Like many places around the world, Puerto Rico has implemented new COVID-19 restrictions. Here’s everything you need to know about flights to Puerto Rico during COVID-19.
Visiting Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is 1,000 miles southeast of Miami, Florida. It’s a large island with the US Virgin Islands to the immediate east. One of the charms of Puerto Rico is its rich and unique diversity. While there is a distinct Caribbean element from the original Taíno indigenous people, it also blends with American, Spanish, and African cultures offering a creole approach to life and food.
The island is made up of several islands in the Grand Antilles archipelago with Dominican Republic to the west, and territorial Puerto Rican islands surrounding. To the near east is another US territory, St. Thomas of the US Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico is home to more than 3.2 million people.
Puerto Rico is an incredibly hot and humid island with daily high temperatures averaged at 83-89°F (28-32°C) year-round, lows reach only 72-78°F (22-26°C.) In July and December, the island receives 19 days/month of rain while the driest months of February, March, and April still receive 12-13 days of rain.
Puerto Rico is part of the Atlantic Hurricane season when coastal water temperatures change and large weather systems blow in from the African coast. This lasts from June to November, though most major storms have occurred in September and October.
In each of the last three years, Puerto Rico has had a direct hit by powerful tropical storms. As such, the island has been in some form of repair since 2017.
San Juan is located on the northeastern coast of the island. The city (and surrounding metropolitan area) is home to 2.6 million of the island’s territory’s total population. In addition to being the capital and largest city, San Juan is also the most important port for the territory which holds a key stronghold today for international commerce from the Americas.
Vestiges of original fortresses to defend the (then) Spanish territory remain. Its great beaches, robust air and seaports, business connections, and award-winning golf courses are some of the reasons why San Juan is a constant draw.
Its airport, Luis Munoz Marin Intl., welcomes flights from Spain, Colombia, Germany, and Canada, as well as across the United States and is the largest in the territory.
Once the largest city in Puerto Rico, Ponce (after Ponce de Leon) is located on the opposite side of the main island from San Juan. The Pearl of the South is known for its lush vegetation and fruit production. As the second-largest city on the island, it’s grown substantially over the last few years and welcomes direct flights from New York JFK and Orlando, both from JetBlue.
Interestingly, it’s also an autonomous region, the first of its kind on the island of Puerto Rico. It obtained this status in 1992.
On the northwest coast of the island is the city of Aguadilla. Home to Ramey Air Force Base and many industrial powerhouses (Lockheed Martin, Hewlett-Packard, etc.), this is the manufacturing side of the island.
But it’s not all business. Some of the best surfing takes place in Aguadilla as well. In 1988, the ISA World Championship was held in Aguadilla. Its airport, Rafael Hernandez (BQN) offers flights on JetBlue and Spirit Airlines.
Unincorporated Territory of the United States
Puerto Rico has a unique history. It remains today the oldest colony in the world, originally colonized by the Spanish in 1493 following Christopher Colombus’ discovery. It remained an important waypoint in the journey from Caribbean colonies of the Spanish empire en route back to Spain. It also has a dark past as a key trading port for slavery.
The distinction of an unincorporated territory is an important one for Puerto Rico and many of its citizens. Without statehood, the territory has no voice in Congress (one non-voting member, Resident Commissioner) and cannot vote in the federal elections such as for the presidency. The island has a hand in its leadership through the election of a Governor.
However, the citizenry is not subject to federal taxes either. Average Puerto Ricans don’t substantially benefit from these tax savings, but some businesses that employ them do. Companies set up in Puerto Rico benefit from being inside the protection of the United States but also without the substantial tax liability that has sent companies like Apple to Jersey in the English Channel instead of staying in California.
Puerto Rico has several times voted for statehood and it’s been a mired result each time.
Puerto Rico, like Hawaii, has limited medical resources and is a substantial distance from the US mainland. Due to these limitations, Puerto Rico has reason to more closely guard its healthcare system. The island has strict rules regarding entry until the threat of COVID-19 has abated.
Testing and Entry Qualifications
Entrants are required to supply a negative PCR test for COVID-19 no older than 72 hours prior to arrival at any Puerto Rican port. Those that do not supply a negative PCR test within the designated period can still enter so long as they self-quarantine for 14 days or the duration of their stay, whichever is shorter. There is no waiver to self-quarantine for those with antibodies.
Flyers are asked to present documentation of the negative test results or certify they will comply with self-quarantine requirements at the point of departure by their carrier. Flyers need to fill out this form prior to their arrival. Those who test negative will be given a QR code that they must present prior to exiting the airport.
Temperature checks are taken throughout the airport and at some vendors on the island. These are non-invasive and meant to identify those with elevated temperatures who otherwise do not exhibit symptoms.
Restrictions for entry to the United States also apply to the island including residents of the EU, China, the UK, Brazil, and other prohibited countries.
Cheap Flights to Puerto Rico
Right now, flights are incredibly inexpensive to the islands. Ticket prices from the east coast are at some of the lowest prices they’ve ever been. For example, direct flights (about 4 hours and 20 minutes) from Philadelphia are offered by Spirit, JetBlue, Frontier, and American Airlines from $97-159 roundtrip.
State of Travel
Restrictions remain in place though they have recently eased. As of January 8th, 2021, the following are in place:
- Curfew enacted 11 pm to 5 am
- 25% occupancy restrictions
- Sunday is mostly closed outside of essential services such as grocery stores
- Beaches have re-opened
Hotels are open and welcoming guests as are restaurants. Reduced airline flight schedules remain in effect, though departures are growing, flyers are recommended to confirm schedules with their airline.
From reader accounts, hotel services are reduced but otherwise restrictions were on par with what other states have mandated: social distancing of 6-9 feet, masks to be worn in public places.
Puerto Rico has elevated levels of COVID-19 restrictions in place due to its limited health care resources and distance from the US mainland. However, the government routinely examines and revises restrictions. As of January 8th, 2021 hotels, restaurants, and beaches are open with regularly scheduled airline service. While leisure travel is discouraged by the CDC, those who fit the requirements are welcome to visit the island.
What do you think? Have you visited Puerto Rico recently? Are you considering a visit?