Exploring San Juan: Families, Couples and Solo Cruisers

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When your cruise ship docks in San Juan, you’ll be surrounded by lush green mountains, raging rivers, beautiful beaches and a few thousand other cruisers looking for something to do. The choices are endless and the question comes down to, “What you are interested in doing?”

Whether you’re looking to go on a romantic date with your spouse, entertain your teenagers and young children, or make memories with your girlfriends, it’s possible to find it all in San Juan.

So grab your cruising card and your sunscreen, and check out a few favorite activities and things to do in and around San Juan, Puerto Rico.

For Families With Young Kids

Visit Carolina Children’s Museum

Credit Family Life and Travel

If you’re cruising to San Juan with young children, check out the Carolina Children’s Museum. A trip to the beach can rarely be topped, but this museum offers a great alternative for a rainy day or if your kids have had too much sun.

You’ll find a huge volcano in the middle of the museum that occasionally erupts, a real airplane that can be explored and a special play area for babies and toddlers. This museum offers hours and hours of nonstop, hands-on action with an outdoor mini-zoo, go-karting and paddleboat rides. Outdoor picnic areas offer resting spots near a park and a beautiful nature trail around a mangrove area. The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Museo del Niño Carolina is a 20-minute taxi ride ($35 taxi fare) from the cruise terminals.

For Families With Teens

Go Ziplining at Toro Verde Nature Park

Credit I Tour Puerto Rico

Most teens tend to be hard to please, but often love an adventure. If that describes your crew, then you’ll want to take them zip lining at Toro Verde Nature Park. Teens and adults alike will love soaring 800 feet over the tropical terrain on some of the best zip lines in the world. This eco adventure also has rock climbing, rappelling and suspension bridges available. Most tours include lunch and transportation from the cruise terminals. This excursion can be booked on your own through a private tour operator or with the cruise line.

For Couples

Hike to a Rainforest Lookout Tower

Credit Family Life and Travel

For active couples that enjoy getting out of the city, the El Yunque National Forest offers several beautiful hikes through the jungle. You either need to get a taxi for the 45-minute trip to the park (which would be very pricey) or rent a car at the cruise terminal. You can make reservations ahead of time with Charlie Car Rental or Dollar Rent a Car, which is right across the street from the cruise terminal at Pier 4.  

Once in El Yunque, head to the information center for maps and details regarding the various trails and levels of difficulty. Mt. Britton trail is one of the more popular lookout-tower trails. Once you get to the top you’ll be rewarded; breathtaking 360-degree views span the northeastern mountains and rainforest all the way to the ocean and multiple offshore islands surrounding the east coast of Puerto Rico. La Mina Trail is another beautiful trail that winds around a river, ending at La Mina Falls. You can take a dip in the cool spring water before beginning the hike back.

Relax at Ocean Park Beach

Credit Puerto Rico Tourism Company

If you prefer to just relax and sunbathe on the beach with your partner in crime, consider Ocean Park Beach. This beautiful beach offers a mile of fine gold sand just 15 minutes east of the cruise docks. Bring your beach towel, sunscreen, sunglasses and a good book to read because you are in for an afternoon of R&R.  And with a few restaurants on the beach and several more within walking distance, you won’t go hungry. Mango’s Ocean Park is a local-favorite restaurant just a few blocks away. Sip on amazing mango sangria while you enjoy the island ambiance and occasional live music performances.

For Friends

Island Hop

Credit Family Life and Travel

The best snorkeling in Puerto Rico is actually near the small surrounding islands. Although it may take a little more time, getting to these islands is worth the effort! About an hour’s drive east of San Juan is Villa Marina in Fajardo, where you can take a catamaran tour to the white-sand beaches of Icacos.

While on the tour, enjoy snorkeling along the reefs and spotting colorful fish; sunbathe on the gorgeous beach of the secluded island; or relax in the aqua-blue waters. The second stop is deeper reef snorkeling and varies depending on the live reefs in the area. Snorkeling equipment is included, as is a delicious lunch, soft drinks, unlimited piña coladas and punch. You can book this on your own with Catamaran Getaway or through the cruise line.

Explore a World-Class Bar

Credit La Factoria

A great place for singles to hang out and meet new people is La Factoria, rated one of the top 50 world-class bars by Drinks International. Located in the Old San Juan area, it offers perfectly crafted cocktails, passionate and friendly staff, great live music and delicious food. The rock-star-quality festive and exciting atmosphere makes it perfect for singles who want to chill, have a good time and make new friends. Once inside, ask about the “other” bars within La Factoria. It takes a little exploring, but there is a speakeasy-style wine bar found through a hidden door.

For Solo Cruisers (Or Those Who Want Some Alone Time)

Try Your Luck

Credit Puerto Rico Tourism Company

Head for one of San Juan’s top-notch casinos for plenty of entertainment. Bear in mind that many casinos mandate age limits for entrance. Have fun, and don’t spend all of your money in one place! The Ritz-Carlton has a posh casino that covers two floors and is among the largest in the Caribbean. The usual games are placed in elegant surroundings reminiscent of a 1940s tropical resort. Other casinos in San Juan include El San Juan Hotel & Casino and the InterContinental San Juan. Most are a 10-to-15-minute taxi ride from the cruise docks.

Relax at a Private Resort

Hotel day passes are a great way to relax and really enjoy some peace and quiet time for you. The bad thing is they are mostly based on availability so you’ll need to call the day you arrive in San Juan, which makes it a little tricky for planning. But you can use your cell phone (especially in San Juan) without occurring roaming charges because it’s part of the U.S. Check with the cell phone carrier before hand just to make sure.

Two hotels to consider are Caribe Hilton and the Ritz-Carlton. The day pass will give you access to a hotel room, the private beach and the pool areas from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will cost half of what the room costs. Caribe Hilton has 17-acres of private paradise just for the hotel guests, a secluded beach, restaurants and is situated just outside of Old San Juan. The casual yet elegant hotel, that is the Ritz-Carlton, is located on a 2-mile stretch of soft Caribbean sand with a breathtaking swimming pool that overlooks the ocean and just about everything you need for a day to yourself.

For Older Adults

Discover Paseo de La Princesa

Credit Family Life and Travel

This easy historic stroll through the outskirts of Old San Juan takes you past landmarks of this city’s storied past. The walkway dates back to 1853 and has been beautifully restored, making it a favorite of locals and visitors at both day and night. It begins near the walls that once served to protect the city. These walls are nearly 20 feet thick and up to 60 feet tall in places. Paseo de La Princesa offers delicious Puerto Rican food, rich culture and fascinating history, and the views of San Juan Bay are absolutely stunning. Finish your walk by exiting through the San Juan Gate into the heart of Old San Juan.

To start this self-guided tour from the cruise terminals, hop into a cab for a short ride or make the 10-minute walk. The actual name of the street you want to start at is Paseo de La Princesa Calle Shurmburg, but the locals call it Paseo de La Princesa.

Discover the Most Popular Attractions in San Juan

Credit Family Life and Travel

The grand El Morro and Castillo San Cristobal fortresses are the top visitor attractions in San Juan. Separated by a one-mile ocean-view walk, you can easily tour both forts in one day. There are also free trolleys from one fort to the other if you are feeling fatigued from all the walking.

El Morro is a 16th-century Spanish fort that has been carefully preserved and sits atop a high point, offering views of the entrance to San Juan Bay. San Cristobal was built in the 17th century to protect the land entrance to the walled-in city of Old San Juan, yet it too has breathtaking ocean views. Enjoy peeking through cannons and walking in the sentry boxes where soldiers stood guard. Both forts can be explored either on your own or with a ranger tour guide.


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