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 U.S.
As of February 2022, 81.1% of Puerto Rico’s population have 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 U.S. states and territories, and ahead of the 64.8% vaccination rate for the U.S. 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
Diverse 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.
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COVID mask and vaccine requirements
Vaccines have proved to be effective at 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 U.S. 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 U.S. territory, travelers flying back don’t need to provide a negative COVID test to board their flight.
No passport required
U.S. citizens and permanent residents don’t need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico, as long as you don’t connect in Mexico or another foreign airport. That makes Puerto Rico an option for travelers who don’t have a passport — or whose passport may have expired during the pandemic.
U.S. 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 don’t have a valid passport or a long lead time until your next break from work, you’ll want to stick to destinations that don’t 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 U.S. mainland.
According to the flight route tracking website FlightConnections, eight U.S. 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
or Capital One
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
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
Delta and United
fly wide-body aircraft to San Juan. On these large airplanes, like the Boeing
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 doesn’t 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 Aeroplan 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 U.S.
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 U.S. 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: [email protected].