As the largest and busiest cruise port in the Caribbean, San Juan sees over 500 ships and a million passengers every year.
Named by Christopher Columbus upon his arrival in 1493, he called it San Juan Bautista (Saint John the Baptist), but it soon became known as Puerto Rico (Rich Port) because of the abundance of gold in the rivers.
This gem in the Caribbean is popular for a reason – with settlement recorded at more than 500 years, it is one of the oldest cities in the New World. Stunning architecture, old forts and winding narrow roads have you believing that you are in Europe!
Why I like to cruise from Puerto Rico
Two of the more popular cruise ports are in Florida: Fort Lauderdale and Miami. While these ports are excellent for those looking for cruises from the continental United States (how awesome would it be to just drive to the pier, hop on a boat, and set sail for paradise??), those of us flying in from the northern section are sometimes looking for a warmer experience.
Enter San Juan. The heat and humidity will definitely hit you like a wall as soon as you exit the climate-controlled airport, but I can guarantee that it will be a welcome start to your vacation.
TOP TIP: Choose an excursion for your departure date
The best choice we ever made was to book a morning excursion on our disembarkment date. Think I’m crazy? Here’s why:
We were fast-tracked through the line for immigration
We had a tour to catch, and rather than have us wait in line with the other 2000 people, we cut to the front so our morning tour could begin. WIN!
We left our luggage to the cruise line
Booking a tour through the cruise ship on the disembarking date was also a good idea because they handled your luggage for you-you are not responsible for wading through the masses of suitcases to find yours. Upon return from your excursion, it is personally delivered to you outside the ship before you hop into a van for the airport. WIN #2!
We made the most of our time and left our worries behind
Immigration? Check. Luggage? Check. Worries? Check.
I never forget that we have a plane to catch. At the back of my mind, I am always aware of the fact that we need to be back by a certain time.
There is good news! Old San Juan City, the northwest corner fortified with walls, is only 7 square blocks. You can fit in the San Cristòbal fortress, its sister fort El Morro, the 350-year old buildings and still make it back in time for lunch. Sounds like a great deal to me!
Looking for excursions ideas for San Juan?
I would recommend the Old City Tour. We took this one from Princess Cruises, and it offers San Cristòbal, a driving tour of Old San Juan, a photo stop at the Capitol Building, and shopping at Plaza Colon.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, San Cristòbal is incredible and offers an island view from above. Please note that this is a challenging walking excursion! The fortress is not wheelchair friendly and is steep in some places, so be sure to watch your step.
I traveled here most recently in 2017. As always, be sure to stay safe by checking your country’s travel advisories before booking any trips or excursions. You can check out the Canadian opinion here.