The Piers and Terminals
in San Juan (Puerto Rico): Cruise Port Review (2022)

Photo of Fortaleza in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

All you must-know about San Juan (Puerto Rico) cruise port terminals: the four piers, embarking and disembarking, and top things to do in nearby Old San Juan.

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The Port of San Juan in the island of Puerto Rico has a good number of highlights appealing to cruise passengers with the most diverse interests.

Historical landmarks, great sightseeing outdoors, beautiful beaches, interesting museums, unforgettable land activities and water sports, excellent duty-free shopping, delicious local flavors, and the stunning Old Town of San Juan are top highlights of this Caribbean Island.

Contents

  1. San Juan port of call
  2. San Juan home port: cruise (dis)embarkation
  3. Where Cruise Ships Dock
  4. The Piers by Old San Juan
  5. Sailing away or Sailing in
  6. What's Close By
  7. What’s Within Walking Distance
  8. Old San Juan Attractions
  9. Shopping and Eating in San Juan
  10. San Juan Basics

With around 500 ships visiting San Juan every year, averaging 2 million cruise passengers passing by, the cruise port is one the most popular destinations in the Caribbean. Interestingly, San Juan Cruise Port is included in itineraries sailing the Eastern and South Caribbean but also some cruising the Western Caribbean.

Photo of Plaza de Armas in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Plaza de Armas in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Photo © IQCruising.com

San Juan port of call

San Juan is both a Port Call and a Homeport, which means that some cruise ships will start and end the cruise in San Juan. Consequently, both Embarkation and Disembarkation are in San Juan.

Photo of Ships Docked in San Juan in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Ships Docked in San Juan in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Photo: Public Domain

However, most cruise ships call at the port for as many as 8 hours, which is enough time to explore most highlights of Puerto Rico. Cruises sailing from Floridian ports may arrive in San Juan around noon and depart late in the evening.

Photo of View of San Juan from Pier 3 in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

View of San Juan from Pier 3 in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Photo © IQCruising.com

San Juan home port: cruise turnaround, (dis)embarkation,

As mentioned above, San Juan is a homeport for a few ships which start and end cruises in Puerto Rico. Cruise tip: when embarking or disembarking in San Juan, cruisers should fly into Puerto Rico on the day before the cruise starts or fly in the morning as early as possible. Not only to have the opportunity to explore at least a bit of the island but also to guarantee that you don't miss your cruise.

Where Cruise Ships Dock

Cruise ships calling at the port of San Juan will dock in one of the three piers right by the historical city of Old San Juan, which is ideal for cruise passengers that enjoy exploring attractions within walking distance or close by. Cruise ships embarking and disembarking passengers in San Juan use two piers (terminals): the Pan American Pier and the Pier 4

Panoramic view of two ships docked at the Pan American cruise terminal in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Pan American terminal is the embarkation or turnaround cruise terminal used by cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line.
Panoramic view of two ships docked at the Pan American cruise terminal in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Pan American pier is the embarkation or turnaround cruise terminal used by cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line.

Photo taken on February 20, 2022 © IQCruising.com

There are also two other terminal buildings (around 1 mile south of the Old Town) in what is known as Pan American Pier, where two cruise ships berth. The Pan American Pier is where most cruise ships embarking and disembarking passengers will dock.

Panoramic Photo of Pier 1 in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Pier 1 in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Photo © IQCruising.com

Because some get confused with the names and location of the piers and cruise terminals in San Juan, these are the piers close to Old San Juan:

  • Pier 1
  • Pier 3
  • Pier 4

And the following are the piers where cruise ships Embark and Disembark passengers:

  • Pier 4
  • Pan America Pier
Panoramic Photo of Pier 4 and Terminal in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Panoramic Pier 4 and Terminal in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Photo © IQCruising.com

The Piers by Old San Juan

The 3 piers right by Old San Juan are perpendicular to the shore and two of them have terminal buildings. A total of 6 cruise ships can dock at these pier/terminals. The exit gates of the piers and terminals are less than 500 feet (150 meters) from the gangway.

Photo of At The  Pier 3 in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

At The Pier 3 in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Photo © IQCruising.com

Once outside the gates, the cruise traveler will be on a 4 lane avenue (Paseo Concepcion de Gracia) along the southern shore of San Juan. The Old Town is right across this avenue.

When you return to the ship, your cruise card and a valid Photo ID will be checked at these gates - make sure you have a photo ID with you.

Pier 1

With a capacity for two ships to moor on each side, Pier 1 has a passenger terminal. This pier is where cruise lines other than the ones belonging to Carnival Corporation or Royal Caribbean will dock. If you are cruising with Norwegian (NCL), Costa, MSC, Disney, among others, this is where your ship docks.

Photo of Pier 1 and Terminal in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Pier 1 and Terminal in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Photo © IQCruising.com

Pier 3

Recently updated, Pier 3 has two berths on each side and is for the almost exclusive use of Royal Caribbean ships. This pier does not have a cruise terminal building and, consequentially, is only used by cruise ships calling at San Juan for the day. Cruise ships embarking (or disembarking) passengers in San Juan on Royal Caribbean (but also Celebrity) will dock at Pan American Pier.

Photo of Ship Docked at Pier 3 in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Ship Docked at Pier 3 in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Photo © IQCruising.com

Pier 4

With two berths for as many cruise ships and a modern terminal, Pier 4 is used exclusively by Carnival Corporation cruise lines. If you are embarking or disembarking a cruise on a Carnival Corporation cruise line, Pier 4 (and its terminal) has a great location.

Photo of Pier 4 and Terminal in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Pier 4 and Terminal in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Photo © IQCruising.com

Sailing away or Sailing in

Sailing into the natural port of San Juan is a delight. If you are an early bird, the morning arrival is a sight to behold. If you are not out and about when arriving in port, make sure to be out on deck when sailing away. Keep in mind that cruise ships arriving around noon will sail after sunset and, therefore, cruising into the port is a must.

Without a doubt, San Juan is a port that cruise passengers should explore, be it on their own or with a shore excursion. Most attractions of Old San Juan are within walking distance from the downtown piers, and cruisers will find more appealing things to do on foot in Old San Juan than onboard.

What's Close By

Cruise passengers on ships docking at the piers in Old San Juan, will find that the major historical landmarks of the town are just around the corner. The best shopping streets are in the Old Town and, likewise, some of the best restaurants.

Cruise passengers on ships docked at the Pan American Pier will most probably be Embarking and/or Disembarking in San Juan Cruise Port. If embarking/disembarking in San Juan, you will not have much time to see highlights and attractions, unless staying overnight before or after the cruise.

If your cruise ship docks at the Pan American Pier for the day, a taxi ride to Old San Juan takes no more than 10 minutes and will cost around $10. However, most cruise lines offer a shuttle to Old San Juan when calling at the Pan American Pier.

What's Within Walking Distance

There isn't much to see within walking distance of the Pan American Pier but there are two hotels that can be convenient for an overnight stay - the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino, and the Hyatt House Hotel. However, do not be fooled by the proximity of the Isla Grande Airport. This small airport only has connections with other small Caribbean islands. This is NOT the international airport with connections with US and International airports.

Old San Juan Attractions

By contrast, when docked at any of the piers by the Old Town, the cruise traveler will have a lot to see and do. Although you will not find a beach or active pursuits within walking distance, all historical landmarks, duty-free shopping, wonderful coffee shops, bars, and restaurants are a stone throw away from the gangway of your cruise ship.

Old San Juan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with famous historical landmarks such as the Fuerte San Felipe del Morro (aka El Morro), the Castillo de San Cristóbal or the Fortaleza. Both "El Morro" and San Cristóbal are part of the San Juan National Historic Site and can be visited with the same entrance ticket ($7.00). Visit the Official National Park Website: www.nps.gov

Photo of El Morro in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

El Morro in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Photo © IQCruising.com

The San Juan Cathedral (Catedral de San Juan) is undoubtedly the most famous religious site to visit. The San Jose Church (Iglesia de San José) is temporary closed for renovation but a must see - keep an eye on our updates. Visit the Official San Jose Church Website: www.iglesiasanjosepr.org

Cruise passengers interested in museums will find that, unfortunately, the Museum of San Juan is currently closed. The Museo de las Américas, Americas' Museum, located on the restored Ballajá Infantry Barracks Building displays an ethnographic panorama of the history and culture of the Americas. Visit the Official Museum Website www.museolasamericas.org

Photo of Ballajá Barracks in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Ballajá Barracks in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Photo © IQCruising.com

Meandering the streets of Old San Juan, the cruise traveler will have the opportunity to contemplate historical buildings of unique beauty, especially in Calle Fortaleza (Street) and Calle San Francisco (Street). Among many landmarks, the City Hall stands out on Plaza de Armas, whilst on Plaza Colón there are a few interesting buildings like the Old Casino, the Teatro Tapia and Castillo de San Cristóbal close by.

Shopping and Eating

Cruise passengers looking for the famous duty-free shops of San Juan, will find that Calle Fortaleza and Calle San Francisco are the two main Shopping Streets of Old San Juan. You will also find a few famous brands like Coach, Tommy Hilfiger, Crocks or Guess on Calle del Cristo.

Photo of Calle del Recinto Sur in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Calle del Recinto Sur in San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Photo © IQCruising.com

As much as you will come across very nice places to have a quick bite or lunch all over Old San Juan, on Calle Recinto Sur you will find a series of pleasant places to eat (or just drink) al fresco.

San Juan Basics at a Glance

 Entry Requirements: Passport is NOT required for U.S. citizens with valid photo ID such as a driver's license. Non-U. S. visitors are required a valid passport.
Language English and Spanish
Currency:US$
ATM's: There are ATM's all over the Old Town and close to the piers.
 Internet Wi-Fi: You will find Free Wi-Fi Internet in many coffee shops in Old San Juan, namely at Starbucks, which is located around 800 feet (250 meters) from the piers.
Phones: Most US phones should work in Puerto Rico but is advisable to check with your provider to avoid roaming charges.  
Post Office:Close to piers on Calle Paseo de Colón.  
Electricity:Standard American 120 V current.
Car Rental:Avis, Hertz, Budget, Thrifty, Dollar.
Driving:Driving is on Right.
Useful: Among others the following countries have consulates in San Juan, Puerto Rico: Austria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
Emergencies:Dial 911
Health Matters: Pharmacies - Hospital
Drinking:Legal drinking age is 18 years.
Smoking:Smoking is prohibited in restaurants and public buildings. Bars may allow smoking outdoors.

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