Recently, I decided to spend my vacation in Puerto Rico for the first time ever. And I booked my trip during Puerto Rico’s off-peak season between June and November, not knowing that it was their hurricane season!
So, I ended up visiting during the week that Hurricane Dorian was passing through the Caribbean.
But, fortunately, it passed right on by. Whew.
Although my timing was bad, I am meticulous about planning. And a visit to Cayo Icacos was high on my itinerary.
In short, Cayo Icacos is a small, deserted island in Puerto Rico, located off the North East coast of Fajardo. Its beach offers scenic views of mainland Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Ocean and is a popular tourist attraction for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing. Since the beach closes by dawn, when the last boats depart, it is ideal for a day trip.
Before arriving, I searched online for routes and instructions on how to get to Cayo Icacos Island. But when I arrived, I discovered that most of those directions were wrong and outdated!
I couldn’t even find clear guidance on how to get to Cayo Icacos from Puerto Rico’s government website or their official tourism website!
So my trek becomes your fortune since during my trip to Puerto Rico I blazed a trail to the beautiful Cayo Icacos and traced all my steps. Which I now pass along to you!
To help my fellow travelers and tourists, I made this list with the most current and accurate directions to get to Cayo Icacos Island from San Juan, along with many important travel tips that you’ll need to have an amazing trip!
Puerto Rico’s Current Condition and Travel Requirements
To address some common concerns before we start, if you’re worried about the condition of the beaches after Hurricane Maria, from what I saw, they are doing just fine. This article is full of pictures from my trip as proof.
And you may be wondering, “Is Puerto Rico open for travel and tourism?” The answer is Yes, Puerto Rico is open for travel and tourism.
As of March 10th, 2022, most capacity, vaccination, and mask mandates were lifted for travelers, with a few exceptions. Currently, there is a very short list of travel restrictions in Puerto Rico that visitors should be aware of:
- U.S. citizens and immigrants (e.g. permanent residents) do not have to submit proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test results.
- Travelers arriving by cruise ship and non-U.S. citizens arriving in the U.S.A. by air must submit proof of full vaccination before arrival.
- Quarantine applies to any travelers who test positive for COVID-19.
- Proof of vaccination or recent negative COVID-19 test results is no longer required to enter any indoor establishments, such as hotels, bars, restaurants, theaters, and event venues.
- Masks are not required to be worn in indoor establishments, outdoor gatherings, or events with less than 1,000 attendees.
- Capacity limits have been lifted.
- Special health guidelines may apply to specific venues.
These are the latest travel requirements, as of June 2022. You can check Puerto’s Rico official travel website for more details about the latest travel guidelines, and always verify operating hours for local businesses and tourist attractions before you go.
Also, keep in mind that private businesses are free to implement safety guidelines as they see fit. So, if you are asked to put on a mask, respect it or take your business elsewhere.
Now, back to the matter at hand.
For those who are familiar with Puerto Rico, the only way to get to Cayo Icacos by taking a water taxi or boat charter ride from the docks of Las Croabas in Fajardo. The boat rides are about 15-20 minutes long and launch every 30 minutes to an hour. The docks at Las Croabas are about a 60-minute drive from San Juan, or a 2.5-hour drive from Aguadilla by car.
For tourists and foreigners, here are the step-by-step directions:
1. Rent a Car! Don’t Waste Money on Taxis.
If you are wondering, “Should I rent a car in Puerto Rico?” The answer is definitely “yes” if you plan to go beyond the local areas near the airports and travel to remote locations like Cayo Icacos, Yunque Rainforest, Vieques, or any other popular tourist destinations.
It doesn’t matter which airport you arrive in because none of them are close to where you need to be to get to Cayo Icacos by public transportation.
Naturally, your next question is likely, “How to rent a car in Puerto Rico?” You can quickly find many of the common car rental agencies just a few steps from the arrival exits at San Juan airport!
Here, you will find a small building that houses a bunch of car rental agency booths, all with some pretty competitive prices. I found some rental deals running as low as $35 per day!
But, keep in mind, I did go during an off-season and book car rental reservations about a month in advance. So, I recommend for you to also book ahead of time and just price shop around.
And in case you are worried about the additional costs for toll roads, don’t. Toll roads in Puerto Rico only cost a couple of dollars to use. But, I do recommend avoiding them and taking the scenic routes instead.
Make the most of the long drives to see the country sides and perhaps stop by some of Puerto Rico’s great local attractions and restaurants!
In case you are still considering taking a cab or ride-share, just know that you would likely end up paying an arm and a leg due to the long driving distances. And if you get a private driver, it would be even more expensive unless you’re a baller, and that’s just how you roll. So, I highly recommend that you rent a car, it’s simply the most economic and fun option for your trip.
Quick Tip: If you are booking your stay near San Juan’s airport, then you are looking at a short 1-hour drive to the boats that go to Cayo Icacos Island. However, if you plan to stay closer to Aguadilla airport and return to the West Coast, then I recommend that you book a hotel for a night in the Fajardo area. That would be a long and tiring round trip drive to fit into one day!
2. Avoid Fajardo Port. There are NO ferries there to Cayo Icacos!
Yes, you heard me correctly. Despite what you heard from the various outdated pages online saying that you can sail from Fajardo port, there are no passenger ferries at Fajardo Port that go to Cayo Icacos Island.
If you find any website claiming there is a ferry to Cayo Icacos, look into the details, and you will see that it is actually a private water taxi or boat charter – It is false advertising.
Currently, Fajardo port is limited to commercial charters only. The passenger ferries that used to launch from there were moved to Ceiba port.
Don’t be like me and waste your time driving there, only to be turned away by the one lonely security guard posted there to protect this chained and gated port. There are absolutely no passenger boats here or staff of any kind to even direct you to the right place!
3. Go To The Docks of Las Croabas, Fajardo
If you want to get to Cayo Icacos, you need to get to the town of Las Croabas in Fajardo!
Forget about the Port of Fajardo, and don’t get misdirected to Ceiba Ferry Port either (like I was). Besides the fact that Ceiba Port also doesn’t have boats that sail to Cayo Icacos, they have incompetent idiots working there. But I’ll tell you more about that experience later.
Read about my horrible experience at Ceiba Ferry in my Yelp Review
At Las Croabas you will find all of the travel options you’ll need, and are available, from water taxis to private catamarans available for rental to take you to Cayo Icacos island, or Isla Palomino.
Here is a picture of the road when driving into Las Croabas.
If you need precise driving directions, here is a custom google map of the driving route from Aguadilla and San Juan airports to Las Croabas.
4. Find Free Parking Near The Docks of Las Croabas
Once you arrive on the strip near the docks of Las Croabas, you can find free street parking if you turn to your right just off the main road.
Here you can also find public bathrooms with outdoor showers behind them. There are a few restaurants in the area that are convenient but are pricey.
5. Avoid The Tours and E-ticket hustles
Many websites online deceivingly state that you have to buy tickets or a pass to go to Cayo Icacos. This is false! There are no entrance fees or tickets required to visit Cayo Icacos, Culebra island, Isla Palomino, or most other private islands in Puerto Rico for that matter.
You can access any of these private islands for free, the only thing you have to pay for is boat transportation – which is available at minimal costs. So don’t be fooled by any misleading marketing about high-priced tickets, tours, or passes.
And I wouldn’t advise for you to book a “tour” of Cayo Icacos either. Cayo Icacos is a very small island. And Icacos Beach, where tourists typically visit, has less than a mile stretch of walkable terrain, most of which boats can’t dock on due to the rocky shores. So, unless the tour includes other amenities that you want, then skip it, and explore Cayo Icacos yourself.
Lastly, you do not have to buy any “e-tickets” to catch a water taxi to Cayo Icacos. Most water taxis at Las Croabas will accept your reservations over the phone, then you can pay cash when you arrive at the standard market rates – While tickets purchased online will typically have a markup of 40% or more on the price. So only buy e-tickets if it is more convenient for you, but know that it is almost assuredly not the best deal.
In Las Croabas, you can take your pick of many water taxi services, private charter boats, or catamarans. The prices of water taxis are generally $50 – $60 per person for a round trip to Cayo Icacos (and the other nearby islands), paid in cash only. Boats normally leave every 30-60 minutes, or on-demand, and the travel time is about 15-20 minutes.
If you choose a private charter, a guided tour, or a trip with amenities included, then those are on your schedule and obviously cost a premium. Just remember, these satellite islands are very small. So, you can easily explore them by yourself.
After looking through reviews online, it seems all of the water taxis have nice crews, similar prices, and similar schedules. Some charters offer rentals for beach equipment like umbrellas and snorkels. Some even have food and drink packages, which is convenient if you don’t want to carry around a ton of beach supplies.
Here is a custom google map that I made with a list of all of the water taxis in Las Croabas, Fajardo.
When I arrived here, I just grabbed the first boat I came across near the parking lot. It was also the only nearby boat with seating availability, and it worked out great. The boat wasn’t fancy and kind of small, but it got the job done and Captain was very courteous and professional.
That is more than I can say for my horrible experience at Ceiba Port. The idiotic staff there ruined my planned trip to Vieques by not alerting guests that the ferry arrived until AFTER it departed! Hence my 1 Star Yelp Review.
6. Reserve a Water Taxi or Boat Charter, or Just Show Up
When planning your trip to Cayo Icacos, the best option is to call in advance, check availability, verify the price, and book reservations with one of the water taxis or boat charters. This will guarantee you a seat and is recommended if you are traveling to Puerto Rico during a busy season.
Remember, most of the local water taxis only accept cash or even have websites to process payments on. The ones that do have websites are always more expensive.
If you have a big group, then you should definitely make reservations. These water taxis aren’t all big; some only have around 10-20 seats!
In my case, I was lucky enough to show up just when the boat was being boarded, and since they had 2 seats to spare, the captain let my girlfriend and I hop on board.
Perhaps it was luck during the slow season, or he just wanted to make an extra buck. Whatever the reason was, it just showed me that you don’t always have to book ahead if you’re on a flexible schedule.
There are many water taxi services in this area, so if you don’t find availability on one, the odds are in your favor to find space on another. And it’s also nice to take a walk through this quaint little seaside town. There are a few local restaurants where you can grab a bite or drink while you wait for your boat to launch!
Frequently Asked Questions About Water Taxis to Cayo Icacos
How long is the water taxi ride to Cayo Icacos?
The water taxi ride to Cayo Icacos is about 15-20 minutes long from Las Croabas, and there are no stops along the away. If you charter a private boat, then you can request stops along the way for some recreational swimming in the ocean.
How often do water taxis arrive for pickup and drop-off passengers? Water taxis tend to come to pick up or drop off new passengers every 30 minutes to an hour.
The boat captain will tell you the schedule when you board, and you can choose what time you want to be picked up. Although you can technically hop on the boat to return anytime there is space, they typically plan to pick people up after a 4-hour stay on the island.
When does the last boat arrive for pick up and drop-offs?
Boats pick up passengers from the island before the sun sets. So, they will stop dropping off passengers to Cayo Icacos around 4 PM. Then, they will start picking up the remaining passengers to return to the mainland around 5pm to 6pm before the sun sets.
The water taxi captains are pretty flexible, so you can just tell them when you want to return, and they will try to squeeze you in if there is space.
If you are into sharing a ride or want a VIP experience, here are the main differences between a private charter and a water taxi to help you decide:
Considerations When Choosing A Private Charter to Cayo Icacos
The best thing about the private charter is that it’s all yours for your entire stay at Cayo Icacos Island. This is ideal if you are with family, a large group, or just willing to pay the premium for comfort.
A charter boat will sit with you by the shore of the island, allow you to blast party music, pop bottles, etc. But I do recommend buying and bringing your own party supplies and drinks rather than paying a markup on the boat for it.
Charter boats are the more convenient options since the boat is on your schedule. It will come and go according to your preferences. But the last departure time will likely still be before sunset as the water taxis’ are.
Here’s a picture of a charter boat docked at Cayo Icacos in the background and some of the great friends that we made while in Puerto Rico greeting us when we arrived!
Considerations When Choosing A Water Taxi to Cayo Icacos
Water taxis are small and packed to capacity with guests. So it’s good to make some new friends, but not so good if you hate being in close proximity to strangers.
Water taxis operate on a set schedule. So be sure to ask your captain and agree to a time slot. They usually fill the boat during each drop-off and pickup, so you could have a long wait if you miss your boarding time.
while water taxis are the cheaper and less luxurious option. They aren’t fancy, comfortable, or luxurious. But since they only cost around 25 bucks each way, and it’s just a 15-minute ride, take it for what it is.
7. Bring the Essentials! Cayo Icacos is an Uninhabited Island.
Cayo Icacos is an uninhabited island with absolutely no facilities on it, as you can see in my picture below. That means there are no vendors, restaurants, bathrooms, or showers! They don’t even have garbage cans, so please clean up after yourself.
So that you can be more prepared than I was, here is a quick list of 10 recommended items that you should definitely bring on your visit to Cayo Icacos:
10 Items You Should Take To Cayo Icacos Beach
1. Food, and plenty of it to last for your entire visit.
2. Plenty of water.
3. A beach umbrella for the strong sun. (There aren’t any trees to hide in the shade under; you will get a sunburn.)
4. Water shoes for the rocky areas.
5. Beach Towels.
6. Snorkel gear. (There are plenty of fish to see if you find yourself a quiet area where the boats aren’t docked.)
8. Waterproof speakers. (There were other boats when I arrived playing loud music, so feel free to bring your own!)
9. Lots of sunblock.
10. Beach toys. (Unless you just like to lay on the beach and snorkel, you might get bored.)
8. Find The Best Areas to Snorkel Further Down The Shore.
From what I saw, Cayo Icacos is a good beach to snorkel on, but perhaps not the best. If you are looking for huge fish and turtles, I hope you can find them because I couldn’t.
However, when I explored a few different areas farther down the shore I found some fishies hiding away amongst the more rocky areas on the far end of the beach. These areas are more treacherous for boats to dock, so they aren’t around to scare the fish away.
Live Video Of The Beach At Cayo Icacos
Lastly, pictures just don’t do it justice. So click here to see a short Instagram video of my visit to Cayo Icacos beach!
Well, there you have it. This is the most current and complete firsthand directions to Cayo Icacos that you will currently find.
If this article was helpful, please share it, drop a comment, and feel free to tag me in your awesome Puerto Rico photos on Instagram @Nezalpha.
And if you are looking for the best nightlife and bars in Puerto Rico, then read my article, “7 Essential tips About La Placita in Puerto Rico” next!