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Puerto Rico Is Open to Responsible Travelers

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Only residents and tourists staying in Old San Juan will be allowed access to the area between 12 and 5 a.m. each night.

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Only residents and tourists staying in Old San Juan will be allowed access to the area between 12 and 5 a.m. each night.

With COVID-related travel restrictions still in place, here’s what you need to know to visit Puerto Rico safely and respectfully.

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As travel begins to ramp up once again, Puerto Rico is ready to welcome back responsible travelers who are willing to present negative COVID-19 tests upon arrival to the U.S. territory and comply with face mask mandates and adhere to a nightly curfew that has been in place for a year now.

Officials are cracking down on travelers who do not comply with these restrictions, with nearly a dozen visitors arrested over the past week, according to the Associated Press.

While the nightly midnight to 5 a.m. curfew will remain in place through at least April 11, Governor Pedro Pierluisi relaxed other pandemic-related restrictions when he took office in January 2021, including reopening beaches, natural attractions, marinas, and pools. Pierluisi kept other measures implemented by former Governor Wanda Vázquez in place, including limiting capacity at restaurants, museums, and gyms. Capacity at those businesses is now at 50 percent, according to the lastest travel advisory. 

As of March 25, there have been 138,581 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,103 resulting deaths in Puerto Rico, according to data from the New York Times. Though the number of daily new cases reported has fallen since its peak in January 2021, Health Secretary Carlos Mellado warned on Tuesday, March 23, that there’s been an uptick over the past few weeks. The CDC categorized Puerto Rico at its highest Level 4 COVID-19 rating due to the high level of cases on the island and is still recommending that people avoid all travel there.

Here’s what else you need to know about traveling safely and responsibly in Puerto Rico right now.

Is Puerto Rico open for travel?

Technically, Puerto Rico has never closed its borders to U.S. citizens or foreign nationals who hadn’t been in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Ireland, or the European Shengen area in the previous 14 days. 

Since the pandemic isn’t over yet, travelers who are unwilling to comply with all necessary health and safety requirements, including wearing face masks in public and following government mandated social-distancing efforts could be subject to arrest and imprisonment if found guilty.

What kind of safety protocols are in place in Puerto Rico?

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In order to keep travel to Puerto Rico as safe as possible right now, the Puerto Rico Health Department is requiring anyone over the age of two who enters the island to supply proof of negative molecular tests (nasal or throat swabs) from up to 72 hours prior, as well as complete a travel declaration form. Those who have been recently vaccinated are still required to supply negative test results upon arrival.

The government will not accept any other type of test, including the antibody ones that require a finger stick or blood drawn. Travelers will also receive an airport exit confirmation number and QR code when uploading their molecular test results to the Puerto Rico Health Department’s online portal.

According to statistics from the island’s health department, only about 30 percent of the 10,000 to 12,000 people on average who have flown into Puerto Rico daily in March have presented a negative test upon landing.

Arriving passengers who do not have test results available, refuse to submit to testing upon arrival, or test positive will be required to quarantine for 14 days and cover their own medical and extended stay expenses. Those who wish to be released from quarantine will have to undergo a molecular test and share the negative results with the government.

Damarisse Martínez, a spokeswoman for the island’s Justice Department, told the Associated Press that those who are found guilty of lying on their traveler’s declaration form about getting tested after landing or honoring the required quarantine could be punished with three years in prison.

Those who can produce negative test results upon arrival will be allowed into Puerto Rico without quarantine, but they will need to follow locally mandated rules, including wearing face masks when in public, or be subjected to fines or arrest. Social distancing is being enforced by limiting capacity at restaurants, museums, and hotel pools.

Are COVID-19 tests required to return to the mainland United States from Puerto Rico?

No. As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico is excluded from the new CDC order that requires all international passengers flying into the United States—including returning U.S. citizens—to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding.

However, the CDC still recommends getting tested one to three days before traveling back from Puerto Rico. Upon returning home, the CDC also recommends self-quaranting for seven days and getting tested three to five days after travel. If you don’t get tested, the CDC recommends self-quarantining for 10 days after travel.

What flights to Puerto Rico are available?

Because Puerto Rico never closed its borders, airlines continued to fly to and from the island. However, in order to better track people arriving in Puerto Rico, flights are only allowed in and out of San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. While both both Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla (BQN) and the Mercedita International Airport in Ponce (PSE) were scheduled to reopen in July 2020 to passenger travel, Discover Puerto Rico’s travel advisory states that all passenger flights are still being diverted to Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport.

What else is open in Puerto Rico?

An island-wide curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. is in effect through at least April 11. The curfew also applies to Old San Juan—only residents and tourists staying in the area will be allowed access to the neighborhood between 12 and 5 a.m. each night.

Ferry service to the island of Culebra for tourists started again on October 26, 2020, while ferry service to Vieques remains restricted to residents only. 

Public beaches and natural reserves reopened for recreational use on January 8, but visitors must follow social-distancing guidelines and wear face masks when they are not in the water. 

Capacity at casinos, museums, and restaurants is limited to 50 percent, while bars and clubs remain closed. Pools at hotels and other establishments are also open at 50 percent capacity. Retail shops and malls are open, as long as they operate at 50 percent capacity. Alcohol consumption is prohibited outside homes and restaurants.

Which hotels are open?

Many hotels in Puerto Rico stayed open throughout the pandemic for displaced travelers and frontline workers and reopened to local leisure travelers starting in June 2020. Currently, hotels must close their common areas at 12 a.m. in accordance with the island-wide curfew.

The Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve Puerto Rico reopened for nonessential stays on June 2, 2020. In addition to requiring temperature checks and social-distancing measures like touchless check-in and check-out services per Hyatt’s Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment, Hyatt also installed UV light purifying air conditioners in all 579 rooms on the property.

Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve reopened on July 1, 2020. The mostly open-air property is set right on the northern coast of Puerto Rico, a 35-minute drive from San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. Many of the hotel’s 115 guest rooms come with direct beach access and private plunge pools, making it easier to social distance and limit indoor interactions with other guests. As a Marriott property, Dorado Beach is following health and safety protocols in accordance with Marriott’s Global Cleanliness Council.

How to Pretend You’re in Puerto Rico at Home

The Associated Press contributed to this article. This article originally appeared online on June 26, 2020; it was updated on March 25, 2021, to include current information.

>> Next: The AFAR Guide to Puerto Rico

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