Logo-BVIGuide.gif (2185 bytes)San Juan Airport
Gateway to the Caribbean

 

San Juan. A major interconnecting point to the Caribbean as well as a hub for airlines such as American and Jet Blue, San Juan is also one of the world's busiest cruise ports as well as a beautiful and historic city.

Airport. The Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU) (current weather conditions) is the busiest airport in the Caribbean, located about 9 miles from San Juan and reached by taxi, public bus or rental car, but not rail. See Old San Juan.

Major Airlines Served. San Juan Airport is served by large intercontinental jets offering non-stop flights from over 20 US cities, including American Airlines (non-stop from 14 US cities), BWIA, Delta, Air Canada, British Airways, Iberia, Lufthansa, Northwest, TWA, United, US Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

Caribbean Air Connections. Within the Caribbean,  travel is usually on regional jets, turboprops and smaller planes. The major intra-Caribbean carriers are American Eagle/Executive Airlines, Cape Air and LIAT. For local intra-Caribbean charter and shared charter airlines, see Charters and Local Airlines.

Cruise Connections. Upon properly entering San Juan, Caribbean cruise passengers can go from the gates serving the large intercontinental jets to Ground Transport below that takes them to the San Juan Port's cruise ship docks.

See San Juan Cruise Port.

US Territory. Since Puerto Rico is US territory, passengers on US flights to San Juan are making US city to city flights, and may exit freely into San Juan. Passengers on Caribbean and other international flights must clear US immigration and customs when entering San Juan or before boarding US flights. Non US boarding flights may require only passing security.

Delays and Overnight Stays. Carry on an overnight bag with a day's necessities, including medicines and clothing as well as reading material and snacks if desired. Duty free shops are located at Gate 9 and between Gates 2 and 3.

The Best Western San Juan Airport Hotel (see rates-low price guarantee) has rooms right at the airport for layovers. See Old San Juan for more hotels in a great location.
   

       
 

Terminal Layout.

   
 

 

       
 

On the ocean end of the terminal are the big jets whose passengers disembark directly to the upper terminal level. American Airlines has one large wing, including Concourses D & E above (diagram: SJU Airport).

This wing includes American Eagle gates at Concourse E on the lower level, where buses take passengers to the smaller turboprop planes sitting in line on the tarmac.

On the other side of the ocean end of the terminal are Concourses B & C for Jet Blue, Continental, Delta, US Air, Air Canada and other airlines. Concourse A has smaller charter and local intra-Caribbean carriers (see Charters and Local Airlines).

For American Airline and other connections from the big intercontinental jets to the intra-Caribbean turboprops and smaller planes, there is a long walk along at least the whole length of the terminal facility.

   
       
  Ground Transport. Taxi service, usually in a white van, from the San Juan Airport to the Old San Juan Cruise Ship Piers takes 45 minutes and costs $19 one-way (check with the driver before boarding). Limos may be arranged for pickup at the airport. Rail is not available. Rental cars are available at the airport. Buses to Old San Juan, sometimes arranged by the cruise line, are also available at a cost of 75¢ (coins only). The airport bus stop is located on the upper departure level at the far right, with signs marked 'Parada' and timetables displayed. For Old San Juan, take B-40 or C-45 one stop to Isla Verde (at Denny's restaurant), then A-5 to the Old San Juan bus station near Cruise Ship Pier 4 (stop 2 on free trolley map).    
 

 

       
  American Eagle & American Airlines. Using the smaller turboprop planes favored in the Caribbean, American Eagle/Executive Airlines is the dominant intra-Caribbean carrier and for the most part uses San Juan as its hub, so most American Eagle/Executive Airline flights do not go directly to its neighboring islands, but go through San Juan. American Eagle's former parent, American Airlines uses San Juan as an important international hub, taking up much of the facility in Concourses D & E.    
       

Boarding Passes. Be sure to check in and get your boarding pass for your connecting flight as soon as you arrive unless you are interconnecting between American and American Eagle (and it's still a good idea). American Airlines boarding passes may be picked up at the Admirals Club located opposite gate 14, across from the first class ticket counter (also offers free local calls, copy and fax service, and FedEx drop-off).

Big Hubbub. The big hubbub occurs at the American Eagle/Executive Airline gates in Concourse E with its convergence of local and international traffic.

The international travelers are generally coming to vacation, with the expectation of finding relaxation rather than the big hubbub, which, naturally is at its biggest at the height of the winter tourist season.

A Martinique native may be flying a couple hundred miles to another island and have to go to San Juan and sit there for hours to get to their destination. So the frustration levels get very high.

Add to that the "sorting" errors, mechanical problems and weather-related exigencies when storms are active. These turboprops fly at about 10,000 feet "around" the weather, not over it like the big jets.

The result at San Juan airport is a true Caribbean "callaloo" or complex mixture or "confusion" of peoples, personalities and cultures, with many varieties of interesting local Caribbean people, who themselves may speak English, Spanish, French or Dutch, perhaps with a distinctive island dialect, international travelers from many nations and languages, who may speak English or Spanish with a second-language accent, and Spanish-speaking Puerto Ricans lending a special cultural flavor to what, after all, is their island nation's main airport.

Problems.  Many travelers have had problems connecting here. As with many airports, especially hubs, flight delays due to weather and mechanical problems impact the subsidiary flight schedules (as well as mistakes and miscommunications). If you have a problem, be polite but persistent.

       
  Charters and Local Airlines. Local airlines include Cape Air, Caribbean Wings, Air Sunshine, Air St. Thomas, Del Air, Fly BVI, Virgin Gorda Air Charters and Island Birds.

Local airlines offer intra-Caribbean flights from San Juan to Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, St. Thomas, St. Maarten/St. Martin and other Caribbean islands as well as sightseeing flights and charters, although charters are usually more expensive, except for groups of five or more, or via shared charter flights.

Shared charters, not on the usual computer reservation systems, are regular flights by charter airlines, such as Air Sunshine, that can be booked individually.

Private jet charters are available, although on an expensive hourly basis, for flights directly to San Juan, Tortola and other Caribbean destinations from US and international points of origin.

 

       
  Alternative Routes. Alternative routes to the British Virgin Islands include direct jet flights from the US or Europe to St. Thomas (STT) and a ferry over to Tortola, Jost Van Dyke or Virgin Gorda. A route growing in popularity includes a direct jet flight to St. Maarten and a intra-Caribbean flight on a local carrier, including American Eagle, to Tortola's Beef Island airport (EIS). This alternative offer in intriguing possibility of a day trip or side excursion to the St.Maarten/St. Martin mulit-national archipelago that includes Anguilla, Saba and St. Barths--all within local flight/ferry distances.

US Non-Stop/Connecting Airports. The major US airports for non-stop flights to the Caribbean as well connecting service include Miami (American), New York (American, JetBlue, Delta), Atlanta (Delta with the world's largest hub), Chicago (United and American,) Los Angeles (United and American), Philadelphia (US Airlines), Houston (Continental) and Dallas Fort Worth (American, the most important Caribbean carrier, with its main US hub).

   
Old San Juan.
 Filled with the historic sites, Old San Juan has always been a major connecting point to the Caribbean, with old world charm and a vibrant crossroads culture. This beautiful and historic city makes a great vacation, overnight stay or just a tour. A walking map of Old San Juan can be found inside Que Pasa magazine available from the tourist office just before the baggage area at the airport.

Old San Juan, with its massive forts, invokes the Conquista days of the Spanish empire like no other place. The narrow cobblestone streets, lined by ornate colonial buildings, lead to tropical gardens and beautiful plazas such as Plaza de Armas as well as cafes and bars like La Barrachina, birthplace of the piña colada. And the shops, concentrated on Cristo street, can also lead to surprising finds. For restaurants and other information, see Old San Juan.
Accommodations.
Old San Juan has a great variety of accommodations in all price ranges.

Hotel El Convento

Known for its old world charm inside and out, Hotel El Convento (see rates-low price guarantee) has been exquisitely restored with period furniture in its rooms to capture the historic mood. Yet this business friendly hotel has all the modern conveniences and offers guest access to an Isla Verde beach club.
 

Cervantes Hotel

Cervantes Hotel (see rates-low price guarantee) is a small intimate hotel in the heart of Old San Juan, with a close walk to the cruise ship piers. Every room has a balcony overlooking the colonial street. The hotel has the award winning Panza restaurant, coffee shop and lounge. Continental breakfast is included.

Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel and Casino (see rates-low price guarantee), a favorite of cruise visitors, has a casino, great room views, reasonable rates and the well-regarded Fogata Latino Bar and Grill onsite.

 Hotel Milano (see rates-low price guarantee) is well regarded with affordable rooms in a restored classical building in the heart of Old San Juan.

Back to Tortola's Beef Island Airport

 

San Juan Airport | San Juan Cruise Port | Old San Juan | Tortola Airport
St. Maarten Airport | St. Maarten Cruise Port | St. Barths Airport | Anguilla Airport
St. Thomas Airport | St. Thomas Cruise Port | St. John | Saba Airport
Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port | Atlanta Airport | Dallas/Ft Worth Airport

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