Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria: One Year Later

This rebuilding surf town faces an identity crisis — the storm stole its beach.

Bianca Padro Ocasio
September 26, 2018

RINCÓN, PUERTO RICO — For 16 years, guests at the Tres Sirenas Oceanfront Boutique Hotel could walk down concrete steps from theresort’s deck directly onto Sea Beach, where they lounged on the expanse of sand and took dips in the water.

Then, one year ago, Hurricane Maria struck, bringing surging tides that caused the steps to shatter. The water carried away the sand. The deck collapsed. The coast shrunk. Nearby homes and businesses that overlooked the water crumbled atop the rocks meant to keep out the rising sea.

The beach disappeared.

“My guests used to be able to walk for miles,” said Lisa Masters, who co-owns the hotel with her partner, Wanda Acosta. “If tourists don’t come … then the markets suffer, the maids suffer. ... Everybody is affected by it.”

The surf town of Rincón wasn’t the hardest-hit municipality in Puerto Rico. By the time Maria reached the island’s west coast during the early afternoon of Sept. 20, it had weakened to a Category 3 hurricane.

But the storm has hastened Rincón’s steady loss of something fundamental to its community: the beach. Read full article.