An amazing thing happened at a recent meeting I had with tourism officials from Puerto Rico. Instead of discussing the long term negative effects on tourism from the recent destructive hurricane, they started talking about Spring Break. Puerto Rico’s message to the world is: Please come visit and be part of their comeback!
I was as surprised as you probably are.
Puerto Rico has always had a special place in my heart. I’ve visited half a dozen times, bringing my son when he was a toddler, and then as he grew older. We’ve circled the island and spent time everywhere from urban San Juan to surf-centric Rincon. So when Hurricane Maria devastated the island, I was heartbroken, especially as the aftermath unfolded. I donated to Puerto Rican relief efforts, but never thought I’d be visiting anytime soon.
However, according to Puerto Rico Tourism, San Juan is nearly 100% up and running. Much of the Southwest corner of the island near Ponce wasn’t as flattened as the eastern and center of the island and is also open for business. When I spoke with one hotelier there, she told me the palm trees started to flourish again after about 30 days, and with that, she said, her hope for the island was renewed.
Most importantly, the island needs tourism. Hotel and hospitality jobs are important to the economy and to individuals who depend on visitors to take cabs, eat in restaurants, buy souvenirs, and stay in hotels.
Honestly, I can’t tell you the whole island is perfect. But that may be a reason you want to explore what the island refers to as “Meaningful Travel” opportunities. Volunteering to help clean up and rebuild areas of the island.
The Good News
- 121 hotels are currently open (that’s roughly 81%)
- 4,000 islands restaurants are serving customers
- 80 flights are arriving every day and all major airports on the island are fully functioning
- 120 attractions, including El Morro and the other San Juan National Historical Parks and all three bioluminescent bays, are open
- Vieques and Culebra islands are both welcoming guests
- 83% of the island has electricity; 99% of WIFI has been restored; and all hospitals are currently up and running.
- And as always, Puerto Rico is a US Commonwealth, so you don’t need a passport, or have to exchange money, when you visit
The Bad News
- El Yunque — the US’s only tropical forest national park — is still closed to visitors, although tourism officials told me that the forest is regenerating and should hopefully be reopened to tourists later this year.
- The most popular large resorts on the island — El Conquistador and Las Casitas in Fajardo; the Caribe Hilton, The Ritz Carlton, and The El San Juan in San Juan; the St Regis at Bahia Beach, and the W Vieques — are still closed
Will you visit San Juan or Puerto Rico this year? Let us know in the comments below.