The author, Vanessa Ramos at the Japanese Garden in Ponce in Puerto Rico

San Juan to Ponce (4 Best Ways to Go, By a Local)

Since it’s one of the most popular Puerto Rico destinations, there are a few ways to get from San Juan to Ponce. 

Located on the south coast, 1 hour and 25 minutes from San Juan, Ponce is one of the most visited Puerto Rico cities for its landmarks, great gastronomy, and history. Not to mention, there are some seriously cool things to do in Ponce.

I’m a Puerto Rico local and, in this article, I’ll tell you exactly how to get there – whether or not you have a car, are on a budget, or want a bit of commentary on the way. Let’s dive in! 

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4 Ways to Get From San Juan to Ponce (& Back)

There are four different ways to get from San Juan to Ponce. The most common method to explore Ponce’s sites and attractions is by driving. 

Renting a car is honestly the easiest way to get to Ponce for travelers, but there are multiple options to reach the south coast, including private shuttles, taxis, and tours. Let’s look in detail at each of your options. 

From San Juan to Ponce By Car 

🚍 Best for: saving time, comfort, freedom to explore
💵 Cost: $$
👉 Where to Book: Discover Cars

Cars parked in Downtown Ponce in Puerto Rico
Cars parked at Ponce’s downtown

Renting a car is the easiest way to get around Puerto Rico and to reach Ponce. The driving trip from San Juan to Ponce takes about an hour and twenty minutes. 

This transportation option is the best for travelers who want to stay flexible and explore other Puerto Rico attractions. Renting a car is also great for groups, as you can fit multiple passengers in a ride for a single fee.

Pros of Driving: 

  • Flexibility to explore
  • Saves money for long stays
  • Same price for multiple passengers

Cons of Driving: 

  • Pricey for one person
  • Driving in a foreign country
  • Having to find parking

From San Juan to Ponce By Shuttle or Taxi

🚍 Best for: Saving time, comfort
💵 Cost: $$$
👉 Where to Book: Viator, Go Puerto Rico Shuttle, Gomez Bus Line, Taxi Isla

View of a shuttle bus on a road in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Shuttle bus in San Juan (photo: RaksyBH / Shutterstock)

Shuttles are a quick and easy way to get from San Juan to Ponce for travelers who don’t like to drive in a foreign country. 

Shuttles and taxis can pick you up and drop you off wherever you want, but it’s a pricier option than renting a car. Still, you’ll have a stress-free trip to your destination.

Pros of Shuttle: 

  • Flexible pick up and drop off
  • Stress-free trip
  • Not driving in the mountainous region

Cons of Shuttle: 

  • Pricey for long routes
  • Lack of flexibility to explore
  • Limited shuttle and taxi options

From San Juan to Ponce By Tour

🚍 Best for: comfort, day trips 
💵 Cost: $$$
👉 Where to Book: Viator

If you’re not staying in Ponce, then taking a tour from San Juan to Ponce might be the best for you. 

Some tour companies offer Ponce tours with San Juan pick-up, so you wouldn’t need to worry about driving or planning your itinerary. 

This is also a great way to fit all the fun things to do in Ponce into a single day if you have a tight Puerto Rico itinerary.

Pros of a Tour: 

  • Pick-up and drop-off
  • Not driving in a foreign country
  • Learning about Puerto Rico

Cons of a Tour: 

  • Tours with pick-up can be pricey
  • Pays price per person
  • Limited availability 

From San Juan to Ponce By Plane and Car 

🚍 Best for: Comfort
💵 Cost: $$$
👉 Where to Book: Cape Air, Discover Cars, Kayak

Aerial view of Puerto Rico from an airplane
Airplane overflying Puerto Rico

Another option to go from San Juan to Ponce is to book a flight to Mayagüez and then take a car to Ponce. In terms of saving time and money, this option is impractical since Mayagüez is much farther from San Juan than Ponce. 

But, if you plan on touring the southwest coast or you have to attend business in the area, then this might be a great option. 

Cape Air offers direct and cheap flights from the San Juan airport to the Eugenio María de Hostos airport in Mayagüez. From there, you can either take a taxi or rent a car to get to Ponce.

Pros of Plane and Car: 

  • Quick way to get to the southwest
  • Flexibility to explore

Cons of Plane and Car: 

  • Detour from Ponce
  • Flight prices can be pricey

8 Tips For Getting Between San Juan and Ponce

Downloads Your Maps Offline

View in Cayey while driving to Ponce
Driving through Cayey before reaching Ponce

It’s not unusual for devices to lose signal while crossing the mountainous region. Download your maps offline if you’re using GPS to reach your destination and keep them on your phone. 

Avoid The Peak Hour

The ride to Ponce is relatively short. The average trip from San Juan to Ponce takes 1 hour and 20 minutes. But, if you travel during times with heavy traffic, your trip could take up to two hours. If you’re planning on visiting the city, avoid driving during the 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. rush hours.

Rent a Car

Aerial view of a highway to Ponce, Puerto Rico
Highway in the direction of Ponce

Renting a car in Puerto Rico is the most simple, and ultimately cheapest, way to get around. 

Car rental fares vary from $60 to $180 per day, which is what you’ll pay for a single taxi ride from San Juan to Ponce. With a rental car, you can also explore the towns around Ponce, which house some of the best places to visit in Puerto Rico.

🚗 Rental Car Warning: When renting a car for your trip to Puerto Rico, make sure the website states all the fees. Some companies display prices without the insurance fees and then charge you the real price at the location. Use Discover Cars to find detailed prices and see reviews from previous renters.

Bring Chewing Gum

The usual route from San Juan to Ponce crosses between Puerto Rico mountains, specifically through Cayey and Salinas. If you’re sensitive to changes in altitude and your ears react to pressure, then pack gum in your bag to chew to relieve the pressure while on the road. 

Explore the Local Highlights

Clear blue sky over the Tibes Ceremonial Park
Indigenous courtyard at Tibes Ceremonial Park

Ponce has a historical downtown similar to San Juan, a coast, and a mountainous region where you’ll find the Tibes Ceremonial Park. This local park was inhabited by the Igneris long before Christopher Columbus reached the New World. 

Ponce’s Art Museum is also one of the biggest in Puerto Rico, and it’s known for its large western hemisphere art collection. 

The Ponce Cathedral and Parque de Bombas are also highlights that rank as the best things to do in Ponce. During your time in Ponce, make sure to explore these landmarks.

📚 Related Reading: San Juan vs. Ponce

Visit La Parguera

The author, Vanessa Ramos with Travel Lemming's Senior editor, Taylor Herperger during their boat tour in La Parguera
Taylor and me taking a boat tour to the bio bay

If you’re staying in Ponce, Puerto Rico, then take a day trip to La Parguera in Lajas. In this fishing neighborhood, you’ll find one of Puerto Rico’s bio bays. La Parguera Bio Bay is also the only bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico you can swim in.

Take a Day Trip to Guánica 

The author, Vanessa Ramos during her hike at Punta Ballena in Guánica
Me hiking in Punta Ballena in Guánica

Besides visiting La Parguera, take a day trip to Guánica. Located 40 minutes west of Ponce, Guánica is home to Guánica’s Dry Forest, one of the best Puerto Rico parks for nature lovers. Guánica’s things to do also include beaches, a beachfront promenade, and Punta Ballena Nature Reserve. 

Take a Flight Directly to Ponce

Multiple airlines fly directly into the Mercedita International Airport in Ponce from Orlando, Florida. Although there aren’t any direct Ponce flights from the San Juan airport, you can save time by flying directly to the city in the south from Florida.

FAQs About Getting from San Juan to Ponce

What is the easiest way to get to Ponce from San Juan?

The easiest and fastest way to get to Ponce from San Juan is by driving. Renting a car is generally the cheapest and most flexible method to move from San Juan and Ponce. It also saves the most time and it’s cheaper for travelers staying multiple days.  

What is there to do between Ponce and San Juan?

Between Ponce and San Juan, visitors can stop at Caguas Botanical Garden to see a historic sugar mill and themed gardens. Other things to do between Ponce and San Juan include eating at the Pork Highway in Cayey, visiting Olimpia Water Park in Salinas, and checking out the beaches at Santa Isabel.

How far is San Juan from Ponce?

San Juan is 1 hour and 25 minutes from Ponce. The town is located on the south coast and the road distance of the fastest route between the cities is 74.6 miles (120 km).

Is Ponce a good area to stay in Puerto Rico?

Ponce is one of the best areas to stay in Puerto Rico. Ponce’s attractions include Parque de Bombas, La Guancha, and Museo Serralles. The town is cheaper than San Juan and boasts attractions for the whole family. Learn more in our where to stay in Ponce guide.

Map of How to Get Between San Juan and Ponce


Thanks for reaching my guide on how to travel from San Juan to Ponce! If you’re just starting to plan your stay in the city, continue reading my guide to where to stay in Ponce. Safe travels!

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