If you’ve ever taken a cruise to the Caribbean, there’s a pretty good chance you stopped in Puerto Rico. A major port of call, many of the cruise lines stop in San Juan to let passengers explore this colorful city. In fact, the island has seen a 135% increase in visits by cruise ship passengers in the last two years. So, if you’re Caribbean-bound, take a look at six can’t-miss family activities whether you have a few hours or a full day (or more) in historic San Juan, Puerto Rico.
1. Explore the San Juan National Historic Site. It’s a must to pay a visit to the old forts in San Juan, including Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristobal. Take a self-guided tour or enjoy a 20-minute ranger talk. Be sure to stop in the Discovery Center on weekdays for hands-on activities and ask about the Little Masons program, which teaches children how to apply stucco the way early masons did.
2. Take a Segway Tour. Enjoy a 45-minute guided tour around Old San Juan as a family with Segway Tours of Puerto Rico. It’s a great way to see much of the historic city and local landmarks, like La Casa Estrecha (The Narrow House) and La Fortaleza, the governor’s mansion. There is also a two-hour guided Segway tour, which makes extra stops and includes the entrance fee to Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
3. Walk the Streets of Colonial Neighborhoods. Walk the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan’s pastel colonial neighborhoods. Best done in the morning, key stops include Plaza de Colon, which features a statue of Christopher Columbus and Iglesia de San Jose, the second oldest church in the western hemisphere. Be sure to take lots of pictures of the sherbet-colored homes and businesses.
4. Try Mofongo. It’s a must to try the local cuisine, such as mofongo, a fried plantain dish, while in San Juan. Or, try out a variety of signature dishes on the Old San Juan Food Tour with Flavors of San Juan Food & Culture Tours. It’s a great way to introduce your kids to the flavors of Puerto Rico as they taste mofongos, arroz y habichuelas (rice and beans) and tostones (salted fried plantains). Yumm-o.
5. Fly a Kite at El Morro. Opposite Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro) in the Plaza del Quinto Centenario, you’ll find several vendors selling kites. Kite flying is popular at El Morro given the huge open area just outside the fortress. When we visited a few years ago, we must have seen at least a dozen kites in the sky. Be sure to also pick up some shaved ice at the Plaza, especially on warm days.
6. Wander Paseo de La Princesa. Take a stroll along Paseo de la Princesa, a tree-lined promenade that takes you along the city walls to the San Juan gate. On weekends, look for local artisans, musicians and fruit vendor carts. The views of San Juan Bay are fabulous. Your kids will also enjoy taking in Raices Fountain, which is quite lovely at sunset.
Photo Credit: James Willamor