Moving to Puerto Rico with kids


Moving abroad is an adventure for both parents and children: settling overseas is a challenge for each family member.

How was the move to Puerto Rico for your kids?

How did they manage to adapt to their new environment?

Share with us your experience and advice on settling in Puerto Rico with children.

Thank you in advance,


We moved here a year ago. First to joyuda. My child was 5 and knew no Spanish. He attended public school for 6 weeks and pulled him out. Private schools are very expensive here and not worth the money. Your child still would have to pass a ged test to graduate anyways  schools here have no sub teacher even in. Private schools so schooling is in consistent. My child has Been homeschooled ever since.  He is really bright but very active so this works out good. We couldn't find homeschool support in that area and what we could find was in Spanish. So we moved to the north to arecibo thinking it would be better here to homeschool. We were wrong. No children in our area and no one speaks English. So we are again moving. This time back to the west coast in Rincon. Mostly everyone speaks English.  there are 3 schools that are English schools. But once again prices are crazy. Cheapest school is $200 a month. Not sure if we are going to continue homeschool or enroll in private schools. We have a move date of Oct 1.  So we will have to wait a couple weeks and see

We moved here in January and live in San Juan with 3 teens. The oldest took Spanish in school before but the younger 2 knew nothing. They go to an English speaking private school but many of the side discussions, hallway conversations, and meetings are in Spanish so it is difficult but they are all adjusting. Private schools are expensive for what you get, but they are nowhere near the cost of many schools in the US and overseas.  The quality of the schooling is less than our excellent public schools in Virginia, but at the AP level I find them fine.  The kids are getting into top colleges so something is working. 

Lots and lots of people in SJ metro area homeschool. It's not for my kids -or me! - but I know many people are happy and successful with it.

Our experience was really positive. Our daughter attended a small, Spanish language, private Montessori school in San Juan. The price was 1/3 to a half what a similar school would cost in the States. She loved it, although it was an adjustment at first (of course).

Just curious, for those mainlanders with kids that upon arival kids only spoke English, how do the kids do being surrounded by spanish most of rhe time?
Do they ever complain that rhey want to go back to the mainland?

May 6 year old knew no Spanish. He now know some. But not enough for a conversation. Homeschool is the way we went after dealing with publiic schools here. Private scr aren't worth the money.  My 6 year old knows a lot of things 3 graders know but lacks in reading . We will just keep working at it. Him attending public or private schools wouldn't have made a difference

My kids don't complain about it at all - on the contrary! My middle daughter joined a local band and has learned all musical terms in spanish. My youngest is a swimmer and her coaches only speak spanish - 6 months ago she could only say "mariposa" and now they have full conversations about her swimming. It's fantastic.

Hey Suzanne, I bet you are proud of your kids. Moving is hard on adults and kids, leaving friends, new surroundings, new schools, new language, new customs, it is hard!!!!!

I am very glad that your kids are more than coping, they seem to instead be enjoying the island!!!!

Since I was born in the island and Spanish is natural to me, I don't always understand the difficulties that new arrivals go thru. Yet I had the same thing in reverse when I arrived in the mainland and had to learn and communicate in English. I lost about 20 pounds in a few months when I came to the mainland as to me the food was bland and a bit strange.

Public schools...definitely not. I'm not really sure how anyone could consider putting there kid in a Spanish only speaking school and leave them to fend for themselves...not to mention your kid possibly being singled out as the "Gringo". Who even knows what could happen!!  But I would not say Private Schools are not worth the son is in a Private School and it is worth the sacrifice to know we are giving him the best education we can afford here in PR.  Like Suzanne said "The kids are getting into top colleges so something is working".  However not all private schools are good either...some are definitely better than have to do your research. Personally I couldn't handle homeschool and really I don't feel that I could give him the same well rounded experience that he gets at school. Education is something one should research well before making a move...

College is cheaper in pr then private education for k-12.   There is something wrong with that

sandrarduncan :

College is cheaper in pr then private education for k-12.   There is something wrong with that

UPR is a public institution - so it is not 'cheaper,' it is heavily subsidized. Private universities such Universidad Interamericana or Sagrado Corazon are  more expensive than most private schools (but cheaper than very expensive K-12 schools, such as Robinson's or Saint John's). Actually, it is similar to the States in that way. Even mid-level private K-12 schools can be more expensive than public university, and private universities are more expensive (generally speaking) than either. The only differences are (1) that everything is shifted down in price in PR; and (2), unfortunately, public K-12 is (actually or perceived to be) unacceptably bad.

There's no federal financial aid for private schools, that's why private schools are more expensive than PUBLIC colleges... PUBLIC schools, however are MUCH cheaper, as they don't cost anything. Private schools are a choice.

Yes Private School is a choice and its also a choice to move to Puerto Rico. Your kids will have a great time at the beach but what about their education?  Public School is really not an option if your child doesn't speak Spanish.  At least in Private Schools they should learn both languages and also learn to adapt and integrate into the culture here.

Our boys are 9 and 10 and have enjoyed our move to Puerto Rico for the most part.  We try to look at each experience as an adventure.  They have seen many cultural differences and enjoy most of them (like a falling asleep to the sound of coqui, waking up to the neighborhood roosters that crow at 5am, and people riding on horseback down the road).  Others, they are not so keen on ("quick" trips to the store that take an hour or more, fast drivers with loud vehicles, and all the trash on the beaches). We tried to prepare them as much as possible before we arrived, watching YouTube videos of PR, looking at pictures David and I had taken from previous trips, learning a little Spanish with DuoLingo, and discussing some of the difference we knew existed.

I think they have adapted fairly well and are even picking up a few Spanish words here and there.  Our biggest challenge has been to find other children for them to play with.  However, as I get out and about more, I am slowly finding activities for them as well as opportunities to volunteer and learn more about this great island we now call home.  I have found a lot of help from blogs about Puerto Rico (including this one), Facebook groups geared toward activities and families on the west side, and even my Spanish Class in Rincon.

We have lived on the island for a little over a year now. This is our 3rd  move. We are now in the transition to Rincon.  Not sure the ages of your children. We have a 6 yr old and we home school.  We speak English. Contact me if you want to hook up for learning or play dates. my name is Sandi.  We know lots of things and place to go. Can also get you in touch with several homeschool groups.  I am also on Facebook.  Zazoo Pitts.  Let me know I'd you are fb me so I can look for your request

Moderated by Maximilien last year
Reason : avoid posting your personal details + use the private message pls

I am not sure if this is the riight thread for this post. This is the closest I could find.

We are moving to Dorado in January. We came for a month to find a house and a school for our girls. They are 12 and 14. We found a beautiful home, the offer has been accepted and is pretty sure we are buying it. As a last minute decision the girls came for a week to visit. They got here last night we were so excited to show them the house and the area, they were very excited too.

We were so happy! We were sure they would love it. Today we went to see the house and yes they love it, but....they don't like the area at all.

The youngest even cried and they were both very serious and quite. Is like all the excitement and anticipation went down the drain. They asked "where are all the kids"? And they are right. Where are all the kids? What do they do? We have only seen very small children with parents in places like Walmart but teens or pre tens? None at all. Now they don't want to move here.

Of course is too early to be sure and we told them to give it a chance, once they start school they will meet kids their age, that we need to know the community better and learn where people gets together,  but there is a part of me that is not so sure about it.

You need a car to go everywhere, I don't see any activities for older children, etc...

I have a similar concern for adults. If everybody lives in gated, isolated communities, how do we make friends?

I look everywhere, Facebook, Google, meetup, etc... I can't find anything.

Is there any group that gets together? How can we make friends?

The same way you meet people anywhere. Go out, join clubs, non profits, participate in hobbies. For heaven's sake, go OUT of your gated community. The island is what you make of it. If you just make yourself available, people will find YOU.

Moving anywhere it is hard, specialy if language is an issue. Try knowking on doors and inviting people over to a barbeque, something simple that does not show you are rich.
Meet people at church, meet people at a bar, talk to people in line at walmart. Talk to people on the next blanket at the beach.
Do some king of volumteer work, go to the flea market and speak with people.
Not only will you get information, but you will also make friends.
Hard when one does not speak the language, i know. I came to the mainland knowing very little english, but i perceveired and end up making friends everywhere. I strike conversations with everyone even the homeless.

There is always something to say and relate to, even how much you are sweating in the heat.

Thank you for your answers. I know all these things. My Spanish is perfect. I am from Spain. And our personality is very similar to people here. We are very open and social in Spain. I was just asking  if there were any open groups of friends that meet regularly or activities for kids. The "for heavens sake get out of your gated community... We don't even own the house yet. So not living here!

Since you are from Spain, i bet people love the way you speak and ask you questions about Spain.

Yes they do and this is a good conversation starter! We laugh about our differences in words and pronunciation! feel like home here. Everybody is extremely friendly.

Susanna45 :

The "for heavens sake get out of your gated community... We don't even own the house yet. So not living here!

No offense intended. You had mentioned everyone being segregated into their own gated communities and that's where I was going with that statement.

We aren't there yet, either. We'll be moving our family down in January to Aguadilla. We love it, too. Luckily our kids are young enough that they should be able to transition very easily (5 and 4)

No offense taken but thank you for clarifying. I appreciate all of your answers.

Your kids are in a wonderful age for a change in lifestyle, it's going to be great for them!

We hope so (And a good change for us, too). If you ever find yourself in the northwest of the island, shoot me a message and we can show you around :)

Susanna...I live in Dorado and I have a child...I sent you a private message to see If I can help you with your concerns.

Just wanted to chime in. Been living in Arecibo for two years now, since August 2013, to work at the Arecibo Observatory. I'm here with my wife (also working at the Observatory) and my two kids (boys, one 2yrs and one 4yrs). We both speak conversational Spanish, though not entirely fluent yet, which has greatly eased our transition.

We've faced similar issues to those raised above. Our first daycare (daycares were hard enough to find too) was Spanish only, with only one staff member that spoke English (and she wasn't always there, being the owner/manager). Our first few months, my eldest was in the late infant class (18mo-2yr). But after he hit 2yrs, they wanted to move him to the 3yo class since he's a tall kid. But the 3yo class was more structured, and had instruction only in Spanish. This frustrated him enough that he became very disruptive and started acting out and hitting and biting. After about a month they moved him down a class (2-3yo) which  was still fairly unstructured and included a lot of early learning (letters and colors and such), and he immediately settled down  and became much better behaved.

We later moved and found a much closer daycare where the staff spoke English and Spanish, and my eldest has been  doing great.  My youngest likes this daycare, and now speaks much more Spanish than he does English. He goes around the house babbling in Spanish  all  the time.  :)

I have heard horror stories about the education here (STEM education in particular), so I'm hoping to move away before the kids get to middle school.

We've also had a hell of a time finding a babysitter. There have been times where both me and my wife have been needed at work after hours, or have overlapping shifts, and we have no choice to decline shifts or make bizarre arrangements with our neighbors or the daycare.

Hi @susanna45 - so did you end up making this move? How are you finding it?
My wife and I just visited Dorado this past weekend as we are considering a move move to PR but we ended up not liking it (Dorado) like we thought we would, mostly for the reasons you listed. REality is never the same as expectations of course! We have two children, 3 & 8, but barely saw any any children anywhere and everything was so locked behind gates that it all felt very unnatural even for a  suburb. We didn't feel any community vibe, more like people just stay locked up in their little enclaves and homes and venture out to go shopping, club, etc. It was very strange not seeing a single public park (other than balnearios) or playground or tennis courts. But I guess that's just the reality of how it is.  We both speak good Spanish, so that wasn't a factor.
We looked at homes in Paseos, Sabanera Dorado and Dorado Del Mar, but all of it just felt sterile and gated and not very alive. The Have/Have-nots essence was very tangible. We were joking that driving around Sabanera felt like a zombie apocalypse had just occurred one hour before. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and we saw a total of 3-4 people walking about throughout the entire property and nobody in their front yards, driveways, etc. We did love Tasis, very impressive, but the vibe for Sabanera just didn't do it for us, but to each their own of course, I'm sure some people love it.
We spent yesterday in San Juan, Condado, Ocean park areas - it was like a breath of fresh air after Dorado, much more our speed. We also loved Robinson School when we toured back in the spring. Private school would be the only way to go for us in PR If we end up moving I think it would be somewhere in Santurce. I love that I could just walk to the beach there and kiteboard or paddle board.

If anyone has insight about any of this, I'd love to hear it. Feel free to disagree with me, that's healthy!

I felt the same way when we moved here last year - we are now in an apartment in Condado/Ocean Park, kids walk to school at St John's, and they all have friends that live nearby. They (and we) spend lots of time on the beach, walking to the park, etc. We love the area.

Condado / Ocean park is a very nice area.

As to have nots .... If the house is made of concrete and the concrete is rough/lumpy, not smooth and the place does not look like it ever seen a coat of paint, then likely it was put together by the owner and a few friends and they are part of the have not. From time to time people are granted by the goverment a small plot of land (parcela or parcel in English) to build their home, the owner and friends put it together. As time passes some of those areas end up real close to the upcoming affluent neighborhoods as the affluent areas grows. Then the difference smacks you on the face.

Some people do not want to associate with others while others just want additional security, so they live in these gated communities. That is not for me but a lot of new comers seem to want it. The only advantage I can see for a gated community is that some of them have parks, pools, kids play areas, some even have a local supermarket or pharmacy. But that adds to the isolation.

Hello... reading your post I felt your frustration and pain!

I frequently work with Expats that get relocated in training's and they very often need a person to watch their little ones while we are in session.

I have a very responsible College student... daughter that has worked out fine for them and she loves children.

If interested and need a reliable sitter, please private email me. 


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