One of the questions that I’m asked the most is: “when is the best time of the year to visit Puerto Rico”? And, as much as I hate to use the phrase “it depends”, well, I guess it does depend.
Let me tell you a story. Several years ago I was working in my office when all of a sudden the phone rang. I picked it up and it was this American gentleman (who has since become my great friend) who said he was a fellow landscape photographer. He said he was looking at may images at Puerto Rico Photography, he liked what he was seeing and he was interested in visiting the Island. He also suggested that we could go out shooting together. Then he popped the big question: “when is the best time of the year to visit Puerto Rico”?
My initial answer was that Puerto Rico is a tropical Island; so it’s pretty much beautiful all year round. But then I thought about it some more and I qualified my answer. Maybe that’s true if all you want to do is bask in the sun sipping piña coladas and take in the sites. But if you’re a photographer, looking to make great images, then there are other factors that you must consider.
Puerto Rico is located at latitude 18° 13′ 40.6554″ and longitude -66° 28′ 22.0008″, pretty much in the center of the Caribbean Sea. That means that the Trade Winds hit the Island from the northeast during most of the year. But the operative word here is “most”. During the summer months many times the wind changes, and it comes straight from the east. When that happens the Island is covered in dust from the Sahara Desert, which in turn will mess up your photos.
This is something that has gone on forever, but unless you look at it from a photographer’s perspective you’ll probably never put two and two together.
When the Sahara Dust hits the Island the skies turn a milky white, the air becomes hazy and people with asthma can have a really bad day. This last point has nothing to do with photography but it can ruin your vacations really quick.
Of course, this happens in varying degrees. But if you’re a photographer, the net effect is that all your pictures end up with that dull gray cast that no one likes..
Sometimes it can get really bad. For instance, a couple of years ago I went past the airport and the haze was so thick that it seemed like the place was burning.
Back to my story… At first I didn’t give this gentleman a firm answer (about the shooting together part). After all, we live in trying times and you can’t just jump in a car with a stranger carrying thousand of dollars worth of photographic equipment.
So I checked him out online, just to make sure that he was legit, and then I called him back. I told him that his question had gotten me thinking and that I had discovered something interesting in my own photo collection of Puerto Rico: that most of my most beautiful shots had been made between November and March. And of those five months the best of all was February.
It made perfect sense. In February the trade winds hit the Island from the northeast, the temperature goes down to around 80° F (sometimes lower) and the skies are so blue and pristine that they make your eyes hurt. It’s wonderful!!! Besides, if you live in Europe or the northern part of the United States, just think of the alternative: shoveling snow, lousy driving conditions, bone-chilling weather… Ugh!
But there’s more. Puerto Ricans usually go on vacation during the summer months; usually during the months of July and August. That means that most beaches and tourist spots are going to be packed during those months.
So that brings us to my initial answer: “it depends”. If you love the hot summer weather, the crowds, and you don’t mind a little dust in the atmosphere, then come right over. The more the merrier. Or maybe it’s the only time that you have available. Then hey, it’s a no-brainer.
But if you are anything like me, and you like to have places all to yourself (call me selfish, I don’t care), then the winter months will be the best for you.
And one last thing… If you like street festivals then you must come in January, when the San Sebastian Street Fiestas take place. Every year, on the third weekend of January, close to half a million people crowd the city of Old San Juan to celebrate “Las Fiestas De La Calle San Sebastian”, a street festival started in the mid 50’s that has been ranked by the Guinness Book Of World Records as the largest street festival in the world taking place during the month of January.
You will find street dancers, stilt walkers, music, arts and crafts, food, drinks and thousands upon thousands of fun-loving people.
And what about my friend? Well, he came to Puerto Rico for the first time about five years ago during the month of February. I spent several days showing him and his wife around the Island. And since then he has come back every year, always in February.
Enjoy Puerto Rico,
©2013,Orlando Mergal, MA
Bilingual Content Creator, Blogger, Podcaster,
Author, Photographer and New Media Expert
Tel. 787-750-0000, Mobile 787-306-1590