Living in Puerto Rico: 17 Things You Should Know Before Moving to the Island

Thinking about moving to Puerto Rico? Here are 17 things you should know before moving to la “isla del encanto” (The Island of Enchantment). Puerto Rico is a beautiful and vibrant destination that is increasingly capturing the attention of those looking to live in the caribbean. However, deciding to move to a new place should always come well-informed. To help, we came up with 17 important things to know before making the move.

My wife and I lived in Puerto Rico for about three years. We decided to live on the island for the warm weather, culture, connection with the US, geographic convenience, and potential tax savings. And while moving anywhere has its pros and cons, we’re still here despite some of the struggles that come with the territory — pun intended.

We wanted to share some of the things we wish we had known about Puerto Rico before moving here, so consider this a reflection on three years of living in Puerto Rico.

#1: Uncharted Beauty

Puerto Rico is full of beautiful places that you often can’t find on a map. While there are a handful of touristy sights to see, many of the most beautiful landscapes and activities are far off the beaten path. Now that we have been here for two years, we’ve discovered a ton of things that people outside of Puerto Rico don’t know about – like hidden waterfalls, secret infinity pools, incredible mountain views.

#2: Relentless Traffic

The next thing we wish we had known about is the traffic here. There are so many cars on this island that sometimes I think it might sink from all the weight. While many of the more rural areas don’t have traffic issues, in the metropolitan area of San Juan it can get insane. It’s something I didn’t expect before we moved here. 

#3: Car-eating Potholes

And with that with traffic also comes the potholes — some of which are frightening when they catch you off guard because it almost feels like you’re in an accident! They can be incredibly jarring and really damage your car, so keep that in mind before you buy or rent a car here!

#4: The Food Is Bananas

Bananas and plantains are in everything here. We’ve tried banana soup, we’ve had a banana and plantain sandwiches, we’ve had tostones [fried plantain slices], we’ve had mofongo [a fried and mashed plantain-based dish]. There are so many things that you can make with plantains or bananas that we had no idea. There’s a banana recipe for breakfast, lunch, and dinner here on the island. They are everywhere! 

#5: Corruption

When we got in here on the island, we didn’t expect corruption. Specifically, we are talking about expediters (people who take a small bribe in exchange to do things quicker). It’s very common here for things to move slowly — unless you know the right people or grease the right palms.

While most residents are perfectly law-abiding, a small minority of corrupt individuals take advantage of the situation here. It’s really disheartening, but something that I’ve found common in a lot of Spanish-speaking countries. Things move slowly without “motivation.”

#6: Crazy Bureaucracy 

Another thing we weren’t expecting is the bureaucracy for getting anything done. Even something as simple as getting your driver’s license here on the island can be extremely complicated. I can see why people are willing to pay a little bit more to an expediter to get things done faster! 

Puerto Rico has an ideal climate for growing tropical fruit.

They’re going to ask you for your social security card, possibly even your birth certificate, and two forms of proof of residence, and they have to be recent documents. They also require a certified history of your driver’s license or your driving history from your state. And ther’re a bunch of other hoops that you have to jump through too, including a physical exam. There is just a lot of red tape — no matter what you are trying to do! 

#7: Xenophobia (Dislike of or Prejudice Against People From Other Countries)

We weren’t expecting this when we got here, and maybe we feel it a little bit more because we have a YouTube channel, but the xenophobia here is noticeable. That doesn’t mean that everybody is afraid of foreigners or has negative feelings about foreigners but there certainly are some people who do 

I wasn’t expecting it here since we’ve never felt anything like that in other places. But there seems to be a love/hate relationship here. Most people want tourists to come to the island and enjoy it and put money into their economy. 

However, there’s a minority who hate everything that has to do with America or Americans or anyone outside of Puerto Rico. They want to keep Puerto Rico for themselves. 

I see it in Mexico too. People get mad when Americans move to Mexico and turn places like San Miguel de Allende into little gringo towns. 

We also learned why many people refer to Puerto Rico as the oldest colony in the world: there’s no voting representation for the island stateside. Residents cannot vote for President and they have no (voting) representative in Congress. You can say that Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, but it really feels like a colony in many ways. 

#8: Herbal Remedies

Taxation in Puerto Rico consists of taxes paid to the United States federal government and taxes paid to the Government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is very liberal with its medical cannabis usage. There are lots of dispensaries around and it’s easy to get a medical cannabis card here. While many states are slowly decriminalizing and legalizing cannabis, we were not expecting just how liberal they would be about it here.

#9: Great Tax Benefits for Businesses

After moving our business here, we qualified for some decent tax benefits. Puerto Rico keeps taxes low on certain types of businesses to encourage economic development, making it a great hub to base yourself out of if you work remotely. While it’s not exactly a “tax haven,” it definitely has beneficial tax breaks for businesses like us! 

#10: Passionate Patriotism

Another thing that we were not expecting is how patriotic Puerto Ricans are. We have never seen so many flags of a country at houses, stores, and everywhere in between!  When we first moved here and started going places, we would always hear someone yelling “¡Soy Boriqua ‘pa’que tu lo sepas!” which means “I’m Puerto Rican, just so you know!” 

#11 Busy Shoppers

Another thing is that the stores are always full of people no matter what time of the day. The stores are always busy with shoppers. This can make it difficult to get what you’re looking for quickly as you navigate your way through the isles. Most people are not in a hurry in Puerto Rico, so expect long lines practically everywhere you go.


#12: Boundless Beautiful Beaches

One thing we never expected is how many beautiful beaches there are around the island now. Puerto Rico is an island so it’s going to have a lot of beaches. Still, there are just so many gorgeous beaches that you can go out and discover for yourself. Frequently, there won’t even be anyone there when you get there!

Some of our favorite beaches on the island include:

  • Playa Sucia in Cabo Rojo
  • Playa Buye in Cabo Rojo
  • Crash Boat in Aguadilla
  • Playita Inez in Arecibo
  • Playa Flamenco in Culebra

#13: Trash

An unfortunate thing about Puerto Rico’s beautiful beaches is that sometimes they have a lot of garbage on them. Some of it has washed ashore, some of it is left by visitors. It can be frustrating to see such beautiful landscapes ruined by inconsiderate actions.

Fortunately, there are a number of organizations that take the time to set up beach cleaning events. A couple of them are Limpiar and Surfrider Rincón.

Puerto Rico is struggling under the weight of its own garbage.

 #14: Perfect Weather (If You Like It Hot)

The weather here is great pretty much year-round. The summer months get super hot, especially if you’re not used to it, so it can be a little overwhelming if you’re not a fan of that kind of heat. How hot are we talking? The average temperature year-round is about 85ºF (29.4ºC).

We’ve always made sure that we found apartments to live in that are well ventilated, and we’ve never had to use air conditioning.

Of course, you also have to watch out for hurricane season, but that’s an issue all along the Eastern Seaboard of the US as well.

#15: Massive Wealth Gap

We noticed when we moved here that there was a massive gap. There’s a growing divide between the rich and the poor, and you can see this in different neighborhoods, where some houses are enormous and others are entirely abandoned or maybe are even missing their roof. 

There are still houses here that are damaged and still not repaired from Hurricane Maria in 2017, and many people don’t have the resources to be able to fix their homes. While the continental US also has a wealth gap, this divide is much more visible here.

An exotic fruit in Puerto Rico and a lot more.

#16: Exotic Tropical Foods

Another thing we weren’t expecting is the number of fruits and vegetables on the island. There are tons of different foods you get to try if you look around. There are many fruits that I had never heard of before, like jobos and the guama fruit (also known as the “ice cream bean”). There’s also a ton of root vegetables that I’d never even heard of before too. If you’re a foodie or you love to cook, you’ll have an amazing time here — there is just so much new stuff to try!

#17: Variety Of Music

The last thing that we were not expecting when we moved to the island is the variety of tropical Caribbean music that you can hear here. The traditional music of Puerto Rico like bomba (which originated on slave plantations) and plena (a type of folk music). It’s a big part of the culture here. I honestly had never heard of bomba until we visited the island and went to some festivals here. It’s something that people outside of Puerto Rico likely don’t know about, which just adds more charm and magic to this little slice of paradise!


When looking for a place to live, keep in mind that every destination on earth has its advantages and disadvantages. Some things will surprise you in a good way, other things not so much. But hopefully, our take after two years here on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico helped you get some insight before you take the plunge into moving to “La Isla del Encanto.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Puerto Rico?

A: Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island and a US territory.

Q: Is it easy to move to Puerto Rico?

A: Yes, it is easy to move to Puerto Rico as it is a US territory and US citizens do not require a passport to enter.

Q: What are the benefits of living in Puerto Rico?

A: Puerto Rico offers a lower cost of living compared to the mainland US, year-round tropical weather, and a rich culture.

Q: What is the cost of living in Puerto Rico?

A: The cost of living in Puerto Rico is generally lower than the mainland US, but varies across the island. Monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment can range from $500 to $1500.

Q: Do I need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico?

A: No, US citizens do not require a passport to travel to Puerto Rico as it is a US territory.

Q: What language is spoken in Puerto Rico?

A: Spanish is the primary language spoken in Puerto Rico, but English is also widely spoken, especially in urban areas and tourist regions.

Q: How is the healthcare system in Puerto Rico?

A: Puerto Rico’s healthcare system is a mix of public and private providers. Most doctors and hospitals accept US health insurance, but quality of care can vary.

Q: What education options are available in Puerto Rico?

A: Puerto Rico offers both public and private schools, as well as international schools for expats. Private schools may offer bilingual education in Spanish and English.

Q: Are there moving companies that specialize in Puerto Rico?

A: Yes, there are moving companies that specialize in moving to and from Puerto Rico. It is recommended to research and compare multiple companies before choosing one.

Q: How can I make new friends when moving to Puerto Rico?

A: Joining local social clubs or organizations, attending community events and festivals, and participating in group activities like sports or fitness classes are great ways to make new friends on the island. There are many WhatsApp groups for anything from hiking to cryptocurrency.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *