Phaetons are the way to explore the island of Buyukada. These horse-driven carriages are everywhere and you don't have to worry about getting conned as they have a fix regulated fare. (See pics).
TL70 for about 1 and a half hour of roaming around the island. Comfortable for 4 to 5 passengers.
Buyukada and other larger islands around could be visited by ferry boats from Kabatas ferry port in Istanbul (not so far from Taxim square). Ferries run about every 2 hours, and stop in Asian side of Istanbul Kadikoy, later in 4 islands, the last one is Buyukada. The ferry trip lasts about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
This trip is also nice to have a look at Istanbul’s Sultanahmet historical suburb as well as at Istanbul from far away.
Büyükada can be reached by ferry from the piers at Kabatas, Kadiköy or Bostanci. As you approach the island you will first notice the lush vegetation and then the elegant old houses rising above the deep blue sea. As you get closer, the architecture, decoration and details on the houses will be a delight to your eyes. Houses that are over a hundred years old peek out from between bright green trees, giving you the first indication that your tour of Büyükada will be unforgettable. The elegant building on the pier gracefully reflects the island’s history. With a domed roof and a dominant position in the town centre, the building warmly greets those who step onto the island.
In Büyükada cars not allowed. Cycling is very common also horse-drawn carriage is popular.
As you walk off the pier from the ferry, you go up the hill and on your left side will be the Horse Taxi Station. YOU will find literally dozens of them waiting for passengers.. This may have been because we arrived in September, which is almost the off season, there were enough Horse Taxi's for everyone.
Since motor vehicles are banned on the island, tourists often opt to travel by horse-drawn carriage during their visit. There are dozens parked very close to the ferry terminal, just follow your nose :)
The carriage rides are fun, but negotiate with your driver in advance before getting in. Enjoy!
One of the above postings is misleading. The taxi from the airport would cost a lot more than 20 YTL on the meter. Better to go by Metro from the airport building. Get off the Metro at Yenibosna, cross the footbridge and take the Tramway. Both Metro and Tramway will cost you about 1 YTL. You get off the Tramway at Sirkeci, and have little more than 100 metres' walk to get to the ferry for the islands (Adalar).
From Ataturk International Airport you can easily reach Buyukada within a couple of hours.
You have to take a taxi first. Local drivers are smart and if they have a meter thay may not switch it on and will ask you for a nice amount afterwards. So it is better to negotiate the rate to Sirkeci Feribotlar (Sirkeci Sea Ferry Station). This trip will cost you about 20 YTL and will take upto 40 minures.
Then you walk about 50 meters to the cashier of Sirkeci Feribotlar and buy a token for a "Feribot" (Sea Ferry) to "Adalar" (Islands). Ferries are nice, but it is advised to go to the upper deck to get some fresh air. You pay 2 YTL per person and enjoy your sea journey (1 hour 45 minutes).
Alternatively, you can take a taxi to Kabatas (30 YTL ; upto 1 hour) and then go to Buyukada by Sea Bus (5 YTL ; less than 1 hour).
If you are in good shape and want to see the island you can rent bicycle and ride.
The problem with the island is that you have a lot to climb but the view is so amazing that it worth it.
Buyukada is Cars-free island so if you want to see the whole island you can take the horse carriage tour.
An hour will cost you 35 YTL and the carriage can take up to 4 people so it will be cheaper for each person.
Because Buyukada is an island the best thing to do is to use the ferries from side to side.
for tourist they have ferries in 20-30 USD but if you want to feel like a local and go between places cheap the best thing is the local ferries - 1-2 YTL.
You can find ferries in many places : Eminonu , Kadikoy , Uskudar , Beciktas and more.
A ferry to the prince's islands cost us 2 YTL from eminonu.
The only way to get to Buyukada, unless you are an excellent swimmer, is by ferry boat. Leaving from Sirkeci ferry terminal #5 several times a day. It stops on route at a couple of the other of the Princes' Islands before its final destination, Buyukada. The return fair is dirt cheap, don't remember exactly but was around 2,000,000TL. It took roughly 1.5hrs each way.
When leaving Buyukada, make sure you are getting on the right boat going were you want. I got on one terminating at the asian side somewhere and had a hell of a time getting back to Sultanahment.
Also I should mention that ferry terminal #5 is not easy to find. The terminals are numbered (right to left) 1 to 4, then on the other side of Galata bridge was #6. Well, it took me a while but I found #5 hiding away to the right of #1 behind a wall and past a car ferry loading station. It was also a different style building than the others.
The only cars on Buyukada that you might see will be a police car and an ambulance, other than those, cars are banned on this small island.
To get around on the island you have three basic options:
1) Bring a good pair of walking shoes
2) There are horse pulled carriages around and up near the monastery you can also hire a donkey.
3) Bring a bike (you can bring it on the ferry, I saw a local doing this) or you can rent one in town.