The capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan is the largest hub for tourism and home to more than 2 million people. Founded in 1521 by Juan Ponce de León, the area was discovered by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States and thus, the US dollar is used throughout the region.
San Juan is split into distinctive areas. Old San Juan is the original 16th century Spanish-colonial site, built within walls and cobblestoned streets. The new areas of San Juan include residential districts, business and financial districts and family friendly beaches. Despite a five-century age gap, the two regions of San Juan complement each other beautifully. It also allows for visitors to sample a little of everything the city has to offer.
Spanish is the predominant language in San Juan, although many people also speak English. The dining, nightlife and hospitality is comparable to any metropolitan city, so it is little surprise San Juan is the most popular destination for travellers to Puerto Rico.
Cruise ships arriving into San Juan dock at Puerto de San Juan (Port of San Juan) on the edge of San Juan Bay (Bahia de San Juan). It is a 10-minute walk from the port to most Old San Juan attractions.
Puerto de San Juan is the largest and busiest cruise port in the Caribbean, accommodating up to seven different ships at one time. Available facilities depend on which pier is available for your ship to dock at.
How To Get Around
Taxis and tour buses are available from the end of the port area. The port’s close proximity to the city means passengers can explore shops and dining areas nearby on foot, or arrange for tours of the nearby attractions. There is also a tourist information kiosk outside of Pier 1.
Public transport outside on the main areas of San Juan is limited, although taxis and a free trolley can transport you from the cruise ship terminal to the city centre or tourist attractions. Maps for the free trolley route are available from the terminal.
Rental cars, bicycles and camper vans are available for hire. There are many different tour options for seeing the coastlines, rainforest or city areas. Because San Juan is a small area, many visitors choose to explore the attractions on foot.
Travel times from the port:
It is a 12 minute journey to Parque de las Palomas (Pigeon Park)
It is a 14 minute journey to the Cathedral of San Juan.
It is a 48 minute journey to Luquillo Beach
It is a 37 minute journey to El Yunque National Rainforest.
Currency – The local currency in San Juan is the United States Dollar (USD). Coins come in 1¢, 2¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢ and 50¢ denominations, whilst notes come in $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations.
Time Zone – San Juan observes Atlantic Standard Time (AST), which is 4 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
Weather – A tropical climate means the average temperature of San Juan hovers between 25 and 28 degrees Celsius. Highest temperatures are during the northern summer, with temperatures consistently high for up to 70 days.
Cathedral of San Juan – The second-oldest cathedral in the Western Hemisphere, construction began on the Cathedral of San Juan in 1521. Having been destroyed, rebuilt and damaged again by hurricanes, the cathedral has had many restorations over the years. The medieval architecture has been retained where possible and is a must-see in the area.
Parque de las Palomas (Pigeon Park) – Aptly named, the Parque de las Palomas overlooks the main harbor and provides a wonderful view of both the city and the sea. Visitors can purchase bags of food to feed the local pigeons or browse the local art gallery, which is inside the restored La Princesa Jail.
Luquillo Beach – This popular beach is the place to go if you want to experience a great mix of locals and tourists. Take advantage of the different water sports equipment that is available for hire, then refuel with snacks from the food stands that line the edge of the beach.
El Yunque National Rainforest – El Yunque is the only tropical forest that is a United States National Forest as well. El Yunque is filled with waterfalls, native flora and birdlife. The majority of trails are paved, although much of the rainforest can be explored without strenuous walking.