Getting Around in Puerto Rico Overview
Are you planning an upcoming trip and have been researching getting around in Puerto Rico? There are many ways to travel around the island. The best mode of transport depends on where you will be staying, your budget, and what you plan to do while visiting.
For travelers staying in San Juan, the best way to get around would be Uber, taxis, public transportation, and tourism companies because you will avoid traffic, tolls, parking fees, and finding parking in the city. If you venture outside San Juan, you will want to rent a car.
Renting a car from a big-name company is your most expensive option, but there are other ways to get a vehicle to explore the island. I will share my secret tips and expert advice so that transportation is the least of your worries on your upcoming trip!
This article contains all the information you need to know about getting around in Puerto Rico.
Getting Around in Puerto Rico Driving
Rental cars are a safe bet and are always available at many car rental companies in and around the airport. However, you will still want to rent your car ahead of time, especially during the high season when inventory can be low.
One benefit of a car rental is that you will choose a well-known company you trust. In addition, if you travel frequently, you most likely have benefits through a credit card or company to lower the costs of the care rental.
Typically cars from car rental companies are reliable and in good condition, and assistance is available if something goes wrong during your trip. You also can go anywhere on the island and explore as much as you’d like. Also, it is essential to note that while the ferry to Vieques and Culebra allows cars, most rental company contracts prohibit you from doing so. Therefore, always read the fine print and know what is permitted and what is not.
On the other hand, this is the most expensive option, and the cost adds up once you include fees, insurance, and additional charges. You can even risk an upcharge at the airport.
Carsharing is similar to car rentals because you rent cars, but instead of renting from a company, you rent directly from the car owner. Turo is a well-known company with a good reputation based in the US that now operates in Puerto Rico. Aqui Coqui is a local Puerto Rican company with stellar reviews that works the same way as Turo, and by using them, you support a local veteran-owned business.
I like car sharing because it is easy and much more affordable than renting from a traditional car rental company. However, before handing over your money, read many reviews and understand the terms of service so that you know what you are liable for and under what conditions.
Getting Around in Puerto Rico via Rideshares & Taxis
Uber and taxis are the best way to get around San Juan. However, suppose you stay outside of the metropolitan area. In that case, you will want to find more reliable transportation because Uber is limited, and taxis can be hard to find.
Taxis may be available in bigger cities and more popular tourist areas such as Fajardo, Aguadilla, Mayaguez, Rincon, Ponce, and Caguas but having a rental car makes it much easier to get around areas of Puerto Rico outside of San Juan.
Uber is my favorite way to get around San Juan. It is an excellent option if you want an inexpensive, convenient way to travel around the city. Using Uber helps you void the cost of a car, and I have found it to be very affordable.
I also like not needing to worry about finding parking in the busy areas of the city or dealing with traffic. Even if you rent a car, I always suggest using Uber in Old San Juan and Santurce for these reasons. It also helps to have an on-call designated driver for nights out after a few mojitos!
I wrote an Uber in Puerto Rico guide where you can learn everything you need to know about using the ride-sharing app on the island.
Taxis are a convenient alternative to Uber. However, the prices are competitive with Uber, and the best way to compare these prices is through the Uber app.
When you log into the Uber app and go to choose a ride, if you scroll to the bottom, you will see taxis listed under the “more” heading. They are typically a similar price to an UberX. You can request a car through the app and compare the prices between Uber and taxis.
Getting Around in Puerto Rico via Tourist Companies
Private transportation companies will arrange travel between destinations for tourists. For example, a popular route is from San Juan to the Ceiba Ferry Terminal for a trip to Vieques/Culebra.
These companies will drop you off and pick you up from where you need to go. In addition, most will offer private and shared rides. The shared rides will typically cost less, but you will sacrifice the luxury of a private car and driver. Private rides are also usually custom to your itinerary and needs.
Here are some top-rated transportation companies on the island include:
Luquillo Taxi– Clean cars with great rates between San Juan and the eastern part of the island (Fajardo, Rio Grande, Luquillo, Ceiba)
GO Puerto Rico Shuttle– Offers custom private transportation throughout the island and shared rides to/from the SJU airport to hotels
When you book a group or private tour, most operators will offer transportation to/from hotels in San Juan. Sometimes this will be included in your tour price or provided as an add-on option at an additional cost. Ask about transportation to/from your tour ahead of time so you can arrange it if necessary. Please do not assume it is included!
These tours will allow you to see and explore sights outside of where you are staying without the need to rent a car. So if you know what sights you want to see and are not interested in exploring more, this may be the best option!
Chinchorreo Party Bus
Chinchorreos are a favorite past time in Puerto Rico. Chinchorros are laid-back kiosks and restaurants serving traditional Puerto Rican foods, good drinks, and music (usually live). On the weekends, Puerto Ricans hop between chinchorros: spending the day eating, day-drinking, and dancing.
Because of the party atmosphere and drinking that is involved, companies have begun shuttling groups on chinchorreo party buses.
If you are interested in responsibly exploring this fun adult activity and like a local, check out a chinchorro bus!
Getting Around in Puerto Rico via Public Transportation
While the Tren Urbano is farther from most tourist areas, it is cheap, quick, and convenient to get around the suburban neighborhoods it serves. The train runs on one rail, starting in Bayamon and ending in San Juan, close to Universidad del Sagrado Corazon, not too far from Santurce. The ride from the first stop to the last takes about a half hour.
The Tren Urbano can be a great way to travel if you visit Bayamon, Guaynabo, Rio Piedras, or Hato Rey. Fares are low; they cost only $1.50 and include a bus transfer! You can purchase a fare card when you arrive at any train station. The train runs from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
The Tren Urbano is the only rail service throughout Puerto Rico.
Like the Tren Urbano, buses are a convenient way to get around the metropolitan area. Unfortunately, public buses do not currently service the rest of the island.
The buses take you a bit farther than the train and serve 24 routes through San Juan, Carolina, Cataño, Guaynabo, Bayamón, Loiza, Levittown, and Trujillo Alto (as of December 2022). In addition, a ride on the bus costs only 75¢, so it is much cheaper than the train fare.
If you are interested in bus service, the best place to get updated information and plan travel is the Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses. You can find the most updated schedule and info on their website.
Publicos are a way to get between towns throughout Puerto Rico but are less convenient since there is no set schedule, and they may take a while to arrive and depart. The publicos cost much less than a rental car or taxi.
They will wait until they fill up to leave for the next stop, which can take a while since most can hold up to 12 passengers. Therefore, using Publicos can become inconvenient and a waste of time for a vacation.
These buses or vans make stops at plazas in most towns and usually run between a couple of town plazas.
Getting Around Puerto Rico via Air
Cape Air, operated by JetBlue, currently offers direct flights from San Juan to Mayaguez, Vieques, and Culebra (December 2022). Each flight takes around 30 minutes. Private chartered flights are also available for a premium price.
Getting to the West Coast via Air Considerations
If you do not fly to Mayaguez from San Juan, you will likely use a rental car. Renting a car may cost more than the flight there, but having a car will help you get around the west coast since public transportation is limited. Unless you are staying in Mayaguez and getting around via taxi or meeting people you know, you may want a car.
Also, getting to Mayaguez from San Juan will take about 2 hours. If you need to arrive quickly for a meeting or funeral or to handle other urgent matters, you may want to fly.
Getting to the Culebra & Vieques via Air Considerations
If you do not fly to Culebra or Vieques from San Juan, you will need transportation to Ceiba on the island’s East coast to catch the ferry. If you rent a car and plan to stay on either island for more than a day, you will be spending money on a vehicle you are not using since it will be sitting in the ferry parking lot while you are away.
Transportation from San Juan to the Ferry terminal may cost more than $100 per person via a private shuttle/transportation company.
So while the ferry ticket is much cheaper than the plane ticket, the cost and time it takes to reach the ferry terminal may make flying a better option for you.
Ultimately, you should consider your budget, timeline, and preferences when choosing to fly within Puerto Rico or not.
Getting Around in Puerto Rico By Boat
Ferries are available through Puerto Rico Ferry by Hornblower. In the past, ferries were much more inefficient than they are today. Tickets were limited, there was no online booking system, and irregular schedules were hard to come by. Times have changed!
You can now book your ferry tickets and view up-to-date information at PuertoRicoFerry.com
On this site, you can buy ferry tickets between Ceiba and Culebra or Vieques. Routes are also available between San Juan and Cataño. Travel is affordable, quick, and convenient.
Always arrive early at the terminal, especially when traveling to Culebra or Vieques.
For those interested in visiting Culebrita, a small, uninhabited island off the coast of Culebra, there is a water taxi that shuttles travelers to and from Culebra and Culebrita. You can spend the day enjoying the clear waters and travel back to Culebra easily.
Boats can be chartered for a few hours to visit the islands and cays off of Puerto Rico, such as Icacos (close to Fajardo), Cayo Caracoles (close to La Parguera), and Culebrita (close to Culebra).
In addition, you can charter a boat to take you to Vieques and Culebra. This option provides a luxury option since you can customize stops and travel in private.
Getting Around in Puerto Rico on Foot, Bike, & Scooter
You can easily navigate San Juan on foot. Some of the best walkable areas are Old San Juan, Santurce, Miramar, and Condado, along Ashford Avenue.
San Juan is a beautiful city for biking. Most neighborhoods will have cycling paths. There are also cycling trails throughout the island for you to enjoy. Two of the most popular areas to cycle are outside of San Juan, in Loiza and Isabela.
Scooter rentals are available through private companies. But, if you are in San Juan, the easiest option is to use Skootel. Once you download their app, you can locate a scooter near you.
You will see these scooters lining the sidewalks in the metro area for easy and convenient pick-up and drop-off. The app will let you know exactly where to pick up and leave it when you finish, without ever having to interact with a person.
Please note to use this service, you must be 21 (or older than 18 with a parent’s permission) and have a valid driver’s license.
Getting Around in Puerto Rico: FAQ
Which option is best for your trip & when should you rent?
The best option when choosing how to get around Puerto Rico will depend on your budget, where you plan to visit, and what you plan to do.
For a low-key, quick, affordable trip to San Juan, stick with Ubers, scooters, getting around on foot, and buses. Of course, you can still visit sites like El Yunque rainforest with a tour. There may be better options than a rental car if you plan to spend most of your time in the city.
But if you plan to see more of the island and wish to travel outside of the metro area, your best option is a rental car or car-sharing.
Does my GPS/maps app work in Puerto Rico if I drive?
You should check with your local phone carrier to make sure you will have service. Most, if not all, American companies work in Puerto Rico. As long as you have service, you will have no issue using your usual apps for navigation. I always use Google Maps when driving around PR.
If you are traveling to rural or mountainous areas, print your directions in case your phone dies or you lose service.
Getting Around in Puerto Rico: Things to Consider
Things to Consider: Finding Addresses
Addresses may be labeled differently than you are used to at home. For example, it is common to use kilometer markers if you get travel directions from someone.
It would be best if you always trust your GPS. However, if you are not using a GPS, ask for a visual marker like a business, school, or sign along the way.
Things to Consider: Safety
In Puerto Rico, cars drive on the right side of the road. Rules are similar to those of the states. Roads are paved and safe to drive on. However, the streets can be narrow and windy if you travel to the mountains. Therefore, you will want to stay alert and drive with caution.
I have never felt physically unsafe while driving in Puerto Rico. Use the usual precautions you would take when going back home. If an area feels unsafe, trust your instincts and leave. After midnight you can pass through red lights and treat them like stop signs.
Things to Consider: Buying Gas
Gas prices in Puerto Rico are by the liter, not by gallon. So do not be surprised when you see your first gas station with what appears to be incredibly low gas prices. The prices will be comparable to what you pay in your home state.
Wrap-Up: Getting Around in Puerto Rico
In conclusion, you can get around Puerto Rico in many ways. One of my favorite parts of visiting the island is that it is reasonably safe to explore. If you can, get out of San Juan and see what Puerto Rico offers. Take a road trip and see more than just the city. If time is limited, use Ubers, bikes, scooters, and taxis to explore.
Whether by land, air, sea, or foot, you will fall in love with Puerto Rico’s natural beauty, warm people, and charm!