Wednesday,  May 22, 2019  1:06 pm

3 things to do in Old San Juan during your Puerto Rico cruise

3 things to do in Old San Juan during your Puerto Rico cruise
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch:

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico's colourful old town is literally right in front of the San Juan Cruise Port Terminal.

Once your clients disembark, there are all kinds of things they can get up to—the heart of the island is a 10-minute walk from the port. Whether they've got a full day, or only a few hours in destination, here are three things that your clients need to see in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico before climbing back on board.

READ MORE: How to sell Puerto Rico to your cruise customers

1) Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Despite popular opinion, Puerto Rico is not the land of the hit song Despacito—though it is played, a lot, in restaurants, bars, and by Uber drivers.

Puerto Rico, Old San Juan in particular, is packed with history, and Castillo San Felipe del Morro is one of the best examples. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fortress was built in the 16th century as a means to defend Puerto Rico from its enemies by controlling entry into the harbour. Bring your walking shoes—this is a real fort, and its strategic design includes narrow chambers, steep staircases, underground tunnels, and look-out points. Admission is $7 USD, but your ticket is also good for a visit to Puerto Rico's second fortress, Castillo San Cristóbal.

Pro tip: Want the best Instagram shot? Climb to the top level, facing the Atlantic. There, you're able to see the community of La Perla (yes, this is where Despacito was filmed), with its rainbow homes and an incredible view of the Atlantic Ocean.

2) La Perla barrio

Visitors to Old San Juan who walk along Calle del Morro will notice an historic stone wall, separating the community of La Perla, down below. The rest of Old San Juan and its modern restaurants, bars, and tourist attractions is elevated. The contrast is hard to miss, but it's something that was done intentionally.

Back in the day, La Perla was intended to house non-white servants and former slaves. It also houses the Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery (which is hard to miss from San Felipe del Morro), and the community was intended to keep these individuals, as well as the cemetery, away from the main city. 

Though La Perla is quite beautiful in its own right, tourists are cautioned about entering the area, due to high crime rates. But, you can still enjoy the views from above the city's old walls, but if taking photos, approach subjects with respect.

3) Check out the street art

Old San Juan is full of graffiti, but not just haphazard tags—there are tons of amazing murals done up all throughout the city. Make sure you pay attention to small side streets and doorways, because some of the best artwork can be found here. The Puerto Rican flag is often painted on many doors throughout Old San Juan, and they make for a great photo opportunity.

Street art is a huge part of Old San Juan's cultural scene, and there are many projects devoted to supporting the work of local artists, including the  Santurce Es Ley street art festival, which aims to use art as a medium to drive social change through imagery.

For more great things to do in Old San Juan, visit Discover Puerto Rico.

All photos by Christine Hogg for PAX Global Media.