Can I Take My Car to Culebra or Vieques?
5/11/13- the “Fast Ferry” contract has been extended until at least 6/30/13. I am awaiting updated schedule.
If I had $1 for every time we’ve been asked "Can I take my car on the ferry to Culebra or Vieques?" — I’d be rich! This article is meant to answer that question once and for all, not to provide ideas for something fun to do on vacation.
The information in this article will probably be most helpful to residents of Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques — not to the average tourist.
Passengers vs Cargo
There are two types of ferries that run between Fajardo/Culebra and Fajardo/Vieques — passenger ferries and cargo ferries. The passenger ferries carry passengers only — no cars. The cargo ferries carry both passengers and cargo (including cars).
But, before you get all excited and think that you are going to save a couple bucks by taking your rental car over to Culebra or Vieques — think again. The cargo ferries are not intended for tourists. They do not provide reliable tourist transport and most car rental contracts prohibit taking rental cars off of the island of Puerto Rico.
If you are just looking for a way to get to Culebra or Vieques for the day (or for the start of your vacation over there), stop reading this article and go read our article about the passenger ferry out of Fajardo.
Cargo Ferry Basics
For the record, I have never tried to take our car on the cargo ferry. But I wanted to publish this information, just so that people have it. The information I have gathered here came from many different sources like the Port Authority website, info posted in the ferry terminals, and even TripAdvisor.com reviews.
The cargo ferry between the main island of Puerto Rico and the out islands of Culebra and Vieques is the main life-line for people living on those islands. It is the way the islanders get all their supplies (gas, food, building materials, etc.). Cargo trucks will get priority on the ferry, so the people who live on those islands can get the supplies they need.
There is a cargo ferry that runs between Fajardo and Culebra and one between Fajardo and Vieques. You need to make a reservation in order to get a spot one of the ferries. They sell out quickly, so book as far in advance of your trip as possible.
Passengers are also allowed on the cargo ferries, though they are usually slower boats than the passenger ferries and there are fewer seats. The trip can take 45 mins- 2 hours depending on which ferry and the wetaher. Adverse weather conditions will alter the schedule. The one time I took the cargo ferry (because we had no other choice), we sat outside, but there was no roof overhead. So you can get either sunburned or soaking wet if you sit out there! Inside, the AC was cranked all the way down, so it is freezing. You have your choice of risking sunburn outside or frostbite inside. I don’t recommend purposely taking the cargo ferry as a passenger if you have other options available, but it is an option if the passenger ferries are full. Note- if the gas supply truck is on the cargo ferry, passengers will not be allowed on that ferry (only the drivers of the vehicles on the ferry).
Cargo Ferry Schedule
Here is the schedule as of 5/13:
- Note- the cargo ferry does not run on holidays.
- Fajardo to Culebra: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at 4:00am, and 5:00pm. Wednesday at 4:00am, 9:30am, and 5:00pm. Friday at 4:00am, 9:30am, and 5:00pm.
- Culebra to Fajardo: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at 7:00am, and 7:00pm. Wednesday and Friday at 7:00am, 1:00pm and 7:00pm.
- Fajardo to Vieques: Monday to Friday at 4:00am, 9:30am, and 4:30pm .
- Vieques to Fajardo: Monday to Friday at 6:00am, 1pm, and 6:00pm .
Cost for the Cargo Ferry
The fee for passengers to Culebra is $2.25/adult; to Vieques is $2.00/adult each way (children and seniors are less). Round trip fares for small cars are $26.00 to Vieques and $26.50 to Culebra. Large cars and trucks are more money, call for exact rates. The car/truck driver’s fare is included in the fee for the vehicle. Payment can be made in cash or via VISA/Mastercard.
Making a Reservation for the Cargo Ferry
Reservations are required for the cargo ferry. You can reserve them in person at the ticket office around the corner from the regular ticket counter. It is only open during the week, 7:30am-3:30pm. Or you can try to make reservations over the phone. But you must speak to someone. You can’t just leave a message and assume that you have a reservation — because you won’t. It is pretty hard to get a human to answer the phone when you call the port authority. Be patient and call (again and again) between 7:30am – 3:30pm Monday – Friday. All I can say is good luck! I have actually gotten through to a human a few times, so I know that it is possible.
Here are the phone numbers for the Puerto Rico Port Authority
- Cargo Ferry reservations: 787-494-0934 ext 2729 or 2727, reception ext 2736. General information: 787-860-2005
Getting Your Stuff onto the Cargo Ferry
You must be at the loading dock early on your reserved day and time or you will lose your spot. They recommend 1 hour before departure. If you are late, they will NOT hold the ferry for you. When you arrive at the ferry dock you have to check-in at the window where they validate your reservation. Bring your vehicle to the ship and someone will tell you when/where to load. These workers usually ask your name and compare it to the reservation list. Once you are parked on the ferry, they may need to you to hang around until everyone is loaded, because they sometimes have to jockey the cars/trucks around to fit everyone.
Rental cars are not typically allowed to be taken off of the island of Puerto Rico. Double-check with your rental company before you risk it. It may void your rental contract. Then, if something happens to the car on the ferry or other island, you would be fully responsible for it. It is really not recommended that you risk it. Realize, also, that some of the smaller roads on these islands aren’t paved, so it is rough on the vehicle. That is why the rental vehicles on these islands look so bad! There are also many beach roads that have the huge thorns in them, can easily puncture a tire and cause a flat.
Cargo trucks get priority, so even with a reservation, passenger cars may get bumped if a cargo truck needs a spot, which can leave you stranded and your plans totally messed up. Tourists just shouldn’t do it. Rent a car on the smaller islands and save yourself a lot of stress and extra effort.
You can visit the Puerto Rico Port Authority web site for more info.
Take Route 3 to Fajardo, and turn onto Route 194. There’s a traffic light and a Shell station at this intersection. It’s right near where Route 3 and Route 53 (the toll road) come together. Stay on Route 194 (it’s a winding road) until you get to Route 195. There’s a traffic light at this intersection, and a Burger King just through the light on the left. There’s also a sign for the ferry terminal on the corner. Turn right onto Route 195. Continue on Route 195 (it goes through a little town) until it ends. Pass through the arch at the end of the street (this will make sense when you see it), and the parking lot is on the right. The ferry terminal and ticket office is to the left as you walk along the water after you park your car.
The ferry terminal in Fajardo is about a 45-minute drive from Rio Grande
You can locate the ferry terminal on our Interactive Island Map