Updated August 4, 2014 — Editor’s Note: In 2013 one of our Members, Glenn, shared his thoughts with us about his extensive travels in Puerto Rico. We think they give an interesting perspective about what it might like to retire there. A slightly edited version of his comments is published below. At the end of his comments we’ve added a few our our own, and then in August 2014 Glenn provided yet another update (see Comments) And Thanks Glenn!
I have been visiting Puerto Rico about every three years from 1989 to 2012. I live in the Bronx with a wife of Puerto Rican descent, though she was born here in U.S. I am about as white/Anglo-Saxon as they come, growing up in a Queens, N.Y. neighborhood. When I moved to the Bronx to work for Social Security nearly 40 years ago, it was like moving to another country. I met many beneficiaries from Puerto Rico and learned much about the people of the island from my professional and personal contacts.
We wanted our children to learn much about their culture so we took a few to Puerto Rico every three years, especially to see Wanda’s dad in Arecibo (in the north,northwest of the island); he died two years ago at 90. We saw the wonderful family cultural attachment in their “campo”, what I define as a gathering of houses as a very small town where most everyone is related and has been for years.
Wanda also has an extended family outside of San Juan (north, northeast). Besides staying with some of them, we were given the use of the family’s condo on Luqillo Beach (northeast) and a country house in Aguadilla (northwest). People who know about P.R. usually know about the beaches and glitter of vacations in San Juan or ownership in the well off area of Dorado. We are more interested in its history and culture and the pleasures of the people and the terrain. From the families’ bases in Puerto Rico, we explored every island site we could, from the large cities to the small villages, from Old San Juan to the mountains and oceanside beaches.
I’ve travelled from Texas to Florida and to each state in between and north from Toronto to Boston. Camuy caves (southwest of Arecibo) were as spectacular as anything I have seen in the States. I remember instinctively commenting that it impressed me as much as my first sighting of Niagara Falls. Likewise, the beach hidden behind Cabo Rojo Lighthouse (extreme southwest) is the most beautiful I have seen, and I have been to and used the beaches near Miami and Clearwater.
We especially like beaches and all the fun they allow for. We rented, just for the two of us, a Hobie Cat sailboat in 1989 along with its trailer and drove it around the island. Each time we saw a site worth launching from, usually a beach, we unloaded it and took off. Despite the giant waves in San Juan Bay and the roaring winds of El Combate (in the southwest corner), every site and each launch was like paradise. Up at El Combate the giant sea turtles rising out of the water made up for the surprising roaring winds.
There are, too, the usual sites of the Arecibo Observatory, the surfing beaches of Aguada and Rincon and the El Yunque Rain Forest (it was fun to jump in the pool at the bottom of a path down to below a waterfall). One could spend a lifetime here and seem to see something new every day. We look for beaches since my brilliant wife discovered I could continue doing my now limited watersports by snorkeling. Our last vacation of 10 days in August, 2011, was spent discovering 14 beaches along the northwest coast. They were each different and thrilling and it all got topped off with the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse (southwest corner) beach which took our breath away.
I retired in 9/11 and Wanda in 4/12. We can’t believe we are still trying to get the house into shape and closeout all the open projects and involvements which were put on the side while bringing up 6 kids. When we get it all done, we hope to get to P.R. and spend more than a two week vacation rediscovering and discovering all of it.
I must also include how wonderful I have always found the Puerto Rican people I have known in my neighborhood and as beneficiaries in my job and, especially, those I have met in Puerto Rico. It seems you can’t go into a town without someone telling you to come in and have dinner with them. Believe it or not, this is even true here in my Bronx neighborhood. Despite their sometimes meager circumstances, they are the most caring and generous people. God bless them.
Sorry to add even another point but I highly recommend that anyone interested in just looking at houses all over, though mostly in the east of P.R., should go to the website for Ricardo Casillas Realty. I am unsure how I got hooked into this site, but they absolutely do not ask you for anything and it is a pleasure to look at some of the features of P.R. homesites. Look at the left side of the site for “Home Finders” and register without worrying that you have signed into something you won’t like.
Thanks Glenn. We are very glad to get your perspective on Puerto Rico. Members can see reviews of Humacoa and Rincon in our Puerto Rico Directory. We should add that in looking around the Internet we see a lot of mixed comments about Puerto Rican retirements. There are those like Glenn who love the country. And then there are many others who are, shall we say, not so keen on the idea.
One big plus for Puerto Rican retirements is that as a U.S. commonwealth there are no visa restrictions for U.S. citizens. It uses the same currency, even the road signs are the same. On the down side many people mention the crime rate, which is high because of drugs. The roads are not usually that great. If you don’t speak Spanish you will be at a disadvantage. Some say it is not that cheap – you might actually get a more comfortable retirement in Central Florida on the same budget. You can see a lot of actual comments from people who have retired in Puerto Rico in this Expat-bog Forum.
There are many tax advantages to retiring to Puerto Rico. For one thing there is no income tax (except on federal employees) or inheritance tax. PR is actually trying to appeal to the rich to move here with a new initiative that eliminates taxes on interest, dividends, and capital gains under some circumstances. The program is aimed at not just any rich folks, but billionaires like hedge fund managers. The commonwealth hopes that the well-healed people the proposal attracts will help increase employment and move the economy forward. Here is a link to the NY Times article which discusses this proposal: “Sunshine and Tax Shelters“.
Comments: Do you have experience with Puerto Rico, particularly for retirement? If so, please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.
For further reading:
10 Best Places to Retire Internationally