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Guide to San Juan Cruise Port, Puerto Rico

Updated on November 12, 2017

Let's Go San Juan

San Juan is the capital and the largest city in Puerto Rico. Positioned on the north coast of the country, it is the second-oldest city founded by Europeans in the Americas. (Just beaten by Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic). San Juan is the major transport center for Puerto Rico, and is also the island's major center for finance, culture, manufacturing, and tourism. The original Spanish settlers called the city Ciudad de Puerto Rico and the entire island San Juan. Over time, common usage has reversed the names.

Today the old section of San Juan offers an authentic Old World atmosphere with over 400 original Spanish 16th and 17th century buildings. It also is home to many shops, restaurants, bars, and casinos for vacationers to visit and enjoy.

Catedral de San Juan, which holds the tomb of Ponce de Leon, the first governor of San Juan
Catedral de San Juan, which holds the tomb of Ponce de Leon, the first governor of San Juan

Don't Forget to Enjoy San Juan

 Picturesque Old San Juan sits on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic to the north, and the bay southwards. This walled fortified area, now a major historical landmark, was founded in 1510. Old San Juan is compactly sized, quick to get around on foot.  If your energy runs out take the free trolley bus that runs between tourist spots. Take time to stroll along the narrow cobbled streets and investigate the brightly colored houses, chic boutiques, and go to the interesting museums. Favorite shore excursions include:

El Morro Fort
El Morro, a huge fort dating from 1539, defends San Juan from sea attack.  Its full name is Castillo San Felipe del Morro, taken from the favored saint of King Philip of Spain. You can walk around six levels of gun emplacements and thickstone walls that loom over San Juan Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

San Cristobal Fort
San Cristobal Fort was built in the eighteenth century and contains an intricate network of tunnels designed for clandestine operations.

La Fortaleza
Another must-see is La Fortaleza, San Juan's most ancient fort, founded in 1540.  Later it was to become the governor's official residence. Guided tours lead you  through the sumptuous building, with golden banquet hall, tall galleries, and rooms furnished in the style of the period.
Cathedral de San Juan
This impressive cathedral was built in 1592, on the site of the previous cathedral which was destroyed by a hurricane. Located along Calle Cristo, this neoclassical structure holds the bones of Ponce de Leon, a famous Spanish seaman, and the first governor of Puerto Rico.

Bacardi Rum Distillery
Rum afficionados may prefer its nickname the Cathedral of Rum. There's a free guided tour and trolley ride. After learning about the origins of rum enjoy a tipple or two.

Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve
A fabulous ecological reserve encompassing seven different tropical habitats. Be warned though, visitor numbers are limited, so advanced booking is required.

Itineraries Available from San Juan

Many knowledgeable cruise vacationers pick San Juan over a nearer Florida port. Thanks to its central Caribbean location, San Juan provides easy access to unique Southern Caribbean ports, like the Windward Isles and the Netherland Antilles. A two-hour plane trip is a better alternative to the long cruise to these areas from mainland US. For a comprehensive list of cruises leaving San Juan see cruises from San Juan Puerto Rico. Several major cruiselines operate cruises from San Juan, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, PO Cruises, Princess Cruises, Silversea and Celebrity Cruises. The range of cruises by these cruiselines includes the Leeward Isles (USVI, St Maarten, St Kitts, Guadeloupe), the Windward Isles (Dominica, St Lucia, Barbados, St Vincent, Grenada,Tobago), and the Netherland Antilles off the north coast of Venezuela (Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire).

The sail-like awnings on pier 3, and RSSC Navigator tied up at pier 4, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
The sail-like awnings on pier 3, and RSSC Navigator tied up at pier 4, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Useful Cruise Terminal Information

San Juan port is split into 3 areas. Old San Juan piers 1 thru 6, the Navy Frontier pier, and the Pan American pier. Most times cruise ships visiting San Juan dock at the Old San Juan Piers, so passengers can walk into  Old San Juan. Cruise ships based San Juan will dock Old San Juan pier 4, or the Pan American Pier, about a 15 minute cab ride from Old San Juan.

Transferring to the Cruise Terminal

San Juan airport is situated about ten miles from the Pan American pier and twelve miles from the Old San Juan piers. Allow about 30 minutes for the cab trip. The cost is around $20. There are additional charges for baggage.

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    • capitula profile image

      capitula 7 months ago

      After the devastating effects of Irma, San Juan's recovery continues with the arrival of Jewel OTS. The ship is scheduled to run a near six month season of Caribbean cruises out of San Juan.

    • capitula profile image

      capitula 3 years ago

      Puerto Rico is doing a great job of continuing to be the best cruise port for Southern Caribbean cruises. The port has reported a 15% rise for 2013/2014 compared to the previous year.

    • profile image

      Brian 7 years ago

      Is the cost $20 per person or per cab?

    • profile image

      Megan 7 years ago

      Missed my flight home last time I cruised out of SJ - so make sure to allow plenty of time (at least half a day) for flight/cruise ship delays.

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