One day in San Juan in Puerto Rico

In December we spent one day in San Juan in Puerto Rico during one of our unforgettable stopovers while taking a cruise. To be frank, one day is not long enough to see the city and its suburbs – it’s better to either stay in San Juan longer, or to continue traveling elsewhere.

san juan city

We knew we only had 8 hours to see the island, thus we came up with three alternatives. We could stay in San Juan and walk around, go on a sightseeing tour, and finally, get to spend an hour on the city beach snorkeling.

We also could take a boat going passed the city and across the bay to a beach that looks like paradise.

puerto rico cruise

Lastly, we could potentially rent a car and travel across the eastern part of the island.

Our final decision depended on when the cruise arrived. Once we stopped, we would be able to choose the best option.

san juan port

The ship was 30 minutes late, so we only had 7 hours left. We had to figure out if we’d have enough time for the boat or car, or if it would be better and save time to go with the first plan of just walking around the city.

san juan streets

If this is your first time in Puerto Rico, your cruise has just begun, and you don’t have a long time, then I would recommend not straying too far from the ship. Being late for departure is not the best outcome.

san juan fortress

San Juan is a rather small city. Nevertheless, 7 hours is probably a reasonable amount of time for the tour, since there are few places of interest.

The city was decorated with Christmas tinsel and Santa Clauses, which were surrounded by tourists from four cruise ships docked at the large port.

san juan mar

The first place that newly arrived tourists visit is usually one of the fortresses. Upon entering, you will be given two tickets to visit two fortresses for 5 US dollars. To be honest, they look so much alike that you hardly need to visit them both, unless you are an exceptional admirer of naval architecture. San Juan boasts a nice cathedral and green squares scattered over the peninsula.

san juan sea

However, the most “attractive” part of the city is the main street in the shopping district. You will definitely be amazed by the quantity and wide selection of wares, ranging from Alexandrite jewelry to a large variety of Ron. We are not big shoppers, so we simply skipped this part of city tour and moved on to the beach.

san juan street

Situated just 40 minutes away from the city center, the public beach does not have white sand or clear blue water, but it’s nice and secluded and the snorkeling is pretty good. We even met some divers who assured us that Puerto Rico is definitely the right place to do. And we had no reason to doubt them – there were small colorful fish swarming right at the seashore.  

There was one thing in San Juan we were astonished by – such a strong connection with the US, as if Puerto Rico was a newly formed state and not just a commonwealth. US flags, cultural centers, the currency, and the language – everything resembles the mainland. The city atmosphere is similar to that of Miami – Spanglish, tourists and crowded streets.

On my next visit, I would opt to go to Mona Island, the local Galapagos Islands, or rent a car and and drive all around the island. Indeed, the prices for the latter remain at the USA level that is extremely affordable.

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