On my cruise in August I have a rather long layover in San Juan (about 15 hours). I do not want to pay for one expensive shore excursion after another. Also, I will be by myself unless I find someone who wants to "hang" with me here. Please offer any suggestions for some moderately priced things to do here. Thanks!
Have you considered taking an excursion to the El Yunque Rain Forrest. It's located about 30 miles east of San Juanand administered by the U.S. Forrest Service. I took this tour when I also had a long wait until my flight home at 4PM. We were the first to disembark the ship at 8AM.
Once we cleared Customs at the dock our luggage was taken to the airport and we only had to carry our carry-on luggage during the day. We traveled in a mini-bus. The tour started with a tour of Old San Juan, then a 45 minute visit to an old fort, then off to El Yuque. If you haven't been to a rain forrest this is well worth seeing.
You can also take a walk around Old San Juan, and head up to El MOrro, great old fort and a beautiful sight once you get inside, lots of history. They will provide maps of Old San Juan before you get off the ship, so thats a possibility, also some decent shopping along the way. There is a couple dollar charge to get into the fort, but worth it in my opinion.
After touring the city and shopping I would find a beautiful hotel and hang out at the pool. I would also have lunch or dinner at the hotel. The workers will think you are staying at the hotel. That is what I would do.
I hear the El Convento Hotel is very nice and a lot of Americans stay there pre and post cruises. You could hang out there too.
There is a free trolley bus that runs around old San Juan. Look for yellow circular signs with a picture of a trolley that say, "Parada". The busses run to all the sights in old San Juan You might even meet someone from your cruise on board. I quite literally found them by accident when I was there in March.
I agree w/the trolley idea, and Pamda's idea to walk around. Old San Juan is easy to navigate, quite picturesque and pretty safe during the day. You might also meet some other tourists who want to go in on a cab ride or something. I would NOT go El Yunque. I have been by car, and though it's interesting enough, it will take a lot of time up that you could be using better. Some good things to do: just walk around. Go the forts. The views from them are terrific! Go to The Butterfly Store (next to McDonald's); there is a little plaza - I've forgotten the name, but I bet Pamda knows- where gobs of pigeons congregate. Sounds gross but it's so cool! And there are pretty trees, a great view down the bluff to the water, etc. You can walk to it. There is a very good Cuban/Puerto Rican AUTHENTIC & cheap restaurant called Ziglo Vente or something like that (near the bottom of the st. that Butterfly Store is on, I think - has a TINY doorway but is big inside) where you can get great Cuban Sandwiches and Spanish bean soup, etc. A nice break from walking, shopping and so forth. Another great place to eat is called, of all things, Metropol. There are 2 that I know of. One is over near the hotel zone by Isla Verde and you could ask about the other one. Might need a cab but this food is GREAT! (I used to live in Tampa, FL and love this type of food.) Lots of Americans know about it. Don't worry. If you don't know what to order, the waiter will TELL you what you want! Ha! Prices are very moderate and the atmosphere is very nice. You will need to take a cab.There is also a hotel you might just want to visit: El San Juan. I think the Wyndam may own it, and I think the area it's in is called the Condado. It's worth it just to walk around inside and look at it. It has a casino, lovely cocktail bar and lobby, plus other unique rooms and good floor shows. Quite beautiful. I have heard you can pay to use their pool. You could actually probably mosey right out there, maybe grab lunch on their terrace and ease yourself right onto the public beach that runs all the way down past many more hotels, & catch a cab out front later. We only spendt3 days in San Juan before a cruise, but made it to Luquillo Beach; checked out El Conquistador; went to El Yunque and generally had the BEST time in San Juan. We had a car, though, so I guess you'll have to narrow it down w/only l5 hrs.! Have a great time!
Wow! Thanks Frank, Donna, Kenny, Tom, mlb, and Pamda. Your information has really helped to put my mind at ease. I'm printing it all and putting it with my travel docs. Your information will help me do a variety of activities that I otherwise would not have known about. San Juan sounds like it has it all - history, sightseeing, shopping, restaurants, resorts, etc. Gracias!
I'd like to suggest an incredible restaurant in old San Juan. It is called "Baru." It is one of the finest "Tapas'" restaurants in the world. You will love the restaurant, the food, and the service. The friendly waiters will treat you well as a single. Order two or three things. The portions are small so you can try a few different treats.