Puerto RicoSan JuanSan Juan Cruise Guide ⎮ Things to Do & Excursions for Cruise Visitors

Ssn Juan Puerto Rico Cruise Guide - What to Do / Excursions

Save a Spot - Most Popular Walking Tour

San Juan will be one of the most fascinating days of your cruise experience, offering historic UNESCO sites, candy-colored Spanish-Colonial architecture, rich cultural and culinary experiences, and romantic places to escape the crowds.  Outside of the historic district of Old San Juan, visitors can enjoy a great day at the beach and go snorkeling with sea turtles.  Within an hour’s drive, you can visit natural wonders such as the enchanting rainforest of El Yunque, and we’ll tell you how to fit it into your cruise ship itinerary.

Walk The Historic District of Old San Juan

Explore Old San Juan - San Juan Cruise Port Excursions / Best Things to Do

Walking in Old San Juan becomes an extraordinary experience.  Old San Juan is truly an open-air museum with so many things to see and do.  Some of the top attractions and activities suggested in this guide are located within the historic district of Old San Juan and nearby and we have presented them in a way to make your planning easier.  Even if you didn’t visit the major historical attractions, walking around will be a fun memorable experience.

+ Guide for Cruise Visitors

Should You Explore Old San Juan on Your Own or with a Tour Guide?

Our short answer is… a mix of both is just perfect.  We’ll give you recommendations on how to explore on your own, with a tour guide, or a mix of both.

Exploring Old San Juan on Your Own

You can walk the streets of Old San Juan on your own, below we have listed recommendations of sights you may want to visit as you walk around the historic district.  For the best experience without having to do much planning, consider booking a tour (see suggestions below), the stories and history bring the city to life with the addition of learning about the Puerto Rican culture.

Top Attractions & Places:  Castillo San Felipe del Morro, Castillo San Cristobal, Casa Blanca Museum, Museo de Las Americas, Iglesia San Jose, Cathedral San Juan Bautista, Paseo de La Princesa, Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery, La Rogativa

We invite you to relax at a square, and simply walk down streets to admire the architecture and take vacation photos full of color.  The most popular streets for shopping and dining are Calle Cristo and Fortaleza, but you’ll find more great shops and restaurants throughout other blocks.  This list may seem short, but there’s truly a lot to see and do in Old San Juan.  Keep reading this guide for ideas on things to do.

Cost:  Free plus entry cost to chosen attractions.  Fort visit cost: $10 per person for both fortifications

Explore Old San Juan with a Friendly Knowledgeable Tour Guide

Following are top-rated walking tours to suit cruisers, including driving tours to help those with mobility challenges and private tours for those that prefer a more personalized experience.   Most tours last two hours, so you’ll have time left over to choose other activities at your leisure.

Close this tab, and see directly below for tour recommendations.

Top Rated Walking Tours in Old San Juan

Go to the Beach & Snorkel with Sea Turtles

Cruise Excursions - San Juan Puerto Rico - Go Snorkeling with Sea Turtles at Escambron Beach - Puerto Rico

Just a 10-minute taxi ride from the cruise piers in San Juan, in a small protected cove called Escambron, something magical happens underneath the surface… a natural aquarium with mesmerizing sea turtles and colorful tropical fish abound.  The snorkeling experience is so good, rave reviews from people like you have placed snorkeling experiences at the top of the list on the coveted award list of Tripadvisor’s Travelers Choice Award, Top Overall Experiences in the Caribbean. 

The location is great for cruisers, you can explore Old San Juan and still have time to go snorkeling at Escambron Beach, just a 10-minute taxi ride from the Cruise ports in San Juan.

Although the best and most beautiful beaches of Puerto Rico are located in other regions, this city beach has much to brag about, offering great snorkeling, an awesome spot to learn how to scuba dive, natural tidal pools for safe swimming, crystal clear waters, public facilities and surprisingly rarely crowded since visitors are spread out exploring the city.

+ Guide for Cruise Visitors

Cost:  Free entry to Escambron Beach, but there is a parking fee if driving in.

Distance from Cruise Piers

  • Old San Juan Piers:  Walking: about 35 minutes;  you can safely walk through Old San Juan, then walk through the scenic oceanside walkway of Paseo Puerta de Tierra. ⎮ Drive: 8 minutes.
  • Pan American Pier:  Walking: about 36 minutes; a taxi is recommended due to traffic.  ⎮  Drive: 9 minutes.

Great Snorkeling Experiences at Escambron Beach

Explore a Fort in Old San Juan

San Juan Puerto Rico Best Cruise Excursions - San Cristobal Fort
If you had more time in San Juan, we would advise that you visit both forts, but with limited time, we have the following recommendations for the San Juan National Historic Site.

Can you explore the forts on your own or do you need to book a tour? 

On your own:  You may explore the forts on your own, there are interpretive signs with summaries of historic facts.  There are ranger-guided tours, please inquire when you purchase a ticket, since schedules may change, we will not post that information here.

With a tour guide:  If you prefer a tour guide, there are certainly advantages to doing so, you can get a tour of the fort combined with great stories and a history of highlights around Old San Juan in a few hours with time left to enjoy more of your day in San Juan at your leisure.

+ Guide for Cruise Visitors

Cost of Fortifications Visit:  $10, valid for 24 hours with access to both forts.  Ages 15 and younger enter free of charge.  See fees, passes information, and discount entry information on the official website.

Castillo San Cristobal

San Cristobal is bigger and easier to navigate for visitors with mobility challenges, it is also closer to the piers.  San Cristobal offers views of the ocean and sweeping views of the city.

Distance from Cruise Piers: 

  • Old San Juan Piers:  Walking: 20 minutes ⎮ Drive: Approx.: 13 minutes
  • Pan American Pier:  Walking:  Not recommended – 1.5 hours⎮ Drive: 15 minutes

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Castillo San Felipe del Morro

“El Morro” is the most popular fort in San Juan.  There are six levels at the fort, however, the main parts of the fort are easily walkable.  The grounds make it one of the most family-friendly attractions in San Juan, one of the traditions is to fly a kite after touring the fort, then simply relax to take in the views.  El Morro has sweeping views of San Juan Bay and it is a wonderful place to watch the sunset.

Distance from Cruise Piers: 

  • Old San Juan Piers:  Walking: 20 minutes ⎮ Drive: Approx.: 13 minutes
  • Pan American Pier:  Walking:  Not recommended – 1.5 hours⎮ Drive: 15 minutes

Walking Tours in Old San Juan with Castillo San Felipe del Morro Fort

Let your Inner Child Free... Fly a Kite on the Grounds of El Morro

Fly a Kite at El Morro - Things to Do in San Juan with Family for Cruise Visitors
We invite you to enjoy this simple yet exciting activity with your loved ones and friends, we are confident it will be one of the most memorable activities of your cruise adventure, it costs very little, but the memories will be truly priceless.  Flying a kite at El Morro is a must for every Puerto Rican and resident of the island, it is our hope you can come to San Juan, and even for just a few minutes, you let your inner child be free, let all your cares fly away, and dream again, like a child.

+ Guide for Cruise Visitors

Cost of Experience:  Price of kite

You can find inexpensive kites sold near the fort of Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

Distance from Cruise Piers

  • Old San Juan Piers:  Walking: 20 minutes ⎮ Drive: Approx.: 13 minutes
  • Pan American Pier:  Walking:  Not recommended – 1.5 hours⎮ Drive: 15 minutes

Crowds on the Grounds of El Morro – The time when you’ll see crowds is when school groups visit the forts.  Surprisingly the grounds are typically relaxed since most visitors head inside the fort or wander the streets of Old San Juan.  Romantics will always find a nice spot to sit down on the grass and simply take in the beauty around them together.

Visit Casa Bacardi - The Largest Rum Distillery in the World

Casa Bacardi Rum Distillery Tours for Cruisers - San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is known as the Rum Capital of the World and it certainly lives up to its reputation.  Cocktails in San Juan are at another level… delicious concoctions made with Puerto Rican Rums.  Walk around Old San Juan and enjoy cocktails at cool bars or take a taxi to elegant lounges in the district of Condado.

The most popular experience for rum connoisseurs is visiting Bacardi Distillery, the largest premium rum distillery in the world, yes, in the world…  Casa Bacardi offers an interesting tour sure to keep you engaged covering the history and rum-making process, some tours offer the addition of rum tasting and even a mixology class so you can show off to friends when you get back home.

+ Guide for Cruisers

Cost of Casa Bacardi Tours:  From $33 – $83 per person plus the cost of a taxi.

Distance from Cruise Piers:  From Pier 1 in Old San Juan – a 25-minute drive ⎮ From Pan American Pier – a 20-minute drive.   You may also take the Cataño Ferry from Old San Juan, a very inexpensive option.

Please Note:  It is recommended that you arrive at Casa Bacardi 30 minutes before the starting time of the tour to register, enjoy your cocktail and take photos.

Top Rated Tours to Casa Bacardi Distillery

Visit The Enchanting El Yunque National Rainforest

Many visitors wish to visit the rainforest of El Yunque, and it is certainly doable for cruisers.  El Yunque is enchanting, one of the top natural treasures in the Caribbean.  We highly suggest you book a private tour of El Yunque so it can be personalized to your preferences.  We don’t recommend you rent a car and go on your own if you’re short on time.  If you wish to explore on your own, we encourage you to extend your stay in San Juan for at least one day.

+ Guide for Cruise Visitors

  • Cost of El Yunque National Rainforest Tour:  See tours below
  • Distance from Cruise Piers: Old San Juan Pier – 1-hour drive ⎮ Pan American Pier – 50 minutes to Visitor Center

Tours to El Yunque National Rainforest

Get Away From the Crowds for a Romantic Experience

San Juan Puerto Rico Cruise Excursions - Best Things to Do for Romance / Get Away from the Crowds
While cruises are fantastic, they can feel a bit crowded, you stop at a destination with everyone trying to see the main attractions, making it difficult to have some quiet intimate time with your loved one.  Old San Juan can feel more crowded during cruise days, however, there are special places around the city that are rarely crowded so that you can enjoy a more intimate romantic experience.   Following are a few experiences to enjoy with your love while in San Juan sure to make your cruise vacation more memorable…  Shhh!!! Don’t tell your loved one… plan this as a surprise to make it even more special.

+ Fort & Romantic Beach Walk Itinerary

Itinerary 1:  You may enjoy visiting Castillo San Cristobal Fort, then taking a short 6-minute walk east for a romantic beach walk at Playa Peña, where you can go beachcombing for sea glass, and take some great vacation photos at the fort ruins.  From the fort, walk east on the sidewalk towards Plaza San Juan Bautista, which is right across from the Capitol Building.  Facing the San Juan Bautista statue, you’ll see a stairway to the right.  Please note: this beach is narrow and best to explore during low tide, it may not be possible to walk to the ruins during high tide.

Cost: Free entrance to beaches, plus $10 cost of fort entrance.

Distance from the Cruise Piers

Old San Juan Pier  – 10-minute walk ⎮ Pan American Pier: 12-minute taxi ride

Itinerary 2:  Take a short taxi ride to Escambron Beach, where you can take a quiet walk on the scenic beach trail which leads to Bateria Escambron, a small fortification with sweeping views of the Condado shore.  Be sure to read our guide for enjoying Escambron Beach.  Wear a swimsuit under your clothes, bring your snorkel gear, and go snorkeling with sea turtles at the end of your walk.  You may also book a guided snorkeling tour.  If you don’t know how to snorkel, Escambron is the perfect place to learn.

Cost:  Taxi Ride plus the cost of snorkeling tour if you wish to do the experience.

Distance from the Cruise Piers

Old San Juan Piers:  Walking: about 35 minutes;  you can safely walk from Old San Juan, then along the oceanside walkway of Paseo Puerta de Tierra. ⎮ Drive: 8 minutes

Pan American Pier:  Walking: about 36 minutes; a taxi is recommended due to traffic.  ⎮  Drive: 9 minutes

+ Romance at Sunset

Watch the Sunset on the grounds of Castillo del Morro  – By sunset the fort has closed for tours of the interior, the grounds are relaxed and visitors head into town to get dinner, go shopping, or return to the ship.  This is a wonderful time to sit down on the grounds and share a bottle of wine as you watch the sunset over San Juan Bay.  You can purchase a bottle of wine at the CVS Pharmacy right across the street from the pier, located at the Sheraton Old San Juan.  We invite you to stay until it gets dark so you can see the fortress shine to the golden glow of the night lights.  As you walk back to the cruise port for dinner, you’ll be holding hands with a new appreciation for each other and only wishing for more experiences such as these.

  • Cost:  Free plus the cost of food/drinks to enjoy on the grounds of El Morro.

+ Romantic Floating Picnic

Plan a romantic floating picnic on the calm waters of Condado Lagoon, the only thing that may be distracting are friendly Manatees pointing their nose above the water to say hello.

Times of Experience: Various from 10:00 am – 5:00 pmCost: $290 for a couple ⎮ Tour Duration: 2 hours ⎮ Distance from Piers:  Old San Juan – 10 minutes / Pan American – 8 minutes

Distance from Cruise Piers

Old San Juan Pier:  10-minute taxi ride Pan American Pier: 7-minute taxi ride

Savor the Flavors of Three Cultures

Dining in San Juan Puerto Rico - Cruise Guide - What to Eat
We hope you have enjoyed your dining experience on the cruise ship, but we encourage you to try something a little different.  Eating at a destination is a way of getting to know the culture of the place.  San Juan has often been included on best lists of “foodie destinations”.  Taste the fusion of three cultures on a plate, Taino Natives, Spanish, and African flavors.  In Old San Juan, the cultural hub of Puerto Rico, you can find the best variety of food, from traditional to the best fine dining, however, the prices tend to be higher in the city.  A favorite experience for visitors is eating al fresco so you can enjoy the sights of architecture and feel the energy of the city as you eat.  Minutes from the cruise piers, head towards La Casita where you’ll find food trucks selling traditional fritters at good prices and vendors selling piraguas, tropical fruit frappes, ice cream, and more.  Foods to try in Old San Juan.

Food Tours in Old San Juan:  To make the most of your time in San Juan, you can book a walking tour that includes food tasting, a perfect way to enjoy the best sights and taste the flavors of Puerto Rico.  See below for top-rated tours.

+ Flavors of Old San Juan Food Tour

Small group tour that perfectly mixes food, culture, history, and architecture (9 stops, food, and rum cocktail).   This tour has ranked #3 in 2020… on the Coveted List of Top Experiences in the Caribbean on Trip Advisor’s Travelers Choice

  • Name of Tour:  Flavors of Old San Juan Food Tour
  • Tour Time: Morning from 10 am and afternoon tours, the last one is at 3:30 pm
  • Cost: $147.00  Reserve Now & Pay Later
  • Tour Duration:  3 hours (approx.)
  • Languages:  English
  • Meeting Point:  Carli‘s Fine Bistro & Piano – 206 Calle de Tetuan – Corner Of Recinto Sur And San Justo Street.  Please confirm the meeting location before your tour.
  • Distance from. Cruise Piers:  A 4-minute walk from Pier 1 in Old San Juan.  From Pan American Pier you must take a taxi or Uber.
  • Cancellation Policy:  For a full refund, you must cancel at least 24 hours before the experience’s start time.  Please check the confirmation e-mail for information.

Top Rated Food Tours in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Shopping in Old San Juan

San Juan Puerto Rico Shopping Guide for Cruisers
Be sure to save room in your luggage for some wonderful finds in San Juan.  A 5-minute walk from the piers in Old San Juan and a short taxi drive from the Pan American Pier, you’ll have many shops to visit, from local boutique shops with unique finds to recognized stores such as Pandora and Piraña Joe.

Visit a Museum in San Juan

Within the historic district of Old San Juan, you can walk from the cruise piers to interesting museums and galleries.  Various museums are free of charge or welcome visitors with low-cost entry fees.  The following are among the most popular and interesting museums in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

+ Recommended museums to visit while in Old San Juan

The following museums are great for cruise visitors, they don’t require a long time to visit.

Museo de Las Americas

Museo de Las Americas is located in the elegant Cuartel de Ballaja, is perfect to visit right after Castillo San Felipe del Morro, where you can learn about the history of the Americas and enjoy the art exhibits, a great museum for families with children.

Casa Blanca

Casa Blanca is located just a few minutes down from Museo de Las Americas, this mansion was the first fortification in San Juan, built as a home for Juan Ponce de Leon and his family.  Tour the mansion, courtyard, and gardens.

 

Map - Best Places to Visit for Cruise Visitors

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Photo Gallery of Places Mentioned on this Cruise Excursions & Places to Visit Guide

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Cruise Excursions - San Juan Puerto Rico - Go Snorkeling with Sea Turtles at Escambron Beach - Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico Things to Do ⎮ San Juan ⎮ San Juan Cruise Guide ⎮ Things to Do & Excursions for Cruise Visitors