Tourism in Puerto Rico attracted 3.7 million visitors in 2019 and 1.0 million visitors in 2015, a notable increase from the average of 2010–2014 at 3.1 million. Tourism has been a very important source of revenue for Puerto Rico for a number of decades given it is host to diverse natural wonders, cultural and historical buildings, concerts and sporting events. Visitors from the United States do not need a passport to enter Puerto Rico and the ease of travel attracts many tourists from the mainland United States each year.

In 2017, Hurricane Maria caused severe damage to the island and its infrastructure. The damage was estimated at $100 billion. An April 2019 report indicated that by that time, only a few hotels were still closed, that life for tourists in and around the capital had, for the most part, returned to normal.[1] By October 2019, nearly all of the popular amenities for tourists, in the major destinations such as San Juan, Ponce and Arecibo, were in operation on the island and tourism was rebounding. This was important for the economy, since tourism provides up 10% of Puerto Rico's GDP, according to Discover Puerto Rico.[2]

Tourism growth

The inauguration of the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel on 16 October 1919 marked the beginning of upscale tourism in Puerto Rico.[3] The tourism industry experienced moderate levels of growth in 2014, driven primarily by the introduction of new cruise lines and airfare activity and the development of new hotels on the island. Nonstop flights to Puerto Rico from Frankfurt, Madrid, Bogota, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and New York are currently available. New direct routes from Europe and Latin America were in the works by 2014.


Cuba and Puerto Rico have perennially competed for the top tourist destination in the Caribbean. Puerto Rico's tourism has been helped by poor U.S. relations with Cuba. In 2015, the U.S. reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba and loosened the travel restrictions for Americans. This decision boosted Cuban tourism and surpassed Puerto Rico for total visitors, but in 2017, the U.S. government planned to re-enforce travel restrictions to Cuba.[4] Puerto Rico also competes with the Dominican Republic, Aruba, Jamaica and Florida for American and international visitors.[4] Tourists going to Saint Barthélemy catch a connecting flight from Puerto Rico.[5]

Marketing campaigns

Beware Paradise sign, Río Grande
Beware Paradise sign, Río Grande

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company spent $1 million in 2002, featuring celebrities, to advertise the tourism to Puerto Rico.[6] In 2017, Despacito, a wildly popular song by two Puerto Rican artists caused a spike in tourism to Puerto Rico, especially to an area of San Juan called La Perla, featured in the song's video.[7]

On July 1, 2018, Puerto Rico's government passed a law to create a new tourism organization, Discover Puerto Rico. This was part of a larger plan to use tourism to revitalize the island after Hurricane Maria.[8][9]

The new Discover Puerto Rico campaign started that month. An April 2019 report stated that the tourism team "after hitting the one-year anniversary of the storm in September [2018], the organization began to shift towards more optimistic messaging. The "Have We Met Yet?" campaign was intended to highlight the island's culture and history, making it distinct, different than other Caribbean destinations. In 2019, Discover Puerto Rico planned to continue that campaign, including "streaming options for branded content".[10]

The video series "Discover Puerto Rico with Lin-Manuel" starring actor, songwriter and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, became available on all JetBlue aircraft on 1 October 1 2019 and would continue until 30 January 2020.[11]


Tourist destinations vary around the island.[12] Located on the northwestern part of the island are Aguadilla, where the old Ramey Air Force Base is located; Arecibo, famous for its observatory; and Rincón, favored for its surf.

In 2015 Puerto Rico had 19 casinos, mainly located in San Juan.[13]

Bayamón has its Parque de las Ciencias (Science Park). Cabo Rojo is famous for its beautiful beaches. Cataño has the Bacardi factory, the world's largest rum distillery.

Fajardo has the Fajardo Lighthouse and a luminicent bay, Las Croabas fishing village, the Paso Fino horse national competition ring, and the Seven Seas beach. On the northeastern side, beaches in Luquillo include Balneario La Monserrate, Playa Azul, and La Pared and La Selva, where leatherback turtles often nest.

In the southwest are Mayagüez, home of the Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo and the local beer, Medalla brewery; and Ponce with its 19th century historic district. There are over 1,046 restored buildings, plus the world-renowned Museo de Arte de Ponce, the imposing Castillo Serrallés, the nostalgic Hacienda Buena Vista coffee plantation, and its whimsical Parque de Bombas firehouse in Ponce.

San Juan has Old San Juan, with its cobble-stone streets and small alleys, the Puerto Rican Museum of Art, and the El Morro Castle, an old fortress. Near San Juan is El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. with 30,000 acres—a place to hike and see waterfalls.[14] During the 2019 government shutdown, San Juan's two colonial-era fortresses—Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal—were closed to visitors.[15][16] However, since the end of the shutdown on January 25, 2019, they have since been reopened.[17]

Trujillo Alto is home to Lake Carraizo Dam. Two smaller Puerto Rican islands are Culebra island, with its solitary beaches such as Flamenco Beach is another popular destination spot; and Vieques with many beaches, two Spanish castles and lighthouses, eye-catching mountains and sought-after marine reefs.

Puerto Rico is considered one of the best places in the world to catch Atlantic tarpon.[18]

The gambling sector is also an important contributor to the tourism sector (employing 3,409 people, 2017 [19]), and it encompasses 20 casinos all attached to hotels and resorts acting as tourist destinations. This is mandatory, according to Laws of Puerto Rico, casinos must be attached to hotels and resorts, and must be located within “zonas históricas, antiguas o de interés turístico” – historically important zones of tourism.[20] There is a significant and growing Chinese presence in the Puerto Rico gambling sector, so far 10% of the casinos are owned by Chinese individuals or companies, and more are partially owned.[21] And the number of Chinese tourists is also on the rise. In 2019, contribution of travel and tourism to GDP (% of GDP) for Puerto Rico was 6.9 %.[22] However, the exact contribution of the gambling sector within the tourism and travel sector is not measured separately by the government.

Cruise ship tourism

In spite of damage caused by previous hurricanes, particularly Maria in 2017, an April 2019 report stated that "1.7 million cruise ship passengers are expected to visit this fiscal year".[23]

In late November 2019 however, reports indicated that 90 calls to San Juan by Royal Caribbean ships would be cancelled during 2020 and 2021. This step would mean 360,000 fewer visitors, with a loss to the island's economy of 44 million. As well, 30 ship departures from San Juan were being canceled. The rationale for this decision was discussed in a news report:[24]

The reason for the cancellations is the privatization of the cruise docks in San Juan due to much-needed maintenance that is needed. Around $250 million investment is needed to make sure cruise ships can continue to dock there in the years to come. There is an urge for governer Wanda Vazquez to not go ahead with the privatization so this news is fluid.


This section is in list format, but may read better as prose. You can help by converting this section, if appropriate. Editing help is available. (November 2012)

The Antonio Rivera Rodríguez Airport on the island of Vieques serves visitors and locals to and from Vieques. It is a one-runway, primary commercial service airport.[25]


See also


  1. ^ "Nearly two years after Hurricane Maria devastation, Puerto Rico welcomes record number of tourists". USA Today. 2 April 2019. Retrieved 27 November 2019. Brief power outages still hit occasionally as the government prepares to privatize an aging and poorly maintained grid that was destroyed by the hurricane, and water shortages have hit parts of Puerto Rico’s north coast since 30 percent of the island is experiencing a moderate drought that is affecting 791,000 of its 3.2 million inhabitants.
  2. ^ "Nearly two years after Hurricane Maria devastation, Puerto Rico welcomes record number of tourists". ViaHero. 2 April 2019. Retrieved 16 October 2019. Almost all of Puerto Rico’s hotels are open for business. The beaches are ready for swimming and sunbathing, and even remote places to visit like El Yunque rainforest are receiving visitors.
  3. ^ Flores, Ronald. "New Hotels on the Horizon". (February/March 2009) ¡Qué Pasa!. Puerto Rico Tourism Company. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  4. ^ a b DiNapoli, Jessica (27 July 2015). "Puerto Rico tourism industry lags rivals, offers little relief from debt crisis". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2 March 2017.
  5. ^ Villa-Clarke, Angelina (29 July 2017). "Why This Hidden Gem In St Barts Is Redefining How To Stay In The Caribbean". Forbes. Archived from the original on 30 July 2017.
  6. ^ David Bowen; Jackie Clarke (2009). Contemporary Tourist Behaviour: Yourself and Others and Tourists. CABI. pp. 174–. ISBN 978-1-84593-520-7.
  7. ^ Marcor, Leila (31 July 2017). "Tourists seeking Despacito" discover Puerto Rico's La Perla". Yahoo.
  8. ^ "Puerto Rico Emerges From Hurricane Maria With a Plan and New Hope for Tourism". Skift. 2018-07-12. Retrieved 2019-01-04.
  9. ^ "Discover Puerto Rico: Island DMO's new name announced". Caribbean Business. 2018-07-16. Retrieved 2019-01-04.
  10. ^ "Culture Is Central in Puerto Rico's New Marketing Campaign". Skift. 24 April 2019. Retrieved 27 November 2019. In creating the site, the team added photos, videos and information about all of the 78 municipalities of Puerto Rico, in an effort to draw people away from San Juan, and into lesser-known areas.
  11. ^
  12. ^ "What is a visitor economy?". Foundation of Puerto Rico. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  13. ^ William N. Thompson Ph.D. (10 February 2015). Gambling in America: An Encyclopedia of History, Issues, and Society, 2nd Edition. ABC-CLIO. pp. 340–. ISBN 978-1-61069-980-8.
  14. ^ Vazquez, Henley (11 September 2014). "Enchanted Isle: Puerto Rico". National Geographic. Archived from the original on 3 July 2017.
  15. ^ "Puerto Rico closes colonial-era forts due to U.S. government shutdown". Retrieved 2019-01-17.
  16. ^ "Puerto Rico closes colonial-era forts due to US shutdown". AP NEWS. 2019-01-07. Retrieved 2019-01-17.
  17. ^ "Puerto Rico Tourism Update 2019 | ViaHero". Retrieved 2019-01-28.
  18. ^ Olander, Doug. "World's Best Tarpon Fishing Spots". Sport Fishing Magazine. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  19. ^ "Challenges and Opportunities for the Puerto Rico Economy" (PDF). RAND Corporation. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  20. ^ Luis, Aponte-parés. "The Imperial Gaze: Tourism and Puerto Rico — A Review Essay". Researchgate. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  21. ^ "Puerto Rico Casino Guide". Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  22. ^ "Puerto Rico - Contribution of travel and tourism to GDP as a share of GDP". Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  23. ^ "Nearly two years after Hurricane Maria devastation, Puerto Rico welcomes record number of tourists". USA Today. 2 April 2019. Retrieved 27 November 2019. Nearly two years after a deadly hurricane season, tourists are visiting Puerto Rico in record numbers as the U.S. territory continues to rebuild from Hurricane Maria.
  24. ^ "Cruise Ship Visits to San Juan, Puerto Rico Are Being Canceled". Cruise Hive. 27 November 2019. Retrieved 27 November 2019. Cruise ship visits to San Juan, Puerto Rico are being canceled for the 2020-21 season due to the privatization of the cruise port.
  25. ^ "Vieques, PR: Antonio Rivera Rodriguez (VQS)". Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), U.S. Department of Transportation. October 2015. Retrieved 19 October 2019.