A romantic haven of bright pastel Spanish colonial facades and wrought-iron towns with bursting blooming flowers makes cruises to Puerto Rico the best destination or travel in general.
The city’s narrow cobblestone streets, beloved park squares, and trendy nightlife add to why San Juan is a must-visit Caribbean port of call. San Juan attracts cruise ships from different cruising categories because of its rich colonial history, diverse culture (African, Caribbean, European), art, and music.
You’ll have a blast as soon as you step onshore in San Juan—there’s something for everyone who likes to admire art or enjoy nature.
Cruises to Puerto Rico: Ports of Call
If you ever decided on a cruise expedition, you will not be disappointed by choosing Puerto Rico as one of your ports of call. San Juan is a blend of antique and modern. One of the most extraordinary things about this Caribbean paradise is its sandy beaches, cobblestone streets, colonial forts and buildings, vibrant hotels, museums, cafes, shops, casinos, bars, and restaurants.
San Juan’s port is the busiest in the Caribbean, and it is among the top 25 ports in the world in terms of the volume of passengers and the transportation of cargos. San Juan’s two cruise terminals are a stone’s throw apart, one in San Juan Bay and the other across the bay at the Pan American terminal, a 10-minute ride from the airport.
Each terminal can accommodate up to six cruise ships. The San Juan Bay Terminal is a short walk from Old San Juan and has available piers (Pier 1, Pier 3, and Pier 4).
The majority of cruises docking in Puerto Rico are 3-7 days long, and in most circumstances, you only have a single day or two to visit the island. You can always check your tour itineraries for special deals on tours, excursions, and activities.
However, most of these tours are 2-4 hours in length, and they’re all going the same places across all cruise lines. So if you’re a bit adventurous than the others, here’s a list of what you must see and do. Although these places can really spark excitement in you, try and choose 2-3 destinations a day because of your limited time.
What to Do & Where to Go in Puerto Rico
San Juan Is Just the First Stop
Leave your passport at home and go to the Caribbean for year-round sunshine, pia Coladas, and a situational caught in the rain. It’s all part of the excitement of being in the tropics.
San Juan is renowned for its plethora of locations to disconnect, relax, and discover new things. The place is full of hidden gems from coastal coves and pristine seas to tree swings with panoramic mountain views. But, of course, it’s also a place you can dine, drink, and have a good time.
If you’re planning to experience Puerto Rico beyond the San Juan cruise port, renting a car or hiring a tour guide to reach hidden gems/lesser-known attractions are viable options. Here are several of the finest places to visit and exciting things to do.
Walk at the Charco El Mango
The Charco El Mango is a beautiful lake filled with crystal clear water that offers an excellent opportunity for visitors to relax and enjoy thoroughly. You’ll be able to walk around the lake, sunbathe, or even picnic at your leisure. T
here are waterfalls, too, making the place more tranquil and calming. If exploring the island terrain is something you are up to do, this place is a free attraction that you’ll be able to witness the mountainous and rugged route of Puerto Rico’s natural sights that are simply gorgeous to take in.
See for Yourself the Beauty of Bioluminescent Bays
Puerto Rico is a country that has three bioluminescent bays, Mosquito Bay, La Parguera, and La Laguna Grande. Bioluminescence is the production and radiation of light by living organisms.
You’ll be mesmerized visiting any of the bioluminescent bays, so prepare yourself for an unforgettable experience of your lifetime. The majority of travellers who get here often think they are hallucinating, while some believe they see some kind of spectacular effect. This uncommon occurrence occurs at night and becomes brighter when there is no moon.
Visit El Morro Castle
The El Morro Castle is one of the best places to visit in Puerto Rico. The Spaniards built it as a defense against any potential attacks. The main tower is approximately 26 meters high, and it has walls that are 6 meters thick.
This castle overlooks San Juan from its location atop El Morro Hill, which is only accessible in certain conditions due to its steepness and lack of erosion control. It’s also one of Puerto Rico’s most famous landmarks, attracting more than one million tourists annually.
Marvel at El Yunque National Rainforest
El Yunque National Rainforest is by far one of the most breathtaking destinations in Puerto Rico. Considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this rainforest delivers stark contrasts with its lush vegetation and tropical climate. The El Yunque National Forest houses more than 200 different trees, many other animal and plant species large and small, plus over 60 waterfalls.
It’s an eco-tourist destination where you’ll find lush vegetation and varying terrain, including mountainsides covered with thick forest to cliffs along the coast with crashing waves below. The biodiversity found here also makes it a popular destination for scientists in various fields of study.
Museo de Arte de Ponce
Anyone who’s been to Puerto Rico would recommend the Museo de Arte de Ponce. It is a beautiful art museum in the city of Ponce in Puerto Rico.
In Museo de Arte de Ponce, you’ll find artwork from exciting and diverse artists of Puerto Rico. In addition, you will have the moment to learn about the history of art in Puerto Rico firsthand. This is a very intimate and personal means of discovering Puerto Rico art.
Feel the Rush at Toro Verde
At the time of this writing, Toro Verde is one of the most popular destinations in Puerto Rico. The main attraction is catching a glimpse of how high and long the zip line is. It’s an exciting aerial perspective ride that lasts for about three minutes as you fly over the scenery in close proximity to moving water. Experience this exhilarating activity once, and you’ll never forget it.
Intrepid Travelers should also take a moment to visit nearby Quebradillas – Full Moon Party.
Quebradillas is one of Puerto Rico’s main tourist attractions, dedicated to playing out the local legend of La Llorona and other colonial-era legends. Wading through the Caribbean Sea on a full moon night might seem dangerous at first glance, but it’s just one of many activities on offer during these exciting nights when there are bonfires on.
Savor Local Rum at Ron Del Barrilito
You can taste their famous rum while you snack on freshly-baked bread and have an informative tour at the Ron del Barrilito. They’re open all day every day for tastings, tours, or just to unwind with some tasty rum cocktails from their expansive list.
Enjoy the Countryside Views at Cueva Ventana
The Cueva Ventana is a frequently visited destination in Puerto Rico. This place is perfect for adventurous tourists to visit. Here you’ll be surrounded by natural wilderness and find peace and tranquillity.
The Cueva Ventana is located in Humacao, Puerto Rico, and consists of a cave with beautiful scenery. You’ll be able to take an adventurous 3-5 hour walk deep inside an enormous karstic window formed naturally from rainwater over centuries. This have carved giant circular patterns into the rocks which are estimated at being more than 5 million years old.
How to Get Around Puerto Rico
There are multiple ways you can experience Puerto Rico – so understanding how you’re getting around and explore will be a key part of your trip.
If you’re planning to stay near San Juan, then transportation is relatively easy. You’ll be able to choose from several choices. Unless visitors wish to extend their adventure beyond the town, they won’t need a car because Taxis and Uber are very convenient.
You can take a tour by foot and visit sites such as the Central San Juan plaza (the open-air colonial market), Escuela de Bellas Artes de Caguas (home of Jorge Blanco paintings) or Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico in Santurce.
Taxis are readily available, and they’re one of the reasonable modes of transportation, but when traveling between towns, costs may fly up.
If you’re spending just a few days in Puerto Rico, then you’ll be able to cover all of the major sites by bike easily. In addition, people who visit Puerto Rico for the first time may enjoy riding a bike along the scenic coast.
Publicos are conveniently situated at different points all around the island, with more than a thousand of them. Publicos offers transportation to and from the airport, cruise ship terminals, and the Port Authority for a nominal fee. These services are offered 24 hours daily.
Puerto rico’s public buses are called guaguas. These are cost-effective public buses that offer one of the cheapest ways to travel around and explore Puerto Rico. You can pick from a number of different routes, with each route having different prices.
The Department of Transportation also runs Metrobus, which has the most extensive network throughout the city. You can view the interactive map on their website to help you plan your travel around San Juan.
By Car Rental
In Puerto Rico, renting a car is always an option if you’re staying for more than two weeks or if you would like to visit places that are out of the way. Puerto Rico has many gas stations, but not all of them accept credit cards, so make sure to buy gasoline in advance. In addition, some tolls must be paid in some areas.
Cruising COVID Advisory
Before booking cruise expeditions, please consult all applicable advisories, warnings, or recommendations relating to cruise expedition at cdc.gov/travel/notices. If a specific level of COVID-19 is detected onboard the cruise ship during the expedition, the expedition will stop immediately.
The ship will go back to the port of embarkation, and your subsequent travel, including your return home, maybe restricted or delayed. Health and safety procedures, guest behaviour rules, and regional travel restrictions vary per ship and are subject to change without notice.
Puerto Rico is blessed with some of the oldest buildings in the Western Hemisphere. They also have a long history of shipbuilding which can be seen through the architecture all around you.
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Christian Petzold is a successful touristic entrepreneur, experiential traveller and round-the-world backpacker. He holds an academic degree in tourism management.
His touristic expertise has been covered in radio, newspaper and television.