The Port of San Juan is the largest and busiest cruise port in the Caribbean. San Juan is the third busiest cruise port in the world accommodating nearly 1.4 million passengers annually in cruise ship travel alone. The Old San Juan terminal at Calle Marina is located in the heart of Old San Juan and within walking distance to most of the town's main tourist attractions. The Pan American terminal, which is across the bay just south of Old San Juan, is a little further away and docks the largest cruise ships.
Old San Juan is an island by itself, connected to the main island by two bridges, Dos Hermanos and San Antonio bridges.
Where will your ship dock? There are three major pier areas in San Juan. Old San Juan Piers 1-6; Navy Frontier Pier; and the Pan American Pier across the bay. In general, those ships who are day-porting in San Juan usually dock at Pier 3 or 4 and allow you to walk right out into Old San Juan. Cruise ships that embark/disembark in San Juan will use either Pier 4 or the Pan American Pier. The short distance between the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport and the Pan American cruise ship dock is 7 miles and makes the area a prime location for cruise companies whose passengers must fly in. Usually, RCCL and Celebrity utilize the Pan American Pier and Princess and Carnival utilize Pier 4. Rarely, the Navy Frontier Pier is used.
A taxi will cost you around $14-$16 from Pan American Pier to Old San Juan.
NOTE: FORT CLOSING HOURS
San Cristobal & San Felipe del Morro Forts
December to May 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
June to November 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Ships do frequently dock early. If you are off your ship before 4 pm, head to the fort first and leave the other activities until later. Also, it's a little more difficult to get to the fort before closing if your ship embarks/debarks at Pan Am.
For more information about the piers in San Juan and ships arrival schedule please visit the website below:
Cruise ships lined up at Old San Juan Piers
You'll find plenty of craft and T-shirt shops (particularly along Fortaleza
and San Francisco Streets). Calle del Cristo, Calle San Jose and Calle
Fortaleza are the streets for serious shopping. Calle del Cristo, in
particular, is chock-full of art galleries, artisan studios and distinctive
boutiques. The further you walk away from the cruise pier, the more
interesting the shops and restaurants get.
One great street for window shopping (if not buying) is Calle Cristo; highlights include Manolo Diaz (99 Calle Cristo), an artisan who has interesting sculptures made from used objects. He works in his shop on crafts using cast-off objects -- old mirrors, wooden shutters, antique windows and even pocket-sized religious icons. Prices start at $15 for one-of-a-kind pieces.
Located just one block from the La Fortaleza (the Governor's Mansion), Barrachina, Inc. is the largest and oldest store of its kind in Puerto Rico. Barrachina has over 10,000 square feet of retail space dedicated to the sale of fine jewelry, fragrances, gifts, liquor, souvenirs, paintings, sculptures, ceramics, serigraphs, lithographs, and hand carved santos. Open Monday through Saturday, 9 am - 6 pm.
A unique store featuring a gallery, restaurant, gift shop, and antique shop is Butterfly People. Hundreds of butterflies literally flutter across the walls of the gallery. These unique displays of beautiful arrangements of preserved butterflies, the work of artist Attenaire Purington, are for sale. Prices range from 20 to thousands of dollars. Open Monday through Saturday.
With balconies and flower boxes spilling over with blossoms and the wonderfully colored facades and doors of Old San Juan so unique and plentiful, it is no wonder that inspired artists make small replicas for display. And it is no wonder that the most popular souvenir is a framed collage of brightly colored doors and flowers of Old San Juan. These are available, along with other wonderful island artifacts such as santos (representations of Catholic saints) and papier-mâché carnival masks from Ponce that are said to chase away evil spirits, at Puerto Rican Arts & Crafts at 204 Calle Fortaleza Street, which is on the ground floor of a 200 year old Colonial building.
Tip: Take your own photos of San Juan doors with your camera and make your own beautiful framed collage when you get home.
One caveat: the stores in Old San Juan will be open after 5:00 p.m. ONLY if there are 4 cruise ships docked in port. Stores that have a contract with the cruise ship companies are opened. It is unpredictable to know the amount of the ships on a specific date, but Puerto Rican artisans will still be selling their crafts at several plazas within walking distance from Pier One to Six. The majority of restaurants and bars are closed from Sunday to Tuesday.
A sales tax of 7% was implemented in San Juan on August 1, 2007.