Stop Over in San Juan

“Have you ever sailed into San Juan?” “No, but we’ve chartered in the Virgin Islands” is the response I often receive...
Author:
Updated:
Original:


Photo by Neil Rabinowitz

“Have you ever sailed into San Juan?”

“No, but we’ve chartered in the Virgin Islands” is the response I often receive. Whether you own your own boat or charter, you’ll find Puerto Rico’s capital city is easy to get to and worth a visit.

GETTING THERE

From St. Thomas, San Juan is a long daysail; from the British Virgin Islands, it’s three quick hops, with stopovers at St. Thomas, Culebra, and Fajardo, Puerto Rico. There are also charter boats available from Fajardo (visit sailcaribe.com), located on the island’s eastern end.

Approaching from the Virgins, you’ll skirt north of La Cordillera, an underwater mountain range, and run parallel to the famous San Juan Trench. At 5.2 miles deep, it’s the deepest point in the Atlantic and offers amazing marlin fishing in-season.

Once you reach Puerto Rico, continue westward until you see heaven-bound jets from San Juan International Airport emerge from behind Isla Verde’s beachfront resorts. Eventually, the beaches of luxurious Condado yield to a rocky coastline, topped with stone walls that form the fortified perimeter of Old San Juan. Colonial Spaniards built major forts in Havana, Cartegena, Veracruz and Portobello as well, but I’d argue that the forts of San Juan are the most dramatic and best preserved. Don’t miss exploring them on foot.

Before your approach, watch the forecasts for swell height and signs of adverse weather. We entered San Juan Harbor in February and again in November, and both times found the entrance to be well marked and safe. Upon arrival, follow the buoys until the harbor finger dead-ends at two marinas: Club Nautico de San Juan (CNSJ) and San Juan Marina. You can also anchor or pick up a mooring on the 20ft shelf located on the south side.

Slipping into CNSJ, the bilingual staff is pleasant and professional. Fuel, WiFi, a chandlery, a beautiful clubhouse and the convenient location make this an ideal home base during your San Juan exploration.

STAYING THERE

Once you’re settled in CNSJ, head ashore and explore San Juan in every direction. A five-minute walk southeast leads to a grocery store, restaurants and movie theater, all situated alongside the lush gardens of the modern Puerto Rico Convention Center.

To the northwest, a sidewalk extends along a commercial waterfront road all the way to Old San Juan—10 minutes by bicycle or 25 minutes by foot. Alternatively, a shady promenade through Muñoz Municipal Park parallels the road and offers splendid landscapes and sculptures set to the sound of crashing waves. A block north of Muñoz Park, take your pick of two tranquil beaches.

In Old San Juan, you’ll find 16th and 17th-century buildings muscled up against modern hotels and sparkling new waterfront construction, including the Bahia Urbana City Park and restaurant.

To the east, take your kayak or stand-up paddleboard to Condado Lagoon, where Playito Condado offers an excellent beach and snorkeling destination. On your journey there, watch for manatees and migratory birds.

Last but not least, walk east across Highway 26 into the peppy community of Condado, where Las Vegas gambling meets So-Cal cool. Just beyond Condado, the wave action of Ocean Park creates a fantastic beach life all year round.

Slipping into San Juan is a convenient way to explore Puerto Rico’s diverse and heritage-rich capital city, with its combination of ocean breeze, waving pines, colorful buildings and friendly faces.

LEAVING THERE

Sailing west from San Juan, you won’t find good shelter until you are all the way around to the southwestern area of Boquerón with the Marina Pescaderia, new in 2011. Traveling north, depths plummet across the San Juan Trench, and it’s a significant sail to the next good anchorage. Sailing east, it’s a full-day schlep against wind, swells and current, with a lee shore to boot. But after a solid six-hour motorsail, you’ll turn to starboard and reach into Fajardo or continue east to Culebra, a lovely stop in the Spanish Virgin Islands.

Ellen Birrell lives and writes aboard the 40ft sloop

Boldly Go in the Caribbean. She recently e-published

Sailing Down Grenada Way, the first in a series titled Bold Shorts

Related

BoatTalk-2048

VIDEO: Sailing Not just for Millionaires

Sailing and boating can come with a hefty price tag, but there are plenty of ways to get on the water without breaking the bank. In this episode of Boat Talk, SAIL's managing editor Lydia Mullan and Power & Motor Yacht's executive editor Charlie Levine share tips on getting out ...read more

Cornell-2048x

Elcano Challenge Resurrected

In late 2020, sailing legend Jimmy Cornell set off on his Elcano Challenge, a green-powered circumnavigation aboard the custom Outremer Aventura Zero. Unfortunately, shortly after setting out, the boat encountered major power-generation issues. "I took the decision to turn ...read more

F8V-BOOK-for-SAIL---1

Book Review: The Figure 8 Voyage

“What is the color of the ocean that rolls beneath Pacific trades? How does a wave curl and crash at 47 degrees south? Can an albatross remain awing in the worst of weathers?” Randall Reeves has always found images to be the most compelling part of the stories we tell about the ...read more

AC210117cb_23806

VIDEO: Capsize in the Prada Cup

American Magic's Patriot capsized during day three of the Prada Cup. If you haven't yet watched the catastrophe unfold with your own eyes, check out the above video or any number of others that are circulating on social media. It's truly a tip that has to be seen to be believed. ...read more

210115-AC36

Prada Cup: Brits Take First Two Races

Who saw that coming? After getting skunked in December, INEOS Team UK has swept the first two races in the Prada Cup elimination series of the 36th America’s Cup  Racing took place on racecourse “C,” sheltered between Auckland’s North Head and Bastion Point to take advantage of ...read more

ac-2048x

Hutchinson: 36th America’s Cup will be a Close On

On the eve of the Prada Cup challenger series, the official start of the 36th America’s Cup, New York Yacht Club American Magic skipper Terry Hutchinson says it’s anyone’s game. "As we've seen in the last week, everyone's gotten faster," said Hutchinson said at the event’s ...read more

Episode1_Thumbnail4_00000_00000_00000_00000

Sailing Docuseries Released Online

Endless Media's Reaching Reality is the story of three friends, a 24-foot sailboat and 1,200 miles. With candor and humor, this series proves that you don't need to be an expert or a millionaire to cast off on the journey of a lifetime. Produced by Emmy-award winner Barry ...read more

01-LEAD-nder-sail-3

Prepping for a Transatlantic

Growing up on the coast of northern England, I dreamed about crossing oceans on my own boat. Like most of us, though, education, a family and a career took precedence, and before I knew it, we had mortgages, young children and endless work obligations. We also became landlocked, ...read more