You work hard all year, you’ve earned your vacation time and you want to spend it in the most dreamy place in the Caribbean. When you google Puerto Rico, you see negative headlines of destruction and chaos after Hurricane Maria, allow us to tell you the real situation in Puerto Rico without the dramatic headlines.
Just like the media did with the Zika virus, it was sensationalized and exaggerated to the point of hurting Puerto Rico’s tourism industry unfairly. The residential areas, particularly along the central mountains, are the ones facing most of the challenges presented on the media. Tourist districts are working overtime in order to welcome back visitors.
For the past few weeks the focus on the media is no longer in recovery of the island or the life of residents, it is simply politics as usual, but we won’t get into that. We have a family, we love to travel and we will be open and honest about the Puerto Rico we are seeing as a resident and as a traveler so you can make a more informed decision. We gain nothing by losing your trust and the excellent reputation we have worked so hard to gain since we published our first travel guide back in 2004. We don’t work for a government agency, we have no affiliations with tourism service providers on the island (it keeps our writing unbiased and objective). We have received many messages with questions from tourists that booked a trip and some that were planning on traveling to the island in the coming months.
Following we will cover topics relevant to those concerns and questions.
Puerto Rico…A Vacation You Can Feel Good About
Most tourists spending most of their time within the resort property, don’t realize that throughout the Caribbean, residents in communities face challenges in a daily basis, not just through natural catastrophes such as hurricanes. While resort communities in tourist districts across the Caribbean give visitors a picture perfect environment, many residents on some islands such as the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica among others, live in poverty without electricity, running water and lack funds to eat three meals a day. For many islands, tourism is a major source of revenue, giving small businesses and individuals in the service industry hope for a good future and a source of income to sustain their families.
Puerto Rico is grateful for the outpouring of kindness from government and private organizations with their donations and support for our communities. Visitors coming the island allows thousands of workers in the tourism industry to continue supporting their families.
Be a part of this historic time in Puerto Rico. By simply having a great vacation in Puerto Rico, you will be supporting the island with rebuilding a stronger economy for a brighter future…a vacation you can feel good about.
Following are a few factors you should keep in mind when vacationing in Puerto Rico.
Hit but not Down
Hurricane Maria entered the island with destructive winds and heavy rain, causing catastrophic damage to entire communities and roads. NOT ALL OF PUERTO RICO suffered severe damage. When you read the news, it is presented in a way that makes readers think that all of Puerto Rico is chaotic and devastated. As previously noted, the most difficult and challenging conditions occurred along the mountains on the center of the island and a few towns that dealt with severe flooding such as Toa Baja.
The people of Puerto Rico have gone through various hurricanes in the past, it has always been a time when communities have come together in order to help each other to clean up and rebuild their communities.
Hotels and resort communities work really hard to restore their facilities in order to welcome guests. Unless tourists went out and ventured to residential areas affected, they would not be able to see the real devastation that the media presents in Puerto Rico.
Tourism in Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria
Puerto Rico may have suffered a huge hit, but it is not down and it still has plenty of beauty to offer visitors. You may be wondering if the island will back to normal by the upcoming high season. A few things that visitors love that will be the same
- The warm Puerto Rican sun will still be shining.
- The Puerto Rico skies will be blue and palm trees will be dancing to the wind.
- The Pina Coladas are still the best in the world, after all they were invented in Puerto Rico.
- Food is still delicious.
- Nightlife will be as vibrant and exciting as always.
- Casinos will be open.
- Our beaches will heal and return back to their former glory. We will update our Beaches Page with more information.
- Islanders remain warm and hospitable.
- There are plenty of fun activities and natural attractions to explore.
- Puerto Ricans surely know how to celebrate life no matter the circumstance, so expect smiles.
- The island is quickly becoming green again, it is looking like spring in the states.
- Most Hotels and Beachfront Resorts will be fully operational and taking new reservations. As of the end of October some hotels are operating on generators and some services / areas may not be functioning normally, most are fully occupied by service relief personnel.
Island & Tourism Setbacks after Hurricane Maria
If you’re the explorer type and wished to explore the central mountains, some roads may be inaccessible. We advise and ask that you don’t visit the central mountains until the situation improves. Additional tourist traffic will only delay work progress.
El Yunque Rainforest was heavily affected, it will take decades, perhaps a century to return to its enchanting state. Tears came down my face as we saw footage of El Yunque, one of the most magical natural wonders in Puerto Rico and around the world. Caribbean life teaches us many things; one of them is to surrender to earth’s natural events, believe in its power and simply learn from the process of renewal and re-birth. Leaves were stripped from branches, tall old trees down, the landslides have changed the terrain and visitor roads damaged. The hope is knowing that fertile ground and warm Puerto Rican sun will help El Yunque recover to capture us with its enchantment once again. Many will say stay away from El Yunque Rainforest, there’s nothing to see there but devastation…we personally think that visiting El Yunque has great value for humanity and eco-travelers, when it re-opens we think is worth visiting for educational reasons.
El Yunque Status: “El Yunque National Forest will remain closed until further notice. The Incident Team is currently relocating to a safe location. All forest operations will be suspended until further notice after Hurricane Maria”
Vieques & Culebra – With pain in our hearts we can only tell you that Vieques suffered greatly and the struggle of residents and business owners continues. The seclusion that makes Vieques and Culebra so attractive has made their recovery even more difficult. Although not a far distance from the mainland of Puerto Rico, it certainly feels far away for the residents, they can’t just drive for necessities, they need an additional ferry or airline trip from the mainland, making the recovery process slower. The Malecon in Esperanza, the main tourist area in Vieques was heavily hit, many residents lost their home and they’re still struggling without energy or running water. We don’t know if Vieques will be able to receive tourists this upcoming season, we will update our website with more details as we receive information from hotels / small inns in Vieques, same goes for Culebra. Try and call individual hotels for an update on your reservations or future travel plans. Unlike the main island, the little islands of Vieques and Culebra may not have the resources to welcome back visitors in the next few months. We will make it there to give our readers an update by the end of November.
– Update: As of the fifth week after Hurricane Maria, community groups alongside businesses are cleaning up the beaches. The beaches in tourist districts of San Juan have been cleaned up. The waters are returning to their jeweled tones and regaining clarity. Still no official notice on the safety of the water for swimming.
– Update: As of the second week of October officials stated the water is NOT safe for swimming, no one should be going into the water as a precaution, all the flooding ending up at the ocean is possibility contaminating the water. Weather is improving and nature is doing its job with cleaning the waters. During Puerto Rico’s rain season, we have seen the water go from blue and clear to cloudy and brownish and back to normal in a few days, this is normal on a Caribbean island.
The explorer type loves to drive around the island to visit beaches off the resort communities. Part of the natural process during hurricanes is for debri to wash ashore. The coastline certainly took a beating from the hurricane. In some towns, the waters came in farther ashore, causing damage and destruction to homes, businesses and recreational areas along the coast. Some beaches became wider and sandier while some became narrower. On top of the hurricane rainfall, we’ve had more rain, making the rivers overflow with muddy river water ending up on the ocean, causing some beaches unsafe for swimming and making the water even cloudier. As scientists say, hurricanes are natural cleansers, the water is going through a natural cleansing process. As the weather improves and time passes, our beaches will be ready to welcome back islanders and visitors, and expect that should happen soon. We will be updating our beaches pages as we have a chance to visit the top beach destinations around the island.
Lushness – Puerto Rico is a very green and lush island, the ferocious winds of Hurricane Maria, wiped out most of the leaves of the precious flora that covered our mountains and valleys. It felt like days in winter right after the hurricane with grey skies and brown bare trees, a foreign scene islanders never thought could be possible on the island. Just a few weeks after, it feels like spring. Trees are working overtime to become green again.
Agriculture – Hurricane Maria wiped out most of the crops around the island, leaving farmers in dismay and islanders with even less food resources, adding to the long list of challenges Puerto Rico is facing.
Bioluminescence – Our bioluminescent bays are very sensitive, the turbulence of the sea coming into these protected bays has affected their brightness. We will be updating on the health of the biobay after we gather more information. We know that the bioluminescent bay in Lajas has gone dark. We are confident in the strength and resilience of our beautiful island and that they will return to their brightness so visitors can continue to experience this magical phenomenon.
We will be updating the status of the main points of interest in Puerto Rico soon.
Like the palm trees that abound around the island, Puerto Rico will bounce back, and stand up tall stronger than ever. We hope you continue to support tourism in Puerto Rico and experience how an island ravaged by a Category 5 hurricane, comes together to get back up and shine as the Star of the Caribbean again.