If you’re planning a trip from San Juan to Vieques, you know that you’ll probably have to go to the ferry in Ceiba, Puerto Rico. You probably also know that it’s not exactly easy to get there. It’s not really hard either – it just takes some planning. One of the worst parts of the trip is the cost. But we’ve figured out how to cut that expense by at least 70% and still get to Vieques in roughly the same amount of time.
Here’s how to get from San Juan to Vieques without emptying your wallet.
Suggested itinerary: We’ve put together a 3-day Vieques trip that helps you make the most of the short time you have on the island.
Where is the Vieques Ferry terminal?
When you’re looking at a map of Puerto Rico, as I was, it looks like it’s not all that far to drive from San Juan to the Vieques ferry. I tend to look at maps and completely misjudge the distance. Ceiba is actually quite far from San Juan – about 70 kilometers (44 miles).
And when you’re in rush hour traffic, it’s not surprising that it can take about 90 minutes to get there.
From San Juan to Vieques – short version
This post is quite long because later, I provide a few caveats and a little more explanation that some people will need to read. But maybe you don’t. So here’s the Cliff Notes version:
To get from Old San Juan to the Vieques Ferry Terminal:
- Take Metro bus T-9 to the intersection of Avenida Barbosa and Avenida Jose De Diego ($1 and 30-40 minutes)
- Cross the street and turn right (west) onto Calle Arzuaga
- Walk straight on Calle Arzuaga for 5 minutes to Terminal de Carros Públicos de Este, a large parking garage with sky-blue painted accents.
- Inside the garage, find a van going to the Ceiba ferry. You might have to wait, but not long. It should be $20 or less per person.
- Drive approximately 90 minutes or less to the ferry.
- Buy a ferry ticket for $2.00.
- Go to Vieques.
And now, the long version…
Expensive ways to get to the Vieques ferry
There are a couple of ways most people take to get to the Vieques ferry terminal – and neither are cheap. We were going to do one of these options because they do seem easier. But we discovered that the cost just wasn’t justifiable. And, in the end, they really weren’t that much easier. They are taking a taxi or using Uber.
(If you want to ditch cars altogether, you can fly to Vieques. It’s not as expensive as you might think.)
Take Uber to the ferry
While in San Juan, we stayed in the old part of the city. That’s where most people opt to stay when they visit the Puerto Rico capital. This is a screenshot from my Uber app. It’s the price for a ride from San Juan to the Vieques ferry terminal.
$82.00! And that’s the price for non-tippers! Add 10-15% to that price for a total of well over $90. We did see the price as low as $73. But even that’s quite expensive.
Taxi to Vieques Ferry terminal
If $75-$85 already bothers you, then don’t read any further. If it doesn’t, then you’ll enjoy adding another $50 – at least – to that price.
A taxi from Old San Juan to the Vieques Ferry Terminal in Ceiba is probably going to cost at least $120 and as high as $190 – depending on the time of day. And maybe you’re OK with that because you’re not on a budget and a few extra dollars doesn’t really matter that much. We’ve been there and spent the money too.
If you have it to spare, add that money to the local economy. They’ll appreciate it!
These prices are awful! Just fly to Vieques
This is really the most convenient way to get to Vieques from San Juan. And except for the way we did the trip (below), it’s also the cheapest, believe it or not!
You can fly to Vieques from either San Juan Airport or Isla Grande. If you’re flying into San Juan and heading right to Vieques, probably the best option is to connect right from there. It’ll add about $150 to your trip if you can find the right connection.
If you’re already in San Juan and want to tack on a round-trip flight to Vieques, it’s easiest to go from Isla Grande, which is fairly close to Old San Juan. We found tickets for $85 each way.
Each of these options will get you to the ferry terminal (or directly to Vieques if you fly) quite easily and perhaps even a little more quickly than the option we took. But it’s not that much quicker. And in any case, you’re going to have to wait for the ferry anyway, so waiting while driving a little longer is just fine.
San Juan to Vieques for only $23
If you have 30-40 more minutes in your day – let’s say an extra hour to round it out and account for traffic – here’s how you can get all the way from San Juan to Vieques for just $23. It involves:
- A little bit of public transportation – $1
- A publico (van) – $20
- The ferry – $2
Doesn’t $23 sound a heck of a lot better than $75-$150? Yeah. Thought so.
San Juan to the Vieques ferry for cheap
If you’re already in Old San Juan, which you probably are, you’ll need to find the metro bus. You’ll want to get on Route T9. We suggest finding a San Juan transit map and using it. We always like using the Moov It app.
Here’s the T9 route at MoovIt.
See the last stop at the bottom before the bus makes a sharp turn west? That’s the stop you want to get off at. It’ll take you 20-30 minutes to get there from Old San Juan.
Next, you have about a 5-minute walk. Your goal is to get to the Terminal de Carros Públicos de Este. That’s just a short walk up Calle Arzuaga. Here’s the map from your bus stop:
The terminal is a large parking garage with an exterior that’s accented in baby blue paint. Inside the parking garage, you’ll see several vans and mini-buses. Find one that’s going to the Ceiba ferry terminal. If you cannot find it yourself, ask around. Everyone knows enough English to help you find the right van.
Cost and time
Schedule: Publicos from San Juan to Vieques’s ferry terminal really don’t have a set schedule. Similar to colectivos in South America, they leave when they have enough passengers to make it economically viable. Generally, they leave within a reasonable amount of time. Our van left with just three people and picked up a few more along the way.
Cost: We paid $20 each for our ride from San Juan to the Vieques Ferry. We think (but we’re not 100% sure) that it would have been even cheaper if we left at a time when there were more passengers. We’ve heard you can get the ride for as cheap as $10. But we got it for $20, so we think you can count on that as a high-end.
Note: The public transit buses in San Juan look like regular city buses and cost 75 cents each – coins only. Don’t try to give the driver a paper bill. You won’t get on.
Sometimes, other buses come by as well. They look like minibuses and are $1 each (paper is fine). You can often get on these. Just be sure to ask the driver if he is going to stop near the Terminal de Carros Públicos de Este.
Before taking the ferry to Vieques
There are a few things we didn’t know before we took the ferry to Vieques that could have easily ruined our trip. Fortunately, none of them interfered with our trip and our journey went off without a hitch. But it really would have royally annoyed us off if we got all the way to the ferry and found out we couldn’t go.
Please read these before you even start making your plans.
Rough seas might mean no ferry
This very nearly happened. We arrived at the ferry terminal at 11:50 am believing that the ferry left at 1:00 pm – and that there would be two more at 4:30 and 7:30.
That didn’t happen. The later ferries were canceled because of rough seas. Not only that, but there would be no ferries returning to Ceiba that day.
In other words, if we planned to go to Vieques and come back that night, our trip would have been ruined. As it happens, we were going to Vieques for 4 days, so the fact that this was a one-way trip didn’t matter to us. It’s what we wanted anyway. But I bet it ruined several other people’s day.
Check the weather and call ahead. They can never guarantee anything, but at least get the best information you spend the money and time to go all the way to Ceiba.
Weekends and holidays are busy
A lot of people head from San Juan to Vieques on the weekend as Vieques is a great getaway from the main island. A lot of tourists make the trip to visit some of the many beaches on Vieques.
If you’re going on a weekend or holiday, check the Vieques ferry schedule and then buy your ticket in advance. If you get to the ferry terminal and there’s no room for you, you don’t get on. Keep in mind that they only make 20% of the ferry tickets available online. So if you get to the site and they don’t have tickets, that does not mean there are none left. You’ll just be taking a bigger risk.
And while the ticket is still cheap at just $2.00, they do add more than $3.00 in fees to book the ticket online. So if you’re on a super tight budget, that’s an extra piece of information to consider.
Vieques residents always have priority
You’re in line. You got a ticket. You just boarded the boat. The ferry is officially full. There’s no room for anyone else.
You’ve just settled into your seat when suddenly, a ferry employee comes to you and demands you leave the boat to make room for a last-minute passenger. That passenger? A Vieques resident shows up just before the scheduled departure and needs to get on the boat to go home.
I don’t know if they’re that strict with the policy. But yes, residents of the island have priority access to the ferry to Vieques.
Remember, many of the people who live here work on the main island, visit relatives there, or go for medical treatment. The Vieques ferry is their lifeline sometimes. They get priority and rightly so.
Related post: You have several transportation options in Vieques. So, what kind of vehicle should you rent there?
Getting to Puerto Rico from Vieques
OK. We got you from San Juan to Vieques. But what about the other way around? Going from the main island of Puerto Rico can be reasonably cheap if you follow the guidelines above. Getting back isn’t much more expensive. But you have to remember that Ceiba is a lot more isolated and you don’t have many options.
When you exit the ferry, there’ll be several vans and taxis you can choose from. But unlike your trip from San Juan to Ceiba, they know that they are your only option now and will charge more.
Expect to pay about $30 to get from Ceiba to San Juan in a publico (van) and much more in a taxi or Uber (if you can even get an Uber).
Other ways from San Juan to Vieques?
You can spend almost $200 just to get to Vieques. To be honest, we’ve heard many people do and it’s mostly because they don’t know how to get there any other way.
This is the way we chose to do it. If you know of better ways to get from San Juan to the Vieques Ferry terminal, we’d love to hear them. Share them with us!
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Michael is originally from Canada but now resides in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Halef, who also writes here. He is a Couchsurfing expert. Michael has traveled to over 50 countries learning how to experience more for less as he travels.
Thank you so much! Very helpful! I love how you explained both expensive and cheaper versions.
That’s awesome. So glad it was helpful!
so how do you get from San Juan Airport to Isla Grande airport?
be really careful counting on the buses. buses don’t run on time or don’t come at all. the locals i talked to say they are used to it. i decided to uber to the collectivo garage ($6.50) after waiting 45 minutes for a bus that never showed. got to the garage and there was only one other person trying to get a ride somewhere i wasn’t going. ended up paying $40 for me and $40 for my daughter and we were the only ones on the mini school bus to Ceiba ferry. Would’ve only been $115 for an uber straight from the hotel to the ferry. so i guess i saved $25 and the driver drove on the shoulder of the road a lot to cut the line at the stop lights which was hilarious. have myself 3 hours to do the trip and made it to the ferry landing twenty minutes before the ferry left. just made it. this was a monday. it was fun to try the local route but i don’t recommend it
Are these instructions and services still valid? Thank you. Jim
Thank you so much for d detailed infos.
I took the T9 to the garage. Waiting here now, actually, but there’s so few passengers that the doors are shut. I asked the 2-4 drivers here who are going in the general direction of Ceiba, but the lowest anyone is willing to take is $70 cash. I never travel with a lot of cash on me, so I have to take Uber which is ~$50 direct to the terminal from here. Might’ve been about $70 straight from the airport now that I think about it?
Traveling from Old San Juan to Vieques 02/02/2022:
1. Taking an Uber to the Terminal de Carros Públicos de Este is the easiest way to get there and the one I recommend. My Uber was $11 USD and it was for a 6AM pick up.
2. The Terminal de Carros Públicos de Este is closed due to the pandemic and I was told by a local boricua that they closed many of the bus terminals. However, some vans are still operating, but they are not many and they don’t do many trips. Therefore, you’ll need to be there around 6:30AM to catch the earlier van. These vans are usually for people going to work, so they leave early in the morning.
Once you are at the bus terminal, you just need to wait outside the terminal and the vans will stop in front, you need to flag them down and ask them if they can take you to Ceiba or somewhere closer to take another van to get to Ceiba.
Apparently, at this moment there are only two options to get to Ceiba:
1. You can wait for a white van that travels from Rio Grande to Rio Piedras (bus terminal where you get picked up). The owner goes by Sordo (deaf) and you can negotiate with him if he can take you to Ceiba directly, he charged us (2 people) $30 USD.
If he can’t take you to Ceiba directly, you can go to Rio Grande and from there you can take another van to Ceiba. I’m told once in Rio Grande you’ll have many vans that can take you to Ceiba.
2. There’s another van that arrives around 8AM, I’m not sure if the van can take you closer to Ceiba, but this is another option.
Things to know:
– the vans wait for no one, we arrived 30 mins earlier (6:30AM) and we had no problem catching the van.
– they only take cash and coins, no credit cards or venmo
– the vans are for people going to work so be respectful when you are riding
-the ride seems somewhat informal, but you still need to wear your mask
– if you don’t know the area, I advise to seat closer to the driver so you can ask him any questions and to make sure he stops when you need to stop. There’s no button that you press and it makes the van stop, you need to let them know ahead of time when you need to stop
Hi! Did you use a similar method to get back to San Juan? I’m a little nervous about getting a van on the return trip.
We did. When you get back to the ferry terminal, there are lots of vans waiting for you. You can negotiate.