under alarms. Puerto Rico is a free state that joined the United States. That is, it is part of the States. And the province here is similar to the poor areas of southern Illinois or the Mississippi. In 2017, a referendum was held in which the inhabitants of the island voted to join the United States as the 51st State. Only the central government is not very eager to take them under its wing.
There are no white sand beaches here. He is yellow. Lucullo is the best beach on the island, reminiscent of an abandoned pioneer camp. Desolation, but not devastation. It looks like the era of the decline of the USSR. For white sand, you need to fly to Culebra, an island to the east in Puerto Rico.
Officially, there are two official languages - English and Spanish. But knowledge of the former is drastically reduced outside the capital. Money — the same American dollars. And the license plate for cars meets American standards.
Fallen billboards, broken wiring, broken windows, abandoned houses, broken trees do not add optimism.
San Juan is a gem, but there’s something wrong with the setting.
US Virgin Islands (USVI)
Danish colonial houses, checking documents at the exit, not at the entrance, not participating in presidential elections, left-hand traffic and left-hand drive (Vladivostok again, vice versa), yachts, cruise ships — this US Virgin Islands (USVI).
Immediately upon arrival, it is felt that here they are not trying to deceive you or pull out money in any way. Free welcome drink at the airport — local rum. A taxi to the city is 10 dollars for 5 kilometers, instead of 50 for 4 kilometers in Caicos, for example.
The capital, Charlotte Amalie, is a cute colonial town of several streets built in a Scandinavian style. This part of the Virgin Islands from 1666 to 1917. belonged to Denmark. There was a fort on the island of St. Thomas, and above it was the castle of the pirate Blackbeard. Due to the weakness of the state administration, buccaneers, corsairs and other lovers of free marine life felt very at ease here. By the end of the First World War, Denmark sold the islands to the United States. The cost of the transaction was equal to half the annual budget of the northern country. And she really needed money in the conditions of the military crisis. It is on the basis of this experience that Trump today thinks about buying Greenland, which also belongs to Denmark. But times are not the same.
Compared to other islands, both the descendants of Africans and immigrants from Europe are represented here. I met the former leader of the Polish Solidarity in Krakow, who had fled Poland in 1981. Now he has his own restaurant in Charlotte — «Tavern».
An interesting fact is that customs is here on departure from the island to the USA. Although I was also checked upon arrival on the ferry to St. Thomas from the British Virgins. A fly just won’t fly by!
Another point — serious traffic jams in the town in the morning and evening. Lots of cars and traffic lights. You don’t expect that from a Caribbean Paradise. This is how the locals call their islands. There are only 3 of them: St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. On the second, nature, forests, virgin bays have been preserved. The other two are dotted with houses, hotels, villas and roads. In total, more than 100 thousand people live here, which is 4 times more than in BVI.
Another remarkable fact is that for some time the islands were owned by the Order of Malta. And we know that at the end of the 18th century, the Russian emperor Paul I was its head. It turns out that Russia could have its own piece of the Caribbean sun and sea.
Would I go back to US Virgins? Yes! There seems to be nothing special here compared to other Caribbean islands. But here you relax and do not strain. Everything is quiet. As a guy told me one morning in one of the stores — «Where to hurry in Paradise ..?»
British Virgin Islands (BVI)
Rural wilderness, there is no other name for the British Virgin Islands. The capital is a village with abandoned houses, offshore banks are sometimes almost two-story sheds. The island (Tortola) lives on passing cruise ships. For 27 thousand inhabitants, more than a million tourists come here every year. From 10 am they fill the streets and sunbeds by the sea, by 6 pm everything is empty. The main beach — Cane Garden Bay is somewhat reminiscent of the Anapa beach in summer. There is nowhere to step from the passengers of the liners, enjoying the white sand, turquoise bay, yachts and pinokolada. After dinner, he licks them off with his tongue. Everything is empty. The bay at this time resembles an abandoned sanatorium. In the morning everything starts again.
But there are days when the liners do not come, and the island turns into a village. Road Town, the capital, lives with Indian cafes and bars. The population here is of African and South Asian origin. Although the islands are part of the British Empire, and the Union Jack is depicted on the flag in addition to St. Ursula, the country’s currency is the US dollar. But the license plates are theirs.
I came here on a ship from the American Virgin Islands, St. Thomas. An hour on the fast ferry. You pay $10 toll on entry and $20 on exit. The poorer the island, the more they try to get from the tourist.
After a couple of hours, I didn’t know what to do. I sunbathed on the beach, drank a cocktail, swam, went around all the streets of Road Town. Another case when the name of the islands, BVI, turned out to be «louder» than reality.
20 days, 22 flights, 2 ferries, 14 countries, 14 islands, 2 volcanoes — the Caribbean trip is over.
This is my third visit to the region and hopefully not the last time. This is one of my favorite places on the planet.
Real wilderness, jungle, geysers, volcano, boiling lake — Dominica. You won’t find more wildlife in the Caribbean.
The creation of human hands — the colonial capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan. Along with Havana, this is the most beautiful city in these parts.
Beach. Whiter and finer sand, with almost no people than in Anguilla, I have never seen anywhere. But this time we didn’t get there. In terms of desertedness, I give the first place to Tobago, in terms of sand and infrastructure — to Caicos.
Haiti is a country for real adventures, a place where it is interesting, although not easy. Leader of our Grand Prix.
And in a separate nomination — the US Virgin Islands. A place where nothing happens, great beaches, few people and no one is in a hurry.
Outsiders due to boredom: Bahamas, Trinidad and Antigua.
Jamaica is questionable — there are too many negative points, although the interesting nature, and rural alcoholics-drug addicts, cause an ambiguous attitude.
Caribbean, see you soon!
Dmitry Aleshkin, January 2020
ᐈ Cruise-Life Blog
The island of Puerto Rico is located in the northern part of the Caribbean Sea, at the junction of the chains of the Lesser and Greater Antilles, being the smallest and easternmost island in the Greater Antilles group. It is washed by the Atlantic Ocean in the north and the Caribbean Sea in the south (the total length of the coastline is 501 km).
San Juan is one of the largest cruise ports in the world. In 2018 it was visited by 1.187.700 passengers.
The capital of Puerto Rico has 2 cruise ship moorings. The Old San Juan Cruise Terminal is located in the city center. Most transit liners moor there. But ships whose route starts from San Juan use the Pan American Pier terminal. Its location is worse, but it is closer to the airport. There is a direct connection between the airport and the Old San Juan Cruise Terminal.
San Juan is a modern city with the characteristics of an American metropolis. However, behind the shiny facades of the new buildings, the historical features of the Spanish heritage are perfectly traced.
San Juan is divided into two parts: old and new. The Old Town is an open-air museum that surprises with its unique architecture. Outside the boundaries of the old city, there are private houses and elite suburbs, as well as a resort area with a luxurious Isla Verde beach.
TOP must-see places in San Juan:
Old San Juan
The entire Old City, literally saturated with buildings and structures of the 16th-17th centuries, is now the National Historic Zone and the main point of attraction for numerous tourists. The old city is most like an open-air museum, where the darkened buildings of the Spanish colonial era are collected. Visitors will be delighted with the cobbled streets of Old San Juan and will want to stay for a while to check out the little restaurants and shops that dot the street. Bacardi Rum Factory The Bacardi factory in San Juan is one of the largest rum factories in the world. The Bacardi company was originally founded in 1862 by Don Facundo Bacardi Masso in the city of Santiago de Cuba, and 75 years later it was recreated in San Juan. Visitors to the factory can enjoy an interactive historical journey, get to know the history of the brand and the features of family production. They will see the process of rum production and a demonstration of making cocktails with rum. All visitors are certainly invited to taste the drink in a special tropical pavilion. There is a shop at the factory where visitors can buy memorable souvenirs and real rum.
The San Juan Botanical Garden is also known as the University of Puerto Rico Botanical Garden. It is an educational center for scientific research and a place for excellent rest and relaxation. Its territory, with an area of 121 hectares, serves to study and preserve more than 30 thousand local and exotic plants, trees, flowers. The territory is divided into two parts — northern and southern, the latter contains most of the sights. In the south you can see the garden of heliconias, orchids, palms, herbarium. Entrance to the botanical garden is free from 6 am to 6 pm. Fort San Cristobal Fort San Cristobal is the largest fort built in the 17th century by the Spaniards in America. This majestic fort was built between 1634-1790 years and originally covered an area of 27 acres (this is the largest fortification site built by the Spaniards in the New World). Today, tourists are free to explore its labyrinthine structures and almost six kilometers of secret tunnels, moats, and battlefield dungeons, built into the depths of 45-meter walls, which offer a beautiful panorama of San Juan and its bays. Fuerte San Cristobal is a National Historic Monument and is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
San Jose Square
The influence of historical events on the city is visible to the naked eye, but it is especially striking in San José Square. This stunning place has become a meeting point for tourists and locals alike, and it should be noted that this is one of the first places you should visit in the capital of Puerto Rico. For the first time, you will definitely be amazed by the huge bronze statue of Ponce de Leon, which is located right in the center of the square.
Nature lovers should definitely visit the «Park of the Pigeons», known to the locals as the «Parque de la Palomas». In this park, you can enjoy great views of the city, including views of the crowded harbor and the beautiful mountains that surround Puerto Rico’s capital. Among other things, the park offers a view of La Princesa prison, a notorious place of confinement, which is now a historical museum.
Unlike neighboring islands, old San Juan has been perfectly preserved in its original form, thanks to the efforts of local cultural figures who have achieved a ban on new buildings and the fact that any restoration work, even in private mansions, must be coordinated with the Institute of Culture .
The cost of a cruise on a liner.