Visiting Puerto Rico post Hurricane Irma and Maria – what you need to know before you go.
In March 2018, six months after the devastating hurricanes Maria and Irma passed through the Caribbean destroying many of the islands including Puerto Rico, I paid a visit to the destination to debunk the media myths that had polluted the general population’s thinking and perception of the island and it’s neighbors. I was determined to see for myself what was really happening down in Puerto Rico.
I found it hard to believe the area was in such disarray, and I’m elated to report that my mind was blown, it a great way: things worked, we had electricity, and drinking water was also available. There was no visible crime in busy areas. The beaches were beautiful, and the food was delicious. And, it felt REALLY good to be there as a traveler and contributor to the economy. Needless to say, I believe it’s always handy to have some fresh and relevant tips to help guide you before you make your own visit…
My top 10 tips:
1. Research what hotels are available in advance. I am often a last minute type of gal, booking on Hotel Tonight or Booking.com. But I advise you do your homework if accommodations are important to you. Larger, well-known establishments are still under repair and will not open until the end of 2018, or sadly not at all (such as the W Hotel on Vieques Island, that’s caput).
2. Consider an Airbnb instead of a hotel. Many venues are closed, but through Airbnb, you can find accommodations and also help support locals directly. Rates are not necessarily a bargain unless you go for a single room in a shared space, but this is a safer bet as many of the well-known hotels are a no-go.
3. Don’t expect people to answer the phone when you call for information. Always email in advance for answers you seek, and then try calling again! Things generally move a little slow on the island, so just keep at it and plan in advance. If you are a last minute type of person (like me) – digest this tip!
4. Accept that you may lose power and electricity. Realize this will happen if you visit rural, mountain areas or off-the-grid destinations such as Vieques Island. At this point, only 20% – 30% of the mainland is without power. This stat still fluctuates though. The island only just officially regained power around January / February 2018, but if you stay in the larger areas such as San Juan and Rincon you should not have a problem.
5. Know that your carrier network and wifi signal will often be weak. If you visit Vieques and Culebra as well (which I highly recommend you do) there are many dead zones. But you’re on a beautiful island, so if you’re checking your phone you have other issues 😉 Just keep this in mind if you plan to do the ‘digital nomad’ thing, where several times I was caught in a situation where I couldn’t connect to wifi (or power for that matter) and was a bit frazzled. Best advice: make sure you activate your mobile hotspot to ensure connectivity.
6. Always keep some cash on you. About 30% of the time in my travels I was in a situation where using a credit or debit card was not an option. This is totally normal in many places of the world. And with power out sometimes the ATM will be down, too.
7. Expect to see a little damage. You will notice fallen power lines here and there, as well as uprooted trees. All things considered, the territory has made significant strides to rebuild – and these are small remnants considering the damage the hurricanes brought to the islands. In a romantic way, it’s kind of a nice reminder of the struggle that the island has experienced and how far they come. The opportunity and overall vibe to reimagine and rebuild were quite powerful.
8. Bring your reusable water bottle. Every conscious traveler knows this is a super easy way to reduce the use of plastic. Carry one around with you and refill at hotels or restaurants. I’ve always used a S’well and am loving my new bkr.
9. Don’t be disturbed by fluctuations in hot and cold water in the shower. When we stayed in the Isla Verde neighborhood of San Juan, for some reason the hot was always cold and the cold always hot. While this wasn’t a huge issue in my month-long journey exploring the islands, it was a weird little thing I have to call out to share with you!
10. Volunteer and talk to the locals for deeper insight. This may seem like a no-brainer, as I befriend locals everywhere I go. But they can really help you understand the truth in what the sentiment is of a place.Volunteering is an amazing and super fulfilling way to connect with a destination in a new way. There is always something that can be done. And, the opportunity to gain perspective and the inside scoop on all of what’s happening that doesn’t make mainstream media and headlines is always a plus 🙂 I spent a day with Para La Naturaleza and it was one of my most enjoyable days of the trip.
Shop the post:
So, if you are considering a trip to Puerto Rico you should be SUPER excited – the destination is absolutely incredible and I was truly blown away at the charm of Old San Juan, the beautiful nature reserves, local food, and warm people! If you’re seeking any further travel inspiration, be sure to check out: