Is Puerto Rico safe to visit?
Puerto Rico, a US territory in the Caribbean, is also one of the most popular destinations for a beach vacation in the region. Visitors can enjoy the stunning nature and pristine shores of the island, from Mar Chiquita Beach to the wild forests of El Yunque.
Old San Juan, with its colorful center and iconic San Felipe del Morro castle, is another must-visit stop on your trip. Plus, you must try Puerto Rico’s delicious cuisine along with some tasty local rum.
All of these attractions make Puerto Rico look like a tropical paradise. However, what’s the reality beneath the paradise, and is it safe to visit? We’ll show you this and more below.
Is Puerto Rico Safe to Visit?
Yes and no. Puerto Rico is generally safe to visit. However, travelers should be aware of some risks, such as the high crime rate as well as the risk of hurricanes. Most countries don’t bother issuing separate travel advisories for Puerto Rico, simply treating it as part of the United States.
Those that do are usually calm about any potential dangers that people may face on the island. For example, Ireland only advises its citizens to take normal precautions while visiting.
The Canadian government also only issues the lowest possible safety advisory rating for Puerto Rico. This makes sense, because if the island was so unsafe, it wouldn’t have as many visitors.
Puerto Rico does have a problem with crime. Common incidents include:
- Bag snatching
However, these incidents are easily avoided with some common sense and reading up on local advice about which parts of the island to avoid. One important danger to be aware of when visiting Puerto Rico is the hurricane season.
The Caribbean hurricane season lasts from June to November, peaking between mid-August and mid-October. Puerto Rico lies within the hurricane belt and is affected by hurricane season.
You should avoid visiting during hurricane season to lower your risk of getting caught in a deadly storm. The island has been hit by devastating storms in the past, perhaps none more devastating than Hurricane Maria in 2017.
The Category 4 hurricane hit only a few weeks after another storm had already destroyed critical infrastructure. Much of the island was destroyed, and in some places, locals are still struggling to rebuild.
The aftermath of Hurricane Maria has led to protests and widespread dissatisfaction in Puerto Rico. Many people feel as if the reason the storm was so devastating is that they were abandoned by the United States and the government didn’t try hard enough to rebuild.
Institutions such as the government are quite unpopular, so avoid bringing up the topic with local friends as it’s still traumatic.
Dissatisfaction over the hurricane response and many other problems have led to widespread demonstrations in Puerto Rico, such as the July 2022 protest against government contracts with the LUMA Energy power company. Demonstrations are mostly peaceful but clashes with police can occur, so avoid them if you can.
Crime in Puerto Rico
Crime is one of the first things mentioned in travel advice about Puerto Rico, and it’s true that many parts of the island have an elevated crime rate. Some crime statistics for Puerto Rico paint a positive picture of the territory.
According to U.S. News & World Report, the capital, San Juan, actually has a lower than average crime rate. Overall, the crime rate is 227.3 incidents per 100,000 people.
The FBI offers a breakdown for crime in Puerto Rico, like in other parts of the United States. According to FBI data, the vast majority of crimes committed on Puerto Rico are property crimes, making up 77.5% of total crimes committed on the island.
The most common single offense is non-violent larceny-theft, making up about 50% of total crimes committed on the island. However, the most troubling aspect is the high homicide rate.
In 2019 alone, Puerto Rico experienced 606 homicides. That translates to a homicide rate of 20.1 incidents per 100,000 people, the highest homicide rate in the United States. According to the FBI, most homicides on the island are connected to the illegal drug trade.
While tourists are almost never affected by homicides, especially if you stay away from drugs, they contribute to overall criminality. The high levels of income inequality in Puerto Rico are also contributing to high levels of crime.
71.18% of respondents to a Numbeo survey think that Puerto Rico has a problem with crime. Although the situation may not be as bad as people perceive it to be, it’s still a good idea to be careful while out and about.
As a tourist, the most common problem you’re likely to run into is petty theft. Thieves tend to operate in popular tourist destinations such as old San Juan, around the Castillo de Morro, and on the beaches.
Tourists make more lucrative targets than locals, and they tend to be more careless. A simple way to prevent pickpocketing is just to keep your valuables in a safe place.
Leave most of your cash and backup credit cards in a hotel safe and take just what you need for the day. Don’t leave your purse unattended or let your wallet hang out of your back pocket.
If you’re renting a car in Puerto Rico, keep in mind that petty thefts often target vehicles. Avoid leaving anything in your car, and definitely not valuables, or you may find your windows smashed in after parking at a trailhead or beach.
Out of violent crime, robbery is the one most likely to affect you as a visitor to Puerto Rico. Tourists have been robbed when visiting the island before. Most robberies occur at night, so the best way to protect yourself from this danger is to be careful with your movements after dark.
Avoid walking on the beaches, waterfronts, or other areas that are isolated and poorly lit after dark. When going out at night, take care to protect yourself.
Only take authorized taxis as you never know what could happen with unauthorized ones. Be careful in San Juan’s famous bars and clubs. Don’t leave your drink unattended or flash the cash—you could be attracting unwanted attention.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Like in any other place, Puerto Rico has some areas that have higher concentrations of crime. Most crimes occur far away from popular tourist areas.
The island’s caserios, or public housing developments, tend to be crime hot spots because they are impoverished and lack critical infrastructure. Dangerous San Juan neighborhoods include:
- La Perla
- Parque de la Palomas
Other cities, such as Bayamon, also have elevated crime rates.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions people have asked about visiting Puerto Rico before:
Is Puerto Rico safe for tourists now?
Puerto Rico is safe for tourists now, as long as you double-check that you aren’t visiting during hurricane season.
Is Puerto Rico safer than Mexico?
Puerto Rico is much safer than Mexico. It has a lower crime rate and problems are far less likely to affect visitors, who are rarely victims of violent crimes.
Is Puerto Rico worth going to?
Puerto Rico is absolutely worth going to if you want to visit the Caribbean. Besides its natural beauty, it has a rich culture, excellent historical monuments, and a growing gastronomic scene.
Is it safe for a woman to travel to Puerto Rico?
Yes, it’s safe for women to travel to Puerto Rico, but female travelers will have to take some additional precautions. You should prepare for unwanted attention such as catcalling and avoid walking alone at night.
Is Puerto Rico an inexpensive vacation?
Puerto Rico is a moderately priced place to visit. It is not as affordable as Central America, but it is possible to travel on a budget.
So, Is Puerto Rico Safe to Visit?
Puerto Rico is safe to visit for all types of visitors. Although it has a high crime rate, most crimes don’t affect tourists, especially not violent crimes such as homicides, that are often linked to the drug trade.
As long as you stay away from dangerous neighborhoods or getting involved in bad activities, you can stay safe in Puerto Rico. A far bigger challenge than crime is hurricane season, so time your visit properly. Happy travels!