We visited San Juan on our September, 2002 sail on Paradise. The cruise director had informed us that it was an easy walk for able-bodied people up to the fort. However, it was an extremely hot day, and we were very hot after just a few steps from the ship. The street was full of independent tour guides seeking willing tourists. A young man named Javier approached us, seemed trustworthy, had a nice looking 22-passenger van with at least 6 people already on it. He promised a tour of the city, a tour of the Bacardi Rum Distillery with at least 2 drinks each, and then drop-off in the shopping area. (Others were promising the Rain Forest and other such stops, so just look for one offering what you want to see. You can also work out other arrangements like a swim and ride back to the ship instead of shopping – just ask!) The cost was only $20 each. Beware though – they don’t leave until their vehicles are full!
The tour was wonderful. In addition to seeing the forts and other points of interest, Javier also told us about the history, demographics, political and economic information about San Juan. We really enjoyed the visit to Bacardi, picked up some nice shirts there, and enjoyed trying a variety of mixed drinks (very small). However, we didn’t buy any liquor there, as it was less expensive and we could buy more duty-free in St. Thomas.
Javier dropped us off at the Barachino Village, where the Pina Colada was invented, so, of course, we had to drop in there for a Pina Colada and some appetizers since we had missed lunch. We visited a few shops. Right across the street from Barachino was Gems and Pearls. I wasn’t interested in any of their jewelry, but they had some lovely pieces of artwork, and Roger negotiated a lovely piece of the Don Quixote collection for me. (We have a special affection for Don Quixote because of our Marriage Encounter connections!) At another store, we got postcards, t-shirts and souvenirs for home. Then we had an easy downhill stroll to the ship.
We had planned to eat dinner at the Parrot Café this evening, and Javier, who had previously worked there as a bartender, had suggested we dress nicely for the evening meal there, so we were returning to the ship to change. But clouds rolled in with lightning during our return to the ship, so we decided to stay aboard for dinner! But, we still had time for sushi and drinks before dinner!
If you'd like to contact him ahead of time to set up a tour with him, here's the contact information he gave us then, I don't know if it's still good. His name is Javier Lomba, 30 something, and a licensed tour guide. He has a 12-passenger a/c van, and his father-in-law has a 22-passenger a/c van. When they're gathering people at random, they tell you where they're going for the day. But, if you have a group, you can call him ahead of time to reserve one of these vans and tell him what all you want to do for a set price! We paid $20 per person. His cell # is 787-630-2437 and his email address is
. I'm certain most of the other tour guides you could find on the street would give you a great tour as well.
Hope you have a great cruise!
Post Edited (07-17-04 13:00)