Me: What day is it?
Tim: I think it’s Wednesday
Me: OH. I thought it was Monday
This is a common conversation in our household. I am losing track of the days and can’t believe that we are in our eighth month of living in Puerto Rico – where in the world did the time go?
I don’t think it’s a secret that I fell in love with this enchanted island. I love it here. I spent half of my adult life dreaming of living in the Caribbean, where the sun shines and I can wear shorts every day.
So, for me, living in Puerto Rico is living the dream. But…
Is Living In Puerto Rico for Everybody?
We have had lots of visitors from the States (mostly family but some friends too) that wanted to see what our new life is like. Most of these them loved it here – some almost as much as we do – but not everyone.
Our last set of visitors was not so thrilled with Puerto Rico. In fact, I think they kind of hated it. This to me was absolutely shocking – how can you not love it here?!
The weather is perfect, the people are amazing, the fresh fruit is awesome, and the cost of living is low – what more could you want? See my post 15 Reasons To Move To Puerto Rico. It turns out that, like everything else, it is a matter of personal taste and expectations.
Here are some of the complaints we heard from this last visit:
1. It is too humid here – yes, we are an island and yes, it is humid, especially in the summer months, i.e. our rainy season. Right now, for example, the temperature is 88 degrees and humidity is 76%. But wait a minute, I just checked Michigan which was our home for the past 20 years (and where our visitors came from) and the humidity there is 70% today, so not that much different. It is, however, considerably cooler in Michigan because they are approaching fall.
2. There are people working outside when I’m trying to sleep on Monday morning at 9AM. They woke me up – yes, because this is a town where people work and live. Sorry, we are not a resort.
3. I doesn’t feel safe here – I think this is a result of confusing poverty with danger. This is a poor island (although that is relative depending on your experience). When you come here from the mainland and see some of the abandoned buildings, you can easily think that you are in a dangerous place. Actually, outside of a few, well-known, dangerous areas, Puerto Rico is pretty safe. Don’t get me wrong, theft is common here and if you act like a victim, you can have your shit stolen but that is about it. Hell, in Costa Rica, theft of anything worth less $500 was not considered illegal, so I don’t know but, I think I’ll take Puerto Rico.
4. This sucks, I can’t even get lunch on the beach. I expected there to be some food stands or restaurants on the beach – Luquillo is part of the Northeastern Ecological Corridor, and so our beaches are protected. This means that there are no restaurants allowed directly on the beach. Culturally, Puerto Ricans bring their food with them to the beach (coolers, grills, etc.), so that is why you don’t find a lot of vendors on the beach – especially during the week.
5. There is nothing to do here but I don’t want to rent a car – well, I don’t know if I should even answer this one..
6. This town is too big . I thought this was going be like a private beach with nobody around – we are a town. Our beaches are not private, in fact, all beaches in Puerto Rico are public. Disney doesn’t own an island here.
7. This _____(fill in the blank) is not as nice as in ____(fill in place), on my last cruise to the Caribbean. [Complaints ranged from anything about the food to cleanliness of the beach and everything else in-between.] – again, we’re not a resort and we don’t cater to our guests’ every whim.. We do have cruises that come to Puerto Rico and I am sure they also get the royal treatment but you are unlikely to find it in a small town.
Holy mother of ..!
I was really having a hard time with these complaints. Then I realized that the problem really is the expectations. If you expect a resort or a cruise-type experience, where everything is served for you and all you have to do is show up and enjoy, Puerto Rico may not the place for you – and especially not Luquillo.
If your only experience in the Caribbean is on a cruise ship or an all-inclusive resort, where you are taken to private beaches and served gourmet meals, please understand that this is not real life. Not in Puerto Rico and not anywhere else you are visiting – unless of course, you are wealthy, in which case you can make your whole life like a cruise.
Puerto Rico is real, with real people, real problems and no all-inclusive accommodations. Oh sure, we have ritzy resorts here too, where you will get the champagne treatment but do not expect it on a beer budget. There is nothing wrong with cruises or all-inclusive resorts, if that’s your thing, but you cannot expect the same from staying in a small condo in a small town in Puerto Rico.
So, why then do I love it here so much?
Perhaps because I have tried all-inclusive resorts and didn’t like them. I have always preferred to travel “like a native”. To get the experience and the feel for the place I am visiting. I always chose budget accommodations, in local BnBs, haciendas, and inns preferring to spend my money on the experience: activities, food, and sightseeing. But, of course, this is my preference and it is not for everybody.
Hense, I learned a valuable lesson – Puerto Rico is not for everybody.
Comparing to the rest of U.S., it is a poor island with lots of economic problems. It is culturally different from the mainland in many, many aspects. So, even though it is part of U.S., it feels like a foreign country.
However, if you set your expectations right and are willing to look beyond the differences, and focus on the beauty around you, I think you will find one of the most beautiful places in the Caribbean here in Puerto Rico: amazing beaches, surfing, food, people, weather, forests, mountains, and more.
For us, it is home now and, whether or not we settle here forever, it now holds a special place in our hearts and we will always be back.