Question: Is it safe to go to Puerto Rico right now?
Okay, we’re done here. Everybody, have a nice day.
All right, fine. We’ll dig in a little more than that.
Puerto Rico started dominating headlines last September after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island. Utility infrastructures were destroyed, countless lives were lost, and the US government stumbled in their efforts to help tax-paying Americans post-calamity. As weeks turned to months, things got grim. Power and water remained elusive for huge swaths of the island. Poverty skyrocketed and crime rates spiked.
Then, the story faded from the mainstream media, there were — as so often happens — new traumas to read about. Most mainlanders collectively moved on. From time to time, we’d hear that “x percent of the island is still without electricity or water” in a tweet, but that’s about it.
The strange thing is, never has there been a disaster where you can support people in peril so effectively, simply with your tourism dollar. Puerto Rico should have led off every summer travel hot list and vacation guide. It’s a choice that opens the door to incredible experiences, puts America first, and aides a community that’s all too often marginalized. There’s something for all sides of the partisan divide.
Though the “Visit Puerto Rico” message should have gone out within three months of Maria, it didn’t. And the island has been struggling to regain its tourism numbers since the disaster. That’s a $1.8 billion industry, completely destabilized by a single storm.
None of this is to say that there aren’t still problems plaguing Puerto Rico in relation to Maria. There are. However, people living without power in the interior is not a reason to shun a place or skip it, especially now. Your money being funneled into local economies means that Puerto Ricans can start to afford to fix things.
Here’s the low down. Puerto Rico is a fairly safe place, to begin with. Yes, there was a crime spike after the storm, but that faded almost immediately. In fact, the island is one of the safer places in the United States. Yes, you’re going to see destroyed buildings, signs, roads, and homes. There’s still a fair amount of wreckage around San Juan and throughout the island. But just because a strip mall’s signage blew away doesn’t mean the businesses in that strip mall aren’t open. You know how you can help those small American business owners buy a new sign? Go and eat at their chicken or burger restaurants and drink their beer. Walk around Old San Juan and buy a meal, trinket, or piece of art.
It’s cheaper than ever to get to Puerto Rico. Cheap flight deals for the Caribbean and PR are popping off weekly because, right now, we’re edging into 2018’s hurricane season (they generally run from June to November-ish).
“But,” you say, “I don’t want to get stuck in Puerto Rico during a hurricane!” This, of course, is fair. Though it’s worth noting that Hurricane Maria was officially identified on September 16th and didn’t hit the island until September 20th. That’s four days warning. Our recommendation: Watch the weather reports. You should be fairly safe to go for a long weekend anytime between now and November.