Boulevards & Byways

The Ultimate Puerto Rico Travel Guide in the Time of Covid-19

When there’s a chill in the air in New York, I know it’s time to go to Puerto Rico to warm up. But with the pandemic looming, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to traveling.

The ultimate Puerto Rico travel guide in the time of Covid-19 helps navigate COVID rules and restrictions. In addition, it shares important travel tips and highlights many of the best places to visit while social distancing in Puerto Rico.

What’s open in Puerto Rico?

As of September 12, 2020, public beaches and natural reserves are open for leisure. Restaurants and museums are operating at 50% capacity and pools at hotels and other establishments are at 25% capacity.

Social distancing and mandatory face coverings in public areas are required, (not suggested), including on the beaches. There’s a $100 fine for not wearing a mask.

What are the Covid requirements to visit Puerto Rico?

But before you consider traveling to Puerto Rico, know that visitors must fill out a Travel Declaration Form through the Puerto Rico Health Department’s online portal.

Visitors must also get a molecular COVID-19 test (nasal or throat swab), no more than 72 hours prior to visiting the Island, and show proof of a negative result. If you don’t, you must quarantine for 14 days.

It’s important, however, that visitors understand these requirements protects those who live on the island from getting COVID and limits the stress on an already burdened health system.

Should I get travel insurance when visiting Puerto Rico?

In light of the global pandemic continuing to loom over us and so many unknown stresses surrounding travel plans, you may want to consider travel insurance options, so that you can travel worry and hassle-free.

Boulevards and Byways reached out to ConsumersAdvocate.org to better understand just how travel insurance works in conjunction with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Travel Insurance

Their team created a guide on the best travel insurance featuring a side by side comparison of 4 different companies voted “best for” in various categories.  They assessed the policies based on their coverage, benefits, financial strength, and price and reputation. 

When choosing travel insurance for a future international or domestic trip, be sure you understand exactly what’s covered. There are different categories for the basic coverage, as well as limitations for coverage such as alcohol use and extreme sports. 

What is there to do in Puerto Rico?

For decades travelers, seduced by Puerto Rico’s charm and miles of breathtaking beaches have returned again and again because there is a plethora of things to do.

Once you make the decision to travel to Puerto Rico, eco-friendly activities from world-class surfing to hiking a tropical rain forest are at your fingertips.

Here are 10 things you can do in Puerto Rico while social distancing.

10 things to do in Puerto Rico

1. Meander through historic Old San Juan

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, 16th and 17th century candy-colored homes and shops dot this charming city.

Much of Old San Juan is made for walking either on medians dotted with benches and shady trees or along streets lined with its emblematic blue cobblestones. El Paseo de la Princesa, created in 1853, leads visitors through a pleasant tree-lined sculptural and garden showcase.

Museums offer an abundance of rich history, and the 16th-century forts tell a fascinating story of this old city.

For more information check out this self-guided walking tour of Old San Juan.

2. Admire two incredible fortresses

Travel back in time to the 16th century when Fort El Morro and Fort San Cristobal provided protection from attacks. The forts, however, are not open at this time because of COVID, but visitors can still admire the imposing stone walls.

These massive masonry defenses were the work of Spanish military engineers, to fend off pirate attacks. They showcase more than 400 years of history in the Americas.

3. Relax on stunning beaches

There are people who travel across continents to find secluded, untouched beaches. Unknown to many, Puerto Rico has approximately 300 beaches with options to suit every type of traveler.

Having put my feet in the sand of numerous beaches around the island, here are a handful worth checking out:

Balneario La Monserrat/Luquillo Beach, Luquillo

In the northeast part of the island,

At its furthest point east,

Surfers and boogie-boarders can be found waiting to catch a wave on

The many museums in Puerto Rico offer ways to understand the island’s culture and history. My favorite is the Museum of Art in Ponce. This stunning museum showcases Western art from the 14th century to the present. The Museo de las Americas in Old San Juan has artwork from pre-Columbian to modern ages.

5. Have fun with Watersports

Surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, snorkeling, kayaking, kite surfing, and jet skiing are all popular water activities in Puerto Rico.

My favorite place for kayak and stand up paddleboard rentals, as well as snorkeling tours, is Pirate Snorkeling Shack. Pirate Snorkeling encourages visitors to explore Seven Seas Bay, both above and below the turquoise water.

6. Connect with nature at El Yunque Rainforest

Did you know that El Yunque is the only tropical forest in the United States National Forest System? It has the greatest concentration of biodiversity anywhere. Insects, mushrooms, ferns, birds, and frogs (including the beloved Puerto Rican coqui) can be found here.

Reservations are required to comply with COVID safety directives. Be sure to check the reservation website before going to find out what is open and when.

Since hurricane Maria, a large part of the forest remains inaccessible, but there is still plenty to explore. La Coca Falls (Carr. 191) and Yokahu Tower (Carr. 191) are open with limited parking near each.

There are a number of accessible trails, however, be sure to check if they are open at the time of your visit.

Trails at El Yunque:

Juan Diego Trail – An easy trail, with parking nearby, that leads to a small waterfall.

Mt. Britton Trail – Accessible from road 99, visitors can park and then walk to the access point that leads to Mt. Britton Tower. You can continue on the Mt. Britton Tower Spur to El Yunque Peak from here.

El Yunque Trail & Peak – To reach the peak, hike the Mt. Britton Trail by using the Mt. Britton Tower Spur to get to the El Yunque Trail. The observation tower on top of El Yunque peak, at a towering 1500 feet, looks like an old church inside. Be aware that El Yunque Trail has a difficulty rating of moderate to challenging. It can take 3-4 hours to walk 5 miles round- trip.

Puente Roto – Located on Route 988, there are areas to swim and picnic.

Angelito Trail – This hike can be found off PR-988. Enjoy a short hike through lush jungle and over a small bridge to a beautiful swimming area on the Rio Mameyes.

7. Fly or ride through the countryside

Zipline at Toro Verde, or horseback ride and rent an ATV at Carabali Rainforest Park. They’re great ways to get out in nature and enjoy the natural beauty of Puerto Rico.

8. Discover the glowing Bio Bays

What, a bay that glows? Yes, that’s right! Single-celled organisms called dinoflagellates live in the bio bay. Stirring the water, they have a physical-chemical reaction. The result, water that glows!

There are only five places in the world where you can see the water glowing. Three are in Puerto Rico! The bays are only accessible by guided bio bay kayak tours at Laguna Grande in Fajardo and in La Parguera.

The third location, Mosquito Bay in Vieques, a tiny island off of Puerto Rico, has a spectacular bio bay. At this time, however, this island is only accessible to residents.

9. Explore Cueva Ventana

There’s a fun tour with a spectacular cliffside view offered at Cueva Ventana (Window Cave)!

The entertaining tour provides the history of the Taino Indians who were the original inhabitants of the area. Visitors learn how the cave formed, the creatures that live there, and the plants on-site, (some of which are near extinction).

10. Experience culture through Puerto Rican cuisine

The Taino, Arawak, Spanish, and African cultures influenced Puerto Rican cuisine. I believe that to truly experience the Puerto Rican culture, one must taste the local food. Here are five of my favorite foods to eat:

Arepas

Baked, fried, or steamed and stuffed or topped with pork, beef, or fish, arepas are truly a tasty treat!

Lechon

Whole roasted pig or lechon is a traditional holiday food in Puerto Rico, but it doesn’t have to be a holiday for you to try it.

There’s an entire town, Guavate, dedicated to cooking and serving this juicy and succulent meat all year-round. Take a ride along “pork highway” (La Ruta del Lechón), and as a result, you’ll find several restaurants specializing in pork (lechoneras).

Tostones

Fried green plantains, wildly popular in both restaurants and as street food.

Pinchos

Spanish for spikes, these grilled shish-kebobs made with pork, chicken, or shrimp.

Mofongo

Because mofongo is Puerto Rico’s signature dish, if you eat only one local food, this is the one to try. Mashed fried green plantains in a wooden pilon and filled with pork, steak, chicken, or seafood. Covered in garlic and olive oil, or a criollo (red) sauce. Yum, so delicious!

How far away is Puerto Rico?

Easy to get to, there are direct flights from cities all along the east coast of the U.S. You can get to San Juan is just a little over 2 hours from Miami and less than 3.5 hours from New York.

Do I need a passport to go to Puerto Rico?

No passport? No problem. You only need a valid government-issued ID to travel to Puerto Rico from the U.S.

What is the weather like in Puerto Rico?

Monthly temperatures average between 75 and 85 degrees so there’s never a bad time to visit.

This comprehensive travel guide to Puerto Rico, created to help visitors navigate the current COVID rules and restrictions, provides important travel tips and highlights some of the best places to visit while social distancing.

Whether you’re a beach bum or a hiker, a history buff or a foodie, or someone who enjoys water sports or exploring caves, Puerto Rico welcomes you. Be sure to always wear your mask and social distancing.

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