Puerto Rico is rolling out the welcome mat. The Caribbean island is eager to host travelers as it re-emerges from the one-two punch that’s impacted its tourism in recent years: Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The island has been pretty dormant for tourism since 2017,” says Jeffrey Lee, product director for vacation company Pleasant Holidays and a seasoned traveler of Puerto Rico. “Four years later, Puerto Rico is beginning to hit its stride again.”
Is it ever. With a 500th anniversary celebration commemorating the founding of Old San Juan among its biggest events, the destination has become a vacation favorite for 2022. In fact, Lee has already noticed “very strong” interest in Puerto Rico from his company’s travel clientele. Here’s why you might want to consider it for your next vacation, too.
WARM WEATHER YEAR-ROUND
There is no winter, spring or fall in Puerto Rico -- only summer. Enjoy sunny days with 80-degree temperatures, 365 days a year.
Old San Juan
FUSE A COSMOPOLITAN AND BEACH VACATION INTO ONE TRIP
If you can’t decide on an energetic city getaway or relaxing respite in nature, combine them in one trip. “You have the best of both worlds in Puerto Rico,” says Lee, adding that many travelers like to pair a few days in San Juan with time on a secluded beach.
Ron del Barillito
NO NEED FOR A PASSPORT
Because Puerto Rico is a U.S. Territory, you can leave the passport at home.
FLIGHT OPTIONS ABOUND
Direct flights to Puerto Rico are available from most major U.S. cities and across multiple airlines. “The frequency of airlift makes it very affordable,” says Lee, “and very conducive to the last-minute [traveler].”
COVID PROTOCOLS TO SAFEGUARD ALL
More than 80 percent of Puerto Rico’s eligible population is fully vaccinated. That’s the highest vaccination rate in the United States, which should help to put COVID-conscious travelers at ease. Click here for current visitor entry requirements.
NEWLY REVITALIZED HOTELS AND RESORTS
Lee says it’s a great opportunity to be among the first to stay at a resort that got a major facelift either right before or during the pandemic. Among them: The Fairmont El San Juan. The oceanfront resort recently underwent a $65 million transformation, and it will be home to the first Foxwoods Casino in the Caribbean. Another notable multi-million-dollar transformation is that of the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve Puerto Rico, which is home to the island’s first-ever floating waterpark.
View from El Morro
EASE OF COMMUNICATION
Monolinguals can breathe easy, as English is widely spoken in Puerto Rico. If you need to stay connected to those back home, know that Internet connectivity is great across the island and there’s no need for an international phone plan for American travelers.
WATERS THAT GLOW
Check this off your travel bucket list: nighttime kayaking in a glowing body of water. Puerto Rico is home to three of the world’s most famous bioluminescent bays. These are bodies of water that light up in an ethereal glow-in-the-dark shade of blue-green when stimulated by movement. Lee recommends booking an excursion to Mosquito Bay in Vieques, which the Guinness Book of World Records deemed the brightest bay in the world.
El Yungue National Rainforest
A RAIN FOREST THAT WOWS
Pack your hiking boots. Puerto Rico is home to El Yunque National Forest, one of the oldest nature reserves in the western hemisphere and the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest Service. Enjoy hikes within this diverse ecosystem where colorful parrots, beautiful waterfalls, and natural pools (ideal for swimming) await intrepid travelers.
BEACHES THAT SEDUCE
Choose from nearly 300 beaches. Whether you want to paddleboard, surf, and snorkel—or do nothing at all—Puerto Rico has a postcard-perfect beach to match your vibe. Find some of the most beautiful and most remote beaches on the islands of Culebra and Vieques, which are accessible by boat or small plane.
UNDERGROUND CAVES TO EXPLORE
The natural beauty above ground is obvious. For a deeper dive, literally, take your island exploration underground. The Río Camuy Cave Park is one of the largest underground cave systems in the world, a natural wonder still being mapped to this day. Spelunk its extensive network of natural limestone caves and underground waterways. It boasts 10 miles of caverns and 220 caves—and counting.
STREET ART TOURS THAT DAZZLE
The free-spirited neighborhood of Santurce is a living canvas worth a visit, whether you have an appreciation for art or you’re simply looking for one of the island’s most Instagram-able settings. It’s become one of the largest art districts in the Caribbean (thanks to its unique galleries and museums), but Calle Cerra, a street that features a rotating assortment of vibrant street art and murals, is the main attraction.
WORLD-FAMOUS RUM TO SAMPLE
The rum made here goes back to the days of the pirates and is a main ingredient in Puerto Rico’s most celebrated libation: the Pina Colada. Guided rum tours and mixology experiences sometimes include the opportunity to bottle your own rum. Casa Bacardí, Hacienda Santa Ana, and PitoRico are among the most popular distilleries open to (thirsty) visitors.
CRAZY-DELICIOUS CUISINE TO TASTE
The cuisine of Puerto Rico is as vibrant as its people, a quality that comes alive in flavorful dishes such as mofongo (deep-fried green plantain mashed together with garlic and crackling pork rinds). Head to Lote 23, a gastronomic park in the heart of Santurce that offers diverse food options; or restaurant-hop down the Luquillo Kiosks line, which features 60 family-owned stalls that’ll satisfy a hungry palette. If you want to follow in the footsteps of fearless chefs Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, drive into the mountains to Guavate to feast on its local delicacy, the spit-roasted suckling pig.
Old San Jaun
The capital city of San Juan is a must, especially its premier UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old San Juan. Step back in time while meandering its blue-cobblestone streets, which are home to 16th-century fortresses and walls (popular during the day) and a vibrant nightlife (popular when the sun goes down). However, for a slower cosmopolitan pace, Lee recommends visiting Ponce on the south coast of the island. “It’s a little more relaxed,” he says. “It has the history but not the hustle and bustle of San Juan.”
All Photos courtesy of Discover Puerto Rico