When planning a cruise vacation, it’s easy to dedicate all your focus to the ship. Between luxurious accommodations, numerous gourmet dining options, and a seemingly endless list of exciting and entertaining amenities, it is no wonder onboard activities take center stage.
With that said, one of the cruises’ most memorable features is the on-shore excursions. Having the opportunity to explore a new country and culture quickly can stick with you forever.
Given that the Port of San Juan in Puerto Rico is one of the most popular Caribbean cruise destinations and sees nearly two million cruise passengers per year, there is a good chance that any frequent cruise traveler will visit at some point.
To help you get the most out of your time in this stunning and tropical destination, we are going to cover some of the best San Juan cruise excursions you can book.
For those who would prefer to simply explore the local flavors and the cultural side of San Juan outside of the confines of a pre-booked shore excursion, we’ll also provide a few of our top recommendations for ways you can enjoy this popular port of call on your own terms.
In This Article:
- What Is the Port of San Juan?
- The Top San Juan Shore Excursions
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Final Words
What Is the Port of San Juan?
The Port of San Juan is the main seaport for San Juan – the capital city of Puerto Rico. Not only is the Port of San Juan the city’s main seaport, but it also happens to be one of the busiest ports in the Caribbean. Thanks to Puerto Rico’s close political relationship with the United States, its rich culture, and its natural beauty, many cruise lines will include a stop in San Juan in their Caribbean itineraries.
Another reason for the Port of San Juan’s popularity amongst cruise lines is the fact that the port is equipped to handle a high volume of cruise ships. With five piers and several terminals, embarking and disembarking in San Juan is straightforward. In fact, many cruise ships use the port as their homeport, meaning it is where their itineraries start and end.
As for its popularity as a destination amongst passengers, San Juan offers plenty to get excited about. Not only does the city offer cruise passengers an opportunity to view numerous historical landmarks and other sightseeing opportunities, but San Juan’s beautiful beaches and turquoise waters allow it to cater to more adventurous passengers through various land-based excursions and water sports.
With the natural beauty of the island itself offering the perfect setting for cruise excursions and San Juan’s rich culture making it a memorable place to visit, it has remained a popular tourist destination for decades. This popularity has allowed San Juan to develop countless ways to entertain and enthrall visitors. So, let’s take a look at them!
The Top San Juan Shore Excursions
Most cruise lines will allow you to book San Juan snorkeling excursions ahead of time. Thanks to the tropical waters surrounding San Juan, you can have the opportunity to swim amongst hundreds of different colorful tropical fish.
Not only is booking these types of San Juan shore excursions straightforward, but they are also beginner-friendly. Cruise lines partner with certified instructors and snorkeling shore excursion operators to ensure that everything is safe and enjoyable for passengers.
Even if it is your first time snorkeling, you will be given personalized guidance while you are in the water, as well as detailed instructions ahead of time.
After the excursion has finished, you are often given the opportunity to dry off on a stunning beach and enjoy a meal that was made while you enjoyed the underwater sights.
As with any cruise line-approved excursion, you will also be provided with a safe and timely return to the ship. Prices tend to sit around $100 per participant. Snorkeling excursions are available through Carnival, and local tours are available.
Scuba Diving Experiences
A scuba excursion can be an exciting option for those looking for a more daring encounter with Puerto Rico’s stunning underwater ecosystems.
Depending on your experience level, you and a small class will be put through scuba lessons with a licensed instructor. They will provide a detailed overview of diving safety and equipment before you enter the water. Typically, this occurs at the dive shop so you can be fitted for equipment.
Divers will then be given the opportunity to dive shallow waters with an instructor. While San Juan does offer more intense diving experiences, these are usually not listed as cruise excursions.
That does not mean the Puerto Rico cruise excursions you can book through your cruise line won’t be exciting and memorable. For many, they’re a great opportunity to learn the basics of diving in one of the most stunning locations in the Caribbean.
Remember that these excursions are extremely popular, so they can book up fast. Local tours are available, and prices may vary.
Horseback Riding in the San Juan Countryside
If exploring the waters surrounding San Juan isn’t your thing, scenic horseback riding excursions are a fun and memorable alternative. With most excursions, you will be transported roughly a 30-minute shuttle ride outside the port. Once you arrive at your destination, you will be given a guided safety orientation and an opportunity to meet the horses and explore the ranch and barn.
Once everyone is ready, you will participate in a guided ride across some of the island’s stunning scenery. You will learn about the land and its wildlife from a knowledgeable tour guide. Whether you are new to horseback riding or an experienced rider, this is an excellent opportunity to get a unique and memorable perspective of Puerto Rico.
Most San Juan excursions will include food and beverages upon your return to the ranch and guaranteed timely transportation back to your ship. Like scuba diving excursions, horseback riding excursions in San Juan are extremely popular, so make sure you book ahead of time through your cruise line.
Guided Walking Tours of Old San Juan
For those more interested in culture and historical sites, you do not want to miss out on a guided tour of historic Old San Juan. Most of these excursions involve an informative tour with a knowledgeable local tour guide.
The architecture of the city’s old section dates back to over 400 years ago. You will have the opportunity to walk the city’s narrow, cobblestoned streets and learn about Spanish architecture and the most famous monuments from a fascinating historical perspective.
While in Old San Juan, explore San Cristobal Fort, the largest fortress built in the Americas, built to protect the city from attacks from the east. The fort has three levels and an extensive series of defenses and took more than 150 years to complete.
Most guides are knowledgeable historians and locals passionate about sharing their city and its unique culture with visitors. While you can certainly walk around San Juan by yourself, booking a guided walking excursion will give you fascinating insights and not worry about getting lost.
Given that these Puerto Rico cruise excursions can cost as little as $30, they’re also very affordable. Whether you’re an aspiring photographer or want to get the perfect shot for Instagram, you do not want to miss this opportunity to view the best this fascinating city has to offer. Some walking tours will even include a coffee break, where you will be provided with a coffee made from local beans!
Cooking Lessons and Rum Tasting Experiences
Want to immerse yourself in the unique flavors and dishes of Puerto Rico? Consider booking a cooking lesson, cocktail-making class, or tasting experience.
You will discover the rich and unique flavors of the island’s cuisine and learn how to make a new dish that you can add to your weekly rotation. Puerto Ricans tend to be incredibly proud of their cuisine, so these excursions are ideal for those passionate about cooking and trying new foods.
Most excursions include a multi-course meal, cocktails, and local coffee. Basic tasting excursions cost around $100, but hands-on cooking lessons can cost considerably more, especially one-on-one lessons. To keep things more budget-friendly, we recommend looking into shore excursion group cooking lessons.
San Juan is also known as the Capital of Rum, producing most of the rum consumed in the United States. There are various distillery tours available where you can learn more about the art and tradition of rum making and the stories behind the brands.
Catamaran Rides and Fishing Excursions
For those who would prefer to spend time on the water rather than in it, catamaran rides and fishing trips are great excursion options.
Most catamaran excursions involve a guided tour of the shoreline and an opportunity to swim in shallow and more secluded waters than can be found on the beaches of San Juan. For certain excursions, a lunch on board the ship is also provided to sample some Puerto Rican flavors in a unique setting.
For fishing enthusiasts, fishing excursions involve being taken to quieter waters outside the Port of San Juan. You’ll be provided with instructions and equipment, so you can have the opportunity to fish in a location that is likely very different from what you are used to.
While these excursions can be expensive, they can be delightful. Since you can’t fish off a cruise ship, it’s also an opportunity to scratch that fishing itch while you enjoy your vacation!
Remember to only book through excursion operators that your cruise line works with, as fishing excursions can be pretty lengthy, so you only want to book something where you’ll be guaranteed to make it back in time to board your cruise ship.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do you have to book excursions to see San Juan?
No! Excursions are a great way to enhance the fun and add adventure to your cruise, but San Juan offers plenty to visitors. Old San Juan is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so exploring its famous landmarks can be exciting even without a guided tour.
Calle Fortaleza is a famous street offering numerous boutiques, art galleries, and larger stores. It is an excellent option for anyone who enjoys shopping and collecting souvenirs. You can also spend some time sampling the delicious foods and beverages that are the very heartbeat of San Juan.
Check out the official tourism website for the City of San Juan to discover more options for non-excursion activities!
Should you book San Juan cruise excursions through your cruise line?
Yes, we always recommend booking through your cruise line rather than within the port. While booking this way can be slightly more expensive, it is for a good reason. Your cruise line has vetted these excursion operators, so they know the importance of returning to your ship in time. Plus, they can be trusted because they have all the relevant certifications and safety equipment.
Booking excursions are accessible, as most cruise lines allow you to book ahead online through their own channels or while you are on the ship itself!
San Juan is the ideal port of call for any Caribbean cruise with its rich history, unique culture, and eye-catching natural beauty. Whether you book a San Juan cruise excursion or explore the city for yourself, you don’t want to stay on the ship when you pull into the Port of San Juan!