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Why You Shouldn’t Cancel Your Upcoming Trip to Puerto Rico

Contrary to what you may think, the best thing you can do for Puerto Rico right now is not to cancel your trip.


ive years ago, Puerto Rico gained international acclaim when the hit song “Despacito” reached the top of the Billboard charts. For the first time, it seemed like all eyes were on this small island in the Caribbean, approximately 100 miles long by 35 miles wide. Suddenly, there was a surge in visitors like never before. Even neighborhoods like La Perla, previously considered off-limits to tourists, were receiving renewed interest. Then Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit, and the island was devastated. Lives were lost, relief funds were mismanaged, and hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans emigrated to the mainland United States.

Still, those who remained promised to build back stronger. And build back they did. New entrepreneurial ventures were born. Macro-mural projects by the nonprofit Pintalto revitalized residential neighborhoods with colors of hope, igniting a sense of community and driving tourism beyond Old San Juan.

In January 2020, earthquakes struck the southwest corner of the island. Images of collapsed houses filled the news, and tourists hoping for a winter getaway were once again deterred from visiting, despite the damage being largely limited to one specific area. In March 2020, the pandemic hit, and the island adopted strict restrictions compared to the states.

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After the world’s involuntary slumber, it seemed like 2022 would finally be the year tourism rebounded in full force. Huge conferences were being held on the island. Major Hollywood projects, from Black Panther to Transformers, had chosen Puerto Rico as their filming location. Places that had been closed since the 2017 hurricanes, including El Portal, the visitor’s center in El Yunque rainforest, and El Conquistador, an iconic hotel with one of the island’s only water parks, reopened after years of renovation and anticipation. Hispanic Heritage Month arrived, and a mere two days later, the celebration turned to devastation once again when Hurricane Fiona made landfall.

Post-Fiona, Puerto Rico made headlines for being the disaster’s epicenter. However, this was not the same Puerto Rico from five years prior, and the response was rapid.

They say Hurricane Maria used wind as its weapon of choice, while Hurricane Fiona used water. Flooding, and the subsequent effect on an already tenuous electrical grid, were the biggest issues. Once again, Puerto Rico made headlines for being the disaster’s epicenter. However, this was not the same Puerto Rico from five years prior, and the response was rapid. Crews were out in full force the very next day, working on restoring power. Within a week, 60% of the island had electricity back. Locals pooled their resources and organized, ensuring essential supplies were delivered to remote areas and offering help to anyone who needed them. The hurricane hit on the weekend, and by Monday, the San Juan airport was fully operational. Hotels and tour operators alike took to social media to reassure guests they were open for business and encourage them to keep their travel plans. Still, the narrative remained one of trauma instead of resiliency and triumph.

On my flight into San Juan on September 24, 2022, 47 out of 162 seats on the plane were empty. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a row to myself, especially in the current travel climate of high-priced flights and limited routes. When I left, every seat was full. As a Puerto Rican, full-time resident of the island, and travel writer, this grim reality hit me most of all. Puerto Rico was back to square one when it came to tourism, fighting an uphill battle in how it is perceived, and once again needing to convince tourists that it is safe to visit.

Hurricane season is from July to November, but the fear perpetuated by hurricane coverage remains for years after the fact.

I live in the southeast corner of the island. When I returned from a work assignment, I returned to a house with water, power, and internet. This is not the case for everyone on the island, but it is in most tourist zones. For better or worse, San Juan is the gateway to Puerto Rico and is fully operational. Beyond that, many neighborhoods and small businesses are returning to business as usual and urging tourists to frequent them once more.

Now more than ever, it is critical you visit Puerto Rico. It may take a few weeks for the entire island to resume functioning as per usual, but sites are generally open and eager to welcome you. If you’re wondering whether to cancel your trip, don’t. Instead, keep your travel plans and make it a goal to support and promote local businesses and initiatives. Here are a few of my favorites.

Frutos del Guacabo Manatí, Puerto Rico


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This sustainable farm was featured in Down to Earth With Zac Efron and is revitalizing nutrition on the island. An estimated 85% of the food in Puerto Rico is imported, making it difficult to find fresh produce. I was thrilled to see Frutos del Guacabo announce they were reopening with minimal damage. Guests can tour the farm to learn about endemic plants and ingredients, have a farm-to-table meal (reservations required), and support an initiative that’s reimagining Puerto Rico’s food supply chain.

Taller N’Zambi Loiza, Puerto Rico


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Bomba music is culturally significant in Puerto Rico. It is a form of dance that originated on slave plantations as a way for workers to express themselves freely through movement. At Taller N’Zambi, renowned instructor Sheila Osorio leads locals and tourists alike in an hour-long dance lesson, learning classic bomba moves to the beat of live drums. Classes take place on the beach, in an outdoor theater Osorio has built over the years. Check out the Grand Drum of Loiza while you’re there, a seven-foot-tall work of art and the largest drum on the island, erected in July 2022.

Montadero Chocolate Caguas, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico’s gourmet cacao industry has been flourishing over the last couple of years, winning international awards. Montadero Chocolate is a local chocolatier that opened a brick-and-mortar store in March 2021. They use 100% locally sourced cacao beans and transform them into decadent treats, from truffles to cookies.

At the shop, guests can take a chocolate-making lesson, learn about the harvesting and roasting process, and make three bars of their own. Everything about the Montadero brand exudes Puerto Rican pride, from the mural featuring the owner’s grandmother to the design of the chocolate molds shaped like the mountains in the family’s hometown.

Distrito T-Mobile San Juan, Puerto Rico


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Puerto Rico’s newest entertainment district is a tribute to Puerto Rican achievement. Featuring 11 dining concepts highlighting Puerto Rican culture and sports heroes, this destination is not only open but serves as a point to drop off and collect donations for hurricane relief. Distrito T-Mobile is home to one of the largest 4K horizontal screens in the Americas and the only ScreenX theater in the Caribbean. While there, you can experience urban ziplining at Toroverde Urban Park. Note, if you want to fly on the original Toroverde line reaching speeds of 90mph+ in the mountains of Orocovis, they are also reopening as of the 29th of September.

Isla Caribe Tours Ponce, Puerto Rico

Melina Aguilar Colón is a historian, guide, and owner of Isla Caribe tours. When not searching through microfiches and archives, she shares her extensive knowledge of the island through social media. Located in Ponce, she provides historic walking tours of the area, covering everything from art to music to architecture. Tours are available in both English and Spanish, and private bookings can be made with advanced notice. Excursions to nearby towns like Jayuya and Utuado are also available, along with themed tours covering topics like coffee and Carnaval, the annual celebration held in February.

Puerto Rico is a place unlike any other. Hurricanes come and go, but the soul of the island remains. Don’t let fear or negative coverage keep you from experiencing it for yourself.