Cruising Puerto Rico.              Please send any comments to me.

This page updated: May 2015
      




Overview section
Legalities section
Places section
Facilities section




Overview

Guidebook: "A Cruising Guide to Puerto Rico Including the Spanish Virgin Islands" by Stephen Pavlidis (on Amazon) (2003; 50 full-color charts).
8th edition of "A Gentleman's Guide to Passages South" by Bruce Van Sant (on Amazon) has lots of PR info.
US Coast Pilot 5 (on Amazon), chapter 13 covers Puerto Rico.

Charts: Maptech's Region 10 chartkit (on Amazon).

Puerto Rico courtesy flag

Puerto Rico map from World Atlas

Some Spanish phrases for cruisers

North shore, except for San Juan, is exposed; few anchorages.

Rainiest May through December, more on north coast than on south coast.

Try "Maubi", a non-alcholic drink of tree bark, sugar and spices.

NPR stations: 1030 AM, 89.7 FM, WVGN 107.3 FM ("Car Talk" Saturday and Sunday 1 PM, "Prairie Home Companion" Saturday 7 PM and Sunday 4 PM in winter; subtract 1 hour in summer).
Couldn't hear any of them from Mayaguez to Ponce.
Can hear 1030 AM a bit in Salinas and Jobos; they have English-language in morning and evening, it seems.
Can hear WVGN 107.3 FM in Vieques.
Nice classical music station: 91.3 FM.

I'm told all the doctors in Puerto Rico are bad; maybe the good ones leave and go to the mainland USA ?

I'm told there are no public libraries in Puerto Rico; the voters don't want to finance them. The open-to-public libraries you see actually are attached to schools, and some school libraries are not open to the public (for example, on Culebra). (I didn't see any school attached to the library in Salinas, but maybe there is one.)

Transportation:
Publicos
Puerto Rico Planner

From enjoypuertorico.com:
If you plan on exploring the Island, renting a car is probably your best option, as scheduled bus service between cities is unavailable. The roads are modern and well-maintained, but get a good road map and chart your course before your trip.

Guagua's (private taxis) in Puerto Rico have a special pale-yellow license plate, and a placard in the front windshield telling where they go. But they're scarce in the smaller towns.


Plane flights out of PR to USA: from Mayaguez (MAZ), Ponce (PSE), San Juan (SJU), Fajardo. Many/most flights go through San Juan.

From US Coast Pilot 5 (on Amazon), chapter 13:
Puerto Rico collects no customs duties on merchandise entering the island from the continental United States or its dependencies.
But in 12/2005, I'm told that everything coming from USA pays a 6% duty, and Puerto Rico is starting to enact a 1% sales tax.

From Lee Church:
Re: Buying a scooter in PR:

You do need a license, and registration. Registration is $150 (I'm guessing from what various sources have told me). I was able to buy my scooter new, including the registration, for just under $2000.

Parking them is a bit tricky, you can't just "do as the Romans do". It's best to park as legally as possible, while trying to avoid having the scooter run over by some poor driver who doesn't look behind them before reving up their 300 HP urban assault vehicle and peeling off an inch of rubber on the way out of the parking lot.

Oh, and helmets and goggles are required equipment as well. It adds up (cheap helmets are $30 - $50).

> more expensive than I hoped; is there a smaller and cheaper scooter ?

It IS the cheaper one! it's a 150 cc engine. [But he told me later: there ARE smaller and cheaper scooters, but he considers 150 CC to be the minimum acceptable. And I think he said less than 150 CC can't be run on toll roads without a special permit.]





Legalities

Entry fee: US annual cruising decal/permit; $25 for USA boat.

According to "Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands" by Nancy and Simon Scott (on Amazon), there is a special relationship between PR and USVI's: from PR to USVI, don't have to clear out of PR or in to USVI. From USVI to PR, don't have to clear out of USVI but do have to clear in to PR (because USVI is a duty-free area). To/from anywhere else (including USA and BVI's), have to clear out and clear in.

From Noonsite:

Don't have to clear out when going from PR / Spanish VI's to USVI's, but do have to clear in when going from USVI's to PR / Spanish VI's. I think it's because USVI is a duty-free area. But the security guy in Culebra didn't ask me any Customs-type questions when I arrived from the USVI; didn't have to fill out a declaration form or anything.

From Windom log file [2001]:
Arriving Boqueron PR: The first thing to do, once we got our post-passage ten hours of sleep, was to officially check in. Since Puerto Rico is an "associated Commonwealth" of the United States of America, and since we're US citizens on a US documented boat, we could clear in with Customs by telephone. It only took ten minutes, which is five minutes less than it took us to figure out how to use the pay phone, figure out which of the several Customs numbers to call, oops, you mean this isn't a local call?, rummage around for our phone card information, and finally get all the digits punched in.

Customs asked us to next call Immigration. We knew from talking with other cruisers that Immigration requests that all crew members go to the immigration office in Mayaguez with their passports. (Boquerón isn't an official port of entry, and non-US vessels must call at Mayaguez or some other port of entry first.) Some cruisers we knew had hired a van for $12.50 each; others we talked with had braved the two rides each way needed on the public transportation system, about $6 each round-trip but a big hassle and with infrequent runs. In fact, before calling Customs we had waited fruitlessly at the público stop for nearly half an hour, figuring we might as well just go in to Mayaguez and deal with all the officials at once.

Some cruisers in Luperón had advised us to "just blow off Immigration," and when we talked with people from other boats who'd gone up to Mayaguez, they indicated that they hadn't gotten any passport stamps or other proof that they had cleared Immigration. (In contrast, we got a "report release number" from the Customs agent over the phone.) The final kicker was that it was Friday. So, I hope no officials are reading this, but we decided to accidentally forget to call Immigration until we hit Ponce, our next official port of entry.

If you anchor in Ponce, the Customs/Immigration guys will appear around 8 or 9 each morning on the fuel dock and whistle at you, and yell across for you to come talk to them. They don't have a boat or a radio.

Registering your boat in Puerto Rico:
8th edition of Van Sant says "Vessels remaining in Puerto Rican waters more than 60 days must register in Puerto Rico. ... PR wants 6.6% of the boat's value in import taxes.".
Pavlidis, Reed's, and Noonsite don't say this. Experienced PR cruisers have never heard of this happening.
I talked to Mr. Van Sant 8/2005, and he said the law is on the books, and a few years ago there was some enforcement of it. He recommends just keeping your head down, avoiding areas the DRNA boats frequent, and removing non-PR registration stickers from your boat. He doubts they have reciprocal sales-tax agreements with US states. He knows someone they tried to charge the full import tax, and that person just left the PR in the middle of the night.
Caribean Compass had an article in 2010 saying that law had just been changed.

In 8/2006, I was told of a USA boat which had been in La Parguera for eight years, got some police suggestions to register in Puerto Rico, and did so.

In 8/2006, I asked a couple of people some questions about "importing a boat into Puerto Rico" and registering in Puerto Rico, and got these answers:
From Jim Veiga, Atlas Yacht Sales:
Your [33-year-old] boat will not have to pay import duties because of its age. A 40' boat pays $300 per year [for registration]. You can do this at the department of natural resources.

From Bonnie Anderson:
Since your boat was built before Jan 1 1998, you will NOT have to pay any import tax. Don't let ANYone tell you differently. That's a good thing, since the damn tax is 7.6 percent ... of what the Puerto Ricans THINK your boat is worth. [If a tax person tries to make you pay anyway, read the small print on the form and show it to them; they may not be aware of the pre-1998 rule themselves.]

I don't remember what I paid [for a 1997 boat], but it was inconsequential compared to the thousands I WOULD have paid if I hadn't read the small print. I'm sure it was under $100.

When you register it here, you DO give up all other [USA state] registration ... and they will take all of your original documents away from you forever ... and in return give you PR docs. [I think this applies to state title and registration only; don't let them take away federal documentation or bill of sale.]

Since your boat is older, you don't pay the import tax regardless of having paid Florida sales/use taxes or not.

So, the process is:
  1. You go to a registration office and tell them what you want to do. Make SURE they understand the boat was built before 1998. They will hand you an information sheet and tell you you will have to pay the tax. Look at about the middle of the form and point out the date issue ... and that you DO NOT have to pay it.
  2. They will print something out that shows what you have to pay for registration ... stamps, etc.
  3. Then you go to a "Colecturia". Each town has one. This is a government office (bank-like) which collects all fees. You hand them the paper from the registration office, pay them what they say (and again, it'll be under $100), get the stamps etc needed.
  4. You go BACK to the registration office and hand this stuff to them. They then do the paperwork in a slow fashion (I was born and raised in Latin America ... I understand this stuff!) and hand it back to you.
  5. You're registered here.

This was MY experience, and what I learned by doing it. I'm not a lawyer and don't want folks getting mad at me if their experience is different!

Boat registration fees:
DNRA's "Vessel Registration" (PDF)
DNRA's "Documentation Required for RENEWAL of vessel License" (PDF)
DNRA's "Division de Inscripcion y Numeracion de Embarciones"






Places

See my Caribbean page for more info about the Mona Passage.


From The Aldebaran Travel Log:

From letter from Denis and Arleen Webster in 10/2002 issue of Seven Seas Cruising Association bulletin:

From Windom log file [2001]:
Boquerón is a big beach party town: loud music late at night. We decided to put up with the long dinghy ride in to town rather than move closer.

Ponce: Ponce Yacht Club charges $5 per person per day to land dinghy. Instead, land at little wooden dock on the other side of the anchorage, by a boat ramp and a waterfront plaza called La Guancha.









My experience in PR 2005-2007:
Fuel seemed about 80 cents/gallon cheaper in big towns here than in Luperon.

I think for a hurricane hole, I'd choose one of these: [I favor anchoring in very shallow water with room around me, as opposed to tying off tight to mangroves.]

Other hurricane hole possibilities:

Good thing about spending hurricane season in PR: US Coast Guard is available.

From Jack Tyler on SSCA discussion boards:
... There are two excellent hurricane holes, the first [Puerto Real] just N of the yachtie stop in Boqueron which has an inner pool that, depending on your draft, is very protected. You probably would end up in the outer estuary if all the fishing boats beat you to the inner lagoon. The second [Guayanilla, maybe ?] is W of Ponce with its stores, movie theater, bulk food warehouse and, more importantly, marine vendors, great museums and lots of local sites. The advantage of the PR coast as a choice is that you aren't locked into one spot but rather can roam around and see all three coasts while being within a short distance of one of these protected mangrove estuaries. I haven't mentioned the sweet little town just E of Cabo Rojo [must be La Parguera] with its own mangrove estuaries and boats have ridden out big storms there with much success ... so I suppose there are actually three choices. Because PR also offers the U.S. infrastructure (ready flights, USPS service, 800 numbers, etc), there is much to recommend cruising there in the storm season ...

From US Coast Pilot 5 (on Amazon), chapter 13:
Strong N winds and heavy seas may occur from November to April. During the hurricane season gales may strike from any direction. The best hurricane harbors are Bahias San Juan, Guanica, Guayanilla, and Jobos, and Ensenada Honda (on Isla de Culebra).

...

Puerto Rico has several hundred streams, some of good size, but none are navigable for anything but small boats. The mouths of the streams generally are closed by bars except during short periods of heavy rainfall. From the location of the mountain divides, the streams on the S and E sides of the island are short and fall rapidly to the sea, whereas those on the N and W sides are longer and slope more gently.

...

Along the Atlantic and Caribbean coasts of Puerto Rico, the currents are greatly influenced by the trade winds. In general, there is a W drift caused by prevailing E trade winds; the velocity averages about 0.2 knot and is said to be strongest near the island. A decided W set has been noted near the 100-fathom curve along the Caribbean coast from Isla Caja de Muertos to Cabo Rojo. Offshore of Bahia de Tallaboa a current of 0.5 knot has been observed setting NE across and against the E wind.

...

NE through SE winds blow about 80 percent of the time year round.

...

Good surfing (thus bad anchorages) along N and NW coasts. Few harbors on N coast.

When and where for Carnaval ???





Facilities

West Marine stores: Fajardo and San Juan.

From Luis F Ramos Reyes on the SailNet Caribbean Islands list:
Re: Refitting:

My recommendation would be to purchase and install everything in Puerto Rico at Marina Puerto del Rey in Ceiba [on E coast, S of Fajardo; Bahia Demajagua]. You have West Marine, other chandleries, riggers, etc. within minutes. I would also recommend that you contact Mr. Luis Vall-Lobera at 787-315-3910 or 787-728-6548; he is an experienced and very responsible contractor that I always use.

From Russ Teague on the SailNet Caribbean Islands list:
I am currently docked at Puerto Del Rey Marina - it's a great place. I haven't done any extensive work while I've been here. I do know that the little "parts and pieces" are much more expensive than in the US and not readily available. I usually load up my suitcase with all the usual needs while I'm in Miami and haul it back. Freight gets very expensive to PR and anything you have sent in is subject to the 6.6% excise tax - while that itself is comparable to US sales tax, it's just a pain to have things held up by Fedex, UPS etc while you pay the tax. Only the US Postal Service refuses to collect the tax, but if it's heavy or bulky you can't ship it that way. The little work I have done has been of excellent quality and the price is reasonable but not a bargain.

Boatyards:

Update 3/2011 from Harvey on SV Sea Bound:
Isleta Marina seems to be only yard you can still do your own work. Haul and launch $7.50 per foot, wash, $2 per, blocking $2.







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