Let’s face it, taking a cruise is a luxury many Americans have to save up for, especially when, on top of the cruise fare, you add the daily gratuities, alcoholic beverages, specialty dining, shore excursions, and any other cravings you’d like to satisfy. That’s why when presented with a great port, like San Juan, you need to seize the opportunity of having a great, educational time, without breaking the bank. The best traveling tip any smart traveler can share with you is this, when San Juan is one of your ports, do not book an excursion. Of course, this tip is for those who have never been to this beautiful island, but Old San Juan is bursting with history. This tip will focus on your journey from the port, South of San Juan, to the northeast, El Morro.
Visiting Old San Juan
Visiting Old San Juan is truly an experience. It is no mystery why this enchanting city is a tourist magnet for people from all over the world. San Juan is the second oldest city of the New World (followed by Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) and its streets and architecture show it. Go for a walk on their brick streets and visit one of their many gift shops.
There are two forts that are a must visit: Castillo San Felipe del Morro, and Castillo de San Cristobal (the most significant Spanish fort built in the New World). However, since cruises have a minimal amount of time, we will focus on El Morro. Which, in a way is great, since this tip will work for your next cruise to San Juan, then you will just set as a destination the Castillo de San Cristobal.
San Juan Cruise Port Terminal
Your cruise line will dock in the southern part of San Juan at the San Juan Cruise Port Terminal. Once you disembark, you’ll be welcomed by beautiful weather and amazing people. When you’re ready to leave the port, just head north into the city. Take it all in. You have time. Walk along the old brick roads. Talk to the locals. Check out the many local gift shops and support these small businesses.
If you’re interested in checking out fantastic architecture, you can explore the west end of the island. Visit the San Juan Bautista Cathedral, the second oldest cathedral in the New World. Although there’s no fee to go in, keep in mind that this is an active church that holds daily masses, so please be respectful and do not enter the church in the middle of a mass. Next stop: Puerta San Juan, which is just a block away from the San Juan Bautista Cathedral! This grand entryway served as an entrance to the city of Viejo San Juan, and its red frame will complement any photograph beautifully.
It’s best not to stray too far. Those few short hours on land will go fast when visiting this fantastic port. From Puerta San Juan you can stay on that road, Caleta de las Monjas, and continue north. After a mandatory right, you’ll end up at Calle del Morro, which will take you directly to El Morro.
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Once in El Morro, prepare to be transported 500 years back in time. You will be standing where thousands of men stood protecting Spain’s interests in the Caribbean. The thick walls endured endless battles. From Sir Francis Drake, George Clifford (who succeeded in conquering El Morro for a brief time), and even the Dutch, tried to knock down its walls to no avail.
This trip will only cost you about $7 per adult. Anyone under the age of 15 will be let in for free. However, this time you’ll have to make a decision. Do you save some more money by having dinner on the ship, or do you indulge in one of the many restaurants on Calle Recinto Sur? If you opt to have dinner in San Juan, try the mofongo in Raices Restaurant.
Travel tips from smart travelers like you.