Is Puerto Rico safe for women? Female solo traveler tips for Puerto Rico

Is Puerto Rico safe for women? Female solo traveler tips for Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a haven for beach bums and adrenaline junkies alike. With dozens of hidden gems tucked in its tropical foliage, this island does not lack any luster. In fact, Puerto Rico is one of the top destinations I recommend to budding female solo travelers, especially when it comes to women’s safety. Puerto Rico is safe for women who are looking to venture into the rainforest landscapes of the island or even if they are looking to sunbathe solo on their tropical getaway.

Logistically, solo travel in Puerto Rico is definitely doable even for the newest of solo travelers. Puerto Rico is safe for female solo travelers precisely because its easy to navigate and costs are relatively low (compared to traveling costs in the United States). Women also do not have to worry about body shaming or solo traveler shaming. If you’re looking to embark on your first solo trip, Puerto Rico is a safe destination for women who are looking to explore all the cultural wonders and beauty this island has to offer.  

Editor’s note:

I traveled to Puerto Rico in 2017, before Hurricane Maria. This post will reflect what I experienced during that time but has also been updated the reflect the current climate in Puerto Rico. This article details my own personal experience as a female solo traveler in the country but also includes statistics and more information to educate women travelers about other realities that I may not have experienced. 

The beautiful sandy beaches of Loiza, Puerto Rico.

Do I consider Puerto Rico safe for women?

Overall, I felt safe when adventuring throughout Puerto Rico. During my two-week stay on the island, I wanted to explore every corner of this country, so I rented a car. I spent my first few days in San Juan and then skirted the perimeter of the island on my two-week road trip. I even took a ferry to Vieques off the eastern shores of Puerto Rico to see some of the best beaches and the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world.

During my adventure, I made friends along the way, but for the majority of my road trip, I was traveling solo. Whether I was heading to the beach with new-found friends or walking through the streets of the cultural and historic center of Ponce, I felt safe and unbothered in Puerto Rico, even as a woman.

How safe is San Juan, Puerto Rico for women?

While staying in San Juan, I explored Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan) numerous times. First, by myself and then with new friends I made at a hostel in San Juan.

Walking through the streets of Viejo San Juan, locals greeted me with smiles and genuine hellos and holas. In the touristy areas of San Juan, the shopkeepers were fluent in both English and Spanish. Most were even nice enough to patiently wait for me to fumble replies in Spanish.

Viejo San Juan is situated near the port, so crowds from the cruise ships filter into the historic, cobbled streets. But even without fellow tourists surrounding me, I felt safe in San Juan as I ventured toward some of the hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path activities that I wanted to experience.

In the heart of San Juan, I never dealt with catcalls or being followed as a woman. I was left to wander alone and truly drink in what the city had to order. I ventured around mostly on foot and found that nearly everyone was unperturbed by this inquisitive tourist.

Murals and street art can be found all over San Juan, including it’s most popular and famous neighborhood Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan). The door on this abandoned building is painted with the Puerto Rican flag.

Safety in other popular San Juan neighborhoods 

I also stayed in the Condado and the Ocean Park district of San Juan. Condado is considered the upscale resort, beach and shopping area of San Juan. This is the home to Ashford Avenue and Condado Beach. Police officers often patrol this area due to the high number of tourists and traffic.

In these areas, I walked mostly because it was easier than trying to find parking for my rental car. When staying in a hostel in Condado, I was just blocks from the beach. During my morning walk to the sandy shores, many locals would smile and greet me good morning. I definitely wasn’t questioning my safety in these areas and was only worried about the copious amounts of sand in my hair.

Ocean Park is the less ritzy residential area of San Juan. This is where the locals and authentic parts of Puerto Rico emerge. Calle Loiza runs through this neighborhood and is a famous street known for its delicious local cuisine. These streets are packed and loud with bustling traffic. This neighborhood looks intimidating with all the bars on the window and the more rundown residential areas, but I felt safe walking around this neighborhood to venture to the beach and grab groceries. 

Safety and nightlife in San Juan

Nearby is also the bustling, nightlife neighborhood of La Placita. La Placita is where the night owls in San Juan flock to drink and dance to Latin music.

La Placita is a section of streets lined with small local bars. Crowds pack into these small nooks and when there isn’t room, dancers and drinkers flow out onto the streets.

Oftentimes, women travelers are told to limit themselves and avoid alcohol while vacationing. This fear-mongering approach isn’t how I like to spend my time when traveling.

In general, the best tip for enjoying nightlife safely while abroad is to not accept drinks from strangers. Unless the drink was poured or open by a bartender in front of me, I won’t take a free drink from anyone. That rule is something I abide by worldwide. Before I go out the experience nightlife, I always check in with someone. Whether that’s the person at the front desk of my hostel or with a newly acquainted friend I made in my hostel room, I always ensure that someone is waiting for me, especially if I want to indulge in a drink or two.

If I’m not close enough to walk back to my accommodation, or want to opt for a ride home, I always make sure my phone is charged so I can call for an Uber or cab. Uber is widely available throughout San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In the open streets of La Placita, the music carried me through the night. I was spun and dipped as friendly locals took my hand and taught me the beginner steps to bachata and salsa. When was visiting Puerto Rico when the reggaetón song “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee became a chart-topping hit. You can imagine the infectious hype that surrounded this song. The locals were not only proud the song was written by local Luis Fonsi, but also that worldwide people were starting to appreciate their culture and music.

After a few hours of dancing away the humid Caribbean night, I ventured back to my hostel. I felt safe enough to walk back to my hostel which less than a five minute walk.

Overlooking the mountains in Puerto Rico. Nearby is a hidden waterfall perfect for a quiet getaway for a solo traveler.

Is Puerto Rico safe for women?

For the rest of my trip, I spent my time driving to rural areas of Puerto Rico, which I highly recommend to experience authentic Puerto Rico. I also felt safe when venturing into the more unnamed hidden-gem destinations. Regardless of my proximity to the country’s capitol and tourist hot spot, the locals in all corners of the island were accommodating and exude hospitality. There were numerous occasions where locals invited me to their homes for an authentic Puerto Rican feast. I regret not taking them up on it! 

The only time that I was questioned about why I travel solo was in rural areas. Most of the locals were curious about what brought me to their beautiful island and why I decided to tag it solo. However, I was never met with animosity or shame for my decision

Crime statistics: is Puerto Rico safe for women?

Editor’s note:

During the pandemic, Puerto Ricans have endured a surge in tourism and aggressive behavior from tourists. In one instance, tourists assaulted a woman in a wheelchair after being asked to wear a mask. Furthermore, cases of sexual assault have also increased. A number of these cases have been connected to Americans. (More information about sexual assault rates in the following section.)

As always, be mindful of the impact that you have when you travel. Especially to places that are more remote and you falling ill will take away resources from locals who need them most. Mask up and treat locals with the utmost respect!

While I was in San Juan, none of my possessions were stolen nor did I feel uneasy leaving my things unattended at the beach. I did not worry daily about pickpocketers or whether someone was following me. Even according to statistics, San Juan and the rest of Puerto Rico is relatively safe due to a low crime rate

Sexual assault and harassment in Puerto Rico

#MeToo finally got the public to listen to women. It was a movement that brought the issue of sexual assault and harassment front and center. As travelers, we owe it to each other to share the positives and negatives from our travels. 

While most of my interactions in Puerto Rico were lovely, I did endure sexual harassment while in Vieques. My taxi driver was crude. He flirted with me endlessly during my cab ride with him. He stared and hit on a group of topless girls on the beach. Unlucky for me, he was also staying at the accommodation and came knocking on my door at 2 a.m. 

However, during the rest of my Puerto Rico trip, I never heard any sexual comments and innuendos from strangers. I felt safe and that I wasn’t hounded or leered at by strangers. I won’t let my taxi driver ruin my outlook on Puerto Rico.

Editor’s note:

It’s important to note that sexual assault is more prevalent in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria. In recent years, there was a drastic increase in violence against women. These numbers are not meant to deter travelers from journeying to Puerto Rico. Instead, these harsh statistics paint a realistic picture for travelers and make them well aware of the reality for many locals. Being aware of the current political climate and situation in Puerto Rico will help female solo travelers stay safe. 

A roadside food kiosk nearby Fajardo’s ferry. The ferry allows tourists and locals to easily island hop to Puerto Rico‘s smaller island Culebra and Vieques.

Is driving solo in Puerto Rico safe?

The number one rule on staying safe during road trips is making sure you don’t appear flashy. Keep track of your belongings and leave the unnecessary expensive gadgets or jewelry at home. Also, be persistent and aware of your surroundings. Part of the reason I remained safe in Puerto Rico was the tips and tricks I followed. Be alert in areas you are unfamiliar with, but unlike other media sources, I’m not going to use this fear-mongering tactic to deter you. Definitely take the plunge and road trip solo, but always be aware of situations that compromise your safety.

The best way to experience Puerto Rico off the beaten path is to road trip. Driving in Puerto Rico is not as hectic and dangerous that it’s made out to be. Be fully aware of the cars around you. Often times drivers do not use their blinkers to indicate them changing lanes and Puerto Rican drivers like to speed. If you maintain the proper speed limit and make sure to check your blind spots, you’ll be safe. 

The worst part about driving in Puerto Rico is the potholes and the windy mountain roads. In the mountains, the roads turn into dirt lanes where it’s normal to see a horse or chicken standing in the middle of the road around a dangerous, tight bend. Take your time and do not be afraid to use your honk when rounding turns. These roads, though considered two-ways, are often too narrow to be considered a one-way. Drive slow and pull over when it’s safe to let speedier drivers pass you.

I emphasize this again — DRIVE SLOW! You’ll avoid a majority of the potholes this way and won’t wear out your car’s brakes. Driving slow will also ensure that you won’t hit any wildlife that might meander into the road, which is a common occurrence, especially iguanas. 

The ferry port at Vieques, one of Puerto Rico’s islands off the mainland. Vieques is well-known for it’s wild horse preserve and having the brightest biolumniscent bays in the world. Unfortunately, Vieques was also a bombing site used by the United States military. Ruins and destruction of the island are still evident today.

Is Puerto Rico considered body positive for women?  

When it comes to celebrating all shapes and sizes, Puerto Rico beaches put on the best display. Puerto Rico’s culture boasts body positivity and celebrates beauty in all forms. Puerto Rico reminded me of my captivating uniqueness and taught me how to rejoice in that!

Due to Puerto Rico’s body-positive environment, travelers can wear whatever they please. There is no pressure to cover up in this Caribbean paradise.  

In fact, it’s encouraged for travelers to wear bright colors and show some skin if they so choose. Travelers can don shorts and sundresses exposing their shoulders and knees when walking around town. For the majority of my trip, I wore shorts and tank tops in vibrant prints. Also, rock that bikini! 

Waves washing over the jagged, rocky coastline on Puerto Rico’s northern coast.

Accessibility throughout Puerto Rico 

Most travelers make the mistake of only explore San Juan during their Puerto Rican vacation. Due to the horror stories about Puerto Rican driving and the myths that the rest of the island is inaccessible, many travelers opt to soak on the beach in San Juan. I highly encourage travelers to rent a car and road trip around the island. The island is diverse and you would regret not trekking to see the island’s hidden gems. 

During my road trip, I used Google Maps to direct me. Overall, Google Maps was accurate except in the mountainous region. I would credit Google Maps for being why I spent hours lost in the mountains, but in reality, I think it was my spontaneous nature and ill regard for reading road signs. 

I downloaded the maps to view offline, just in case I lost cell reception. I’m from the United States, so my phone plan also worked in Puerto Rico.

If your phone plan doesn’t extend to Puerto Rico, Wifi is not sparse. Wifi was available in most accommodations that I stayed in. Although, it might become a problem when you are in more remote areas of the island. When I stayed in the mountains, my cellphone reception was spotty at best. 

Within San Juan, English is widely spoken. For the most part, travelers can cope with only English. As you migrate outside of San Juan’s city limits English becomes a minority. Spanish is the main language used in remote areas of Puerto Rico. 

I was able to cope with my rudimentary Spanish skills. I only became flustered while parking my car at Crash Boat Beach

Ability to meet other travelers in Puerto Rico

Puerto Ricans are sociable and extroverted. They love to express themselves and greet all strangers with warmth and kindness. I was often invited into their homes to share a meal or learn more about the island. Unfortunately, I was shy and declined the offer most times. 

Though a solo road trip may sound lonely, I was never truly alone on my travels. 

In San Juan, I stayed at hostels and quickly made friends with other travelers. We ventured to the beach together and danced the night away in La Placita. It was also nice to explore Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan) as a group. It was as if I had my own personal Instagram photographer. 

The picturesque and colorful abodes in San Juan’s most popular neighborhood Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan). An ideal area for female solo travelers to stay to be close to all the tourist spots.

What would I do differently? 

Looking back, my Puerto Rican road trip was a dream. There are times I wish I had planned a little better or, on the other hand, was a little more flexible. But I hold that same sentiment for nearly all my travels. Travel is unpredictable and we have to do our best to roll with the punches. 

Ultimately, what made my Caribbean escape so exhilarating was the fact that I was exploring uncharted areas. When I first decided to travel to Puerto Rico, there was a major lack of resources to plan my upcoming trip. Many of the activities that I embarked on were from locals’ recommendations. The spontaneity and excitement I woke up with every day, is one of the many reasons Puerto Rico still remains to be one of my favorite tourist destinations for female solo travelers.

I’m so proud that I trusted my intuition and dove into solo travel. Before adventuring to Puerto Rico, I felt trapped that my travel plans hinged upon others’ schedules. I was constantly conferring with others about their availability and trying to fit my travels around that. Solo travel gave me the freedom to explore the world freely. No longer was I committed to a 9-to-5 job or to others’ travel plans. I found the courage to strive after my own dreams. 

31 thoughts on “Is Puerto Rico safe for women? Female solo traveler tips for Puerto Rico”

  • I am so glad that you travel solo and that you write about the ups and downs as well. I am glad that taxi driver encounter has not put you off continuing to travel solo. Puerto Rico looks such a beautiful place, especially when you venture further from San Juan. We have only ever visited the capital and your photo of the colourful building brings back memories.

  • I can’t get my head around what women have to endure in everyday life. It’s post like these that are good for warning women, but great for teaching men. We don’t know how lucky we are.

  • Its interesting to note that you went to Puerto Rico with your eyes wide open, knowing possibly that it may be slightly unsafe for solo women travellers. So you were prepared for it and was pleasantly surprised by the safety of the place from the built up areas to the rural areas. Courageous and definitely good to know. Getting a knock on the door at 2am would have scared the crap out of me. Sorry you had to endure that awful cab driver!

  • Posts like these are so helpful and necessary! As women, we face a lot of challenges daily in terms of safety. I would love to visit a place feeling 100% safe and comfortable but until that happens, I am glad posts like this exists to give us a little mental reminder! Sounds like you had a great experience in Puerto Rico with the exception of the cab driver!!! And good on you to not let him ruin your perception of the people! That is so important. Thank you so much for sharing and you’ve just given me the itch to visit Puerto Rico!

  • Well done for this honest post. I loved your take on solo traveling, things that you would do differently and how travel surprises us everytime. So sorry to hear about your experience with the cab driver. It is sad to know that women have to struggle with their safety in most parts of the world. But we won’t let it affect us. Let us be alert, prepared, brave and keep doing what we love to do.

  • Your story will help a lot of solo travel women who want to go to Puerto Rico. Not just covering places to go, but the most important thing is the safety issue. Although I’m not sure what would I do with that taxi drive coming and knocking on my door at 2 a.m. But you proved that thinking straight and clear will help during solo traveling.

  • Its really amazing to see such posts about Women travelling solo and then writing honestly about the experiences . There are always ups and downs, but as long as your mind is calm, you are always able to get out of situations, and take a learning out of them. Sorry to hear about your experience with the cab driver, but what I really appreciate is that you didn’t let the trip go on a negative vibe after that.

  • I am sorry to know that you had that horrible experience. I appreciate your courage to share this and warn other travelers like me.

    I hope the authorities can do something about it.

  • This is a very useful guide for women traveling to Puerto Rico. I am sorry to read that you had to endure the taxi driver at 2 am. Though, on the upside I am glad that there is no body shaming in Puerto Rico. The freedom to wear whatever one fancies is liberating. I hope more people take inspiration from this blog and travel solo to Puerto Rico.

  • Man, the taxi driver was at your door at 2am? That is crazy! I am so glad that story didnt turn out for the worst because as soon as I was reading that I was thinking or dear…noo. I love solo travel and I wish some men would learn to take a freaking hint. Its 2019 for goodness sake.

  • Thank you for sharing your story. You really hit the nail on the head when you said that as travelers, we owe it to each other to share the truth about our journeys. Being honest about your sexual harassment experience helps others to be diligent and exercise caution. The part about the driver showing up at 2AM is insane, the fact that he completely disrespected boundaries is out of control. While your situation ended OK, there are many women who are not so fortunate. I’ve been to Puerto Rico once, and I loved that everyone was free to dress as they wish and be themselves, especially in such vibrant colors! Great post!

  • I’m glad you managed to enjoy your time in Puerto Rico, it looks so beautiful. It’s a shame to hear that violence against women is on the rise after the hurricane there, that’s disheartening for sure. I’ll take your advice and drive slowly there, I don’t want to hit those potholes!

  • That is a very important post to any women traveling there. It is necessary to know about our safety issues esp when traveling alone. Happy to know about how kind and hospitable people where esp in villages. I yoo prefer staying in hostels when traveling solo. That taxi driver is indeed crazy. Sounds pretty scary…

  • I traveled to Puerto Rico with another woman, but totally agree that I felt safe the entire time. That’s too bad about your taxi driver, but I’m glad that you had mostly positive experiences. Also, I really appreciated your completely transparent stats on the risk of sexual assault. It’s really important to know what you’re getting into, so that you can make as informed a decision as possible.

  • I am sorry to hear about your incident with the taxi driver but also glad to know that overall, Puerto Rico felt safe to you as a solo female traveller. I have been travelling solo myself in the last 3 years and although I’ve felt mostly safe in the countries I have been to, there are always isolated incidents that will remind you that you’re a woman and need to be vigilant at all times for your own safety. It seems like overall, the people in Puerto Rico were friendly and nice to you, even in the rural and obscure traveler areas and that speaks highly of the country.

  • Puerto Rico has always been on my list but I always wondered whether it would be safe. Articles like this are great for showing solo female travellers with the same concerns that as long as you are aware of the potential challenges, you can be best prepared. I am sorry to hear about the taxi incident, that would have given me a fright. But it’s great to hear this didn’t dampen your experience entirely or your views of Puerto Rico.

  • I think it’s so brave and awesome that you were able to dive into solo travel. It’s kind of like learning to double-dutch…standing on the fringe, and then when you finally jump in, you wonder why you haven’t done it before. I’ve only been to Puerto Rico once, but it was a random plane diversion and then I got stranded overnight. I regret not venturing out into the cities at all. It sounds like a place that I need to revisit. I love taking road trips, so I think hiring a car like you did would be right up my alley. And thanks for the heads up on the drivers and possibilities of running into a random horse or chicken in the road!

  • I loved reading through your article. I have never traveled solo because of so many different reasons, one of them being worried about my safety. Posts like yours encourage people like me to venture out solo. I have never been to Puerto Rico. And somewhere in the back of mind, I did have concerns about traveling there. However, after reading through your post, it suddenly seems so doable. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • I’m sorry about your bad experience with the taxi driver but I’m also glad to hear that your trip went great overall. I also enjoyed your article because I have always wanted to visit Puerto Rico and this article gave me a lot of useful information about this beautiful country. I’m definitely sharing this article with all of my female traveler friends- you covered some of the most important aspects of solo travel in Puerto Rico.

  • I loved you candid reviews on traveling solo in Peurto Rico. I have never traveled solo because of fear of such incidents, but your post makes me brave enough to face such situations. I loved your beautiful photos and how locals are welcoming and invited you to their place. Also this place is not conservative and allows to wear whatever we like. Peurto Rico has some great beaches and colorful cultural houses and if their administration focus on women’s safety more then it would good for their tourism sector.

  • I am a solo traveler and i found this post so useful. I have been dreaming to visit Puerto Rico for so long and being a offbeat traveler i would love to go on a road trip trip. Glad to know that driving in Puerto Rico is not as hectic and dangerous as it’s made out to be. I come from India where rash driving, potholes and not following traffic rules is a common thing. So, I guess I won’t feel out of home driving in PR 😛

    Thanks for a detailed post.

  • This is such a detailed article on a destination that I honestly don’t get enough information on. As an occasional solo traveler myself I really appreciate this type of destination insight. It’s so unfortunate that occasionally we do have to deal with creeper guys like your taxi driver but it’s great that you were still able to enjoy your experience!

  • I have not travelled to Puerto Rico yet but have it on my bucket list and one of the main things of me planning a holiday is feeling safe to travel. Although there are incidents and posts that give you warnings about travel in this country and safety I think your post clearly shows that it is perfectly safe to travel. If you are not careful you can be a victim in any country. Great to know you could travel the interiors by yourself driving and covered most of the parts. Looks like you had s great time and one I would love to experience. Thanks.

  • Thank you for sharing your story! I will be making my first solo, week long trip to PR come November! I feel confident that I can handle my self in most situations however things can happen. Would you recommend buying anything upon your arrival: i.e. mace or a whistle?

  • I love Puerto Rico. It has been one of my favorite places in North America. I find the locals really friendly and helpful. Just like you, I also felt safe and secured in this area. Anyway, thank you for sharing these tips. It’s something we should keep in mind whenever we travel.

  • PR sounds like a really lovely place for solo female travelers, but thanks for including the caveat that some things have changed since Hurricane Maria. And so sorry about your hotel incident with the cab driver – that’s so inappropriate but could have happened anywhere in the world. I go down to the Caribbean every winter with my family but have never been to PR so that may be next on the list!

  • Brutally honest and a much required post. I am so glad that you did not shy away from sharing experiences and lessons therefore, from them. As much as I would love to visit Puerto Rico, I also want to be well prepared and I found a lot of these tips through this post. Bet I will then enjoy it as much as you did

  • I’d love to go to Puerto Rico, but I think you were quite brave to travel there alone. It’s great to have these tips to help other solo travellers out, especially when you are so open about everything. Driving in PR sounds a lot like driving in Mexico, lots of potholes and you’d never really consider driving at night.

  • Puerto Rico has experienced such tragedy after the hurricane, and it saddens me to read that sexual violence against women has increased since the disaster. Other than that, it sounds like an interesting, and beautiful place to visit, with a low crime rate. I read your point about driving slowly very carefully and will remember this when I do visit!

  • I am sorry to hear about your incident with the taxi driver but I think this type of person is everywhere. As a solo woman traveler, we have many things to be aware of. Puerto Rico sounds still a safe place to go. But I would take every precaution if traveling there alone.

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