What to do in puerto rico on a cruise: 40 Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico for Cruisers
11 Things for Cruisers To Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan, the vibrant capital city of Puerto Rico, truly has something to offer for every visitor. As one of the oldest settlements in the New World, the city is rich in historical sites. But San Juan doesn’t just offer history.
Its location on one of the largest islands in the Caribbean affords the port easy access to a wealth of natural treasures including beaches, tropical rainforests with mountain trails and waterfalls, and unique and delicious cuisine.
Sitting on the north coast of the island of Puerto Rico, San Juan has a rich and exciting history. The weather is reliably tropical with frequent showers in the summer, and warm but drier winters. For travelers, San Juan is one of the most interesting ports of the Caribbean.
- Country: Commonwealth Territory of the United States
- Currency: United States Dollar
- Government: Republic
- Language: Spanish is the primary language, but many in the tourist industry speak English
- Population: 347,000
- Religion: Catholicism
- Weather: Tropical wet summer, warm dry winter
The Port Area
When sailing into the harbor, don’t miss the opportunity to be out on deck to see the ship sail past the old city’s fortifications — it is really something to behold!
Most ships dock at one of the piers which are located on the southern side of Old San Juan. If this is the case for your vessel, then all the sights and flavors of Old San Juan are a short walk away and are immediately visible from the piers.
However, others, such as most Royal Caribbean ships, are berthed a bit further away at the Pan American Pier, which is an easy and short taxi or Uber ride away.
RELATED: 5 Most European Cities In North America To Visit on a Cruise
Things For Cruisers To Do In Puerto Rico
1. Walk Old San Juan
Calle Fortaleza – photo by prayitnophotography/Flickr
The beating heart of the city, Old San Juan is the remarkably intact Spanish colonial walled town that was once one of the most important cities of the Spanish colonial empire. Based upon a grid pattern and surrounded by the sea on three sides, walking around the streets is a joy as “getting lost” is not really a possibility.
Beautiful flower-filled squares are around corners and townhouses are painted all manner of colorful Caribbean hues, while more restaurants than you could possibly try in even a dozen visits tempt passersby.
Even though Old San Juan is only about 7 blocks wide and 7 blocks long, the terrain and weather can make what appears to be a short walk longer than anticipated. Dress accordingly, wear comfortable shoes, and always leave time to stop for a cocktail or café!
2. La Catedral de San Juan Bautista
Photo by Daderot/Wikimedia
Celebrating 500 years of serving the community, one of the oldest buildings in San Juan (and also the oldest cathedral in the United States) is the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. It is a beautiful building to tour. The interior is understated but elegant and worth popping in to view.
Additionally, the tomb of Ponce de Leon, one of the most famous Spanish explorers, is located inside the church. If you don’t have the time to go in or are not inclined, the exterior is still worth passing by as the surrounding square and steps are often adorned with flowers in large pots and make for excellent photographs.
3. Visit El Morro
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Practically the symbol of San Juan, the Castilo de San Felipe del Morro was used as a military installation from its foundation in 1539 all the way until 1961. As a UNSECO World Heritage site, it truly is one of the “must-see” locations in San Juan. Visitors are invited to tour the fortifications, climb hidden passageways, and imaging life for the soldiers who were stationed there.
Just outside the gates of the fort is a huge grassy area, great for relaxing, flying kites, and enjoying the ever-present breeze with lovely views of the ocean and surrounding city. Your ticket to the Castilo also includes access to the other fort in San Juan, San Cristobal, so if you want even more historical sights, stroll on over there after a visit to El Morro.
4. Paseo del Morro
The Paseo del Morro trail follows masonry walls, dating back to the 1630s, that surround the city of Old San Juan. photo by kkanouse/Flickr
Winding along the ancient walls and fortifications of the city, the Paseo del Morro is a delightful walk to take with sweeping views of the sea. The walk begins at the Paseo de la Princesa, immediately west of the cruise piers. The entire walk is almost completely paved and mostly flat, though there are steps at the end leading up into the famous El Morro fortress.
If you don’t feel like making the entire walk around the city, a good stopping point is at La Puerta de San Juan, a gateway painted red which allows access to the city. A word of wisdom: the walk is mostly unshaded, so it is best done in the morning or late afternoon.
5. Try Mofongo
Photo by mesohungry/Flickr
The signature dish of Puerto Rico, mofongo is made from mashing and frying plantains (a banana-like fruit), mixing them with salt, garlic, and other flavors, and then forming the concoction into a ball. While it might sound strange, we can promise you that the result is pure heaven!
Often served with toppings like shrimp, chicken, or a simple broth, mofongo is something that should not be missed on your visit to San Juan.
6. Mallorca Pastries
Photo by [email protected]/Flickr
A local pastry topped in powdered sugar, Mallorcas are available plain or filled with a variety of items such as cheese, ham, or guava paste. If this sounds like something you may want to try (and you should!), they are best at their namesake restaurant, Cafeteria Mallorca located on Plaza San Francisco. Other local shops sell them as well.
7. Bacardi Rum Factory
Photo via Casa Bacardí Puerto Rico’s Facebook page
For fans of rum, the Bacardi factory in San Juan is often described as a cathedral of sorts. To get there, you can take a tour through your cruise line or other operator, take a taxi, or utilize a public water bus/ taxi combo. When onsite, tours of the distillery are offered which showcase the process of rum production, the history of Bacardi, and of course, tastings. Also located on the grounds is a spectacular outdoor tasting terrace, shaded by a retro covering.
READ MORE: 5 Reasons to Take the Bacardi Rum Plant Tour in San Juan
8. Beaches Near Old San Juan
Photo by sanjuanpuertorico.com
Puerto Rico is justifiably famous for its beaches, and there are several to choose from near San Juan. Each has beautiful golden sand and crystal clear water. The closest to the port is a short taxi ride away at Playa Escambron. This beach has facilities for changing, as well as restrooms, lifeguards, and refreshment stands.
Further from the port are the beaches of Condado and Isla Verde, which are just as lovely as Playa Escambron. However, facilities are generally inside hotels or condo complexes, so a day pass to one of the resorts may be your best bet. The Hilton, Marriott, and San Juan Beach and Water Club all offer passes.
9. El Yunque National Forest
Photo by sushantjadhav on Flickr
Located about an hour and a half from the port in San Juan, El Yunque is a United States National Forest. A true rainforest, the park is a delight to visit. Despite sustaining significant damage from the hurricanes in 2017, it has rebounded spectacularly — a testament to the resilience of nature. Hikes in the forest lead to waterfalls, and observant visitors might even see the tiny coqui frog, Puerto Rico’s most famous creature.
To get to El Yunque, a rental car is a must, otherwise, taking a tour is a good idea to ensure your time is spent wisely and that while in the forest, you see the best it has to offer!
10. Charter a Boat
Photo by vasek/Flickr
A fabulous option for those who may be weary of history, yachts and catamarans can be hired from a number of different operators in San Juan. Typical cruises tour the harbor area, go along the north coast of the island, and, if time permits, visit a “deserted” tropical island.
Prices usually include lunch and snacks along with rum punch after all the swimming is done. If you have a late evening in San Juan, consider hiring a boat for a sunset cruise — they are breathtaking!
11. Visit Barrachina Restaurant for a Piña Colada
If a Caribbean drink is what you crave, consider heading to Barrachina Restaurant for an authentic pina colada. The restaurant claims to be the home of the original pineapple rum-based drink and not many people argue.
(Image via Google Maps)
Location: 104 C. de la Fortaleza, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
The walk is about a 10 to 15-minute walk from the main port area (a bit further if you’re docked at the Pan American Pier).
If you have trouble with hills or inclines, you may want to consider taking a taxi from the port area to
7 Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico While on a Cruise
One visit to San Juan is all it takes to fall in love with Puerto Rico, an island in the Caribbean that is also a U.S. territory. If you are taking a cruise to Eastern Caribbean, that is a good chance that your ship will have San Juan as one of the scheduled port stops. One of the great things about San Juan is that you can also start your cruise here. Several cruise lines such as Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Viking Cruises use San Juan as the embarkation port for cruises to the Southern Caribbean.
Puerto Rico is known for its white sand beaches, tropical rainforest, snorkeling, diving, and a landscape of lush, green mountains and waterfalls. If you are visiting San Juan on a cruise, here are seven options to consider as you enjoy this island paradise.
El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. rainforest system. It is one of the most biologically diverse national forests that hosts hundreds of plant and animal species which can only be found in El Yunque. The picturesque waterfalls throughout the forest make the perfect backdrop for photos.
For those who do not have any mobility issues, a 30 minute hike to La Mina Falls will give you the opportunity to swim under a waterfall in the middle of the rainforest.
Mosquito Bay (bioluminescent bay)
One of the wonders of Puerto Rico, this bioluminescent bay magically transforms into a glowing bay at night. In 2008, Mosquito Bay entered the Guinness Book of World Records for brightest bio bay in the world. Since you will need to visit this bay when it is dark, it is a great option for those who are doing a pre or post cruise stay in San Juan.
Visit a Puerto Rican Coffee Shop
Since coffee is locally grown on the island, there are a number of fantastic coffee shops in Old San Juan. However, my favorite is Finca Cialitos located on Calle San Francisco in Old San Juan. It may not look like much on the outside, but the coffee is out of this world. The owner grows and roasts the 100% Arabica coffee that has a unique flavor due to Puerto Rico’s microclimates. The coffee is incredible and you can buy 8 oz. bags of ground or whole bean coffee to bring home. Finca Cialitos is a must stop for all coffee lovers.
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Walk the Streets of Old San Juan
Whether you take a walking tour with a guide or exploring on your own, the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan have a charm unlike any other Caribbean port. You can explore hundreds of years of history all within walking distance of the main cruise pier.
Visit the two forts, Castillo de San Cristobal and El Morro, and will walk into 500 years of history. The view overlooking the water is not to be missed and the $6 admission fee will let you in both forts.
Puerto Rico is surrounded by the continental shelf that provides excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities when visiting the island. The best spots are located away from the busy city of San Juan.
Visit the Beach
Some port days on Caribbean cruises, you just want to enjoy a day at the beach. The most popular and lively beach in San Juan is located over at Isla Verde, a short cab ride from the pier. It is also the longest and widest beach in San Juan. For a quieter and more relaxed beach, you can visit Pinones Beach, also a short cab ride from the pier.
Old San Juan Food Tour
Eat your way through the Old San Juan as you visit as many as six different tasting locations. Experience real Puerto Rican food that includes everything from Puerto Rican coffee, sweet bread, mofongo, rice and beans, and local chocolate.
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Cruise into eternal summer. Islands — Puerto Rico, Curaçao, Aruba, St. Kitts, St. Thomas
How wonderful it is to be in the Caribbean in the dead of winter. 4.5 hour flight from Toronto and we went from -20 to +30. Blue sky, bright sun, turquoise water… The cruise ship was waiting for us in Puerto Rico, from where we set off on an unforgettable journey through four Caribbean islands. ..
Puerto Rico and ship
From San Jose airport (the capital of Puerto Rico) we were taken directly to the port, where we were already waiting for the cruise ship Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas . Luxury ship, with a capacity of about 5000 people (including passengers and crew), 14 floors, 3 pools, 7 jacuzzis, 22 bars / restaurants. This time we did not spend much time on the ship. We had 4 interesting islands in our plans. But still, every morning we woke up on the ship, and returned to it in the evening. But there were days when we sailed not only at night, but also during the day. And now we are already on the ship admiring the views of San Jose —
Let me show you our ship from the inside. This is the main «street» with shops and cafes —
Transparent elevators are visible here —
or show —
Came to take the casino)) —
Pools and entertainment on the upper deck —
This pleasure is called Flowrider —
One Evening, we saw a beautiful parade of the characters DreamWorks —
It is impossible to show and even see everything that is all that is that everything that is that everything that is that is all that is all that is that everything that is that everything that is that is all that is that everything that is that everything that is is on the ship. But the main goal of our trip was to see new islands, bask in the sun and swim in the waters of the Caribbean Sea…0003
And when we returned to the cabin in the evening, we were happy to see a new towel masterpiece by our Russian-speaking stewardess Valentina —
Well, now I’ll show you one by one and tell you about the islands. This time I will also describe the prices, because I know that many of my friends are planning a similar cruise and this information will be useful to them.
A small island in the southern part of the Caribbean, not far from Venezuela. It is part of the Netherlands Antilles group. In 2010 the island gained independence and became a state. The capital is Willemstad. The inner city and harbor of Willemstad are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. nine0003
We get off the ship —
And on foot we head to the city center, where we walk a little. The first thing that catches your eye is the colorful houses in the Dutch style —
Souvenir shops —
And here is the famous orange liqueur of Curacao —
Hooray! Hooray, We’ll be on the beach soon! —
After walking around the center for a bit, we take a taxi ($6 per person one way) and head to the beach. nine0158 The choice fell on Mambo Beach . A civilized, beautiful beach, with many shops and bars, with inflatable slides, as well as with breakwaters (entrance to the beach $3.50, sunbed $4, there is Wi-Fi).
Clean, clear, blue water, however, as elsewhere in that region —
Swimming pool nearby —
Inflatable park for children —
back to ship —
Here comes the first show. Every evening there were various shows on the ship. Everything is of a very high level, we visited them all with pleasure in the main theater —
At night the ship sails to the next island …
The second island from the Netherlands Antilles group. In size — even smaller than Curacao. The population is only 105 thousand people)) Aruba is a popular and not cheap island for tourists from Canada to visit. It is believed that Aruba has consistently excellent non-rainy weather, and hurricanes bypass this island. Is it worth repeating about the crystal clear turquoise sea?))
We leave the port and take a free tram that takes us around the center of Oranjstad, most likely to get acquainted with the numerous shops and souvenir shops —
Then we transfer to a local bus and head to the beach ($ 5 per person for both side)
Beach Eagle Beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world —
Along the beach strip there were many options to stay in more deserted, or more civilized places. We stopped at a bar closer to civilization (entrance to the beach is free, a sunbed is $15, Wi-Fi). nine0003
Husband photographed crabs in the corals —
Opposite the beach there was a strip of resorts. We looked into one of them — 3.5 stars —
In order to get to the beach, people had to cross the road. Of course, I would prefer a resort right on the beach…
On the way back we buy souvenirs and prepare for dinner. Dinner, however, like breakfast or lunch, could be in the buffet, or in the restaurant. We often preferred the buffet to save time. This is what part of the food options for dinner at the buffet looked like —
But several times we still got out for dinner and restaurant —
Children visited the pizzeria many times —
We missed the evening show on this evening , but we sat comfortably in one of the cafes to play our favorite Dixit game —
We will drop in here many more times, most often for a cup of coffee with cheesecake —
St. Kitts is part of the small state of St. Kitts and Nevis, in the Caribbean Sea, located on two small islands. Notably, anyone can buy citizenship there for +/- $300,000. The population of the island is the descendants of slaves. The island is located on the slope of a volcano, it is mountainous, with tropical forests.
This time we decided to take a guide. Fortunately, there is the Internet and you can book an excursion without buying it on the ship and without overpaying. A local guide took us around the city, introducing us to the history and architecture. We saw fishermen with fresh fish in their nets —
We visited a small and very beautiful botanical garden —
This tree is 400 years old —
And this is a shop where women make batik by hand —
then we got real! By the way, the jungle in those places is almost safe. The mongooses ate all the snakes, and there are no spiders there either. Well, anyway, we believed in it)) It was very impressive —
We already missed the beach and the driver brought us to a great place — Shipwreck beach (beach and sunbeds free of charge). Monkeys were running along the beach —
And the water was blue and clear —
We captured the view along the way. In the distance you can see the hills of neighboring islands —
We are in the port again. And here is our ship, waiting for us next to the ship of another company —
In the evening we had an ice show. It was unforgettable —
Some of us, the next day, were also able to skate a little —
And in the evening we had a feast on the balcony, with cheeses, fruits and champagne —
The last island of our cruise. A beautiful island, with a hilly landscape and serpentine roads. We didn’t want to waste time looking at the island and decided to just spend the day on the beach. We got into a taxi bus —
By the way, on this island the price for a taxi is set by the government. Bargaining is inappropriate))) ($10 one way, entry to the beach $5). Beach Magen’s Beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Really a fabulous place —
Time to build sandcastles and more —
What we do)) —
The beach day is coming to an end.