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Puerto Rico Tourism Update 2023


Updated February 6, 2023

Is it possible to travel to Puerto Rico in 2023? Absolutely!

In this Puerto Rico tourism update, we cover everything you need to know about travel to the Island of Enchantment. Below, we discuss the latest COVID updates for Puerto Rico as well as why tourism is important for the island’s recovery from hurricanes Maria and Fiona. 

For everything from safety tips to restaurant recommendations, work with a local to plan your trip. No one knows Puerto Rico like the locals do. Learn more.

Table Of Contents

  • Puerto Rico and the pandemic
  • Hurricane Fiona Update
  • How tourism helps Puerto Rico’s economy
  • Why you should plan a trip to Puerto Rico
  • Puerto Rico hidden gems
  • Visit Puerto Rico on a cruise
  • Best time to visit Puerto Rico

What to know about Puerto Rico and the pandemic

For Americans, Puerto Rico is an easy and relatively safe place to visit when it comes to COVID. It’s similar to traveling between states; Americans don’t need a passport since it’s a U.S. territory and COVID rules are minimal at this point. 

Here’s the latest:

There are no vaccine or testing requirements for Americans, although the CDC does recommend the COVID vaccine before travel. 

Masks are recommended anywhere you can’t guarantee the vaccination status of those around you and on public transportation but are not required. Keep in mind that Individual businesses can implement their own masking and vaccine rules, so be prepared by packing masks and your vaccination card. 

You can always check in with a local to get an on-the-ground perspective of what life is like in Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Fiona Update

Don’t the news from the 2022 hurricane season discourage you from traveling to Puerto Rico. The resilient island bounced back quickly, especially in tourist areas, after Hurricane Fiona hit in September 2022. The San Juan Airport was fully operational within just a couple of days after Fiona made landfall. Hotels that were closed opened up quickly as well. At this point, most indoor activities are back to normal as are many outdoor activities. Locals in Puerto Rico know all the details and can tailor your itinerary to make sure you get to see the best of what’s open right now and help you support local recovery by visiting off-the-beaten-path, independently-owned places.

Hurricane Irma and Maria recovery are ongoing as well, but the remaining damage from the 2017 storms isn’t obvious in tourist areas. Emergency repairs have been made, but long-term infrastructure upgrades and repairs are incomplete at present. 

Why travel now? Tourism supports the island’s economy

People in Old San Juan | Tatiana Rodriguez/Unsplash

As Puerto Rico — and the rest of the world — begins to recover from the COVID pandemic, tourism dollars are more important than ever. 

The CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, Brad Dean, noted that tourism makes up 10% of Puerto Rico’s GDP. Following Hurricane Maria in 2017, he said: «The people of Puerto Rico have shown great resiliency…they are writing the textbook on how to use tourism to fuel economic recovery.»

Tourism post-Hurricane Maria helped the island recover. Now, tourism can help Puerto Rico recover from the pandemic and Hurricane Fiona. 

That’s especially true if you spend your tourism dollars at local businesses and skip the touristy chains.

When you connect with a Puerto Rico local to plan your trip, more than two-thirds of the flat fee goes directly into their pocket.

And let’s be honest — we could all use a vacation

A stunning Puerto Rico sunset | MyCoolPhotos/Pixabay

For Americans, travel to Puerto Rico is easy — and often fairly affordable. There are tons of great hostels on the island, as well as many boutique hotels. 

Plus, going to Puerto Rico means you’re in for a real adventure—whether that means exploring old forts in San Juan, surfing in Rincon, sipping piña coladas in Ponce, or enjoying the white sands of Playa Flamenco.

All in all, Puerto Rico can offer a wonderful respite from the daily grind. And as the island recovers from the pandemic, your tourism dollars can make a positive impact. 

Work with a local to plan your trip to Puerto Rico.

Local Tip:

Are piña coladas on your Puerto Rico bucket list? Get a free sample at Barranchina in San Juan. They claim to have invented the drink!

What kind of traveler are you?

Let’s face it. People want different things when they travel. Rather than spending hours sifting through blogs and top 10 lists written by people who may have totally different interests than you, why not start by sharing a little about what’s important to you when exploring a new destination?

Select your travel preferences below and let a local travel planner with ViaHero take it from there. Your personalized Puerto Rico recommendations, itinerary, and maps are just a few clicks away.

Puerto Rico is an excellent place to escape (and these hidden gems support the local economy)

The list of fun and interesting places to visit in Puerto Rico feels endless, but here are a few local favorites.  

Crab Island Rum Distillery — Visit Vieques Island to enjoy artisan rum in a locally-owned distillery. Snag a seat at the bar and let the bartender recommend which rums to try, either on their own or mixed into tasty cocktails. 

Secret Garden Art Gallery — Admire and purchase paintings, photographs, and jewelry created by local artists in Rincon. The work here is inspired by nature and includes underwater photography, driftwood sculptures, and sea glass jewelry. 

Pork Highways —  Lechón, spit-roasted marinated pork, is a traditional part of Christmas meals, but is available all year. Businesses line up along the streets of Naranjito, Trujillo Alto, and Cayey, the island’s three Pork Highways, selling lechón and other delicious dishes. 

Las Salinas de Cabo Rojo — Snap photos that will stun your Instagram followers and see six different ecosystems at “Pink Beach” aka the Salt Flats. While the flats are known for their pink color, the hues vary constantly depending on the amount of salt, bacteria, and algae in the water. Spend a night in Boquerón Village and enjoy a meal at one of the many seafood shacks that pop up along the sidewalks. 

You can even see the local side of Puerto Rico on a cruise

Ready for a cruise vacation? Puerto Rico’s ports are ready to welcome you. Most cruises in the region dock for one day on the island and offer similar shore excursions across cruise lines. If you want to get off the beaten path, ask a local Hero to plan your day for you. With a custom itinerary from a local, you can feel comfortable navigating Old San Juan at your own pace, venturing out to the beach, and opening doors to restaurants that aren’t on the standard cruiser’s itinerary. 

«How did I ever not travel like this?! Lia’s local insight & planning was a game changer. It’s like having a digital concierge, travel agent, and local fixer all rolled into one!»

—Kate, ViaHero Traveler

But when’s the best time to go to Puerto Rico?

The best time to visit Puerto Rico depends on your preferences. But we can give you guidance on the weather, things to do, and other factors that might influence your decision.

Summer (July-September) — It’s hot, humid, and rainy, but July and August are popular anyway. Hurricane season begins in June and stretches into the fall, and hurricanes are most likely to hit in September. Because it’s the wet season, there are great deals to be found on hotels and more. 

Fall (October — early December) — It’s still wet and it’s still hurricane season until the end of November. However, fall is an appealing time to visit for celebrations including patron saints days, Rincón Surfing Festival, Calle Loíza Culinary Fest, and Jayuya Indigenous Festival.

Winter (December — March) — With average temperatures ranging from 70 — 83 degrees Fahrenheit and low rainfall, many consider this the best weather season in Puerto Rico. It’s high season for tourism because that balmy weather is a big draw for those of us wishing to escape cold, snowy days. Celebrations abound in winter including Día de los Reyes (Three Kings Day), Carnaval, Semana Santa, and Christmas. 

Spring (April — June) — Warmer and rainier than winter, but cooler and drier than summer, spring can be a nice time to visit. The spring flowers are gorgeous, winter crowds are gone, and while the rainy season technically begins in April it isn’t in full swing yet. It’s also harvest time for coconut, mango, shrimp, and oysters.

Ready to vacation in Puerto Rico? Chat with a local who can create a custom itinerary based on your interests and budget. 

Still have questions about travel to Puerto Rico?

Why not ask someone who lives there? ViaHero connects you with a local to help plan your trip. They’ll create a guidebook based on your personal travel style.

You’ll see a unique side of a destination and travel independently—all while saving time and money in the planning process. Find a local today.

Looking for more info?

Puerto Rico’s tragically foreseeable crisis

With help from Brakkton Booker, Joseph Gedeon, Minho Kim, Ella Creamer and Charlie Mahtesian

Downed power lines on a road in Puerto Rico, as the island awoke to a general power outage on Sept. 19, 2022. | Jose Jimenez/Getty Images

What up, Recast family! President Joe Biden declares the pandemic is over, and questions arise over whether Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had the budget authority to fly migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. Plus, Adnan Syed, whose case inspired the megahit podcast “Serial,” is freed from prison.  First though, we focus on the latest unfolding in Puerto Rico. 

The latest collapse of Puerto Rico’s power grid after it was thrashed by Hurricane Fiona over the weekend was a foreseeable crisis that activists, including Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, have been working to prevent — a crisis deeply rooted in the island’s status as a U.S. territory.

Turn back the calendar to five years ago today: Hurricane Maria, coming less than two weeks after Hurricane Irma, was the strongest hurricane to hit the island in nearly a century.

Maria, a Category 4 storm that caused an estimated 2,975 deaths, decimated Puerto Rico’s power, water and health care systems.

The island has never truly recovered from that blow.

Downed power lines and debris are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 26, 2017. | Gerald Herbert/AP Photo

In those intervening years, those living on the island have had to endure multiple crises, including earthquakes that further destabilized the power grid, not to mention the Covid-19 pandemic.

With Fiona, the island suffered yet another total blackout Sunday when the then-Category 1 storm knocked out power to 1.5 million customers, dumped some 32 inches of rain on some parts of the island and triggered catastrophic flooding and widespread loss of water service.

Power has been restored to 19 percent of those customers as of Tuesday morning.

Fiona is not an outlier. Puerto Ricans living on the island frequently deal with the possibility of losing power, regardless of whether or not a storm is passing through. In April, an island-wide blackout caused by a possible equipment failure knocked out power to parts of the island for five days.

The unplanned outages pose threats to equipment essential for businesses and hospitals, including the refrigerators people need to store their daily medications such as insulin used by diabetics. And drinking water has been disrupted to two-thirds of people living on the island, at least partly due to the lack of electricity and flooding that has overrun systems.

“Life on the island is becoming unsustainable, but at the same time people are there fighting for things to get better,” Lía Fiol-Matta, senior counsel at LatinoJustice, an organization that advocates for decolonization of the island.

Bad Bunny is one of those people. The rapper’s latest music video, released last week for his song El Apagón, features news reports about LUMA Energy, which he’s sharply criticized at his concerts for the power grid failures.

LUMA took over management of the electric grid in June 2021, which had previously been operated by the government-run Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, which had gone bankrupt.

“The situation in Puerto Rico is linked to the colony status of the island,” said Sheilla L. Rodríguez Madera, a professor of global and sociocultural studies program with Florida International University.

Activists blame the ongoing impact of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act — commonly known as PROMESA, or promise in English — which was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

It created a program to restructure Puerto Rico’s $72 billion debt and established the Financial Oversight and Management Board, which imposed austerity measures that advocates argue have only worsened the poverty crisis.

“It’s the powerlessness of people on the island to make major decisions about their own lives and their own destinies,” Fiol-Matta said.

It was the federal government that created PROMESA and made the decision to establish the board to take control of Puerto Rico’s finances — and some say the island’s future.

Not having voting representation in Congress and not being able to cast votes in the presidential election “does not help the situation here,” said Ruth Santiago, a community and environmental attorney in Puerto Rico and a member of the activist group Queremos Sol, or We Want Sun.

But even if Puerto Rico had voting power, it would experience similar challenges to places like New Orleans and Houston with majority Black or brown populations, she said.

“What we’re seeing is when these natural disasters strike, injustices are perpetrated,” Santiago said.

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi pictured at a press conference in 2019 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. | Angel Valentin/Getty Images

Puerto Rican legislators and Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, a Democrat, gathered last week at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., to urge Congress to pass the “Puerto Rico Status Act.” It would facilitate a binding vote in 2023 for the residents of Puerto Rico to determine what their status should be.

“It is time to end colonialism within America. It is time to end the territorial relationship of Puerto Rico with the United States,” Pierluisi said.

Should that legislation pass both chambers of Congress and be signed into law by Biden, one option residents of Puerto Rico could consider would be independence from the United States. Jenniffer González-Colón, the island’s non-voting member of Congress, says she’s confident Puerto Ricans would choose statehood instead.

For all the bombast Pierluisi displayed in Washington last week, residents say his administration at least bears some of the responsibility for the island’s current woes, including the ongoing power disruptions.

Pierluisi, who has previously defended LUMA, called the system “stable” in an interview with POLITICO earlier this year — which has infuriated residents living with the ongoing outages. But, more recently, he said “his patience is running out” and there would be “consequences” for the company if the situation didn’t change immediately.

Much of activists’ anger, though, is reserved for the energy company, LUMA.

People march along Las Americas Highway to protest the LUMA Energy company in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 15, 2021. | Carlos Giusti/AP Photo

For its part, LUMA has blamed the fragility of the power system on “decades of mismanagement and neglect,” stemming partly from under-investment in basic maintenance by the bankrupt, government-owned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

The complaints about the state of the grid are intertwined with a fierce debate over shifting Puerto Rico toward solar power and away from its traditional reliance on fossil-fuel energy and long-distance power lines.

By one estimate, 135,000 people left the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria as employment dried up and infrastructure that collapsed during the storm never recovered.

We’ll be keeping tabs on whether Fiona’s aftermath exacerbates that trend.

All the best,
The Recast Team

Power dynamics are changing. With The Recast, you’ll get a twice-weekly breakdown of how race and identity are the DNA of American politics and policy.

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Phoenix Police officers watch protesters rally on June 2, 2020, in Phoenix during demonstrations over the death of George Floyd. | Matt York, File

A first-in-the-nation law, which was days away from going into effect in Arizona making it a crime for the public to record the law enforcement within an 8-foot radius during a police stop, has been blocked by a federal court. POLITICO’s Joseph Gedeon breaks down the latest.

U.S. District Judge John J. Tuchi issued a preliminary injunction last week blocking the law from taking effect Sept. 24. He noted there were already state laws barring interference with police.

Additionally, the office of the Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich, in a motion filed earlier this month, sidestepped responsibility for defending the law, saying “the Attorney General is not the proper party to defend the merits” of the law, adding that “local and county prosecutors are the proper entities to defend this statute.” The attorney general’s office also said it did not oppose the preliminary injunction.