8 fun things to do in Puerto Rico from the island’s head of tourism

Apr 15, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Despite ongoing progress with vaccinations in the U.S., much of the world is still largely closed to American visitors — and testing requirements upon return may deter travelers from visiting those spots that are open.

However, there are a number of spots in the Caribbean that are welcoming tourists from the U.S., including some that are actually domestic locations and thus don’t require a negative COVID-19 test to fly home (though they may require one to enter).

And on our recent Return of Travel webinar, we heard directly from one island’s head of tourism, as we sat down with Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico. He and TPG’s founder and CEO Brian Kelly covered a wide variety of topics, including the current process for arrivals, what to expect when visiting the island and things to do once you’re there.

Read on for some of Brad’s suggestions — and scroll to the bottom for a full recording of the webinar.

In This Post

Outdoor activities (other than the beach)

Puerto Rico is known for having some wonderful beaches, but Brad mentioned many of the other great nature-oriented activities the island has to offer.

“A lot of people want to get out and hike in El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. Forest Service,” he pointed out. You can make reservations do this online at least a month in advance at Recreation.gov — though note that spots tend to fill up at least a couple of weeks beforehand.

Then there’s the bio-luminescent bays on the island, which Brian did a few years ago in a kayak and described the experience as “pure magic.”

Another under-the-radar option? The Río Camuy Cave Park, which Brad described as “the largest underground cave system in the Western Hemisphere” thanks to its 10+ miles of caverns. These recently reopened after an aggressive effort to repair damage from Hurricane Maria.

If you’re looking for more adrenaline-fueled activities, consider including the mountainous central region of the island in your plans — especially if you can take a ride on the second-longest zip-line in the world (aptly named “The Monster”). This area also features what Brad described as “the Napa Valley of coffee, with great coffee haciendas that take you back to the 1800s, when coffee was one of the main exports for Puerto Rico.”

Finally, he pointed out the multitude of things to do on the western side of the island — which includes surfing at Rincón, seeing the pink salt flats in Cabo Rojo and strolling one of the longest boardwalks in America in Aguadilla.

Related: I took a socially distant vacation with my family – here are 6 things we learned

Explore the cities

Buildings on the coast of San Juan, Puerto Rico (Image by dbvirago/iStock/Getty Images)

Of course, there’s a lot to enjoy about the island’s large cities — San Juan and Ponce — and Brad made sure to point out what these areas have to offer.

“Ponce has great gastronomy, extensive culture and history … and you’re walking the streets that Ponce de Leon once walked,” he said. “What’s not to like there?”

And while San Juan is a much larger city by comparison (and the most common entry point to the island for Americans), it too has a lot going on.

“There’s so much to do right here in the metropolitan area — not only the nightlife, which is vibrant, and (of course) the beaches in the tourist areas. [You also have] some great urban art and a lot of great music,” pointing out that Puerto Rico is a well-known hub for both salsa dancing and reggaeton.

Now, he did note that there is currently an island-wide curfew in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. — so bear that in mind if you’re planning a trip in the next few weeks.

Enjoy agri-tourism

When Brian asked about how Puerto Rico is focused on sustainable tourism, Brad jumped on the opportunity to highlight how important the agricultural sector is to this goal — pointing out the huge growth in gastronomy on the island.

There are “a number of operations like Frutos del Guacabo in Manatí, Finca Conciencia, Finca Oro Rojo,” he said. These “farms are producing environmentally-friendly product, and you can go there to see it, learn it, but then — best of all — enjoy the product itself.”

He went even further here, pointing out how the efforts for sustainability isn’t just about the environment.

“Sustainability also extends to the heritage and culture of our communities. If we can maintain the special, unique heritage and culture … and then balance that with environmental sustainability, what we really end up with is a perfect balance that will allow sustainable tourism growth in the long term.”

Current entry process

Coronavirus test
You must provide a negative result from a COVID-19 PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival in Puerto Rico. (Photo by Paul Biris/Getty Images)

Of course, if you’re looking to do any of the above items for an upcoming trip, it’s critical to know what it takes to visit Puerto Rico. Right now, all arriving travelers must present a negative result from a PCR molecular COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours prior to arrival. They also must complete a Travel Declaration form through the health department’s online portal — where they can upload those negative results.

If this isn’t possible, the San Juan Airport (SJU) does offer on-site testing and the ability to complete the form upon arrival. However, that will delay your entrance onto the island.

A few other important items of note:

  • The negative test must be a PCR test — rapid antigen tests are not allowed.
  • At this point, proof of vaccination does not serve as a substitute for a COVID-19 test. While this may change in the future, even fully-vaccinated travelers must still take the PCR test and show the negative result.
  • In addition to the curfew mentioned above (10 p.m. to 5 a.m.), many businesses are still operating at limited capacity — so Brad strongly suggested advance reservations for dining or other high-demand activities that aren’t fully reopened.

Bear in mind that, since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and not a foreign country, your return back to the states will not require another negative COVID-19 test (which is currently mandated for all international arrivals).

Finally, these restrictions are always subject to change — so be sure to bookmark this page on Discover Puerto Rico’s website for up-to-date information as you plan your trip.

Full recording

Want to hear more of the conversation with Brad? Check out the full recording right here:

Run of show

  • 1:55 — Brian’s introduction
  • 8:26 — Digital nomads in Puerto Rico
  • 12:06 — What to expect when visiting
  • 14:35 — Vaccine passports
  • 16:48 — Cruising from/to Puerto Rico
  • 19:19 — Meetings and events
  • 24:18 — Infrastructure and Hurricane Maria recovery
  • 28:45 — Sustainable tourism
  • 32:34 — What to do as a visitor
  • 35:51 — Family travelers
  • 40:05 — Q&A

“The Return of Travel with Brian Kelly” is a series of live events to help consumers prepare for the comeback of travel as the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. Join Brian as he interviews top experts and company executives on a range of topics, including the anticipated boom in leisure travel, what travel looks like for various groups, the return to cruising, destination reopening and much more.

You can view a recap and recording of the first episode at the following link:

For recaps of this series’ predecessor — “The Future of Travel with Brian Kelly” — please visit this page.

Featured photo by Jamie Oppenheim / The Points Guy

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.