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The Pros and Cons of Living in Puerto Rico

The Pros and Cons of Living in Puerto Rico

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I made the move to Puerto Rico two years ago, and it has been one heck of a ride. 

Between getting stuck without water or power during Hurricane Fiona, diving in deep crystal blue waters, and trying more types of rum that I knew existed — Puerto Rico will always have a home in my heart. 

But with all of its charm, Puerto Rico isn’t perfect. So keep reading for the pros and cons of living in Puerto Rico from someone who’s been here a little over 2 years.

Pros and cons of living in Puerto Rico

PRO: Natural beauty

There is no shortage of beautiful places to see in Puerto Rico. The island is surrounded by both the Atlantic and Caribbean oceans. 

It also has the stunning El Yunque rainforest where there are endless hikes, rivers, caves, and waterfalls to explore. 

In the center of the island you have beautiful mountainous landscapes and cool fincas where you can spend quality time with friends and family. 

Some of the popular places to visit is Crash Boat beach in the west, Gozalandia waterfall hike in the west, El Yunque in the east, and Ponce in the south. 

Here are some photos of my friends and I exploring.

CON: Noise levels

Despite the abundance of natural beauty on the island, there is also a ton of noise pollution. If you live in the capital of San Juan like I do, expect to hear loud cars blasting reggaeton music at all hours of the day. 

I live on the second floor of an apartment building and even at 6am on a Sunday I will hear Daddy Yankee so loud it’s like I’m having a private concert. 

PRO: Outdoor adventures

If you’re someone who loves adventure, there’s a ton of exploration you can do. You can check out the caves, rivers, waterfalls, dive spots, coral reefs, and sand bars. 

There’s so many wild things to do out there and even when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s still more to explore. 

Some popular activities are caving, rock climbing, camping, and spear fishing. 

Here’s some photos of me and my friends horseback riding on the beach in Luquillo, kayaking in Giliggan’s Island, and finding a random waterfall on a hike in Caguas.

CON: Limited public transportation

If you’ve ever been to any island, you know that it’s tough to get to places. 

Puerto Rico is no different. 

There’s little to no public transportation on the island, apart from San Juan. And in San Juan the buses are unreliable so most people opt to take an Uber (which adds up) or drive a car. 

Which brings me to a second CON in transportation on the island. 

CON: Car costs

Getting a car here can be super expensive. 

Unlike the states, you can’t lease a car here. If you’re going to finance, it has to be for purchase. 

You can try to find a used car, but many before 2017 sustained so much damage from the flooding from Hurricane Maria, that they can be unreliable.

Also, the island only has so many cars available for purchase. So be prepared for a lengthy process. 

PRO: Tropical paradise

Aquí en Puerto Rico es siempre verano, which means here in Puerto Rico it’s always summer. 

The weather is always warm, always beautiful, and the oceans are always the perfect temperature. There aren’t any seasons, so if you’re a beach bum, this is where it’s at. 

Here’s some photos I took at the beach and the largest pineapple I’ve ever seen in my life.

person holding a pineapple

CON: Hurricane season

We might not get winter but we do have hurricane season. Normally this isn’t something to worry about. 

Hurricane season is from June to October, but the hurricanes historically have hit the island in the same week in September. 

The biggest downside is that you do have to prepare for a hurricane in case it happens. It’s also hotter and more humid, and there’s more rain during these months.

Last year I was living on the westside of the island in the city of Rincon when Hurricane Fiona hit. 

We were out of power and water for 2 weeks. It sucked. 

But thankfully the community came together to help one another and it was cool to see that type of community bonding. 

PRO: Affordable housing

Compared to major cities in the US, Puerto Rico offers more affordable housing options. 

I’m from LA so I can see a significant difference in price. A one bedroom in LA would be double the price of what I pay here in Puerto Rico. 

Also because San Juan is right by the water, anywhere you decide to live is going to be a hop and skip away from the beach.

CON: High food and utility costs:

Basic food items and utilities are EXPENSIVE. 

This is because of the Jones Act that taxes produce coming in and out of the island, so you’re paying almost double in taxes for basic things like tomatoes and onions. 

There is only one electric company on the island (PREPA) so they have no incentive to fix the problems residents have with electricity. 

PREPA works in tandem with LUNA, a private company, which means they charge whatever they want for electricity. 

It’s not uncommon for a household of 4 to have a monthly electricity bill of $600+.

PRO: Language immersion

Living here provides an excellent opportunity to learn Caribbean Spanish. 

Puerto Ricans are very proud of their language and will gladly talk to you if you share a passion in learning their language and culture. 

Just remember that every country speaks Spanish a little differently, so it might not be what you’re used to hearing.

CON: Language barrier

The Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico can be quite different from other Latin American countries. 

I consider myself semi-fluent, but I learned Spanish in Colombia. Whenever I’m back on the island, I don’t understand anything. 

This is because there are a lot of Caribbean influences in Puerto Rico which of course makes their Spanish a little different. 

If you’re fluent, you won’t have an issue, but if you’re just learning and started with a different country, it might be hard for you at first. 

PRO: Tax benefits

Puerto Rico residents enjoy the perk of no federal income taxes, which is why it attracts a ton of business owners. Although the tax benefits are great for some, it does attract controversy. 

CON: Act 60 controversy

If you’re moving for tax incentives under Act 60, some locals aren’t going to like you, and with good reason. 

Many of the Act 60 benefactors on the island are extremely wealthy, buy up property, gentrify the island, and don’t contribute to its growth in any meaningful way. 

Which of course upsets the locals as it takes away resources from them. Resources that are already extremely limited as it is.  

The other issue is that locals in Puerto Rico can’t enjoy the same tax benefits as outsiders coming into the island. I’ll touch more on this later. 

PRO: Lower cost of living

Despite the price of electricity and basic groceries, the cost of living here is generally relatively cheap. 

Going out won’t cost you an arm and a leg, gas prices are average, and housing costs are low. 

You can comfortably (luxuriously) live on the island as a single person for under $2,800/month. 

CON: Inconsistent internet

If you work online this is going to frustrate you. 

Despite having a rainy season, even a little bit of rain will turn off the internet. That’s including metro areas. 

The internet is spotty and inconsistent, but sometimes you’ll luck out with a week of no interruptions. 

But hey, it’s just the price you pay to live in paradise. 

PRO: Cultural richness 

Puerto Rico’s culture is a blend of the indigenous Taino’s, West African, and Spanish culture. 

You can see how these different parts of the world lend themselves to Puerto Rico’s richness in the food, the dance, even the way they view life. 

There’s something special about experiencing the cultural heritage here in Puerto Rico, one that is difficult for me to put into words. 

For example, although Puerto Rico is an extremely Catholic country, many Puerto Ricans still hold on to the indigenous faiths and traditions. 

One way to see this is the full moon ceremony that happens on the beach every month. 

During this ceremony, locals join together under the light of the full moon and the warmth of a bonfire to meditate, sing traditional songs, and play the drums. 

There are also many individuals who hold healing ceremonies for those who want to experience them.

Basically, if you love learning about culture, you’ll have some wonderful opportunities to do so here in Puerto Rico. 

This is a photo of me at the full moon, after completing a healing ceremony.

friends at the beach in puerto rico

CON: Limited monday services

As beautiful as the culture is here, there are definitely some things to get used to. 

If you’re coming from a big city in the states like me, be prepared for things to be closed at random hours of the day. 

Shops and restaurants are generally closed on Mondays, and during the week if things aren’t busy, business will close up shop a few hours earlier. 

This was so wild to me and took me a long time to get used to, because coming from LA everything is open all the time. 

But you do get used to it and it becomes a part of life. 

My advice? Call before you go anywhere just to make sure they’re open. 

Also don’t be frustrated if they don’t answer the call. That happens a lot too. 

PRO: Easy travel

If you feel like you need a break from the island for a short time, or like many of us here, have to travel back to the states for work, it couldn’t be easier. 

The SJU airport in San Juan is efficient and fast, and there are flights to many destinations around the world. 

It’s a quick 4 ½ hour flight to New York City, and 2 hours to Miami. 

If you’re looking to explore more islands, you can check out the Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, or the Caribbean islands like Barbados and Jamaica. 

It’s also super easy to fly to South America. I travel to Colombia once every 3 or 4 months and I can find round trip flights for $350.

CON: It’s hard to make lasting friends

Because it’s so easy to get to new places from Puerto Rico, people move around. 

A lot. 

Expats tend to get island fever pretty quickly so they move on to the next thing. Many of them only stay for 180 days to fulfill their residency requirements. 

Locals might be a bit more reserved to make friends with foreigners, especially those who can’t speak Spanish. 

In my experience, making lasting friendships here is hard. 

In the 2 years I’ve been here, I’ve met only one person that I truly consider a close friend. 

She ended up traveling with me to the Amazon rainforest in Colombia, and once you do something like that, you’re friends for life. 

My advice here is to be convicted in your reasons to move to Puerto Rico. You will meet a lot of really beautiful and interesting people. 

And you will make a lot of connections. 

But if you’re someone who doesn’t like to say goodbye, and if you’re someone that needs a group of friends day in and day out, this is not the place for you. 

Puerto Rico is a treasure in the world, but it’s not for everyone. It can be really isolating and lonely living here, especially when you’re far away from your support system back home. 

Be open to new experiences, but also be realistic that living here is not like vacationing here. 

That said, it is possible to make some amazing friends. They become your support system while you’re here. 

Here’s some photos of my friends and I to show that it is possible if you go into it with an open mind. 

friends at the beach in puerto rico

PRO: Delicious cuisine

When I said that Puerto Rico is a blend of different cultures, one way you can really see that shine is the food! There are so many different and delicious things to try here. 

One particular dish that is super popular here is called Mofongo. 

It’s fried or boiled plantains topped with a protein and sauce. Some of the most popular combinations are a white fish and creole sauce, or chicharron and garlic sauce. 

Mofongo was inspired by the West African dish called fufu, which is typically made from cassava. The Tainos made it their own by using plantain instead. 

Apart from Mofongo, you’ll find delicious seafood, fresh juice (the most popular being parcha which is passion fruit), and tembleque. 

Here’s a friend of mine catching fresh fish for dinner and some of my favorite things I’ve eaten. 

Ironically I don’t have a photo of mofongo, but that’s because I eat it all before I think to take a picture. 

CON: Limited food diversity

Puerto Rican food is wonderful, but if you’re a foodie like me, you need diversity. 

My family is from Malaysia, so I’m constantly craving Asian food. But on a small island, there isn’t enough demand for these different cuisines. 

I’ve only found two Thai restaurants in the city, and only one of them is worth a try. In other parts of the island, they don’t even exist.

The other thing you should know is that Puerto Ricans don’t eat spicy food. So if you like spice, just make sure to ask for it to be extra spicy. 

If you want to prepare your own food, you can get pretty much anything at grocery stores. 

But you won’t find much diversity in restaurants. 

PRO: Slower pace

I moved out of LA because I was sick of having to grind to survive. I knew that life didn’t need me to be burned out to be good. 

And Puerto Rico is like that. 

Life is slower here, things move at their own pace. It’s refreshing because I’m not rushing anymore. 

I don’t feel guilty if I take a whole day off to watch Devious Maids because my body needed rest. 

Over here it’s super common for people to wake up early, finish what they have to do, and then head to the beach straight after. 

On the weekends the plan is usually to just chill at the beach, go on a hike, or spend the day swimming in the river. 

We don’t have to be anywhere. 

We can just exist, and that’s so liberating.

person resting at the beach

CON: Island time

Things moving slower here is cool, but sometimes it’s a bi***. 

For example, ordering anything on Amazon takes 2 weeks or longer.

Expect to spend hours at a restaurant because service is just so slow. 

People take their time here and are always late. Like really, really late. I once waited THREE HOURS for a friend to show up to lunch.

If you’re someone who is prompt, likes things speedy and fast, and doesn’t have a ton of patience, it’s going to be hard. 

On one hand, I think it’s good for the soul if some things are not immediate. On the other hand, I’m not waiting three hours for anyone anymore. 

And just because I love this island so much, here are a couple of extra pros for you.

PRO: U.S. territory: 

Being part of the United States means no need for a passport or visa for American citizens or permanent residents. 

You can come and work here without the hassle of dealing with paperwork. 

PRO: English proficiency

If you don’t speak Spanish, don’t worry. 

English is widely spoken in most major cities and towns on the island. You don’t have to be proficient to live a full life here. 

I still recommend learning Spanish because it’s a skill that will take you so far on the island and in life in general. 

But if you don’t know it at this moment, don’t stress about it. 

Important issues to know about

Moving to Puerto Rico can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but there are a few important things for anyone moving here to know. 

Whenever you travel, it’s important to have respect for the area’s culture and community. 

Unfortunately, because of the relationship Puerto Rico has with the United States, many people come here to take advantage. 

Here are some things to reflect on before moving here. 

Act 60 controversy

If you’re coming for the tax incentives, remember that Puerto Ricans — locals who have lived their whole lives here — cannot participate or benefit from this tax incentive.

There are many people who come here and buy up property and land without ever fixing or doing anything with it. They just wait for property prices to go up, then flip it for a profit. 

This does nothing but push out locals from areas because they can’t compete with the ultra rich moving here. 

If you’re going to make an investment, make one that makes a positive difference in the community. 

If you’re going to move here, be open to listening to how locals feel and are impacted by expats’ decisions. 

Ultimately, we are immigrants, and we should show the same level of respect to the locals as we expect from immigrants moving to our country. 

Puerto Rico is NOT America

I know Puerto Rico might be an American territory, but it isn’t America. 

So many people come here and complain that things don’t work the same as they do in the states. 

Well that’s because it isn’t the states.

When you move here, you’re moving to a different country. You’ll have to adapt.

The statehood debate

The argument for whether or not Puerto Rico should become the 51st state of the United States is extremely divisive. 

I’ve spoken to many Puerto Ricans from all over the island, and there is not one unifying idea on how Puerto Rico should move forward. 

As foreigners, the best thing to do is to be respectful, listen with an open mind, and just know your opinion does not matter. 

If your goal is to enjoy the beauty of this island, its beaches, and the chill lifestyle Puerto Rico can be a wonderful place to call home. Just be sure to do your research, reflect on if this is the right move for you, and keep an open mind. 

Puerto Rico is the rich port, for so many reasons. 

If you’re interested in a more in-depth guide to living in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, let us know and we can whip one up for you!

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