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Old San Juan Cruise Port

The Piers At The Port Of San Juan Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico Cruise Port Guide: Tips and Overview

The San Juan Cruise Port is the largest and busiest cruise port in the Caribbean. There are 4 cruise ship piers and 2 modern terminals along the southern shores of historic Old San Juan with a total capacity to accommodate 7 ships at once. The strategic locations of these piers give tourists easy walking access to Old San Juan and its many attractions. In addition, just 1 mile southeast, across the San Antonio Canal, are 2 more large modern cruise ship terminals at the Pan American Pier, which can hold 2 more cruise ships.

In order to plan your stay or day in San Juan, be sure to inquire about which pier your ship will be docking at or departing from. Although we provide some information below on piers used by certain cruise lines, be sure to contact your booked cruise line or call the San Juan Cruise Port at 787-723-2260, Pier 4, in Old San Juan in order to verify the arrival or departure pier location. By being informed you can prepare for whether youll need transportation , find a nearby hotel, and plan adequate travel time for getting to or from the ship.

Home Port cruise lines often use San Juan as their departure port, thus cruises embark from San Juan. Transit ships are those docking for a day or two originating from another homeport. See the map below for pier locations.

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.

Theres 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.

Day Trip To Vieques Island

You havent truly enjoyed the best that Puerto Rico has to offer until you set foot in the tropical island of Vieques. Located southeast of the mainland, Vieques is a small island 20 miles long and 7 miles wide.

The heavy military presence which had occupied two-thirds of the island for many years kept most of Vieques untouched. As such, it retains an old tropical Caribbean island vibe and bears plenty of untouched beach coves perfect for your exploration. Its not surprising to meet with wild horses in Vieques, the island is full of them.

Other than beaches and clear turquoise waters, Vieques has the largest national wildlife refuge. This refuge covers a whopping 3100 acres in size. But the biggest draw to the island is its bioluminescent bay in Mosquito Bay.

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San Juan National Historic Site

The Castillo San Cristobal and the Castillo San Felipe del Morro make up the San Juan National Historic Site along with most of the city walls, the San Juan Gate and Fort San Juan de la Cruz.

Being a national historic site means that its a part of the national park system!

Visit the National Park Service to learn more.

Led Night Kayak Condado Lagoon Guided Excursion

What to do in San Juan on an Eastern Caribbean cruise

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 citys 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.

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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 forts stairs.

Explore The Arecibo Observatory

The Arecibo Observatory is the worlds 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.

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Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel

100 C. Brumbaugh, San Juan

Rates: From $151 per night

Situated on the waterfront just .2 miles from the cruise port, Sheraton Old San Juan provides convenient access to Old San Juans historic sites, art galleries, restaurants and eclectic mix of shops. The hotel is part of the Marriott Bonvoy family, so you can earn/redeem your Marriott points with a stay here.

The hotel completed a year-long renovation project in mid-2021. It included all of the 198 guestrooms, 38 of its 42 suites, the lobby and public spaces and a stunning new rooftop pool. Settle into well-appointed spaces awash with a relaxing coastal-inspired palette of sky blue and sand. Most rooms offer bay, city or historic fort views. Each is fitted with multi USB and electrical ports, an in-room safe, mini fridge, soundproof windows and brand new Sheraton Sleep Experience beds. Other notable amenities include their on-site restaurant Palio, which showcases Puerto Rican fusion cuisine and sustainably caught seafood. A well-equipped fitness center overlooks San Juan Bay and is furnished with treadmills, Stairmasters, weight machines and free weights. Theres also a separate shower and dressing room.

316 Calle de la Fortaleza, San Juan

Rates: From $139 per night

352-1 C. de San Francisco, San Juan

Rates: From $165 per night

312 C. de San Francisco, San Juan

Price: From $165 per night

Its important to note that theres no elevator here. Rooms begin on the second floor, requiring a walk up to every room .

San Juan Forts And Old City Walls

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico cruise port tour September 2021 Carnival’s Mardi Gras

So on this trip of things to do in San Juan, you have two main destinations.

Both are world heritage sites, both are a part of the San Juan National Historic Site, and both are main fortification sites.

One of the forts is Castillo San Cristobal.

This fort was built by Spain and is the largest Spanish fort that was built in the Caribbean.

The other fort is the Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

This is the fort that you can see prominently as you are arriving and leaving the cruise port.

The time to get between each of the Old San Juan forts and the cruise port if you take the shortest path:

  • Castillo San Cristobal is about a 10 minute walk from the cruise port
  • Castillo San Felipe del Morro is about a 30 minute walk from the cruise port
  • It is about a 20 minute walk between the two sites

Other things to factor in when planning out your time:

  • You may want to spend extra time at each of the forts. There is a nominal fee to enter.
  • You may want to spend extra time getting to and returning from the forts by wandering the narrow streets of Old San Juan.

If youd like to visit more historic sites on your way back to the cruise ship, have a look at this interactive Old San Juan map from the National Park Service that marks historic points of interest.

From Castillo San Felipe, you can walk past these sites by making slight detours here and there, and it adds little distance to your route.

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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.

What’s Within Walking Distance

There isn’t much to see within walking distance of the Pan American Pier but there are two hotels that can be convenient for an overnight stay – the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino, and the Hyatt House Hotel. However, do not be fooled by the proximity of the Isla Grande Airport. This small airport only has connections with other small Caribbean islands. This is NOT the international airport with connections with US and International airports.

There isn’t much to see within walking distance of the Pan American Pier but there are two hotels that can be convenient for an overnight stay – the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino, and the Hyatt House Hotel. However, do not be fooled by the proximity of the Isla Grande Airport. This small airport only has connections with other small Caribbean islands. This is NOT the international airport with connections with US and International airports.

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Where To Eat And Drink

Dining out in San Juan encompasses everything from white-tablecloth fine dining to local food trucks serving delicious indigenous cuisine. Indeed, Puerto Rico has emerged in recent years as a foodie destination whose cuisine incorporates African, Caribbean, Latin and European influences and traditions.

San Juan is also recognized for a vibrant cocktail scene. The pina colada originated in San Juan and innovative refreshing drinks continue to be a city hallmark. There are numerous hip, trendy bars and classic bars and restaurants in Old San Juan, as well as across the Condado and Isla Verde districts. Brewery tours and rum tastings are also available.

Look for these local specialties:

  • Mufungo: Deep-fried green plantains mashed with garlic and served with pork, chicken, crab meat or skirt steak.
  • Tostones: Deep-fried plantain wheels, usually served with mayoketchup and garlic.
  • Lechon: A slowly spit-roasted pork dish with juicy meat and crispy skin.

The San Juan suburb of Santurce is home to a lively art scene punctuated with hip restaurants featuring international cuisine spiced by locally sourced ingredients and traditional Puerto Rican recipes.

Food parks like Lote 23 and the Miramar Food Truck Park feature kiosks and food trucks operated by innovative chefs offering exquisite bite-sized dining in a casual atmosphere. Entire streets now feature popular restaurants, including Calle Loiza and Calle Fortaleza. Other top restaurants include:

Bioluminescent Bay Kayak Adventure

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Kayak the waters of Laguna Grande, a bioluminescent bay located within Las Cabezas de San Juan Reserve, whose waters glow green with each paddle stroke. Kayakers traverse the calm channel through a tunnel of mangroves on their way to the lagoon. Once there, guides discuss the birds, fish and other aquatic life while kayakers have time to enjoy the natural bioluminescent phenomenon, visible only after dark.

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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 Ricos second largest city, home to old colonial buildings, fascinating museums and a picturesque seaside boardwalk.

Museo De Arte De Ponce

Museo de Arte de Ponce is the finest art museum in Puerto Rico and the largest in the Caribbean. Make your way over to this exquisitely designed museum and explore classical European and Puerto Rican Art in the massive 5000-piece art collection showcased in 14 galleries. This museum located on Avenida Las Américas in Ponce is a must stop for all art lovers. Some of the most popular paintings housed in the museum include the original Flaming June.

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El Yunque National Forest Tour

Passing charming towns and rural communities on the 25-minute drive from San Juan, this tour of the pleasantly cool, 28,000-acre El Yunque National Forest begins with a leisurely walk amid splendid rainforest flora and fauna, followed by a short bus ride within the park to the Yohaku observation tower for panoramic views. Guests also visit an interpretative station at Coca Waterfall, once believed to be the legendary fountain of youth.

Get Geeky At Arecibo Observatory

Arriving at the cruise port of Old San Juan Puerto Rico

Explore the scientific milestones of the 21st century at the worlds largest radio telescope at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Enjoy an interesting 1-and-a-half-hour journey through narrow winding roads up the mountainous background of Arecibo to this science museum.

Explore the 305 meters wide radio dish where scientists receive signals and information from objects in space. There are interactive exhibits like the movie of the radio telescopes formation and history. You can also enjoy great views from the observatory. Or get a more in-depth understanding of the place by taking a control room tour.

Please note that reservations must be made to visit the observation telescope contact them here.

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What Is There To Do In San Juan Puerto Rico

There are many fun and exciting things to do,attractions to see and great places to eat. Tours of the San Juan National Historic Site and the Bacardi Rum Distillery Tour are just two examples. Also see our attractions map. San Juan Happy Tours, 237-7727, is dedicated to, and specializes in providing tours or transfers to cruise ship passengers upon arrival to the San Juan Cruise Port. Look for their uniformed shirts and vehicles waiting at the terminal. They come highly recommended especially for tours of El Yunque Rainforest.

You can also contact nearby beachfront resorts ahead of time to arrange for a day pass which allows you to access their resort facilities for a fee.

San Juan Cruise Port: Tips Excursions And Weather

The El Morro fort is a popular attraction in Old San Juan. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

San Juan is a major cruise port for trips to the southern and western Caribbean. The citys colonial history is a major attraction for cruise visitors.

The attractions, vibrant shopping, white beaches and aqua water make it attractive as a destination on its own. Our visits to San Juan were as pleasant as any other we have experienced on our Caribbean cruises.

Although Spanish is the preferred language, English was spoken by about 90 percent of the people with whom we had contact.

The cruise port is an easy one to visit and especially easy to tour because of the language, culture, economy and size.

Cruise visitors will arrive at one of two cruise terminals. They are the Old San Juan Cruise Ship Piers and the Pan American terminal, which is three miles away. The Old San Juan terminals offer easy access to the best attraction in the city.

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Tour The Fortaleza Street

Fortaleza Street is a famous Cobblestone street in San Juan which reminds cruisers of Puerto Ricos 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.

San Juan Beaches Near The Cruise Port

Cruise Port Guide San Juan

The San Juan cruise port has one of the most convenient beaches for cruise visitors in the Caribbean. Its also right by one of the most famous historical attractions in the Caribbean at Old San Juan.

Many of Puerto Ricos beaches are blue flag certified. It means these beaches have shown superior quality in environmental education, water quality, environmental management, as well as services and safety.

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Tour The Bacardi Rum Factory

Casa Bacardi is the worlds 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.

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.

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