3 Great Port Day Cruise Excursions in Puerto Rico
Inspiration on what to do during your cruise ship’s port of call in San Juan.
A bevy of cruise lines include a stop in San Juan on their Caribbean itineraries. Several of them—Disney Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Viking Ocean Cruises and others— depart and end in San Juan, as well.
Time in port may vary, but is generally from five to eight hours, providing passengers ample time to explore Puerto Rico’s lures. Here are a few cruise excursion ideas for your Puerto Rico port of call, how long to plan for them and helpful tips.
1. Historical Tours
The oldest city in the U.S. and its territories, Old San Juan is replete with historical gems and a convenient cruise excursion in Puerto Rico. It’s home to the first Spanish fortification, La Fortaleza (designated both a San Juan National Historic Site and UNESCO World Heritage site). Constructed between 1533 and 1540, La Fortaleza is the oldest governor’s mansion in the Western Hemisphere. The site includes San Felipe del Morro (El Morro), bastions, powder houses and old city walls. Your entrance receipt also gets you into San Juan’s other notable fortress, San Cristóbal (and vice versa).
We also recommend spending time at Casa Blanca Museum, built by Puerto Rico’s first governor, Juan Ponce de León. The governor died before he could move in, but his family occupied the home for 250 years. A tour reveals a glimpse of the life of modern Puerto Rico’s founding family.
Other San Juan landmarks to add to your tour: The Capitol, San Juan Cemetery, The Narrow House and the Church of San José.
Length of time: Up to four hours
Excursion tips: Wear comfortable clothes/shoes and sunscreen. Also, bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated. Break up your tour with lunch at Sophia’s Old San Juan or El Jibarito.
Check out our article Walk Through Puerto Rico’s History in Old San Juan, a self-guided tour of historic Old San Juan.
2. El Yunque
A visit to this 28,000-acre natural wonderland is a bucket-list experience for many. It’s no wonder. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System, situated about 45 minutes south of San Juan on the slopes of the Luquillo Mountains. Hundreds of native plant species and almost 200 kinds of wildlife live in this thriving ecosystem, including the coqui frog and one of the planet’s most endangered birds, the Puerto Rican parrot.
If you’re doing an El Yunque cruise excursion on your own, visit when it opens at 7:30am. Most tour groups arrive between 9am and 10am, which should provide plenty of time to enjoy it in relative solitude.
Length of time: Up to four hours for a half-day tour. Longer tours can take 6–12 hours.
Excursion tips: To manage visitor capacity, reservations are now required. You can purchase tickets up to 30 days prior to your visit at Recreation.gov. Bring a rain poncho and wear comfortable, waterproof shoes. Also, pack food and water (unless you’re with a group tour that covers meals and beverages). Don’t forget your sunscreen and bug spray!
3. Beach Excursions
Convenient to the cruise pier and a quick taxi ride from downtown, Condado Beach and Isla Verde Beach are popular options for cruise passengers. These bustling beaches provide easy access to high-rise hotels, restaurants and shopping, as well as water sports vendors.
Further afield, Luquillo Beach is considered one of Puerto Rico’s best public beaches. Calm waters make for ideal swimming, kayaking and other activities. It’s also near El Yunque, so some tour operators offer a full-day beach/rainforest excursion. For a longer port of call, consider a relaxing catamaran cruise and snorkeling tour to the remote Icacos Cay or Vieques.
Length of time: Beach excursion times vary on proximity to cruise port and how long you plan to spend at the beach.
Excursion tips: If you plan to swim, wear reef-safe sunscreen. Don’t forget a towel, snorkeling gear, snacks and water (unless provided by the tour operator).
Need more Puerto Rico beach inspiration? Read 10 Best Beaches in Puerto Rico for more ideas.
More tips when planning your Puerto Rico cruise excursion:
- Pay attention to your excursion’s departure location. If it doesn’t leave from San Juan, you’ll need to arrange transportation on your own (and factor in the extra travel time).
- Gratuities for your tour guides usually aren’t included. Consider a tip of 15 percent (or more). Your local guides work hard to show you a great time!
- Does your cruise begin and end in San Juan? Extend your Puerto Rico visit with a pre- or post-cruise stay. You’ll have more time to explore the island.