Cruise ships dock at one of the several piers at the bustling Port of San Juan. Piers one through six are located in the center of Old San Juan at Marina Street, within walking distance of all the major points of interest. The Pan American Pier is located south of Old San Juan on Isla Grande, about a 15-minute taxi ride into the center of town. The Tourism Taxi Program, instituted by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, has simplified the fare structure between the piers and several major attractions in the San Juan area; the prices are consistent and affordable.
The best shopping is found in Old San Juan, particularly on Calle Fortaleza between Calle Cristo and Calle Tanca. Here, savvy shoppers can find excellent deals on brand-name luxury jewelry from guaranteed duty-free stores. Check your Port Shopping Map to find the stores backed by the cruise line guarantee.
Local souvenirs and crafts abound in shops throughout the streets and plazas of Old San Juan. Small wooden religious figurines called santos (saints) are particularly popular, as are caretas, carnival masks made of papier-mâché or coconut; musical instruments; and mundillo, a handmade bobbin lace. El Museo del Mar (the Museum of the Sea) boasts impressive collections of navigation instruments, life preservers, ship models, documents, and more, perfect for history and maritime buffs alike. Founded in 1976, it was originally housed in the port facilities at the entrance to Old San Juan. After the remodeling of piers and buildings, the museum closed and did not reopen again until 2007 on San Francisco Street, thanks to the efforts of Continental Shipping, Inc. president José Octavio Busto.
Be sure to try some Puerto Rican coffee and to pick some up to bring home with you. The nutrient-rich volcanic soil is ideal for growing the beans, and coffee has been produced on the islands for more than 300 years. It’s among Puerto Rico’s most lucrative exports. Look for Alto Grande coffee—one of only three types in the world that belong to the prestigious superpremium class.
Since Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, the US dollar is the official currency, although locals sometimes refer to the dollar as the peso. And remember that American citizens don’t pay duty on items brought back to the United States.