On September 20, Hurricane Maria made direct landfall on Puerto Rico resulting in the deadliest storm to ever hit the Island. As of November 20th, 500 people have lost their lives to the storm as well as leaving the island without power and water for several months (some are STILL to this day without clean water and power).
We had planned on visiting Puerto Rico for several months, and when the storm hit, we were told by our airline to cancel and that they would fly us anywhere else.
Over the past few months of planning, I had made several contacts in PR, including one family through house swapping.
I reached out to her and asked point blank “Am I crazy to bring my family to Puerto Rico?“. The last thing we wanted to do was to use valuable resources that would otherwise go to the locals, or to put my family in a situation where they were not safe.
It’s no secret that Puerto Rico is suffering from terrible press, so I needed a real answer!
We heard back almost immediately, and the answer was unanimous. Puerto Rico was recovering and that on the West coast (where we planned on staying) the Hurricane had done less damage. The West coast of the Island is also newer in terms of infrastructure. Their power grids and water supply were able to be fixed sooner than the rest of the island.
That week PR’s tourism department started rolling out a Meaningful Travel (voluntourism) campaign and declared that Puerto Rico was “open for business”. We also received a message from a contact in Rincon saying similar things, so ahead we went.
We had no idea what to expect, but we had fallen in love with Puerto Rico a long time ago, and had to go see it for ourselves.
It wasn’t until a few days after we arrived that we started to form our own opinion on the state of the island.
There is no question that Puerto Rico is struggling. On the eve of filing for bankruptcy, because of a massive $70 billion dollar debt, Hurricane Maria came through causing another estimated $95 billion in damages to Puerto Rico (according to Governor Rossello).
What we did see, however, was an island that was rapidly healing. We spoke to some first responders from Florida who had been there since day 2, and they were sure that there would be no way that Puerto Rico could recover. There wasn’t a single green leaf left on the trees.
By the time we had arrived, green was everywhere, it was a beautiful thing to see!
🌟🌟 So how is Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria?
El Yunque National Park, arguably one of the top reasons to visit PR, has seen damage that will restrict it from being open for possibly the next 100 years. Devastating damage.
Culebra and Vieques, also two huge reasons to visit the Island, are also struggling and will not be able to host visitors for what is likely, the better part of a year.
The bioluminescence bays (Puerto Rico has 3 including the brightest on Earth) were severely damaged but are finally coming back to life.
Most of the Eastern side of the Island are STILL without clean water and power. The government has been hesitant to put any money into repairing the infrastructure when it desperately needs to be replaced. This is leaving a good 20% of the locals without a fridge to house such necessities as food and clean water for drinking.
These are American citizens, this (in my opinion) is unacceptable.
Puerto Rico still needs your help!
DONATE Funds: Operation Agua is bringing water purification systems to the people in need and an organization that I personally can get behind and put my money.
Donate Time: Visiting Puerto Rico? Get involved with See Puerto Rico’s Meaningful Travel. They usually have events every weekend and are a great way to help.
🌟🌟 The Good News! Puerto Ricans are a very proud bunch of people. They LOVE their country, and they are thrilled to share it with you. Everyone we met was so welcoming, kind and always asked “Do you love it here? Will you come back!?”
I can honestly say, I have never felt more at home somewhere while traveling abroad. It was truly like being welcomed into a family. Despite everything that the Puerto Ricans had to endure, there is no getting their spirits down!
Old San Juan is just as stunning as ever! The colourful buildings, blue cobblestone roads, the restaurants and the fabulous El Morro as well as San Cristobal forts are all reason enough to visit. Old San Juan is steeped in history and considered by many to be the oldest city in the Western Hemisphere.
The Island is starting to thrive again. Vegetation is popping up all over and cleanup is well underway in most places.
Crashboat Beach has forever been changed by Hurricane Maria and is no longer the beach you would recognize, but that still doesn’t change that it is THE place to hang out and one of the nicest beaches on the Island. We loved it so much we spent 3 full days here!
Puerto Rico is desperate to increase their tourism, and if you are considering visiting, please do so! I promise you that you will not regret it for a second!
Even without some of Puerto Rico’s most famous sights, you will still have numerous options for activities and beaches.
Flights are super cheap right now, Americans do not need passports to visit, and you will be blown away by the Island of Enchantment.