At first glance, getting around San Juan seems deceptively easy.
Most tourists equate the city with Old San Juan, a cruise port and historic hub that can be traversed on foot. In reality, though, Puerto Rico’s capital is a vast metropolitan area that can be difficult to navigate for first-time visitors, with more than a dozen distinct neighborhoods and regions spanning more than 1900 sq miles.
Here’s everything you need to know about getting around in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
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Hail a taxi in the tourist zones
Taxis are easy to come by in the tourist areas of San Juan. They’re lined up at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU), and there’s always an attendant offering rides to guests at the baggage claim area. There is a kiosk outside and a line to board a taxi in turn, first come, first served.
The dispatcher will quote you an exact rate based on your destination, sorted by zones. Once in San Juan, the cruise port and major hotels have taxis standing by. You can ask a concierge to call one if needed, or arrange for transfer ahead of time.
Taxi Turistico is affiliated with the Puerto Rican Tourism Company, but there are also several private taxi companies available. The fee could be flat rate or metered – confirm with your driver ahead of time. Note that taxis are not allowed to enter El Yunque National Forest for pickup or drop-off, so you’d need to find alternative transportation for that day trip.
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Old San Juan’s trolley is free and doesn’t require any advanced planning © Getty Images
Hop aboard the free trolley in Old San Juan
There is a trolley in Old San Juan that is free of charge and available to the general public, no reservations or tickets necessary – just wait at a designated stop to board.
There are 12 stops total, starting at Terminal Covadonga and ending at Teatro Tapia. The trolley runs from 7am to 5pm on weekdays and from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays and Sundays, every hour on the hour. There is an open-air trolley and an air-conditioned version.
The pros of this service are that it’s free and doesn’t require any advanced planning. The con is that you can probably walk to the next stop in less time than it takes to wait for another trolley.
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Save money with public transportation
Puerto Rico has a long way to go when it comes to public transport – the system is not intuitive, routes are not readily available online and timetables can be unreliable – but it’s an inexpensive way to get around.
There are buses available to certain destinations around San Juan, including the airport and Plaza Las Americas, a popular shopping mall. They are run by the Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses (AMA for short) and commonly referred to as the MetroBus. You pay when you board, using exact change. Rates are very reasonable, starting at $.75/ride, $5 for a day pass and $15 for a week-long pass.
There is a train that goes from Bayamón to Sagrado Corazón with a total of 16 stations, but it doesn’t really pass through tourist zones. Transit passes can be purchased at the Tren-Urbano stations.
Take a scenic break on the Cataño ferry
The Cataño ferry runs across the bay from Old San Juan to the ferry terminal in Cataño. It only costs $.50 each way, and you board at Pier 2 in Old San Juan.
You can buy your tickets on site or online. This is a great way to see Old San Juan from the water and do a sunset cruise on a budget. It runs daily, from 6am to 7pm on weekdays and 8am to 7pm on weekends.
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Call a rideshare service
Rideshares services are the cheapest and most convenient option if you’re not renting a car. Uber is available in San Juan. If you are flying into SJU airport, there is a designated rideshare pickup area that varies by terminal. Look for the rideshare signs. This is a viable option around the San Juan metro area in general.
If you’re traveling beyond the city limits, you may be able to get a ride there (begrudgingly, if some drivers don’t realize how far you’re going when they accept the ride) but have difficulty finding a ride back. Rideshares are not prevalent in other parts of the island, so reserve your car ahead of time or call for one with plenty of time to reach your destination, in case nothing is available or the driver cancels.
Rideshares are also not allowed in El Yunque. If you want to reach the rain forest, you’re better off going with a guide or renting a car.
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Take a bike ride along the water
Biking is popular in Old San Juan, as the weather is usually pleasant. There is a car-free greenway that spans from the Condado Lagoon to Old San Juan, passing El Morro and ending in Paseo de la Princesa. You can rent a bike and go on your own, or sign up for a tour through companies such as Bike Rent Puerto Rico.
To to have freedom of movement and the ability to travel on your own schedule, rent a car © Getty Images
Rent a car for a pre-planned itinerary
There are many places that can’t be reached by public transport, and constant rides can add up cost-wise, so renting a car is recommended to have freedom of movement and the ability to travel on your own schedule.
Charlie Car Rental is a locally owned company that is five minutes from the airport, has a transport shuttle and is open 24 hours. There’s also a car-rental center at the airport itself with brands like Enterprise, Hertz and Thrifty Car Rental.
Planning tip: Prices skyrocket during the high season, from November to April. The minute you know you’re traveling to Puerto Rico, make your car rental reservation before all other plans to secure the best rate.
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Accessible travel in San Juan
Most major hotels in and around San Juan are wheelchair-accessible. Some, like Caribe Hilton, offer a beach wheelchair that can be used on the sand.
F&V Transport Line Service can help with wheelchair transfers, courtesy of a boarding ramp for powered mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs that can accommodate up to 600lbs. Make sure to confirm availability via email beforehand.
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Is San Juan pedestrian-friendly?
Old San Juan is very pedestrian-friendly. The historic district is a charming 7-square-block area with cobblestone streets and Spanish architecture. It is more than 500 years old, making it the oldest city in the United States.
Is there parking in San Juan?
Old San Juan has several parking garages. One of the most popular is Multipiso Doña Fela. There’s also the Ballaja Parking Garage closer to El Morro. These are all paid, and you can use cash or credit cards. Other popular areas, like Distrito T-Mobile, have on-site parking lots. Beyond that, street parking reigns supreme, and finding a spot can be a matter of luck and timing.