Taking the ferry to Vieques was by far the most complicated part of planning my Puerto Rico trip. Any info that was out there about taking the ferry was in outdated TripAdvisor forums, or didn’t talk about the whole experience or what to expect.
When you’re running on a tight schedule, trying to plan on little information can be really difficult! Normally, I would just let things happen and not worry about the planning aspect. If it takes forever to get there, then that’s what happens! But this time, I was with my grandma and she can’t rough it like I do. I needed info and an idea of what to expect for her, but it just wasn’t out there.
Lo and behold, here is my step-by-step guide for taking the ferry to Vieques! I’ll try to keep it updated as things change.
1 // Take an Uber to Ceiba Ferry Port
You’re probably going to Vieques from San Juan, in which case you can get an Uber to the Roosevelt Roads Ferry Terminal in Ceiba. The ferry used to also leave from Fajardo, but no longer does. If you see that on other blogs or travel forums, it’s outdated info.
All the ferries leave the main island from Ceiba now. We got an Uber standing in front of a coffee shop in Old San Juan, and had no problem getting a driver even though we were going over an hour away. You’re looking at about $80 for an Uber. If you’re renting a car, you can leave it at the ferry terminal or take a cargo ferry and bring it with you. You can find rates for different car sizes here.
2 // Buy tickets for the next available ferry once you arrive
I touched on this in some of the posts throughout my Puerto Rico series, and I’ll do it again here: do not buy tickets online. Here’s why.
When you book online at PORFERRY.com, you’ll be charged a processing fee that costs more than the tickets themselves. Also, it’s super important to know that the website I linked above is the official ticket vendor. There are ticket vendors all over Google, but PORFERRY.com is the only one that is accepted at the terminal. (If you’ve used a different vendor before and everything was a-okay, let me know and I’ll add them!) The main reason people book online (and the same reason I did for my first ticket) is security. We had a specific time we had to be in Vieques for our Bio Bay tour, and I didn’t want to risk getting booted from the ferry.
Instead, I recommend giving yourself one day to transit, so you can spend a free evening or day in Vieques and ferry delays won’t ruin your itinerary.
Besides, Vieques is such a lovely place that you’ll find yourself wishing you’d spent more time there. That way, you save money on the processing fee and you won’t have to be at the terminal by a certain time. Also, trying to show mobile tickets or printed QR code tickets can be a bit of a mess. It’s much, much easier to show the attendants a ticket that’s clearly been printed at the official ticket booths.
It’s true that you may have to wait longest if you buy tickets at the booth, because the priority ranks like this:
1. Puerto Rican locals
2. Passengers with tickets bought on PORFERRY.com
3. Everybody else
However, it’s still better to buy them at the ticket booth in my experience. I didn’t notice much of a difference in waiting times.
3 // Give yourself plenty of time at the ferry terminal
This one’s kind of a given, but I underestimated how much time the ferry process would take. I read online that the trip is only 30 minutes, so I assumed this would be a breezy experience. Not so much.
You will wait in line for a while to get tickets, and then you’ll wait in line to get into the terminal, and then you’ll wait for the boat to arrive, and then you’ll wait in line to get on the ferry, and then you’ll wait in line to drop your luggage, and then you’ll wait in line to get a seat…
You get my drift.
By the time we got on the boat and in a seat, everybody on the ferry fell asleep. No joke. From all the transport and waiting to get on the ferry, you’re looking at a 4-hour travel day minimum, and 6+ hours is more realistic. Take some snacks, water, and entertainment for the wait. It’s worth it, I promise. Tickets are just $2 for adults, $1 for kids ages 3-11 and seniors aged 60-74, and infants and seniors 75+ ride free!
4 // Arrive to Vieques + get a taxi
When you arrive to Vieques, you’ll feel like you’ve just stepped onto undeveloped, raw, real paradise. From the small-town feel of the terminal itself to the stretch of beach without high rise hotels, you’ll immediately relax. I noticed a line of people waiting, maybe for public transportation that was free, but I’m honestly not sure. (If you do, please let me know in the comments so I can update this post for other travelers!) There will likely be taxi drivers offering rides all over the island. We went with the first guy because he wasn’t pushy (in fact, I walked up to him and asked his fare!) and so nice. Thanks, Gabriel!
We paid $5 per person to get to Esperanza, the other side of the island, in a nice big van. The ride was about 15 minutes long. There’s no Uber in Vieques, but you won’t need it. When it came time for us to get a taxi back to the terminal, the front desk called us one. Had we stayed in an Airbnb, I would have asked Gabriel for his phone number and just called him back for a return ride. Finding transport in Vieques is not difficult or expensive!
5 // Returning to Ceiba
They say all good things must come to an end. The same is true of your stay in Vieques. *Tear*
When it’s time to go back, I’d say either get your hotel to call you a taxi or keep the number of your original driver. Fare is the same for the way back to the terminal. When we arrived, I got in line for our tickets. We found out from our hotel receptionist that inclement weather had cancelled some of the morning ferries, causing a bit of chaos in Ceiba especially.
That’s another reason not to buy in advance! You could arrive bright and early for the ferry you paid in advance for and planned to take, and then it gets cancelled and you’re waiting in the outdoor terminal for hours until service gets up and running. With that info in mind, I decided to just ask for tickets for the next available ferry.
I did end up waiting outside for about an hour (probably longer) to buy tickets, because they didn’t start selling them until the boat arrived.
Even with the wait in the ticket line, it still wasn’t much longer than the wait on the way to Vieques. I used that time to get to know the other travelers in line with me. I met two chefs living in Vegas, and a girl who was born in Colombia and grew up in France. Interesting people are everywhere!
When you get back to Ceiba, there will be plenty of taxis and Ubers around. I was worried about Uber not being nearby since Roosevelt Roads is pretty isolated. No need to stress! Chances are, they just dropped off riders coming from San Juan and plan to drive new passengers back. I asked a cab driver how much he’d charge to drive us, but his quote was $50 more than Uber. I’d recommend asking anyway, because Uber prices are based heavily on demand and could be more expensive than the going taxi rate. Can’t hurt to double-check before booking anything!
That’s it for my Vieques ferry guide! I so hope this was helpful for you as you plan a visit to Puerto Rico. If you have anything to add or update, please comment below and I’ll make edits! In the rest of my Puerto Rico series, I talk about what to see and do, where to go, and other logistics.
Hi Sarah. Re the Vieques ferry. Did you visit Esperanza? You mentioned Esmeralda. Not familiar with the latter. Thank you