Puerto Rico Report: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

As many of you know, I didn’t want to go to Puerto Rico for my niece’s wedding but was convinced by my wife and her family. While we had a good time, met some interesting people, and saw lots of beautiful places, I don’t think I would ever go back. On the last flight from Charlotte to San Juan I sat next to an elderly Vietnam veteran from Puerto Rico. He told me how in the last 10 years or so Puerto Rico has changed and most of the people that have the money to leave, have left. I also learned from him and others that the main way for young people to get out is by joining the military. We also made friends with a 30 something taxi driver that gave us more specific numbers of over 1 million leaving since the hurricane 5 years ago. He was getting ready to move to Tampa (I bit my tongue on that choice!). When we got to San Juan at close to 11pm we took a shuttle to our car rental and quickly learned what a shitshow it was trying to get a car. Three people in front of us and we waited 90 minutes without the line moving. Then we spoke to some others to find out some people had waited 4 hours to get a car and the guys in front of us has waited almost 2 hours to RETURN a car! We took the shuttle back to the airport and decided to get a taxi.

We stayed on the northeast side of the island at a fancy timeshare, it had power and few signs of the previous hurricane. It was very nice but the Jimmy Buffet theme & high priced pool bar drinks kept us searching out local spots to see the real island and people. We avoided going to the worst hurricane damaged areas on the westside but ended up driving to the southeast where a bunch of rivers had crossed the road and damaged much or the shoreline.

hard to see in this picture how much garbage was pushed onto the beach from the river and the ocean
this little island just off the coast was flattened by the high winds, notice the palm trees
you can see 3 windmills in the distance, 1 had 2 blades left, 1 had only 1 left and 1 was broken resting on the ridge to the right

Driving around you would definitely see abandoned structures and roofless homes but most were from the hurricane 5 years ago and not from Fiona.

This new construction near San Juan had every window blown out right after installation. It has sat empty since.
this house was at a gated entrance to a very nice neighborhood but sat vacant and beaten

The above along with the 90 degree heat and 75 to 100% humidity were the bad and ugly of the trip. Also, at the rehearsal dinner, the grooms mother decided to air her grievances and my wife sat her down and explained that the wedding was not about her. I also was almost summoned to hell while standing on the edge of a deck. My leg went through a rotted part of deck but I luckily was spared major injuries.

we blocked it off & I avoided decks after this adventure!

The good was walking around San Juan and the old circa 1500’s fort!

the constant showers really didn’t cool things down much but were a nice distraction

The streets around old San Juan and the colorful buildings are very cool.

Another highlight of old San Juan was the church where Ponce de Leon’s remains are as well as many other famous figures. It was very photogenic and the lady that invited us to come in asked about where we had come from. When we told her Seattle, she went off about “where women are boss!” We agreed with her and had a great conversation about women’s rights.

We found a beautiful nature preserve beach where all the locals were partying on the far eastside of the island.

The waterfalls around the El Yunque rainforest were amazing.

this waterfall and swimming hole required us to drive a few closed roads with trucks flying down them at high speeds clearing hurricane damage. The locals there were super helpful and we shared a few drinks with them.

The hiking in the rainforest almost killed me with the heat and humidity. The first one we did my wife said “we are not going to that tower” but I knew she was full of shit!

This tower was much shorter walk!

I will admit I spent a bunch of time with a cold drink in the pool after all the hikes and sightseeing. This guy was one of my favorite locals that also like to hang around the pool and beg for fruit.

and finally, one of the best parts of PR was Mafongo, a tasty mix of plantains, pork skin and garlic. I am going to try to make it but if anyone already has a good recipe they have tried I would love to see it as a FYCE!

Thanks for listening to my rants & please share your PR stories if you have them.



  1. Nice photos. I was in Puerto Rico a couple of decades ago and have fond memories of it, but significant parts of it are like a tropical Trenton NJ. Not terrible, but lots of highways and strip malls with Marshalls and auto parts stores. El Yunque is great and I agree that Old San Juan is too.

    • Thanks!  They do have some crazy highways & drivers with hard to avoid toll roads now.  I was disappointed at the number of fast food restaurants and how many locals ate at those over the nice street food kind of places all over the place.  El Yunque was beautiful but am now just getting over the itching from all the bug bites I got near those waterfalls.  Old San Juan was a highlight and I was saved by a local that told me not to have my camera out if I went one direction (a ghetto neighborhood).  The bars on all the windows everywhere on the island is also a sad statement about the island.

  2. I love El Yunque, there are lots of beautiful places in Puerto Rico. Ponce is my favorite part of the island.  But the disparity between the haves and have nots is heartbreaking.

    • I looked at that area online after you mentioned the ice cream but it was too far.  We tried to get similar ice cream near us but the places said they were open but definitely were not.  We were a little out of tourist season & websites there are pretty inaccurate.  You are definitely right about the have/have not thing & with the incredible increases in the cost of power, it is getting much worst.  Everyone was complaining about how they just turn off the power once it gets too busy.  I had the power go off right as I was getting in the shower but the generators kick in immediately at the resorts.  Taxi driver said his electric bills had gone up like 400% since the last hurricane and it still sucks.


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