Puerto Rico has announced that it will no longer require a negative COVID-19 test for vaccinated travelers.
“Puerto Rico has prioritized health and safety from the onset of the pandemic, becoming the first U.S. destination to implement an Island-wide curfew, among other measures developed to safeguard residents and visitors,” Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, said in a statement. “As restrictions loosen, we look forward to welcoming travelers seeking to responsibly explore our Island, immerse themselves in an unforgettable culture, unique natural wonders, and delicious cuisine while taking advantage of the ease of travel that comes with Puerto Rico being a U.S. territory, including no need for a passport for U.S. citizens.”
In addition, all local curfews—which have been in effect since March 2020—have been lifted. Even though the U.S. does require those traveling internationally to be tested for COVID-19 within three days before a return flight, domestic visitors don’t need to worry about this rule—or even having a U.S. passport to visit—since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory.
Note that for the time being, travelers who are not fully vaccinated and those traveling to the island from a different country will still need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR molecular test or a rapid antigen test less than 72 hours before the time of their arrival on the island. In addition, all travelers must abide by the island’s health and safety protection guidelines, which currently include social distancing and wearing a mask.
If you’re a fully vaccinated American traveler—meaning, you’re a U.S. citizen traveling from the mainland, and it’s been at least two weeks since your final dose—you can fill out a travel health declaration and upload your COVID-19 vaccination card to the Puerto Rico Health Department’s online portal. After doing so, you’ll receive a QR code, which you can show upon reaching the airport.
Once you’re in, here are a few suggestions for safely enjoying the island’s many charms:
Even though Puerto Rico is in the United States, the couples dancing salsa in bars and the Spanish language tunes wafting through the windows are a view into a new world of culture and history. The delicious taste of the island’s unique cuisine, the “cocina criolla,” as it’s called, brings this home. It is best washed down with a few chichaitos, the island’s signature cocktail.
When wandering through the colorful cobblestoned streets of the old capital city of San Juan, you can find its beautiful colonial-era forts, which are a UNESCO-protected heritage site. If you climb up to the sentry post of Castillo San Cristobal, you can find one of the best views of the city.
Puerto Rico has an array of choices for those looking for a relaxing beach vacation while offering a dash of adrenalin for the more adventurous crowd. On popular beaches like Playa Flamenco and Sun Bay Beach, you can find palm trees and sandy beaches for swimming and sunning.
Or, you can leave the crowds of the mainland resorts by taking a boat to one of the smaller islands. Culebra and Vieques offer some amazing bay excursions including snorkeling, scuba diving, and windsurfing.
Mosquito Bay in Vieques is one of the most bioluminescent bays in the world because of a rare type of microorganism that grows on it. It makes for an incredible visual spectacle difficult to find outside of Puerto Rico.
You don’t have to leave the main island to find an off-the-beaten-path adventure. Puerto Rico is compact enough to make it a place where you can spend a morning at the beach and the afternoon exploring a rainforest.
Need some suggestions? Try climbing a waterfall in Rocaliza or taking one of the world’s longest zip lines across the jungle in Toro Verde Adventure Park. For animal lovers, there are endless opportunities for exploration among the playful wild monkey residents of Monkey Island of Humacao.
Puerto Rico has an unearned reputation for being a dangerous travel destination. However, as long as you take sensible precautions, your trip will likely be trouble-free.
Like in many Latin American destinations, petty crimes like pickpocketing are not uncommon in Puerto Rico, so make sure to keep an eye on all your personal belongings.
Some areas of the island are affected by narcotics and associated criminal activity that tourists should avoid, but these are far away from popular destinations.
The political situation can also become tense, and travelers should make sure to avoid any demonstrations or marches that have the potential to turn violent.
On the upside, Puerto Rico is an LGBTQ-friendly destination, with San Juan having one of the largest and most tolerant gay scenes in the Caribbean. It is also a relatively safe travel destination for women compared to the rest of the region.
Just a few years ago, Puerto Rico suffered from the effects of hurricanes and an economic downturn. But now, with investment pouring in and the damages mostly repaired, Puerto Rico is finally getting its moment in the spotlight.
Because of the extensive restrictions on international travel that governments have imposed to combat the pandemic, there is no better time for what is legally a “local” trip away. Puerto Rico’s unique charm and culture will make it one you’ll never forget.