From a huge sea-facing fortress, to the colour-splashed old quarter, the Puerto Rican capital is choc-full of colonial character. Explore the narrow streets, and you’ll lose count of the number of jazzy murals and tucked-away squares along the way. It all culminates in a maze-like peninsula beside the Caribbean Sea, which has long sandy beaches stretching down one side, and a smart harbourfront promenade lining up bars and restaurants on the other.
- The city’s most-striking landmark, Castillo San Felipe del Morro, has stood firm on San Juan’s headland for centuries. The fortress was built by the Spanish to protect the port from enemy ships, and was also used as a US military base prior to the First World War.
- Old San Juan is a charming mix of open-air cafés, column-front plazas and brightly coloured townhouses. Many consider this to be the real heart of San Juan, and it certainly has an old-school charm that you won’t find elsewhere.
- Plaza las Americas takes care of the demand for modern retail therapy. It’s the biggest mall in the Caribbean, and you’ll find it right in the middle of San Juan. Among the 300 stores is the world’s largest JC Penney, plus a cinema and a restaurant area.
SHORE EXCURSIONS► View all EXCURSIONS
The Fortress tour►
Puerto Rico is home to two important fortresses, and you’ll visit both of them on this walking tour. They were built by the Spanish to protect San Juan from the many countries who have tried to claim Puerto Rico for themselves. You’ll start with a short guided stroll to the marble-paved Colon Square, where a huge statue of Christopher Columbus perches on top of a fountain. From here, you’ll move on to Fort San Cristobal. This 16th-century fortress sits on the waterfront at the city’s entrance. Head inside to get a feel for its sheer size, before continuing your journey along Calle Norzagaray – the street that runs between Fort San Cristobal and Fort San Felipe. As you walk past the pastel-coloured houses, you’ll have panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean until you reach San Felipe del Morro Fortress. You can take an hour to explore the citadel, which played a part in the Spanish-American war in the late 19th century. Before you head back to the ship, your guide will take you to Cristo’s Chapel. This tiny church sits on top of the old city walls.
Old San Juan walking tour►
On this walking tour, a local guide will make sure you cover off all of San Juan old town’s best sights. You’ll enter the old town through San Juan Gate and head straight to La Rogativa Monument, an iconic bronze statue on the waterfront. From here, you’ll have panoramic views of the bay, but you’ll get even better pictures from Fort San Felipe del Morro, which is up next. This 16th-century Spanish fortress was designed to guard the entrance to the bay. Nowadays, it’s a World Heritage Site and you can have a look round its interior before moving on to Plaza del Quinto Centenario – a modern square that commemorates the history of the island. Your guide will then take you to a few religious sites, including the San Jose Church, the San Juan Cathedral and Cristo’s Chapel – they’re all built in different styles, so you can see how architecture in Puerto Rico has progressed through the years. At the end of the tour, your guide will walk you back to the ship.