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Climate - Puerto Rico

Temperature, rainfall, prevailing weather conditions, when to go, what to pack

United States version (°F - inches - feet). See also the metric version (°C - mm - meters)

Flag - Puerto Rico

Map - Puerto Rico

The climate of Puerto Rico is tropical, hot all year round, with a rainy season and a relatively dry season from November to March, which however, does not occur everywhere. The north-east trade winds, which blow in the cool season, from November to March, discharge the humidity, which has been picked up in the sea, in the form of rain, especially on the northern side, which therefore is rainier than the southern side. For example, in San Juan, 55 inches of rain per year fall, including more than 4 inches per month between May and December, while the driest months, in which about 2.1 in of rain per month fall, are February and March, that is, at the end of the period of the trade winds, when they become weaker.
Here is the average precipitation in the capital San Juan.
Average precipitation San Juan
San Juan J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (in) 3.1 2.0 2.4 3.5 5.7 4.7 4.9 5.9 5.9 5.9 5.5 4.5 54.1
Days 13 10 10 10 12 13 15 16 14 15 16 16 160

The rainiest area is the interior, in particular the north slopes of the Cordillera Central, and even more those of the Caribbean National Forest (or El Yunque), where there is no real dry season. On Pico del Este, about 3,300 feet above sea level, 170 in of rain per year fall.
In contrast, along the southern coast, sheltered from the trade winds, the rainfall often drops below 40 inches per year, and the winter is particularly dry, as happens in Ponce and La Parquera. On the south coast, there is also a certain break in rainfall in June and July.
Here is the average precipitation in Ponce.
Average precipitation Ponce
Ponce J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (in) 0.9 1.0 1.5 2.2 3.8 2.5 2.6 4.3 5.8 6.2 3.8 1.4 36.0
Days 6 6 6 7 10 8 8 10 11 13 10 7 102

Isla Mona, to the west, is almost dry, while the island of Vieques, to the east, is a bit rainier, since the annual rainfall amounts to 42 inches per year.
There is also a difference in climate between the western and the eastern coast of Puerto Rico: the rainy season is slightly longer on the east coast, where it lasts until January included, while on the west coast it lasts until November or mid-December.
Anyway, the rains in Puerto Rico occur mainly in the form of showers and thunderstorms, usually not long-lasting, therefore the amount of sunshine is always acceptable: in San Juan it ranges from 7 hours a day in the period November-January, to 8 hours a day in rest of the year.
Anyway, from June to November, the archipelago can be hit by tropical storms and hurricanes, which are most likely between August and October.
As mentioned, the temperature is high all over the year, however it's slightly higher in the period from May to October: highs are around 90 °F in summer, while they are around 80/84 °F in winter. However, it's especially the humidity that makes the heat muggy.
Here are the average temperatures of San Juan.
San Juan average temperatures
San Juan J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°F) 72 72 73 74 76 78 78 78 78 77 75 73
Max (°F) 83 84 85 86 87 89 89 89 89 88 86 84

At higher altitudes, the temperature is slightly lower: for example, in Adjuntas, at 1,600 feet above sea level, highs range from 77 °F in winter to 84 °F in summer, while on Cerro Maravilla, the fourth highest peak on the island, at 3,900 feet, the maximum ranges from 68 °F in winter to 72 °F in summer.
Every now and then, from December to March, the archipelago can be affected by cool winds from the United States, which can lower the temperature by a few degrees, although in a less noticeable way than in Cuba and Yucatan (Mexico), which are closer to the American continent.

Puerto Rico

The sea is warm enough for swimming all year round: the water temperature ranges from 79 °F from January to March, to 84 °F from August to October.
Sea temperature San Juan
San Juan J F M A M J J A S O N D
Sea (°F) 79 79 79 81 81 82 82 84 84 84 82 81

When to go

In general, the coolest and least rainy period in Puerto Rico runs from December to March, which is also outside of the hurricane season; more in particular, we can find the best time depending on area: February and March along the north and east coasts, from December to March along the south and west coast, because they are generally the least rainy periods. In April there is a certain increase in rainfall, especially in inland areas.
In summer, the heat is sweltering and showers are frequent, in addition, there is a certain risk of tropical storms and hurricanes. If you want to visit Puerto Rico in summer, you may prefer the south coast, which is less rainy, especially in June and July, when there is a certain decrease in precipitation.
The Americans have introduced the habit of using air conditioning, so inside buildings there are often much lower temperatures than outside, so it can be useful to bring some warmer articles of clothing, at least for those who are sensitive to cold.

What to pack

From December to April: light clothes, a sweatshirt for the evening.
From May to November: tropics-friendly, lightweight clothing, possibly a light sweatshirt and a light raincoat for thunderstorms; a light sweatshirt and pashmina for airconditioned places.

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Metric version (°C)
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