Because Puerto Rico is such a small island, its domestic air transportation system is basic. Daily flights connect San Juan with Mayagüez on the mainland, and with the offshore islands of Culebra and Vieques.
Antonio Rivera Rodríguez Airport (Vieques Airport) Vieques Air Link and Air Flamenco connect Vieques with Culebra and either Isla Grande or Luis Muñoz Marín airports in San Juan.
Eugenia María de Hostos Airport (Mayagüez Airport) Cape Air Fly several times daily between here and San Juan's Luis Muñoz Marín airport.
Bicycles should be considered a recreational, rather than practical, form of transportation for all but the most ambitious of travelers. Cycling hasn’t traditionally been a popular means of getting around the island and the bad road conditions make this unlikely to change soon.
The hazards of cycling in Puerto Rico include nightmare traffic, dangerous drivers and a general lack of awareness about cyclists' needs. Most natives simply aren’t used to seeing touring bikes on the road. Never cycle after dark. For further advice contact the Puerto Rican Cycling Federation.
You can usually rent a bike in tourist areas.
All of the island’s major resorts have marinas where you can charter yachts or powerboats, either with a crew or ‘bareboat.’ Crewed boats come with a skipper and crew, and you don’t need any prior sailing experience. With bareboat charters, you can rent the boat and be your own skipper.
Some charter companies:
Public ferries link Fajardo with Culebra and Vieques.
Despite the occasional hazards of operating a car in Puerto Rico, driving is currently the most convenient way to get around the countryside, see small towns, cross sprawling suburbs and explore wide, open spaces. In fact, most Puerto Ricans like to travel by car wherever possible, and only get out to use their own two feet when wheels really won't get them any further. Like it or not, if you want to see anything of the island you'll pretty much have to drive: public transport is about as poor as it gets, and cycling on certain roads, the Ruta Panorámica included, is deemed too dangerous.
Any valid driver’s license can be used to rent and operate a car or scooter in Puerto Rico. If you stay longer than 90 days, residency laws require you to get a Puerto Rican license.
Fuel & Spare Parts
Major oil companies maintain gas stations across the island, which generally stay open until about 7pm (later around major highways). Don’t let your tank go dry, though, because the next station could be a long way up the road. In rural areas, stations may close on Sunday.
Liability insurance is required in Puerto Rico, as in most US states. Insurance against damage to the car, called Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or Loss Damage Waiver (LDW), is usually optional, but will often require you to pay for the first $100 or $500. Some credit-card companies cover car rentals, so extra coverage may not be needed. Always take some insurance – accidents happen far too easily. Most rental agencies prohibit taking a car to Culebra or Vieques.
Finding parking can be a real problem in San Juan and central Ponce. Do not park at curbs painted red or yellow. Parking fees at the hotels average about $20 per day.
Car-rental rates in San Juan are very competitive; elsewhere, not so much. A car costing $30 or less a day in San Juan will cost $60 or more in smaller cities and on the islands. Some companies prohibit taking rentals from the mainland to Culebra and Vieques.
All of the major international car-rental companies operate on the island, especially at the airport in San Juan. There are also local firms, especially in smaller cities and on the islands.
Car Rental Tips & Tricks
- Booking online in advance can save a lot of money. Try www.kayak.com for a comparative overview of rental rates.
- Some major rental car companies are located several miles from the LMM air terminal. Though most have shuttles, be sure they provide transportation to and from the airport.
- Unlike in the US, many airport-based car-rental agencies are not open 24 hours. If you have a late flight home, you’ll have to arrange to drop off your car early, or pay an expensive ‘airport drop-off fee’, which is only waived in cases where the original office you hired from is closed at the time you return the vehicle.
- Larger companies will accept debit cards, but expect them to put at least a $500 hold on your funds until the car is safely returned.
- If you rent a car from a major airport, it is possible to drop the car off at another location for a small additional fee.
Road Conditions & Hazards
- Puerto Rico's roads are in an abysmal state. Expect bumps, potholes, broken guard rails and worse.
- Puerto Rico has more cars per square mile than any other place on earth – twice as many as Los Angeles County – so expect traffic jams.
- Puerto Rican's driving habits are casual in the extreme; a sure sign of a tourist driver is the use of turn signals. Sudden stops, turns in front of oncoming traffic and other unsafe moves are common. Drivers often ignore stop lights and signs.
- Watch out for island animals – dogs, chickens, horses, pigs – that wander across the roads, particularly in the mountains and on Culebra and Vieques.
- Secondary roads through the mountains are in generally poor condition, with lots of rough surfaces and very narrow passes.
- Police always keep warning lights on. Emergency situations are signaled by a siren.
- Puerto Rico’s best roads are its Expressway toll roads, which include numbers 22 (San Juan–Arecibo), 66 (San Juan–Canóvanas), 52 (San Juan–Ponce) and 53 (Fajardo–Yabucoa). Have correct change, usually 50¢ to $2, ready at toll booths.
- Confusingly, whilst speed is measured here in mph (miles per hour) the road signs measure distance in kilometers.
- Driving rules here are basically the same as they are in the US; traffic proceeds along the right side of the road and moves counterclockwise around traffic circles.
- It is legal to turn right at a red light, except where signs state otherwise.
- It is legal to ignore red lights (if safe to do so) between midnight and 5am.
- Watch for school zones, where the speed limit is 15mph (strictly enforced during school hours).
- Most highway signs employ international symbols, but distances are measured in kilometers, while speed limits are posted in miles per hour.
- Seat belts and motorcycle helmets must be worn; children younger than four years must travel in child safety seats.
Hitchhiking is rare in Puerto Rico and not recommended. Most of the time, you're gawped at in disbelief even for walking a short distance along a road.
San Juan has an efficient bus system and a metro (Tren Urbano), which will eventually expand to cover places like Caguas. Elsewhere services are more casual.
Públicos are essentially public minibuses that run prescribed routes during daylight hours. Traveling via público offers a great local experience, but requires a lot of patience and time. Some públicos make relatively long hauls between places such as San Juan and Ponce or Mayagüez, but most make much shorter trips, providing a link within and between communities.
Comfort Van rides are not especially comfortable, as drivers will try to put as many passengers in one van as possible. Vans can be old, stinky and extremely hot and crowded. Travel can be slow as the driver stops frequently to let people on and off.
Cost Público is by far the most inexpensive way to travel long distances in Puerto Rico. The longest run on the island (about three hours) will not cost more than $15. It depends on the number of passengers, the vehicle and, quite often, the driver.
Destinations The destination will be clearly written in the front window of the van. If you go to an unusual destination, you will likely be stranded for a return trip.
Frequency Públicos will leave when the van is full. In the early morning and evening, when people are going to and from work, the terminals will be most busy. Some públicos, such as the ones that run to popular beaches, may only operate on the weekend.
Schedules For fares and schedules, inquire with locals any place públicos stop. There is no central source of info.
Terminals There will be major público terminals near the center of every midsized or large city. Elsewhere, públicos make their pickups and drop-offs at a van stand on or near a town’s central plaza.
Taxis are available in most of the mid-sized to large cities on the island. Often, flagging a taxi in a public plaza is faster than calling for one. Drivers almost never use meters, so establish the cost before beginning your journey. San Juan is the exception to this: its government-regulated ‘tourist taxis’ have fixed rates.