In all my research for our trip to Puerto Rico, our day trip to Vieques seemed the most iffy. Everything I read about taking the ferry to the island for non-locals seemed chancy at best and impossible at worst. I’ll admit I second guessed our decision to go more than once. Although some preferential treatment is given to those that live on Vieques, this should not deter you from visiting. Here’s what you need to know about navigating the ferry from Fajardo to Vieques.
Getting to the Terminal
To purchase ferry tickets, it is generally recommended to arrive at the ferry terminal in Fajardo at least one hour before the scheduled departure time. At times of high tourist traffic, two hours before would be even better. We arrived about an hour ahead of the departure time and had no problems getting tickets. However, we were there the beginning of May and there weren’t very many people in line. If you plan to visit Vieques during the peak travel season, err closer to the two hour mark.
When you arrive in Fajardo, there are some signs pointing you in the direction of the terminal. You may want to consider looking up directions on a GPS as there are a lot of turns to make and some of the signs are easy to miss. A parking lot is available across the street from the terminal with all day parking. The cost is $5 to park for the whole day.
Once you park your car, follow the sidewalk towards the terminal, but do not cross the street. The ticket office is located across the street from the terminal. You will see a ticket booth with lines marked off by metal barriers and multiple security officers directing you where you need to go. As the lines for the Vieques and Culebra ferries are both at the same ticket office, make sure to ask where you need to go in order to get the right tickets. Tickets to Culebra fill up very quickly, however, so unless you get there really early, that line most likely won’t be open.
Tickets to Vieques are $2.00 for adults, $1.00 for children 3-11 and seniors one-way. Children under three and seniors over 75 ride for free. I recommend buying a round-trip ticket so you won’t have to worry about getting to the terminal too early on your way back. Just tell the ticket agent which ferry you want to return on so it is noted on your ticket.
Please note, only one person is allowed at each ticket window at a time. Since D is the Spanish speaker in the family, he bought the tickets while I stood off to the side with the kids.
Getting to Vieques
After purchasing your tickets, you will be shown where to get in line. You will wait in this line until the ferry is ready for you to board. This wait could be long, so make sure to come prepared to keep little ones entertained.
Once it is time to board, the process is easy. Just follow the line of people to the terminal, show the officer your ticket and board the ferry.
There are two levels with three sections of seats on each level. The ferry is completely enclosed and the windows do not open so keep that in mind when selecting where to sit. The water is also fairly choppy, making for a bouncy ride. If you’re prone to seasickness, make sure to bring/take your preferred form of medication for the hour and 15 minute ride.
I also recommend sitting on the bottom level in the middle. Do not sit in the sun, as the warmth will exacerbate the seasickness. We sat on the top near the windows going to Vieques which made for a very miserable ride for D. I don’t normally get seasick and even I felt queasy and wanted to get off by the time we docked in Vieques. On the way back, we sat on the bottom middle and had a much better ride.
In instances of extreme seasickness, or if you just need to go to the bathroom, the restrooms are located on the bottom level at the back. This is another reason why I recommend sitting on the bottom level. And don’t feel ashamed if you do need to throw up- although I did not get that nauseated, there were several people who did.
After your fun day in Vieques, you will still have to navigate the ferry back to Fajardo. If you used a guaguas públicas to get around the island, I recommend speaking to your driver and arranging a time for him to pick you up when you’re ready to return to the terminal. We did not and it caused a bit of anxiety on my part wondering if we would be able to find one. In our case, about an hour before the ferry was scheduled to leave, the guaguas públicas started circling around the beach again, looking for passengers.
When you arrive back at the terminal, you’ll show your ticket once again and be told which line to enter. The line is broken up into different sections- one for locals and one for everyone else. I mentioned before that preference if given to the locals. This is the only time that I actually noticed any preferential treatment. However, if you are traveling during the off-season, you should have no problem getting on the ferry.
The ferry to Vieques might seem tricky at first glance. However, with a little planning, getting to Vieques is very doable. And after spending the day in beautiful Vieques, I think you’ll agree it is worth it.
Have you taken the ferry to Vieques?
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