Learn About the Can’t-Miss Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico and is a popular cruise port due to the various activities you can do and sights you can see that range from nature to architecture to cuisine.
San Juan is a very walkable city. Travelers looking for things to do in San Juan on a cruise that are close to the ship will find many options as you can easily walk to the popular area referred to as Old San Juan.
Beyond Old San Juan you’ll find gorgeous beaches, unique shore excursions, and even a rainforest you can hike through.
Not sure where to start? Here are some of the top things to do in San Juan during a cruise to help you figure out which is best for your day in port.
Things to Do in Old San Juan on a Cruise
If you love colorful architecture, historic sites, and charming cobblestoned streets, you must dedicate some of your time in port to exploring Old San Juan.
This area of the city dates back to the end of the 15th century when it was discovered by Christopher Columbus. Soon after that a colony was set up in San Juan, followed shortly by forts being built to protect the thriving new city from pirates and other attacks.
While walking around Old San Juan, you can appreciate its history while strolling by quaint buildings located alongside the tree and flower-lined streets.
Old San Juan’s architecture style stands out even more thanks to the myriad of shades painted onto the structures. While walking around Old an Juan you’ll see buildings gleaming in shades of pink, yellow, orange, green, and more colors of the rainbow.
In addition to snapping Instagrammable pictures of buildings, you’ll want to see some of Old San Juan’s top attractions, too, since they’re some of the best things to do in San Juan on a cruise.
Old San Juan’s Forts: San Juan is home to two ports: Fort El Morro and Fort San Cristóbal. El Morro was San Juan’s first fort, and construction on it began in 1539. It was built to safeguard the city from sea attacks coming from the west. Today, you can tour El Morro and see its battlements, soldier living quarters, dungeons, and tunnels.
You can find similar fortification features on the other end of Old San Juan at Fort San Cristóbal, which was built on an even larger scale in the late 1700s to keep watch over the eastern end of Old San Juan.
Though the forts are just for tourists to visit now and offer incredible views of the surrounding sea and city, it’s interesting to learn how the military workings of these forts were used as recently as World War II.
San Juan’s Smallest House: If you’re into the tiny house fad, you’ll appreciate this historic one that stands at only five feet wide that is often said to be the smallest house in the world. Located on Calle Tetuan, it’s easy to spot since it’s the thin strip of pale yellow sandwiched between two larger houses.
Cathedral of San Juan Bautista: This cathedral is a neoclassical church built in the mid 16th century, making it the second oldest church in the Americas. It has an elegant white façade with a curving roof line that has statues standing tall on each end. Inside, you’ll find a beautiful pulpit and congregation area with intricate artwork drawn onto the ceiling and arches. While touring the church you can also see the tomb of the Spanish conquistador, Ponce de Leon (who is famous for being the first European explorer to set foot on what is now Florida).
Raíces Fountain: This beautiful fountain is located in Paseo de la Princesa, a large square in Old San Juan that boasts gorgeous views of San Juan Bay. The fountain features descendants of Puerto Rico and its many heritages, including African, Spanish, and Taino. This is also what gives the fountain its name as raíces means roots in Spanish.
Things to Do in San Juan on Cruise Shore Excursions
Shore excursions provide you with an effortless way to see more of Puerto Rico beyond San Juan.
In the water surrounding the island of Puerto Rico, you can find bioluminescent bays; so called that because they have an abundance of a unique microorganism in the water that isn’t noticeable until you disturb it, which causes it to emit a blue light that makes the water appear to be glowing. On a kayaking shore excursion to one of these bioluminescent bays you can see this phenomenon first hand as you paddle through the water and watch it light up around you.
This is one of the few places in the world where you can easily see this phenomenon and it’s a breathtaking sight to behold when you sail into a dark cave of the bay and are suddenly surrounded by water that is shimmering in a soft glow.
Rain Forest Hike
Many visitors to Puerto Rico may not be aware that the island is home to an actual tropical rainforest: El Yunque National Forest. It may not be the Amazon, but you’ll still be astounded by the breadth of its trees and the abundance of flora and fauna that can be found amid the forest.
Rum Tasting Excursions
Learn more about rum in Puerto Rico on a shore excursion that takes you to Casa Rum, where you’ll learn about the distillation process and how to make the perfect mojito or other rum-based drink.
Book a Caribbean Cruise from San Juan
Want more time in Puerto Rico? Choose one of the cruises from Puerto Rico that embark from San Juan. The port of San Juan serves as one of the embarkation ports for Celebrity Cruises for itineraries sailing around the Caribbean. You can begin or end your vacation with a few days in San Juan to get more of a taste of its top things to do and nightlife before getting on your cruise ship, or after your cruise ends.