There are 3.5 million people living in Puerto Rico, with half living in the capital city, San Juan and nearby cities. Having said that, the denser the city, the higher the crime rate. Many of Puerto Rico's cities are inhabited by different cultures and social classes. Where there is inequality, crime generally occurs.
Puerto Rico is generally a hospitable and safe place for tourists. But it pays to mind your manners, or you may end up in trouble with the locals. If you plan to have a few drinks, always walk with someone else or a group.
While most of the violence is likely to befall locals involved in the island's heavy drug trade or gang activity, tourists are sometimes unfortunate bystanders or targets of serious crimes.
One particularly heinous incident involving a tourist occurred in 2009. An American woman visiting from the state of Georgia was abducted while jogging in the marina area of Fajardo. She was stuffed into the trunk of the perpetrator's car and later found dead with her throat slit. She was five months pregnant.
Don't be caught out at the wrong place and the wrong time. While incidents like these and other violent crimes are rare, there are some areas in which to be particularly cautious and others to just stay out of all together. Criminals in these areas may walk the streets looking to mug people, and drug activity is common at night.
Many travelers say to avoid La Perla in Old San Juan, next to El Morro, which has a high rate of drug trafficking. Like any large city, use your common sense. Don't go wandering around at night, be aware of your surroundings and belongings.
The areas of Puerta de Tierra outside the hotel hub should also be avoided due to large amounts of drug activity and other criminal behavior. Stay out of Parque de las Palomas, a park area in San Juan, after dark.
Ponce, in the south part of Puerto Rico, is another location in which to be vigilant. And at night, beach areas may attract those with sinister intentions like robbery or rape.
Travelers say to avoid public housing areas, known in Puerto Rico as "caserios", identifiable by their cement facades and apartment-like balconies. Gangs are a problem in these projects, and activities linked to the drug trade take place often.
Louis Lloren Torres, a caserios in San Juan is where a lot of the city's crime takes place. It's off the tourist track, so travelers may have a death wish if they end up there looking for recreational drugs. However, locals report if you are there in the morning and afternoon you are generally safe.
While any crimes involving weapons are most likely to occur between local criminals and people in the drug trade, visitors should be aware of Puerto Rico's high rate of gun deaths per capita. Accidental shootings also occur, sometimes due to the Puerto Rican custom of firing guns to ring in the New Year.
Public transport is slow but a cheap alternative to get around in the cities such as San Juan. It is safe to use however does not operate past 10pm or midnight in high season.
Puerto Rico is a small island nation which you can circle in just under 5 hours! With 3 main highways, it's easy to hire a car and explore the place. Each of the country's 78 towns and cities has something to offer every traveler.
Nomads who've commented below have other suggestions for safe and beautiful destinations within the country. Get out there and enjoy.
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So you want to get outside and explore the environment of Puerto Rico. Excellent! There are many exciting adventures to have, and whether you're exploring Flamenco Beach, zip lining through forests, learning to surf, or climbing up to El Morro you're likely to have a great time.
Driving in a foreign country is almost guaranteed to be different from driving around your hometown. You're not used to the surroundings, you're probably not driving your own car, and the road signs - if there are any - are most likely in another language.