The Caribbean is mostly known for aquamarine water, sandy beaches, and a laidback beach vibe. But many islands in the Caribbean have much more than just surf and sand, and Puerto Rico is one of those islands. A cruise stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico lets you see one of the Caribbean’s most vibrant cities, while still being in close proximity to that gorgeous water and beautiful beaches. Read on for a guide of what to do while spending the day in San Juan.
The Old Town Area of San Juan
A jaunt around the neighborhood of Old San Juan is always a great way to spend some time while in San Juan. This lovely area of the city features cobblestoned streets framed by colorful buildings in nearly every shade of the rainbow. Thickly branched trees stretch up toward rooftops along sidewalks, and white framed windows and doors add to the lovely appeal of Old San Juan’s aesthetics.
While in Old San Juan, make a stop at one of its top attractions, which include:
La Cassa Blanca: A one-time fortress that also served as the home of Ponce de Leon.
Paseo la Princesa and Raíces Fountain: If you have time, take a lovely stroll along the boulevard of Paseo la Princesa. If short on time, at least check out Raíces Fountain, the famous fountain structure at the end of Paseo la Princesa.
Cathedral of San Juan Bautista: The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista is a good stop in Old San Juan for history or architect buffs as it is the second oldest cathedral in the Americas.
The Fortresses of San Juan
Bordering each end of Old San Juan are towering forts built on impressive bluffs overlooking the sea. Visiting these former military forts are one of the most popular things to do in San Juan. Here are the two forts to visit, and during a day in San Juan, you easily have time to visit both if you wish, or just choose one to visit and make time for the beach, too!
Castillo San Felipe del Morro
This is the original fortress built in San Juan in the 16th century. It stands formidably at the northwest end of the city and was constructed to defend inhabitants against intruders. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has a striking appearance high above the city, enhanced by the massive and bright green grassy area in front of it. You can walk around the grounds both in and out of the fortress walls and take in views of the ocean and surrounding landscape from each of the fort’s six levels.
Castillo San Cristóbal Fort
Built in the 1700s, Castillo San Cristóbal faces the northeast and provided a high vantage point right on the ocean for watching for intruding ships. Like Castillo San Felipe del Morro, it was used as an actual military fort as recently as World War II, and today it is open to visitors who can explore its scenic lookout points and dark underground tunnels.
The Beaches Near San Juan
You have to head a little bit out of Old San Juan to find the beaches Puerto Rico is famous for. Luckily, Celebrity Cruises makes it easy for you by offering excursions that take you straight from the ship port to a beach in comfortable transportation. Some of the excursions even stop at other historical sites, too, making for a fun, hassle-free day exploring San Juan.
San Juan City and Beaches by Bike: Explore the island of Puerto Rico on a 12-mile bike ride tour that takes you through Old San Juan and past historic sites and then to a beach park for some lovely views of the sea.
Deluxe Beach Break at VIVO Beach Club: Have a blissfully relaxing day on this shore excursion which gets you access to a luxurious beach club, where you can switch between a large pool area or a sandy beach next to the sea with lounge chairs and easy access to drinks and delicious cuisine.
Other Excursions to Do in Puerto Rico
A cruise stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico, gives you the opportunity to partake in many other fun and engaging shore excursions. Here are some other top options:
Marine Park Snorkeling: Explore the underwater world off the shores of San Juan at Escambron Marine Park.
Wild & Scenic Rainforest Nature Walk to River Adventure: Take an exciting hike through Puerto Rico’s famous El Yunque National Rainforest and learn about its flora and fauna plus see the Mameyes River, where you can go for a swim.
Carabali Horseback Ride: Travel through the El Yunque National Rainforest by horseback.
Chef’s Market Discoveries – Casa Bacardi, Flavors of San Juan, and Private Dinner: Tour the famous Bacardi rum factory and sample delectable Puerto Rican and Cuban cuisine.
To browse all of Celebrity Cruises’ San Juan shore excursions, click here.