Love this port. So pretty! Again, not a shopping destination though you will find shops here. We went on a catamaran to go snorkeling and loved every minute of it. Best fish and sea creature viewing this cruise! This is a great location for picture taking as there are many small land outcroppings offshore that make nice frames for the sailboats and cats plying the waters. Be sure to visit Nelson's Dockyard, which provides a true nautical flavor with shops and restaurants set against the backdrop of the remaining pillars and stonework of the original dockyard.
Old San Juan with its blue-cobble stone streets and interesting mix of shops and restaurants never disappoints. We like San Juan Artisans for local arts and crafts, Cafe del Nispero, El Convento and bargain shopping at outlets like Coach and Ralph Lauren. Arts and crafts shops are great, but don't overlook the street sellers near the pier. You can find some wonderful, hand made items and meet the artists. First timers, be sure tovisit El Morro for great views and pictures. You can probably skip the tour of the rum factory. We like finding neighborhood spots for a drink or quick meal of local favorites. During the Christmas holiday streets gain more charm with lights and seasonal decorations. If your ship docks at the bottom of Old San Juan,it's an easy walk to Calle Forteleza. From there just explore -- enjoy the architecture and the charm of flowers spilling over balconies even in December! Keep in mind that you need to walk a block beyond the blocklike casinos, hotels, and condos now fronting the pier to get to the charming part. And if you are not a shopper there are several local museums near El Convento that are well worth visiting.
Thanks to years of concerted economic development this port has dockside shopping just steps from the ship, but it's also a pleasant walk into the main town with its seaside restaurants and shops (all on the Dutch side). The main shopping street offers jewelry, perfumes, clothing, and souvenirs as well as a part shop/part museum called That Yoda Guy, which unfortunately was closed when we visited. This venue is run by a guy who did a lot of the props for Star Wars.
Got a great deal on perfume at Vanity First on Front Street -- 15% off for cash and 10% for credit cards for a price that was lower than we found in the US. It's best to check the prices at all the shops selling things you are interested in. Prices and discounts can vary quite a bit. Our "must do list" here includes getting fried conch and beer but we added a new stop at the Italian gelateria for scoops of gelato enjoyed under a striped awning that sends down poofs of mist -- more refreshing than air conditioning -- and much appreciated on a hot day!
Best beach in our opinion is Orient Beach. You'll need to take a cab to get there.
To explain the "4" rating further -- we had no problems with the boat or the crew. Both were great. But the snorkeling stop at Buck Island was rather disappointing in terms of items spotted. The crew did their best, free diving to unearth non-toxic sea urchins and other critters for us to look at, but we've noted that there just don't seem to be many fish to see here from a past excursion with similar results. This 3-hour tour left time to shop in Havensight, but not enough time to go downtown (which we prefer). You'll see many of the same shops downtown as you do at Havensight, but you get the added bonus of cool architecture, interesting little alleys, and a more lively vibe.
The port here offers some shopping but it is not a shopping destination like some others. We did a catamaran tour here and loved it. After the tour we had time for lunch and then took a walk into the town. The main street is filled with local shops and churches. We went to shop at Sunny Caribbee -- sort of the Harry and David of the Caribbean. You can find great teas and coffees, spices and sauces and wonderful local art, note cards, and trinkets. I got some mango tea sachets, and bottles of spices sporting cute little straw hats. Anything in this store would make a great gift for friends or yourself!