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  • Puerto-Rico-San-Juan-moon - The glistening streets of Old San Juan bathed in moonlight.
  • balconies-Calle-San-Sebastian-San-Juan - Balconies on Calle San Sebastian in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Puerto-Rico-Isla-Verde1 - Isla Verde Beach, Puerto Rico.
  • Puerto-Rico-Condado2 - A swimming cove in the Condado neighborhood of Puerto Rico.
  • Puerto-Rico-San-Cristobal3 - Historic San Cristobal Fort sits on a promontory. It once guarded San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • Puerto-Rico-San-Cristobal2 - The Garita, or sentry lookout at Castillo de San Cristobal in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • governors-mansion-Old-San-Juan - The New World's oldest governor's mansion is still in use. Some 150 consecutive governors have served over the past 300 years. It's at the west end of Calle Fortaleza in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • Puerto-Rico-San-Felipe - San Felipe del Morro Fort in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Construction of the citadel and its surrounding walls began in 1539.
  • Catedral-Santiago-Apostol-Puerto-Rico - Catedral Santiago Apóstol in Fajardo, along the northeast coast of Puerto Rico.
  • Puerto-Rico-Isla-Verde2 - Hotels line the beachfront of Isla Verde Beach in Puerto Rico.
  • Puerto-Rico-Isla-Verde4 - Visitors flock to Isla Verde Beach in Puerto Rico.
  • Puerto-Rico-Ballaja - Ballajá Barracks in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • Puerto-Rico-Condado1 - Condado, an oceanfront, tree-lined pedestrian-oriented community in the heart of Puerto Rico.
  • Castillo-de-San-Cristobal - Guard bunks at historic Castillo de San Cristóbal in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Completed by Spanish forces in 1783, it was the largest fortification built by Spain in the New World.
  • gazpacho-Toro-Salao-Old-San-Juan - Avocado gazpacho at Toro Salao on Calle Tetuan in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • Fort-San-Felipe-del-Morro-Old-San-Juan - Fort San Felipe del Morro in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • outdoor-dining-Old-San-Juan - Colorful al fresco dining in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • La-Perla-San-Juan-Antiguo - West of San Cristóbal along the coastline is the neighborhood of La Perla in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. It's part of the area's UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Raices-fountain-San-Juan-Antiguo - This bronze fountain "Raíces" (for "Roots") in Old San Juan celebrates Puerto Rico’s rich cultural diversity and historical heritage.
  • Puerto-Rico-Isla-Verde3 - Visitors flock to Isla Verde Beach in Puerto Rico.
  • Puerto-Rico-San-Cristobal-fort - Historic San Cristobal Fort overlooks San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • Puerto-Rico-Old-San-Juan - The Ballajá Barracks light up in the twilight in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • Old-San-Juan-blue-brick-roads - Old San Juan's Blue Brick Roads, made of cobalt. All of San Juan Viejo (Old San Juan) was designated a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1983.
  • Puerto-Rico-San-Cristobal-kites - Kite flying at Castillo de San Cristobal in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • fountain-Old-San-Juan-at-night - A fountain in Old San Juan at night.
  • Castillo-de-San-Cristobal-Garita - The Garita, or sentry lookout, at Castillo de San Cristobal in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • San-Juan-coastline - The beautiful coastline of San Juan as a cruise ship approaches Castillo de San Cristobal.
  • San-Cristobal-Fort-pathway - The path along the waterfront along historic San Cristobal Fort.
  • Castillo-San-Felipe-del-Morro - A monumental 16th-century Spanish citadel, Castillo San Felipe del Morro sits atop a cliffside promontory in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

San Juan port guide: What to do & see

our guide

The vibe

San Juan and Puerto Rico were severely damaged by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. Power on the island may be out for as long as six months. Be sure to check into the current state of services if you're planning to visit the island in the near term.
 

San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital city, offer plenty of insight into the island's rich history. Old San Juan has buildings still standing from the days of the early Spanish explorers. They stand alongside enormous resorts and some of the best beaches in the world.

Top activities include a tour of the 400-year-old historic fort El Morro, an afternoon on one of the island's famed beaches or a 25-mile jaunt to El Yunque rainforest. 

 
 
  CRUISEABLE TRAVEL GUIDES
 
 
 

Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, so American citizens are free to enter and exit the island as they please. This also means they have complete access to duty-free shopping, so feel free to hunt for all the good values found in San Juan's many shops.

Cruise ships that call on San Juan

  • Silversea: Silver Cloud, Silver Whisper, Silver Wind
  • Regent Seven Seas: Seven Seas Navigator, Seven Seas Mariner
  • Seabourn Cruise Line: Seabourn Odyssey
  • Oceania Cruises: Riviera, Regatta
  • Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Reflection, Celebrity Silhouette, Celebrity Summit
  • Holland America: Eurodam, Maasdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Prinsendam, Rydnam, Veendam, Westerdam, Zuiderdam
  • Royal Caribbean: Anthem of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Vision of the Seas
  • SeaDream Yacht Club: SeaDream I, SeaDream II
  • MSC Cruises: MSC Divina
  • Carnival Cruise Line: Carnival Breeze, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Dream, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Glory, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Pride, Carnival Splendor, Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Valor

Top reasons to go

  • Castillo San Felipe del Morro, designed to protect San Juan Harbor, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • The influence of Spanish architecture can be seen in Old San Juan, the oldest part of the city.
  • Isla Verde, a public beach with a huge expanse of white sand and tranquil waters between Isla Verde and Piñones.

Top things to do & see in San Juan

El Yunque

Only twenty-five miles outside of San Juan, El Yunque is the only U.S. National Forest that is actually a rainforest. There are over 200 species of trees here, and only a handful of can be found on the mainland United States, so feel free to explore at your leisure.

San Juan National Historic Site & San Cristóbal

The San Juan National Historic Site features three forts: San Cristóbal, San Felipe del Morro and San Juan de la Cruz, also called El Cañuelo. In addition, there are bastions, powder houses and the majority of the city wall, which were all defensive fortifications surrounding the old, colonial portion of San Juan. Together, they are among the oldest and best-preserved Spanish fortifications in the Western Hemisphere.

Museo de las Américas

Located in the Cuartel de Ballajá (787-724-5052), this museum offers a diverse history lesson on the island of Puerto Rico. The items on display range from old New England artifacts to Caribbean Indian crafts from the island of Dominica. There are also wide selections of paintings, some of which are for sale.

West of San Cristóbal along the coastline is the neighborhood of La Perla in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. It's part of the area's UNESCO World Heritage Site.
vxla / Creative Commons BYWest of San Cristóbal along the coastline is the neighborhood of La Perla in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. It's part of the area's UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Beaches

Puerto Rico has 300 miles of coastline, so you should have no problem in finding a beach. However, some locations stand out above the rest. On San Juan's north shore sits Ocean Park. Accessible easily by bus, Ocean Park is very popular among the locals as well as tourists. Neighboring it is Park Barbosa, another easy-to-find beach that is always crowded. You'll be able to find scuba diving, snorkeling and wind surfing opportunities at most of these places. However, be aware that public beaches are closed on Mondays. 

Shopping

Duty-free shopping for Americans in Puerto Rico means that there are great values to be found in San Juan. Lindissima Shop, at 300 Calle Fortaleza (787-758-6511), offers elegant woman's wear. If you're a little low on comfortable beachwear, a quick visit to W.H. Smith, located at the Condado Plaza Hotel (787-721-1000, ext. 2094), should help men and women. For souvenir shoppers, look into Puerto Rican Arts & Crafts, located in Old San Juan at Calle Fortaleza 200 (787-725-5596). Carnival masks are particularly popular here.

Best bets for dining

Amadeus, at San Sebastián 106 (787-722-8635), offers Caribbean food with healthy array of seafood and tasty beef and chicken dishes. Reservations are recommended. Chef Marisoll, at Calle Cristo 202 (787-725-7454) in Old San Juan, offers mouth-watering dishes such as risotto made with delectable lobster, scallops, and shrimp in a saffron sauce, but reservations are required. Ramiro's, located at Avda. Magdalena 1106 (787-721-9049), features a fixed five-course meal will tickle all of your taste buds, but during the winter, reservations are required.

Best time to go

The weather in San Juan is pleasant year-round, but hurricane season occurs between June and November, so the winter months in Puerto Rico are usually the best times to visit.

Colorful al fresco dining in Old San Juan.
vxla / Creative Commons BYColorful al fresco dining in Old San Juan.

Fun facts

  • City walls, built to protect its citizens from both Caribbean pirates and European conquerors, surround San Juan. The walls still stand today as a testimony to an earlier, perilous time.
  • Founded in 1521 by Ponce de León, San Juan is the oldest city on U.S. territory. 
  • The metropolitan area of San Juan is home to half of Puerto Rico's almost 4 million citizens.
  • The city was witness to attacks from the English led by Sir Francis Drake in 1595.
  • The first shots of the Spanish-American War were fired at Fort San Cristóbal in 1898. 

When you arrive

Docking information

Cruise ships dock at the Puerto Rico Ports Authority in San Juan. From the port, there is road access to the entire island.

Getting around

Taxis are available throughout San Juan, and the Public Service Commission (787-756-1401) runs the taxi service. All taxis should be metered, so remain alert and check to see if your driver is using the meter so that you are not overcharged. Open-air trolleys are a wonderful and free way to travel around San Juan. Buses also travel throughout the area, making frequent stops throughout the city and costing only $0.50. If you want to visit Hato Rey or Catano from San Juan, ferries run every half hour. Call Agua Expreso (787-788-1155) for information.

Need to know

Passport: Since it is a U.S. territory, U.S. citizens will not need a passport. However, Canadian citizens will.

Language: Spanish and English are both spoken here.

Currency: The U.S. dollar.

Store hours: Most stores are open Monday to Saturday, 9 am to 9 pm and closed on Sunday. Count on convenience stores staying open late into the night, seven days a week.

Tipping: A 15% gratuity is customary in most service and restaurant locations.

Safety: While the city of San Juan carries the same risks as any big city, Old San Juan is quite safe. As in any other city, it is not advisable to go out alone late at night. Also beware of crowded spaces, as pickpockets can be attracted to them.

ShoreFox contributed to this guide.

Your take

Have you been to San Juan? What was a highlight for you? Please share!

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The Cruiseable editorial team consists of award-winning travel writers, cruise bloggers and journalists.

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Overheard

“San Juan's art scene is small but dynamic. ... Walter Otero Contemporary Art is the nucleus, anchoring the Puerta de Tierra neighborhood of galleries and design shops near Old San Juan.”

Travel + Leisure

“Check the moon calendar at viequesadventures.com. As long as the moon isn't at its brightest, book a clear kayak tour of the bioluminescent bay with Vieques Adventure Company. The water will literally glow beneath you.”

Islands magazine

“Hiking through the cool, sweet air in Puerto Rico's best-known rainforest couldn't be easier. Trails like El Yunque (about four hours), La Mina (my pick for the natural swimming pools) and Big Tree are paved, and the cloud layers provide a buffer from the sun.”

Islands magazine

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