This could be the ultimate travel destination in another year of uncertainty

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If you’re into nature, history or gastro tourism, Puerto Rico provides a number of appealing reasons to visit any year. However, 2022 is shaping up to be an especially good time to travel there – and there’s one big reason why: It’s the most vaccinated place in the US

As of February 2022, 81.1% of Puerto Rico’s population had received a full COVID-19 vaccination, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That vaccination rate is one of the highest among all US states and territories, and ahead of the 64.8% vaccination rate for the US as a whole.

Since there’s still uncertainty about international border openings and COVID testing requirements, international travel has lost some of its appeal. However, travelers can avoid most of these hassles – and still enjoy a taste of international travel – by visiting Puerto Rico instead.

Here’s a look at other reasons why Puerto Rico may be the ultimate travel destination in 2022.

Reasons to consider visiting Puerto Rico

Various activities for every type of traveler

Despite its small size, Puerto Rico offers diverse activities. You can explore Old San Juan during the day, including visits to the Spanish fort, museums and the second-oldest church in America. As night falls, venture out on a kayak on the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. Then, fall asleep to the sound of coquí – Puerto Rico’s native frogs – in a rainforest.

Puerto Rico may be known for its beaches, but it also has mountains, which are higher than the peaks of 24 states. Here, you can visit coffee haciendas, zipline in the forest or tube through caves.

For those who enjoy a drink, Bacardi’s “Cathedral of Rum” factory is the largest premium rum distillery in the world. The factory is located across the harbor from Old San Juan and is open for tours.

You might like: Follow these steps to travel sustainably in Costa Rica

The historic Castillo San Felipe del Morro along the coastline in San Juan, Puerto Rico dates back to 1533.

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COVID mask and vaccine requirements

Vaccines have proven to be effective in preventing severe illness from a COVID infection. However, even dealing with a minor illness could hamper your vacation. Puerto Rico has implemented mask and vaccine requirements to help keep people healthy.

Masks are required indoors and at outdoor gatherings with over 50 people, regardless of vaccination status – except at beaches. If you plan to visit theaters, sports venues or other events, you’ll want to bring proof of your vaccination. That’s because these venues are required to check vaccination status to operate at 100% capacity.

No COVID testing requirement to fly home

As of December 2021, all travelers returning to the US from a foreign country must provide a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than one calendar day before departure.

Since Puerto Rico is a US territory, travelers flying back do not need to provide a negative COVID test to board their flight.

No passport required

US citizens and permanent residents do not need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico, as long as you do not connect in Mexico or another foreign airport. That makes Puerto Rico an option for travelers who do not have a passport – or whose passport may have expired during the pandemic.

US passport processing times are currently around eight to 11 weeks, and even if you pay extra to expedite processing, it will still take five to seven weeks. And that’s not including mailing times. So, if you do not have a valid passport or a long lead time until your next break from work, you’ll want to stick to destinations that do not require a passport over the next few months.

Also see: Rick Steves, and other travel-industry players shun Russia

There are plenty of ways to get there

Another reason to travel to Puerto Rico in 2022 is how easy it is to get there from the US mainland.

According to the flight route tracking website FlightConnections, eight US airlines fly nonstop to San Juan from 28 airports. It takes less than three hours to fly from Florida to San Juan, or around four hours from other parts of the East Coast.

For East Coast residents, it’s a shorter flying time to get to Puerto Rico than to the West Coast.

How to travel to Puerto Rico on a budget

Use points and miles

Depending on when you visit, cash airfares to Puerto Rico can be quite affordable. However, the best way to fly to San Juan is for almost free using airline miles or credit card points.

You can book an award flight to San Juan on American Airlines using as few as 9,000 points from Chase JPM,
-4.17%,
American Express AXP,
+ 0.43%
or Capital One COF,
-0.21%.
Points transfer from each of these programs to British Airways Executive Club at a 1: 1 ratio.

Or fly nonstop to San Juan on Delta DAL,
-3.90%
for as few as 7,500 SkyMiles each way. You can top off your Delta SkyMiles account by transferring points from American Express Membership Rewards at a 1: 1 rate.

Fly in lie-flat business class seats

If you want to fly in style, look for routes where American AAL,
-1.20%,
Delta and United UAL,
-3.16%
fly wide-body aircraft to San Juan. On these large airplanes, like the Boeing BA,
+ 1.92%
777 or 737, the business class seats recline into lie-flat beds. That means you can snag a comfortable nap on the flight to Puerto Rico.

Best of all, booking these premium seats does not have to make you points-broke. You can use as few as 20,000 AAdvantage miles to fly from Miami to San Juan in the airline’s lie-flat business class. Or pay as few as 25,000 Airplane points to fly from Newark or Houston to San Juan in United lie-flat business class.

If you need Aeroplan points, you can transfer points to Aeroplan from Chase, American Express or Capital One.

Read: As oil prices rise, Russia-Ukraine war complicates airlines’ pandemic recovery – and could also hike ticket prices in the US

If you’re considering visiting Puerto Rico in 2022

Puerto Rico’s high vaccination rates and relative ease of travel is shaping it up to be a hot travel destination this year – and that’s not just a reference to the lovely tropical weather.

The island offers many diverse activities and an international flair without the need to have a passport or get tested for COVID before returning to the US mainland. You can save yourself from the other hassles of COVID-era international travel by visiting Puerto Rico instead.

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JT Genter writes for NerdWallet. Email: travel@nerdwallet.com.



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