Best Things to do near San Juan Cruise Port
If you are visiting the Caribbean, your cruise vacation will be more fun and exciting if your cruise ship docked in the famous San Juan city port.
San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico and is located along the northern coast of this vibrant Caribbean Island.
This strategically located Spanish Colonial city is a perfect getaway for all cruisers. It is an ideal spot for the history buffs, food lovers, adventurers and sun-seekers, among others.
As a cruiser, anytime you think of a cruise vacation, one of the questions that probably comes to your mind is where to start and end your adventure.
San Juan is not only a popular port of call on many cruises from Miami and Fort Lauderdale, but is also the most popular departure port for cruises in the Caribbean.
What are the Best Places to Visit in San Juan ?
If you want to know the best things to do in San Juan during your next cruise vacation, then this basket of activities here is full.
Talk of outdoor activities, the beach, shopping, restaurants, the party atmosphere and much more. This guide contains a collection of 50 best things to do in San Juan cruise port.
1. Explore the streets of Old San Juan
One of the most notable places in San Juan is the old San Juan town. The fortified city walls, cobblestone streets and a unique city layout depicts the looks of a 16th-century city; quite a remarkable sight to behold.
This historic district is home to famous historical buildings such as Fort San Felipe del Morro and Fort San Cristóbal. Some of the oldest churches here are the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, in which the remains of Ponce de Leon, a famous explorer, are found and the San Jose Church.
Do not forget to enjoy the delicious Puerto Rican dishes served by restaurants here. It is easy to navigate Old San Juan town on your own, but you can also request help from an expert guide.
2. Visit Castillo San Felipe del Morro
Castillo San Felipe del Morro, also known as El Morro, is a vast, uniquely designed multi-layered fort. It was built by the Spanish colony in 1539 to protect the island from attacks by the British, the Dutch and even the Americans during the early years of its formation.
This fort has beautiful grounds that are mainly used for picnics, weddings, flying kites and photography. These grounds were military marching grounds when the port was in active service. Be sure to climb the highest watchtower for a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean and the San Juan Bay. Ensure you wear comfortable shoes to climb the fort’s stairs.
3. Explore San Juan National Historic Site
San Juan is popularly referred to as a Historic Spanish city. Therefore, you will find lots of historical sites here to capture your attention. The San Juan National Historic Site houses most old age city walls, Castillo San Cristóbal, la Puerta de San Juan, Castillo San Felipe del Morro and the Fort San Juan de la Cruz, among other historical sites.
If you are a history enthusiast, then you will have a lot to learn about the early Spanish colonial days as well as the struggles of formation and control of the Puerto Rico Island.
4. Visit Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery
If you have a phobia for cemeteries, then this historical site will change your perspective about them. As part of your shore excursion, you can visit this unique site that borders the San Juan bay and Del Morro. The graves here have statues and their tombstones are built close together to create a uniquely beautiful view.
Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery is a place where most prominent Puerto Ricans rest. Most of the graves here are over 100 years old.
5. Tour the Fortaleza Street
Fortaleza Street is a famous Cobblestone street in San Juan which reminds cruisers of Puerto Rico’s history. Most people know it as the umbrella street since it was initially covered with an umbrella ceiling that enhanced its appearance.
However, the umbrellas are sometimes replaced with the Puerto Rican flag, especially during winter. This street is filled with shops, restaurants and bars that blast music into the streets. This street is a fun area to visit.
6. Visit Castillo de San Cristobal
San Cristobal is another eye-catching site in San Juan. This 27-acre chain of fortifications was built to protect the islet from invasions by the enemies. Here, you can explore the mysterious tunnels, the Garitas, the military quarters, the gun outlets and the kitchen that were used when the fort was still in active use.
It is also an excellent site to watch the sunset over the San Juan Bay.
7. The Cathedral Of San Juan Bautista
The Cathedral Of San Juan Bautista is not only among the oldest buildings in San Juan but is also the oldest cathedral in the United States. This cathedral has a medieval architecture that adds to its uniqueness, with its interiors having an attraction of the old-age charm.
It is a good place to communicate with God. The remains of Ponce de Leon are entombed here.
8. El Capitolio
The Capitol building of Puerto Rico has a rich political and historical theme. If you are a history buff, the El Capitolio is your ideal place of visit since it has a lot of historical information to offer.
It is located not far from the old San Juan town and you can navigate it on your own or with the help of a tour guide who will give you a detailed outlook of the historical aspect of each of its chambers.
9. Visit the Chapel of Christ (Capilla del Cristo)
Capilla del Cristo is a historical catholic chapel that is approximately 267 years old and has a unique story behind it. It is believed that a secretary of the Spanish government saw a runaway horse and a rider on the verge of falling off the cliff after the horse slipped. The secretary said a prayer to save them, and they were indeed saved. An altar was built here to mark the miraculous happening.
Cruisers visit this chapel to see its silver altar. Additionally, beside the chapel is the Parque de la Palomas, where you can feed beautiful pigeons as they rest on your head, hand and arms. You can also have a good view of the San Juan Bay from this chapel.
10. Stroll Along the Paseo de la Princesa promenade or Walk The Paseo del Morro
Paseo de la Princesa promenade is a unique stroll way along the Old San Juan town with lots of outdoor charm. This beautiful walkway offers a great view of the old San Juan Bay and the old city walls. You will be excited to hear the birds singing melodiously with the cool ocean breeze offering an excellent and tranquil outdoor atmosphere.
There are many restaurants along the pathway that serve delicious local dishes. There is also a playground for children and a refreshing foundation located close to the ocean.
11. Museo de las Américas
Museo de las Américas is a famous museum that preserves and exhibits objects that are linked to the history and culture of Puerto Rico and the entire Caribbean Island. It is divided into eight exhibit galleries with each displaying a different theme in the history of this island ranging from slavery to the struggles of independence.
The artifacts here have a striking appearance and give a clear elaboration of cultural and political themes. There are restaurants within the museum courtyard where you can enjoy foods and drinks.
12. Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR) is another museum containing a perfect blend of new and old art that clearly outlines the story of the Caribbean Island and its people. It has a beautifully designed floor for children that extends to a walking trail and a garden. This museum is known for its friendly and knowledgeable staff who are always willing to help people around while answering their questions.
It is an ideal site for the whole family since the museum has something for everyone, both the young and the old. Do not leave this museum out on your list during your net visit to San Juan.
13. Shop at Shopping Plaza Las Américas
Your cruise vacation would not be complete without doing some shopping at Plaza Las Américas. Plaza Las Américas is the largest and most modern shopping mall in the Caribbean. It houses hundreds of stores, a cineplex- that runs both English and Spanish movies, restaurants and a food court.
Most of the stores deal with local and international art and craft ranging from hand-embroidered linens, wooden religious figures, ceramics, jewelry (gold, copper and diamond) and woven baskets, among other items. The prices here are affordable and you will get something despite your budget. If you love shopping, then this one-stop mall is the place for you.
14. Find a spot to eat
Trying out new dishes whenever on vacation makes the experience fun and memorable. If you are a then gastronome, you will enjoy trying out the tasty Puerto Rican dishes served by most restaurants within San Juan. Among the most famous Puerto Rico dishes is the delicious mofongo- a dish made of green plantains mashed together with garlic, olive oil and salt.
Be sure to explore the downtown of Old San Juan and enjoy your dishes at the Hotel Milano’s rooftop restaurant, where you will also have a good view of the entire town. Other restaurants known for their professionally prepared tasty dishes are the Punto de Vista and Calle Fortaleza.
15. Visit the Casa Blanca Museum
San Juan is home to several museums in Puerto Rico. Casa Blanca Museum is another popular museum here that has a lot to offer to the cruisers. It was built in 1521 as Governor Juan Ponce de Leon’s home. Currently, it is used as a historical museum containing a blend of Indian and colonial exhibits.
Its walls have plaques that relate to the history of the island. Additionally, it’s courtyard has beautiful gardens that add to its pleasant look. Do not miss out on this historic landmark if you want to learn more about the island’s history.
16. Condado Beach
If you are a sunseeker or you want some sand fun, then Condado beach is your ideal spot. This popular beach is sandwiched between high-end modern buildings and resort complexes. While here, you will enjoy a relaxing sun-seeking day coupled with stretches along this golden sandy beach enjoying the view of the blue ocean waters.
There are also palm trees around the beach that offers shade to those trying to avoid the sun. However, if you are planning on swimming here, you should be aware of the strong currents. Do not worry about where to grab a bite or drink; there are plenty of food joints and snack places within this beautiful beach.
17. Isla Verde Beach
Isla Verde is another famous San Juan port beach that features stretches of brown sand and a beautiful view of clear turquoise oceanic waters. This beach is an excellent spot for swimming, surfing and boogie boarding. It accommodates the whole family as children can spend time building castles while older people enjoy other beach activities.
Again, if you want to have a leisure stroll or shed off some calories, then the beautiful pathways here will suit you. Delicious local dishes are also in plenty. If you are looking for a beach experience outside the city, then you should visit Isla Verde.
18. Escambron Beach
Escambron Beach is a uniquely attractive beach site covered with tons of soft golden sand and stretches of clear waters. This beach offers several water sports such as scuba diving and snorkeling. It has a coral reef offshore that adds to its beauty.
Escambron is also an ideal spot for long peaceful strolls. There is also a park close to this beach where you can visit to explore the various Caribbean fauna and flora.
19. Ocean Park Beach
This tree-lined beach is found between the Isla Verde and Condado beaches. This picturesque beach is ideal for swimming, sunbathing and strolling. Additionally, the wind blowing here makes it a good site for windsurfing and kite flying.
Like with other beaches, there are restaurants around where you can quench your thirst and hunger. If you are seeking a family-friendly beach, then this is your best destination.
20. Luquillo Beach
Luquillo beach in San Juan port town is covered with fine sand and a good number of palm trees that offer shade. It borders the El Yunque National Forest and this adds to its scenic view. The presence of a fringing reef in this beach blocks strong waves making it the best beach destination for cruisers with young kids.
Additionally, there are shops and restaurants and shops nearby for those who want to try out local dishes and do some beach shopping.
21. Flamenco Beach (Playa Flamenco)
This is another must-visit beach in Puerto Rico. It has a breathtaking view offered by the white sand and the blue Caribbean waters. It is an ideal ground for capturing outstandingly beautiful photos, such as the beautiful beach calendar photos you have always dreamt of.
The beach is calm, making it suitable for a whole family tour. It is ideal for swimming and snorkeling, among other water sports. There are restaurants and shops within proximity to the beach.
Best Places to Visit Outside San Juan
22. Explore El Yunque National Forest
This popular rain forest is found outside San Juan city but is worth visiting. This forest offers a lot to learn about the different plants, birds, insects and other living creatures that found habitat here. This is a perfect spot to reconnect with nature and enjoy a tranquil moment with the serene environment.
There are also water pools spread across various spots in the forest where you can take a relaxing dip. Additionally, La Coca and La Mina waterfalls give this forest more charm. If you like hiking, then you will enjoy the hiking trails within the forest, which you can explore alone or with the help of a tour guide.
23. Tour the Bacardi Rum Factory (Casa Bacardi)
Casa Bacardi is the world’s largest Bacardi Rum distillery. Your trip to this distillery will vary depending on your excursions. For example, if you want to learn more about the science behind rum formation, you should take a mixology tour. Additionally, if you are seeking to learn about the history of Bacardi rum, have a taste of some samples and maybe do a little shopping, then you should take a general tour.
Regardless of your interest to the rum factory, you will have a lot to learn about rum production and you can also have a chance to taste the different types of clear charcoal filtered rum produced at Casa Bacardi.
24. Icacos Island (Cayo Icacos)
Icacos is an uninhabited island found outside San Juan along Puerto Rico’s southeast coast. This remote beach is decent for offshore snorkelling and picnics. Unlike the other earlier mentioned beaches, Icacos island beach lacks any restaurants and other utilities.
Therefore, ensure that you carry enough snacks, water and other essentials during your excursions to this island. If you are looking for a solo quiet time away from the crowds, then this is the destination for you.
25. Enjoy the Breathtaking View at Cueva Ventana
Cueva Ventana is a cave found on a hill and has a window-like opening that looks down to the deep Rio de Grande Valley below it. The sight here is stunning and breathtaking. It is the reason why Cueva Ventana receives a high number of tourists who visit this destination all year-round. The knowledgeable guides here can take you through the history of this cave that was used by the Taino Indians in ancient times.
Wear comfortable hiking shoes and carry a flashlight to help you navigate the cave conveniently. The thrilling scenes in the cave will put your adrenaline levels to test and give you an unforgettable experience.
26. Explore the Arecibo Observatory
The Arecibo Observatory is the world’s largest radio telescope center. Here, you will have a good view of the 1000 feet wide radio dish through which scientists receive information and signals from objects in the space.
You will also have the chance to learn about the history and formation of the radio telescope. Taking a control room tour with the help of the expert guides will give you an in-depth understanding of the observatory and how it works.
27. Tour the Rio Camuy Cave Park (Parque Nacional de las Cavernas del Río Camuy)
This famous cave is found along the Rio Camuy River. The cave park stretches to a length of 10 miles, but explorers and scientists believe that there are approximately 800 more caves that are yet to be discovered. The caves are filled with the sounds of running water from Rio Camuy River that runs under them, which adds to their charm.
A tour to the caves follows an adventurous pathway winding through the forest park and descending into the caves. There are handrails along the boardwalk for ease of movement. Here you can explore three caves; Cueva Clara, Tri-towns sinkhole and Empalme Sinkhole. Be ready to encounter millions of bats that find habitat in these caves.
28. Arenales Caves
Arenales Caves is another unique cave site within San Juan. Its location has a perfect combination of mountains, nature and water. Here, you will go hiking, trekking, and have a breathtaking floating experience on a river that runs through an underground cave—the river passes through rocks giving the caves a unique rocky formation that adds to their beauty.
The view of lush natural vegetation also adds to the caves’ charm. If you are an adventurer, then you will have fun exploring the caves to uncover a hidden natural spring and a small oasis in the middle of the forest.
29. Take Memorable Snaps at the Letras de Ponce
Ponce is a famous landmark in Puerto Rico strategically positioned along highway PR-52 at the PR-10 intersection. This landmark has uniquely designed red and black letters that spell out P-O-N-C-E.
The ponce letters catch the attention of anyone using the highway, with many people stopping by to take photos. Do not be left out; take a photo at this famous landmark to document your visit in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Nearby city of Ponce is Puerto Rico’s second largest city, home to old colonial buildings, fascinating museums and a picturesque seaside boardwalk.
30. Tour the San Juan Botanical Garden
The San Juan Botanical Garden is a well-kept garden within this town. It is filled with a variety of tropical plants with beautiful flowers that give it a stunning view. It is an excellent spot for picnics and games with family and friends.
The air here feels so fresh and clean and the grounds are good for kids to walk and run. The calm atmosphere offers an ideal place for meditation. If you love plants, then there is plenty for you to explore here.
31. Explore Piñones
Piñones is the largest Mangrove Forest in Puerto Rico. A beach lies close to it where you can enjoy the warm Caribbean waters while still exploring the natural and cultural experiences offered by this mangrove forest.
Additionally, you will have the chance to try out delicious afro Caribbean dishes. You will also get an opportunity to enjoy local music while interacting with the friendly locals. It is less crowded and ideal for a family visit.
Best excursions in San Juan for Cruisers
32. Walking tour of San Juan
You can not get enough of San Juan city. The cobblestone streets, the unique city layout, fortified city walls and the rich local culture make the city tour more exciting. Most parts of the city are accessible by foot. During your strolls, ensure that you walk along Paseo del Morro- the exterior walls of the town leading to the San Juan gate. This famous gate is massive and red and the locals believe that it greeted visitors and ushered them into san Juan during ancient times.
Other notable features that you will encounter during the tour are the Fort San Felipe del Morro, the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista and the El Capitolio, among others.
33. El Yunque Rainforest
This famous tropical rainforest is located not far away from San Juan town; a drive can take slightly over half an hour. It is home to diverse plants and animals. Among its many occupants are approximately 26 different tree species, coquie (tiny little frogs), which are known for their mating songs and todies(small green birds), also known for their melodic tunes.
The forest sits on a mountain and therefore, you need to hike through a steep lane to get into this habitat. The hiking trails are well marked to make hiking easy.
34. Snorkelling Tours
Your snorkeling tour entails exploring Puerto Rico’s underwater world, mainly under the guidance of a professional diver. During these tours, you will swim through the warm tropical waters off Guaynabo.
You will have a scenic view of sea turtles, the differently colored tropical fish species, and other marine fauna and flora. You can also document your snorkeling excursions in a video that is included in the tour package.
35. Beach & Horseback ride
Save your foot the hassle of walking and enjoy a memorable horseback ride. Navigate through beaches, forests and rivers through the scenic horseback ride adventure. You can enjoy this fun-filled outdoor activity regardless of your experience level since there are expert tour guides to help you.
Enjoy this memorable beach adventure with a group of your family members and friends.
36. Catamaran Tour
Catamaran Tour involves a sail over the waters of San Juan bay during sunset. You can take this scenic ride as an evening romantic tour or a family and friends tour. You will enjoy the warm reception from the captain, who will be ready to answer your questions concerning san Jun’s landmarks.
This tour offers you a chance to watch the beautiful scenery of the sunset. You will witness the sun slowing sinking into the horizon beyond the island’s coastline.
37. LED Night Kayak – Condado Lagoon Guided Excursion
This excursion allows you to paddle through Candado lagoon at night using a kayak that is well lit using LED lights. This experience gives you a view of the city’s lit up nightlife.
You also get a chance to have a nighttime view of active marine creatures such as the giant starfish and lobsters. A friendly and experienced tour guide will guide you on this excursion.
38. Salsa Dance Class
If you are into music, then you can join a 1-hour salsa dance class taught by an international instructor. The classes will help you learn about the essential Puerto Rican salsa dancing art. These classes are suitable for beginners and those with experience but seeking to polish their skills.
39. Zip Line
Counter your fear of heights by ziplining at Toro Verde Zip Line. This is the world’s largest zipline as rated in the Guinness book of records in 2016. An experienced guide will lead you as you zip from one point to another.
You will enjoy the scenic aeriel views of rivers, mountains, beaches and rainforests. It is a family-friendly adventure that you cannot miss out.
40. Body Rafting, Caving and Hiking Adventure
This tour is exciting as you get to know the forest around Arecibo through the ancient home of the Tino Indians. An expert guide will help you have a smooth and safe float down the rivers using canyons while body rafting.
You will explore the unique river caves and hike through the rainforest. You will also have a fun moment learning about the biodiversity and geology of the area.
41. Segway Tour
The Segway tour gives you a chance to explore both the old and new aspects of Old San Juan in an approximately 2-hour drive. You get a close view of the about 500-year-old architectural designs and visit top attraction sites in the area.
Through this excursion, you get to learn more about the island’s history and evolution from a Spanish colony to a US territory.
42. Scuba Diving
This excursion gives you a chance to join the world of scuba diving. A scuba diving guide will help you explore the underwaters of Puerto Rico as you learn more about the marine’s fauna and flora.
This tour is mainly geared towards beginners. Similar to the snorkeling tour, your scuba diving experience can be recorded in a GoPro video as per the tour package.
43. Rum Tasting Tour
This tour involves a rum tasting session at the famous Casa Bacardí distillery. You get a chance to taste a variety of rums as you sample different vintages as per your preferences. You have 90 minutes to taste and sample different rums.
You can also reserve for bottles that are not sold in other shop outlets. Also, be sure to learn about the rum-making process.
44. ATV Adventure Tour
ATV Adventure excursions includes Puerto Rico’s countryside tour using an all-terrain vehicle (ATV). You get to speed your way through the massive 2,200 acres of scenic landscape containing lakes, rivers, tabletop mountains the vast subtropical forests of Hacienda Campo Rico.
This tour is suitable for both beginners and ATV drivers.
45. Renting a Car
Puerto Rico is endowed with a lot of resources and natural sites, and as such you may want to go on a trip on your own. The various car rental firms in San Juan offer different types of cars depending on your taste and preference, budget as well as the terrain of your target destination.
Do not miss out on a memorable life adventure because you do not have a car. Rent one that suits your needs and begin your adventure.
46. Surf Lessons
Rincon, found on the western coast of this island, boasts of excellent surfing beaches. It has huge water waves that improve your surfing experience. If you are a surf enthusiast, you may join surf classes either as a beginner or to perfect your skills.
Professionally trained and experienced surfers are available to guide you in your lessons.
47. Southwest Day Trip Puerto Rico
The southwest part of Puerto Rico has a rich, adventurous site. This excursion will lead you to Playa Buyé, a local beach surrounded by palm trees and plenty of coral reefs.
Another destination worth visiting is Puerto Real, a local fishing village where you will have a look at their unique way of life. There are also restaurants by the coastline that will give a memorable culinary experience of fresh seafood.
Annual festivals in San Juan
48. San Sebastián Street Festival (Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián)
This is a popular Puerto Rican festival that takes place in old San Juan. It s celebrated on January 20th by the Catholics in memory and honor of Saint Sebastian.
The festival attracts more than 200,000 people. Religious artifacts, music and dances make the festival more colorful. If you visit san Juan during this time of the year, do not miss out on this festival.
49. Noche de San Juan
Noche de San Juan is another well-known feast among the Puerto Ricans celebrated on June 23rd. This festival is celebrated to mark the eve of the feast of the birth of John the Baptist. Being celebrated two days before the summer solstice, it marks a holiday spent at the beach.
To be among the participants, arrive at the beach early enough and find an ideal spot near the shore. Singing and dancing are what people enjoy most during this festival.
Nochebuena is a Spanish name that refers to the night of Christmas eve and is celebrated on December 24th. It is the biggest feast of the Christmas season in the Spanish community. This feast is characterized by large gatherings, food, loud music, singing of aguinaldos Navideños and the Misa de Gallo, which takes place at midnight.
Joining locals in celebrating this feast helps have a better understanding of Puerto Rico’s religious history.
The places mentioned above and the best things to do in San Juan will give you an idea of what to do during your trip here. Plan your visit now and explore San Juan city to the fullest.
(Latest update November 05th 2022)
Please contact us if any information is incorrect or not up-to-date.
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