Wheelchair Accessibility in Paradise:
St. Juan-Part 3



My wife and I recently took a cruise to the Caribbean. Each port offered exciting and beautiful adventures. Follow our journey in this three-part series called Wheelchair Accessibility in Paradise.   

San Juan was stop #3 for us on the cruise. It was an amazing port to visit. San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital and largest city, sits on the island's Atlantic coast. Its beachfront views make it an ideal tourist destination and its historic military nature is vastly appealing to the history buff in me. Old San Juan features colorful Spanish colonial buildings, blue cobblestone streets and 16th-century landmarks  

The massive fortresses of El Morro and La Fortaleza have sweeping ocean views, fortified cannon emplacements and formidable sheer cliffs. The main fort itself is fairly accessible given its age (circa 1529). The gangway ramp entering the gate is steep and doable in power chairs, but may be a rough uphill trek via manual chairs 

One things to note is the sidewalks are narrow and steep, but the ramps are all painted blue and easily spotted. However, many are cracked, but usable with caution. The restaurants are fantastic. The portions are massive, so be prepared to eat. And if you like piña coladas, Barrachinas is your place.   

One lesson we learned was to avoid May 1, as this is Workers Day,” a holiday where many businesses are closed in order for people to lobby for higher wages. However, we saw more protests and traffic jams than lobbying (note the pictures of riot cops in paradise).   

While law enforcement speaks English, their sense of direction is a bit different than mine, so be prepared to venture out! Old San Juan is only a 15 minute stroll from the docks. Just remember to go left! Street vendors are centrally located, but none were overly pushy. But if you see a guy selling donuts out of the back of his black pickup, buy them... theyre so worth it.  

Tips to seeing San Juan:  

  • Drink lots of water. It’s easy to misjudge the heat. 
  • Bring sunscreen. The sun can be rough. 
  • Remember to have a hat and sunglasses. 
  • Fully charge those cellphone and wheelchair batteries. 
  • Check with guest services for port maps 
  • Pre-book accessible tours; they fill up fast. 
  • Lots of places are going to clear bag policies. Remember everyone can see in that bag now. 
  • Ask for ramps. Many places have them if theyre not already affixed to the building. 
  • Enjoy every moment!! 

Wondering how to pack for a trip? Read Jenny’s advice in Wheelchair Must-Haves for Traveling 


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