How to Kill Time During a Long Layover in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Опубликовал Admin
5-10-2016, 18:35
Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island, the smallest of the Greater Antilles, 100 miles (160 km) long by 35 miles (56 km) wide. Because it became an unincorporated territory of the United States in 1898, at the end of the Spanish-American War, the currency is the US dollar and there is no passport requirement for US citizens unless arriving from a foreign country. The official language is Spanish but everyone speaks at least basic English. A nice bonus is that for duty-free purposes, trips to the mainland US qualify for purchases in the stores, and there is no limit on duty-free purchases! It is not uncommon to find yourself with a long layover at San Juan's Luis Muñoz Marín International airport -- Puerto Rico is an aviation and cruise ship hub for the Caribbean. This article will give you some ideas of what to do if you find yourself in that situation.


  1. Determine your layover time and subtract from that one hour for security screening and returning to your gate, and another hour for round-trip travel. If you have less than two hours left over, leaving the airport may not be a good idea, particularly on weekdays when rush-hour traffic can be very heavy. Rush hour in the area of the airport is from 7AM to 9AM (westbound traffic) and from 4PM to 7PM (eastbound traffic). Traffic is generally light on weekends. If you have a short layover and would like to see more of San Juan, talk to the airline you will be flying and ask if you can change your departure date. There are many inexpensive and charming hotels in the area and you will not regret having the opportunity to see more of this city and its 500+ years of colorful history.
  2. If you have friends in Puerto Rico who live reasonably close to the airport, your best bet is to call them and ask them to give you a small tour to see places that interest you. All cellular phones that work in the United States (and most of the foreign ones that have roaming service) will also work in Puerto Rico.
  3. If you like nature hikes, your layover is eight hours or more, and the weather is reasonable, find a tour to El Yunque, the only tropical rain forest in the United States and a Federal Forest Reserve. A visit to El Yunque is an experience you will not soon forget, but dress light, put on some sneakers (do not wear dress or heeled shoes, or flimsy floppy shoes), wear some sort of light hat and sunblock and do not bring a heavy handbag or purse. Do bring your camera and a large bottle of water.
  4. If you like to gamble, the airport has a casino in the hotel located in the main terminal!
  5. If you have three or more hours available during the layover and would like to see the Spanish colonial influence on the island, take a taxi ride to Old San Juan's "Plaza de Armas" (pronounced "PLA-za de AR-mas"). This very nice plaza is located in front of San Juan's City Hall and is within walking distance of shopping areas as well as the imposing Spanish colonial El Morro Castle. This amazing 15th century military structure guards the entrance to San Juan Bay, and is in and of itself a half-day experience.
  6. Walking in Old San Juan can be a very pleasant, relaxing experience. One of the best places to walk is the "Paseo de la Princesa" (pronounced pah-SEH-oh de lah prin-SEH-sa). Literally translated, it is the "princess' walkway" but actually refers to the building where the Tourism Department is currently housed. The structure used to be a very nasty jail called "La Princesa" that dated from Spanish colonial times. It was not until the 1970s that a federal judge issued an order to close it.
  7. If you want to hit the beach and soak up some rays, ask the taxicab to take you to the closest one, the Balneario de Isla Verde (pronounced "bal-neh-AH-rio de IS-lah VER-deh"). It is located about ten minutes from the airport and parallel to the north of airport's runway number eight.
  8. If you want to get something to eat, check out Frommer's list of San Juan restaurants. If you want to try some classic Cuban food, the closest to the airport and very much a favorite for locals is Metropol (pronounced "meh-tro-POLL"). The same area in Isla Verde also boasts many types of cuisine, from affordable fast food to world-class fare.
  9. If you like art, there are many options in San Juan. If you would like to visit a museum with local art, there are many in the San Juan metropolitan area as well as in Old San Juan.
  10. Would you prefer some retail therapy instead? Tell the taxicab to take you to Plaza Las Américas (pronounced PLA-sah las a-ME-ri-cas), the largest and most up-scale shopping mall on the island. It takes approximately 20 minutes or so to get there if traffic is light – during the rush hour periods it can take up to an hour to get to the mall! The main entrance to the mall is where you will find the taxicab line to get back to the airport.


  • Taxicabs charge fixed fares to/from all destinations when the airport is the origin or destination. Ask the taxi dispatcher at the airport (look for a Tourism Department uniform) for the rates.


  • Use common sense! Leave all valuables in your bags, do not dress in flashy clothes, do not wear jewelry and do not try to make it patently obvious that you are a tourist.
  • Only use taxicabs that are painted white and display the "Taxi Turistico" logos. Public transportation buses are an option but they are never on schedule and should not be relied upon to return to the airport.
  • When shopping, check the "Made in xxxx" labels. There are many stores in Puerto Rico selling tourist items and trinkets that are not made in Puerto Rico. If you want to buy a souvenir from Puerto Rico, ask the store attendant to show you items that are made in Puerto Rico. Support the island artists and artisans, please.
  • If you do decide to drive, keep in mind that police vehicles usually leave their upper blue lights on. If they wish to stop you for some reason, they will use their siren or loudspeaker.
  • If you decide to go shopping, remember that anything you bring back to the airport has to go through TSA security screening. That means liquids, gels, etc., that exceed the posted limits will have to be checked in or surrendered at the checkpoint. You may want to consider asking the airline if they will allow you to check-in more bags while in transit, and buy an extra bag to pack your purchases obtained during your layover.
  • If you have never driven in Puerto Rico, do not rent a car for a short visit like this one. Driving in Puerto Rico is a skill that takes practice – there is no defensive driving, it's all offensive! You also have a high likelihood of getting lost and missing your flight, even with a GPS!
  • Don't venture out of the airport in the late evenings for walks in Old San Juan or a beach visit unless you are part of a group. Stick to hotels and restaurants.
  • Stay out of the tourist trap stores. Most of them are fairly obvious. You should only go in there if you are looking for some inexpensive things to give away as gifts, and if so you should only buy items that are made in Puerto Rico.

Things You'll Need

  • Sunscreen, good walking shoes if hiking, water.
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