The island is calling just in time for winter. What you need to know, and what to do while you're there!
After closing itself off to non-essential travel back in July, it looks like Puerto Rico has once again opened itself up to tourism. And since the island is officially a U.S. territory, Americans don’t have to worry about getting a passport or a visa to visit.
Because of the enhanced risk to those who live in places that are reopening, it’s vital that travelers observe all health and safety regulations in the places they’re visiting. In Puerto Rico, that means proving you’re Covid-free at the airport upon arrival, wearing your mask whenever you’re in public and social distancing at all times. Here are some things to be aware of if you’re planning a trip to the island anytime soon.
New Health and Safety Procedures at the Airport, Hotels, Attractions
Puerto Rico’s plan to keep its residents safe starts upon arrival in San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU), where mask-wearing is mandatory, thermographic cameras monitor passengers’ temperatures and visitors must fill out a Puerto Rico Health Department travel declaration form, provide proof of a negative molecular Covid-19 test taken no more than 72 hours before their flight, and obtain an Airport Exit Confirmation QR Code. If you arrive before your test results come in, you’ll be required to remain in quarantine until they do, otherwise, you’ll need to quarantine for 14 days or the length of the trip if it’s shorter than that. Anyone showing symptoms upon arrival will be tested at the airport by the Puerto Rico National Guard and must quarantine for 14 days or until they can produce a negative result via a locally administered test. You’ll also need to cover any expenses regarding accommodations, medical treatment or testing.
Once on the island, wear your face mask anytime you’re in public—that means over your nose and mouth whether you’re indoors or outdoors—or face fines for not following the rules. There’s an island-wide curfew in effect through November 13, so make sure you’re back in your hotel between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. As of October 17, restaurants, museums, malls and retail shops are operating at 55% capacity, while theaters, casinos, gyms and hotel pools are operating at 30% capacity. Bars, clubs, cafés and other event venues are closed until further notice. Hair salons and spas are currently open, as are golf courses, so just stick to your own group. Hotels have their own rules when it comes to sanitizing, social distancing, mask-wearing and conducting temperature checks, and anyone with a temperature higher than 100.3 degrees won’t be allowed to enter. Recreational boat use is allowed as long as you stay 15 feet from others, though tourists are no longer allowed to take a ferry to the nearby island of Vieques. Note that ferry service to Culebra will resume for tourists on October 26, as will service by the Puerto Rico Metropolitan Bus Authority (AMA) and the Tren Urbano subway system.
In the spirit of visiting Puerto Rico as safely and responsibly as possible, here are six socially distanced activities you can do there.
1. Take a Tour of Old San Juan
While Castillo San Felipe del Morro is closed until further notice, there are still plenty of interesting things to do in Old San Juan, whether you decide to go solo with one of GPSmyCity’s audio tours or with a group. Covid-compliant historical walking tours are available through Viator from $41 per person. San Juan Food Tours aims to keep patrons safe on its three-hour Flavors of Old San Juan tour (from $94 per person) and two-hour Rum Runners Craft Cocktail Tour (from $49 per person), while Spoon has similar health and safety protocols in place for its food and cocktail themed walking tours, ranging from $75 to $99 per person. To see San Juan from the water, East Island Excursions offers tours from $79 per person for daytime sailings or $95 per person for sunset sailings as long as guests fill out a health questionnaire before boarding.
2. Get Back to Nature in El Yunque National Forest
El Yunque National Forest is open but you’ll need to reserve an entry ticket online for $2 per vehicle ahead of time to visit the La Mina Recreation Area on Rd 191. Time slots between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. or 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. can be booked up to 30 days in advance. Note that La Mina Falls and Big Tree Trail will be closed for construction until 2022. Remember to keep your mask on and stay at least six feet from anyone outside your group.
3. Hike to Cueva Ventana (Window Cave)
If you’re staying on the western side of the island or looking for an easy day trip from San Juan, Aventura Cueva Ventana (or Window Cave) near Arecibo is a fun place to go hiking, see petroglyphs and stone carvings left behind by Puerto Rico’s earliest inhabitants and check out the views from the cave’s window-esque opening. Tickets are $19 per person and there’s a $2 discount if you visit Wednesday to Friday. All visitors must comply with stringent hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing measures at all times.
4. Explore Bioluminescent Bay by Kayak
On the eastern end of the island, Island Kayaking runs guided tours (from $53 per person) to Bioluminescent Bay near Fajardo. You’ll be organized into kayaks per group—as in, you won’t be seated with strangers—masks must be worn throughout the tour and anyone with a temperature over 100.4 won’t be allowed to join. Their two-hour Glowing Bay Adventure tour takes you through a mangrove forest out to the bay, where tiny creatures called pyrodiniums bahamenses light up all around you whenever you move your paddle and kayak.
5. Visit a Rum Distillery While the Bacardi Rum Factory has halted its tours now, another historic rum distillery, Ron de Barrilito, is open. Rum tasting tours and mixology classes, available from $80 per person, must be booked ahead of time online as the number of guests will be limited to allow for social distancing.
6. Head to the Beach or Condado Lagoon
If you’re a fan of sunbathing, surfing, boogie boarding, swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking or other recreational beach activities, it really boils down to this: stay with your own group, remain at least six feet from others and keep your mask on whenever you’re not in the water.