San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico, a US territory in the Caribbean, and a major port of call for many cruise ship lines. A stop at this lush island, the only official tropical rainforest in the US National Forest System, offers easy access to fun shore excursion adventures.
Castillo San Felipe Del Morro
As you sail into San Juan harbor, this imposing stone fort from the 16th Century demands that you rush to the port (left) side of the ship with camera snapping. Rich with tales of silver and gold laden ships, pirates, and other intrigue, this castle once protected the island. Tunnels and dungeons add to the mystery; so a tour of this iconic structure is highly recommended.
Old San Juan
Step off the ship and stroll right into the Old San Juan area (on your way to El Morro Fort). With 400 years of history, you’ll see cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, monuments, and cathedrals. To explore at your own pace, you can find walking tours with local guides (always super interesting to hear their stories), or ride a double-decker ‘Hop On, Hop Off’ bus throughout the city.
El Yunque National Rainforest
No trip to Puerto Rico would be complete without a tour of the only US nationally designated tropical rainforest. The definition of paradise would likely include a picture of this area of the island. Lush vegetation, mountains, indigenous wildlife including 349 avian species (bring your binoculars), and warm-spray waterfalls surround your every step.
Choose a tour in an air-conditioned van with a guide. This way, travelers of all abilities can enjoy the landscape. Your stops should include time at La Mina Waterfall and/or La Coca Falls. For the athletically inclined, the hike is worth it!
Be sure to stop at the Yocahu Observation Tower to look over the island from ‘the sky.’ On a clear day, you might even see St. Thomas across the azure water.
For the daring, fly through the canopy on one of the many available Zip Line adventures. There are several companies offering this heart-pounding fun; and all equipment and instructions are included.
Reefs, fishes, and underwater worlds
Each port of call on your Caribbean cruise will have opportunities for snorkeling and scuba. Also, there are accommodations for all skill levels from rank beginner to expert for each of these activities. In San Juan, consider a couple of unique variations for underwater fun – helmet diving and snuba diving.
Just like the old-timey undersea movies, you can wear a modern version of a diving helmet and literally walk amongst the beauty of the underwater tropics. I would highly recommend this adventure to folks of all ages and abilities. It requires no training; is perfectly safe; and is the most ‘comfortable’ way to enjoy a dive.
Snuba is a hybrid of (you guessed it) snorkeling and scuba. At depths of 15 to 20 feet, you can experience the best of underwater life without the cumbersome tanks and extensive training of a full scuba dive. And, you get to swim into the environment – a more immersive dive than snorkeling. Those who have snuba-ed (is that a word yet?!), say it’s the perfect adventure for beginners.
These are some of the most popular highlights for your Caribbean cruise shore excursions in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Angela is a professional freelance travel writer and published indie author – AngelaMinor.com