Unless you’re on a budget, skip the ferry and fly to Vieques, especially if your time is limited. The extra money you’ll spend will buy you another day on one of its beautiful beaches. With the steep decline in the government-run ferry service during 2014, the ferry is no longer a convenient option for most travelers. Flights to Vieques leave from Isla Grande Airport near the heart of San Juan as well as the main Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport near Isla Verde. Your best hassle-free option if you are leaving from San Juan is Isla Grande. Vieques Air Link (tel. 888/901-9247 or 787/741-8331; www.viequesairlink.com) has the most flights and among the best prices. It operates six flights from the smaller and more convenient Isla Grande Airport and three daily flights from LMM International. The VAL flight from Isla Grande, about $144 round-trip, is the most reliable and convenient travel option to Vieques. It’s about half the rate from LMM International, which is $242. This makes sense only if you are flying direct through to Vieques and are not visiting San Juan or other places in Puerto Rico. Seaborne Airlines (tel. 866/359-8784 or 787/946-7800; www.seaborneairlines.com) also serves Vieques from LMM International with a daily flight starting at about $198 roundtrip. Air Flamenco (tel. 787/724-1105 or 724-1818; www.airflamenco.net) is another option, with regular daily flights from Isla Grande for $140, including tax. There are also flights from Ceiba, which are more economical if you can get there. VAL charges $68 roundtrip, while Air Flamenco charges $60. Secure parking at the airport costs $8 per night.
The Puerto Rico Maritime Transportation Authority has four scheduled ferry trips for passengers a day to Vieques from the eastern port of Fajardo (9:30am, 1pm, 4:30pm, and 8pm), but the agency has had trouble sticking to a schedule with its aging fleet and myriad other issues. The trip takes about an hour, but the whole experience can take the better part of a day. The round-trip fare is $4.50 for adults, $2 for children. Tickets for the morning ferry that leaves Saturday and Sunday sell out quickly, so you should be in line early at the ticket window in Fajardo to be certain of a seat on the 9am boat. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until the 1pm ferry. For more information about these sea links: (http://vieques.com/passenger-cargo-ferry-guide; tel. 787/497-7740). Ferries return from Vieques to Fajardo at 6:30 and 11am, and 3 and 6pm every day. Departures are subject to big delays, however, and outright cancellations of scheduled trips have become increasingly common. Only the most laissez faire of travelers can consider it as an option, and it only makes sense for the extreme budget minded. The downturn was sparked by the cancellation of the contract with a private ferry operator hired to provide supplemental service to the government-run ferry line precisely because of its chronic deficiencies and lapses. If a similar initiative takes place, service could improve quickly and dramatically.