Puerto Rico- Beaches,Resorts and Locals- Oh my!

I spent 11 days and 10 nights on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. The weather is always perfect for a pair of shorts and a bikini. You can find a coconut to crack open on every corner if you’re in the need of hydration.  Even if you have no riches other than the clothes on your back, you still have the world living here. Every backdrop is filed with lush mountaintops, the rain forest provides a place for exploration and fun and you’re always minutes away from the coast wherever you are.

16646-carolina-locator-map

However, even paradise has its own problems and that goes for everything else in life. Not everyday is smooth sailing. On the stunning east coast of Puerto Rico, Isla Verde Beach in Carolina  is experiencing a rough patch. Similar to the resistance to DAPL or the Sabal Trail Pipeline’s in the U.S. , Coalición Playas Pa’l Pueblo is an environmental organization who set up camp 10 years ago on the beach access of Isla Verde Beach. They continue the fight of environmental protection to this day.

 

If you’ve never been to Isla Verde, just imagine a post card with a picture of paradise printed onto it. The entrance way to the beach is a canopy of trees and wildlife that leads to a small beach access. There are no boardwalks to access the beach here, just a path carved by nature. On the beach, you see a line of resorts to your left and a beach filled with tourists on spring break. To your right is pristine beach with a few locals here and there basking in the sunlight. This stark comparison was the first thing I noticed when I walked onto the beach.

 

The closest resort to the pristine side of the beach is the Marriott. For the past ten years, environmental activists and government officials have been at war with the international hotel chain over privatization of the surrounding beaches.  The Marriott believes this will help drive the tourism industry in Puerto Rico while the locals believe that this will take away the concept of , “La playa del pueblo” or the people’s beaches.

Translation: Marriott Enemy of the Peace.

 

At an astonishing $70 billion in debt, Puerto Rico is at odds with how to handle its economic crisis. Many locals, including my close friend, Kareny Escobar say that the economic situation is so bad that she intends on finding employment in the US after graduation. Many educated people on the island are fleeing the almost 12% unemployment rate on the island because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a job.  To make matters worse, the island is unable to file for bankruptcy in the same way that US states are because it is a US territory not state. For more information on the economic crisis click this LINK.

Photo of my friend Kareny Escobar and a local dog on the beautiful and disputed Playa Isla Verde

 

There is a delicate situation at hand. Does Puerto Rico privatize its beaches, build resorts and turn them into “tourist traps” to fuel the economy? Or is there a more environmentally friendly approach to balancing the budget? I spoke to several locals who had their own ideas, a very popular solution was legalizing marijuana. I won’t disclose a name here but one local explained why they believed this would work.

“Puerto Rico has the ideal climate for growing marijuana year round which can keep the industry going and help the economy grow with taxes.”

 

The locals could be on to something, states such as California have been successful in generating millions of dollars in tax revenue and according to MadameNoire, the illegal pot industry is worth an estimated $36 BILLION. It may be worth a shot for a country drowning in $70 billion worth of debt.

If you ask me, I think an emphasis on eco-tourism is a possible solution. Keep in mind, I’m no expert in economics or tourism but I am a well seasoned traveler that has witnessed the success of eco-tourism. The first country that comes to mind from my travels is Costa Rica. Costa Rica is similar to Puerto Rico in terms of breathtaking scenery, mountains, rain forest, beaches, amazing food and fun.

Photo: Puerto Rico is full of hidden gems like Cuevo del Indio or The Indian Caves. Sites like this are full of rich Puerto Rican history and perfect for eco-tourism attractions like guided tours or cave diving!

 

Photo: Casually hanging off the edge of a cliff at Los Cuveos del Indios!

The major difference is how the environment is taken care of. In Costa Rica, the country’s biggest industry is eco-tourism and their beaches are kept in immaculate shape. The only place I went that was even slightly trashed was a super touristy beach (near a resort) in Jaco, Costa Rica. Puerto Rico on the other hand, is pretty dirty on the beaches and even in the rain forest. Efforts to clean up the island could potentially give the island the ability to tap into the eco-tourism industry  keeping their island beautiful to benefit the locals.

Photo: With beaches like this one, Puerto Rico is perfect for Eco-Tourism! Benefiting both the economy and the environment.

Photo: Well-kept and hidden beach in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

 

The major difference is how the environment is taken care of. In Costa Rica, the country’s biggest industry is eco-tourism and their beaches are kept in immaculate shape. The only place I went that was even slightly trashed was a super touristy beach (near a resort) in Jaco, Costa Rica. Puerto Rico on the other hand, is pretty dirty on the beaches and even in the rain forest. Efforts to clean up the island could potentially give the island the ability to tap into the eco-tourism industry  keeping their island beautiful to benefit the locals.

Photo: Campsite at Playa Isla Verde, some inhabitants have been in and out of the grounds for the past decade trying to protect this beach! If you ask me, the fight is far from over!

 

When you visit Puerto Rico, make sure to visit Isla Verde Beach in Carolina to see the camp set up in person. It will give you hope and inspiration as an environmental advocate. The take away from all of this is to always stand up for what you believe and find a solution to help benefit the whole of the people.

 

Photo: “Recycling Center” set up by the camp inhabitants

 

Photo: Cocina or kitchen area (left) and communal/meeting area (right)

 

My next stop is Bali, Indonesia and who knows what environmental tale will be lurking on that side of the planet.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Puerto Rico- Beaches,Resorts and Locals- Oh my!

  1. amazing story and thank you for sharing this awesome adventure and watching all the pictures like I put myself at those places and just savoring all the beautiful, exotic places and hope more people will read and try to do more to help protect our beaches and help our environmental clean and live with clean air and no pollution, clean water supply!!, thank you for sharing and keep us posted with all your coming adventure..God bless..

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s