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Things to do in San Juan on my cruise stopover?

edited January 2009 in - General Caribbean
I've got 24 hours in San Juan during a cruise stopover. I've heard good things about the city. What is there to see and do there? Is it worth spending time there? Any feedback much appreciated! ~Chad


  • edited 11:47AM
    Puerto Rico is the most underrated destination on earth - period. San Juan is a wonderful city to see and explore. It’s friendly, safe, surprisingly good value, and jam-packed with historical sites. The main attractions are in Old San Juan which is located not far from the main disembarkation piers. The area is an historical wonderland of Spanish colonial architecture, spread out over 7 blocks of cobble-stoned streets – the same stones that served as ballast for ships 500 hundred years ago.

    Key sites are San Felipe del Maro, the largest fortification in the Caribbean and sentinel to the Spanish Armada, formerly based in the port below, and La Fortaleza, built in 1540 as the Governor’s residence (the current governor is the 170th to live there). For a more modern twist on the city don’t miss the San Sebastian street festival from 17 to 20 January when the city really comes to life.

    Hungry? Head over to La Mallorquina on Calle Cruz, the most famous purveyor of Puerto Rican food in the country. The waiters may be as old as the building, but the food is excellent and truly authentic. Nearby La Barrachina claims to be the birthplace of the piña colada.

    For shopping head to Cristo Street where there are abundant factory stores and idiosyncratic souvenir joints. Good news for American shoppers is that since Puerto Rico is part of the USA, purchases are duty-free, a fact that many rum-ladden passengers exploit to the full.

    Got time on your hands? Go see Arecibo Observatory. Its enormous dish – the size of 12 football fields – help make this the most significant astronomical observatory in the planet. A little further afield, at 2 hours drive from San Juan, is the 260-acre Camuy Cave Park. Although still being discovered this subterranean wonderland is already deemed the largest cave network in the world.

    As you get off the ship visit the La Casita tourist information centre just off Pier 1 on Calle Marina to plan your excursions. Enjoy!!
  • edited 11:47AM
    We were there last month. The tour of the Bacardi factory was VERY nice. I am not a drinker so that was not the reason we went. However, there were free drinks offered. We would do this outing again. Not to be missed
  • edited 11:47AM
    Go to try the underwater helmet dive tour - Sea Trek San Juan, just outside the Old San Juan, behind the Hotel Normandie, at the Blue Flag Beach at Playa Escambron. Just an hour tour, won't take much of your limited time in San Juan, great water activity. Walk among the fishes, test your balance on the wooden floating dock, climb the ladder to about 10ft deep water, walk with helmet on your shoulders for about half an hour. Great tour.
  • edited 11:47AM
    I too am going to be visiting San Juan this spring on a cruise stop. Thanks for the great suggestions. This reminds me of a stop in Belize City on a cruise last year, my fiance and I made our own tour and found some great hidden local spots. We'll probably do the same in San Juan and use these places as a guide.

    Especially the birthplace of the Pina Colada!
  • edited 11:47AM
    Check out the Word Travels San Juan port of call guide - its a nice 1 page summary of all you need to know about the place when on a cruise. More cruise and port of call guides to 70+ destinations here.
  • edited 11:47AM
    I am taking a cruise out to San Juan in a couple of weeks. How far is the airport from the ships dock and its there transportation available? I have about 3 hours to kill before the ship leaves, what's the best place to visit for that amount of time?
  • edited 11:47AM
    The airport is about 30 min from the piers, depending on the traffic. There are always taxis on the pier areas and the airport areas.

    I would recomend going around Old San Juan. It is a very historical city, with lots of things to see and to do. Great places to eat to. In Old San Juan you are going to find El Morro Fort and San Cristobal Castle.

    In reference to food I would definitely reccomend St. Germains, El Jibarito, Barrachina among others
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