We recently went on a southern Caribbean cruise out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Upon our return to San Juan, we had a few hours to burn between disembarking the ship and heading to the airport. If you have an upcoming cruise with a short layover in San Juan, here’s how you can explore the beautiful, colonial architecture and cobbled streets of this charming city in just two hours!
What to do with your luggage
First thing, take a taxi straight to Barrachina Restaurant in Old San Juan where luggage storage is offered from 9am-5pm for cruise passengers with later flights. You can safely stash your luggage for the cost of a tip.
Start with a Piña Colada
Barrachina is the birthplace of the piña colada, where in 1963, Don Ramon Portas Mignot created this delightful, tropical drink, and let me tell you, you’ll never have one as good as here! While you’re at Barrachina, enjoy some fresh seafood in the beautiful, open-air and plant-filled courtyard.
Explore Fortaleza Street and the surrounding area
After you’ve ditched your luggage and downed a libation and a meal, head over to colorful Calle Fortaleza (Fortress Street), just a block away, where you’ll see sorbet-colored houses, galleries, and shops lining the narrow, cobbled street. This is truly a photographers dream!
Next, stroll over to the Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of Saint John the Baptist, one of the oldest buildings in San Juan and the oldest cathedral in the United States. Peer in from the windows to get a glimpse of the stunning interior, or enter the cathedral and see the tomb of explorer Juan Ponce de Leon.
Puerta de San Juan
From there, walk a short distance on San Juan Street to the Puerta de San Juan (San Juan Gate) and learn some interesting history about the city. You’ll walk through the storied gate and see a magnificent view of the Bay of San Juan.
Fortified city walls and Paseo de la Princesa
Then walk along the towering fortified city walls, take in views of San Juan Bay, and enjoy plenty of photo ops. You’ll come to the Paseo de la Princesa, a beautiful, tree-lined promenade with vendors selling goods, musical performances, and plenty of shady spots to sit and people watch.
Most impressive, though, on the Paseo de la Princesa, is the magnificent Raíces Fountain—a collection of bronze statues honoring Puerto Rico’s mixed African, Spanish and Taino/Amerindian heritage and known as one of the most romantic spots in San Juan.
We could have spent a week strolling, shopping, photographing, and taking in the rich history and culture of Old San Juan, but in just two hours, we got a delightful taste of one of the most beautiful cities in the Americas. We will certainly return—and next time, it’ll be for more than two hours!
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