I recently had the opportunity to visit a place that I’ve always wanted to go to. A place that I’ve flown over countless times, and even landed on, but never stayed. I visited Puerto Rico.
No, I didn’t just stay at the airport, but this post is about the airport only. It’s not about the awesome people I met there.
If you’re visiting Puerto Rico chances are that you’ll be flying into the international airport in San Juan. It’s officially called San Juan Luis Munoz Marin International Airport. This airport is located right in San Juan, and since the island is so small, you can land in the morning and be anywhere by the afternoon (traffic permitting!). When it comes to the airport itself, there are 3 things that you need to know.
1. Welcome, now don’t exit the terminal unless you’re absolutely sure
Remember that Puerto Rico is a U.S. Territory, so when you land there from the United States, there’s no need to go through customs and immigration. So when you walk off the plane and into the gate area, you can just go straight to baggage claim/arrivals, but wait, are you sure you want to do that? When you go down to baggage claim/arrivals there’s no way to come back up. You’re stuck. And there are no restaurants or shops down there. Just doors to go outside for pickup. Yes, it’s possible to make your way back up to departures, but it’s not easy. It’s kind of a trek. In my case, my ride was already outside waiting for me, but I did see confused people trying to find a place to buy a bottle of water.
2. This is Latin America
I’m warning you. You’re not in America anymore, well, you kind of are, but not really. Although Puerto Rico is an American territory, it’s very much Latin America. Spanish is spoken WAY more than English, and although they have American laws, you wouldn’t know it from just driving around. Still, this is a decently sized airport. It looks older, and it is, but it gets the job done. Just don’t expect the order of an airport in Colorado Springs. This isn’t Colorado, it’s Puerto Rico. The long lines in security went by fast and airport employees were polite. Still, the lines to check in were ridiculously long and the terminals were way overcrowded. Luckily, I had a tropical paradise at the American Airlines Admirals Club.
3. Caribbean people love food (and coffee)
I didn’t eat at the airport. I chose to forgo paying for food and opted for the (free) snacks at the Admirals Club, but I did grab a cup of coffee from a coffee stand and then got another one inside the Admirals Club. Here’s the thing. People from the Caribbean take their food and their coffee really seriously. You can’t get a bad cup of coffee anywhere on the island of Puerto Rico. Everyone, everywhere, makes great coffee. From fancy coffee places to the hole in the wall. Every cup will be good. This airport is no different. It’s also loaded with restaurants. Every terminal has a good selection. Places like Cinnabon, Quiznos, Sbarro, Carls Jr., and yes a Starbucks (not that you need it).
Leave your passport at home, pack a bag, bring your appetite and fly down to San Juan for a great Caribbean adventure. And when you do, remember my tips about the San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport!
There are a few things I look for in airports. Accessibility to corresponding city. Ease of transport within the airport. Comfort (seating/plugs/shopping). Food. And the wildcard. The wildcard is something unique that helps or hurts the airport.
The San Juan airport receives a 7 out of 10.
It’s overcrowded and uncomfortable, but having great coffee available gives it a passing score.