Antigua: Sargassum forces hotel closure

Caribbean Sargassum
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Antigua Observer:– For the second time in recent years, the St. James’s Club has been forced to close after losing the battle against the dreaded sargassum weed.

The all-inclusive resort will be closed temporarily from July 1 until October 1. Chairman of the Antigua Hotels and Tourist Association Alex Debrito confirmed the information on Sunday.

An official at the hotel also told our newsroom that guests who are currently staying at the hotel will be transferred to other properties.

In recent days workers reached out to OBSERVER media, lamenting the situation and the impact it would have on their families, the business and the tourism sector on a whole.

Read full article online at stluciatimes.com

Cayman Islands – a Hell of a Place

Grand Cayman Caribbean Travel Info Network
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CAYMAN ISLANDS. You might know the Cayman Islands from a famous movie line, like The Firm – starring Gene Hackman and Tom Cruise. Yes, this is probably THE off-shore banking haven outside the USA. Maybe the fact that they have more registered businesses than people (population is around 60k) has something to do with so many banks – one on nearly every street corner – here. In fact, it’s all linked – the government’s primary source of income is indirect taxation: there is no income tax, capital gains tax or corporation tax. Henceforth, based on income, Caymanians enjoy the highest standard of living in the Caribbean and every second person you meet is a banker or finance expert of some sort.

CoolestCarib Caribbean Network
Pic of Grand Cayman from Royalcaribbean.com

Most people find themselves in George Town – on the biggest island – when they visit Grand Cayman. The other ones are called Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, but very few people live there. Maybe you dream of living on a tropical island for a while?

So what is it like to live in Grand Cayman?, you ask. Some locals complain that there’s little to do, but we beg to differ. First off, this island was frequented by many pirates, including the famous Captain Blackbeard. If you don’t believe us, you can go scuba diving in the swimming pool-clear water of the ocean and visit many ship wrecks from this bygone era, amongst others. You can see what the ships looked like in those days and maybe even endeavor to find treasure down there, although that’ll be your own little fantasy trip, nothing we suggested… While you’re at it, you may see amazing sea turtles and stingrays in these deeps. In fact, there are some specific locations on the island where you can swim with stingrays. 

 Shipwreck in Grand Cayman waters from Caribbean360.com

This is not all. The beach is 7 miles long in Grand Cayman – or so the name of the beach says, but we have heard its longer! White, sandy and undulating into clear azure waters, which we already swooned enough about above. Whatever you want to do on this beach can be done – watersports, swimming, splish-splashing, drifting in the water with a cocktail in your hand, rolling in the sand like a kid, sunbathing with your toes in the water – you get it. Considering the big island is 22 miles long and 4 to 8 miles wide, all at pretty much sea level, makes us think you can run around the island and that would mean you completed (nearly) a marathon. If you’re into that kind of thing or about to complain that there’s nothing to do on the island, that is.

Next, you can go to Hell. No, not being rude. There really is a place called Hell. It’s a sight to see – black volcanic, sharp rocks are the only landscape here. Quite different to the rest of the environment. What’s more, there is a little post office right in Hell where you can buy a “postcard from Hell” to send to loved ones to alarm them unnecessarily and cause your grandfather to preach about the evils of travel to foreign countries… But that’s thát story.

Of course, there are great restaurants and shopping on the island, even Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville franchise boasts a prominent spot if you want to get your or any Parrot Head doused in some rum. 

Not only does this place have a Hell, it also has crocodiles. Ever heard of crocodiles found naturally in the Caribbean? Well, hear again. That is where the island gets its name from – Caimans are a specific kind from here. Wait, they have indigenous reptiles – curly tailed lizard iguanas – but also crocs and sea turtles on and around the island!? Cowabunga!

As is known, hurricane season comes every year to the Caribbean. Last year’s monster season didn’t affect the Caymans much – for a change! Unfortunately these islands have the highest record of being hit by hurricanes of all Caribbean islands. In 2004, hurricane Ivan nearly tore the main island into two with severe flooding. Amazingly the locals rebuilt it within about two years. What a nation!

Talk about nation, did you know that Jamaica and Grand Cayman were once considered one? Cayman and Jamaica were governed as a single British colony until 1962, when the Cayman islands became designated a British overseas territory, one of 14 territories under the sovereignty of the UK but not part of the UK, while Jamaica became independent.

As you can gather, this is a Hell of a place. It’s only 400 miles south of Miami, or apparently known as “South Miami” by expats, so you can swim there, ha! Pack your bags and get there before someone else occupies your perfect spot. 

Barbados – Playground of the Rich and Famous

Barbados Travel Info Caribbean Network
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BARBADOS. We have been to many islands, and not only in the Caribbean. So far Barbados, St Barth and Virgin Gorda seem to be the main celebrity playgrounds here. Barbados is just as beautiful as any other island in the Caribbean, so what makes it so special?

There are probably a myriad of reasons why it’s such a favorite with A-listers, but it could boil down to just sun, sand, sea specifically combined with direct flights from major cities like London and New York and high-end hotels aplenty on the island. That is, mostly on the west side of the island where it is quite “over-developed”, some would say.

Sandy Lane is a famous hotel, often hosting clients that are much more well-known than its name. Though quite pricey, if you want to see the likes of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones or Hugh Grant and Simon Cowell (of American Idol) while having your sundowners, you’ll get your money’s worth. Bajan born music celebs often seen here include Rihanna and Shontelle.

Once, we saw Rihanna walk down the street in Holetown, Barbados, in a bikini – like only Rihanna can! In fact, you can take a stroll on a street named after her in Barbados – called Rihanna Drive. It is actually the street where she stayed on and her childhood house can be visited. You can’t miss it – brightly painted to commemorate a big star’s humble beginnings.

Unfortunately, if you want to view the house of Tom Selleck, Bill Gates, Cliff Richard or Elton John, you can only see the outside walls of their estates from the road.

The southern part hosts most tourist resorts, shops and restaurants, making it a very welcoming social scene. Its beautifully scenic and entertaining parts make it a must to explore these environs. Oistins, in particular, is an active fishing town, a hub of activity on weekend nights. On Friday nights it’s Fish Fry at Oistins Bay Gardens where the food is the main draw with excellent fish, (tuna, swordfish, marlin, mahi-mahi, flying fish), lobster, chicken etc. served in an informal setting. Your dish is cooked on the spot in front of you, and you can choose between grilled or fried depending on the vendor. Nice!

Should you be more attracted to the laid-back, tranquil section of an island, the eastern part is for you. People who love surfing and kite boarding frequent especially the Silver Sands beach area or Long Beach, minutes’ walk from each other. This is the Atlantic Ocean side, so the sea is a tad more wild, which makes for an interesting wave riding and wave jumping experience if you’re into kite surfing. Silver Sands in particular is 100% set for kiting with accommodations right on the beach. A kiter’s haven! Any given day you’ll see about 25 kiters doing their thing. Actually, it’s a spectacular sight having those colorful kites parked on the beach or speeding off towards the waves. You’ll see professional athletes among students who are being taught. Apparently it’s a highly disciplined sport and those who partake are very respectful – so we’ve heard.

For kitesurfing lessons in Barbados: www.endlesskiteboarding.com (in Silver Sands), contact Roland Boyce.

For day trippers from the cruise ship dock in Bridgetown, a taxi could cost you $75 for about 5 people there and back – not bad. But if you’re alone, get yourself to the taxi ranks, downtown, and ask for the number 11 Route Taxi. It’s a 10 minute walk from downtown to the route taxi ranks, but it’s ony US$1 (yes, one US dollar) for a forty minute ride to Silver Sands. If you want to meet the real locals and share the taxi with about 10 other Bajans heading in the direction of Silver Sands – do it – it’s a thrill ride.

Roland Boyce Endless Kiteboarding
Roland Boyce (middle)

Island of Your Dreams: St. Kitts

Saint Kitts Caribbean Island Travel Network
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Photo taken on the way to Cockleshell Beach, St. Kitts, at the Turtle Bay area with a view of Nevis in the background. 

ST. KITTS.  Ever thought what would comprise a true island of your dreams? For argument’s sake let’s say it is St. Kitts, because it should be the island of your dreams.

First off, there are more than enough beaches, coconut cocktails, hammocks and palm trees to fill in the picture of your dream island. But there is so much more to this piece of paradise.

It’s an island that has set aside more than a quarter of its land as a National Park, with growing rainforests rather than shrinking ones.

What’s more, it’s home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Brimstone Hill Fortress, a centuries-old saman tree and a sleeping volcano that you can climb to the edge of and/or then down to its steaming crater.

Don’t forget to go snorkeling or diving over its reefs covered by beds of coral, flourishing with fish of many type and color.

Oh, and doing watersports along it’s golden beaches or just lounging in the sun are obligatory, of course.

Kittitian History
Centuries ago, the Carib Indians who inhabited the beautiful island of St. Kitts named their home Liamuiga, which means “fertile land” and called Nevis, the neighboring island, Oualie, or “land of beautiful waters.”

Columbus came to these islands in 1493 but never landed. There is speculation that is was he who named the islands St. Christopher (nickname St. Kitts) and Nevis (because the cloud-capped dormant volcano reminded him of snow and the Spanish word for snow is “nieve”).

The island was originally inhabited by Carib Indians, who were wiped out by French and British settlers at, what is now called, Bloody Point. Once the English and French had St. Kitts to themselves, they established sugar and tobacco plantations, fought each other for control of the island and brought in African people to works as slaves. And so the seeds of St. Kitts’ rich culture were sewn, influenced by people from Africa, Europe and the Caribbean itself.

About St. Kitts and Nevis
Capital City: Basseterre – St. Kitts; Charlestown – Nevis.
Language: English, but filled with regional idioms.
Size: St. Kitts: 69 square miles, Nevis: 36 square miles.
Population: +- 50 000 with about 80% in St. Kitts.
Topography: Volcanic, with mountainous interior regions and gentle, rolling coastal plains. Highest points are mount Liamuiga at 3792 feet in St. Kitts and Nevis Peak at 3232 feet.
Climate: Pretty much perfect year-round.
Currency: Eastern Caribbean (EC) dollar. US dollars are accepted just about everywhere on the islands while other currencies van be changed for EC dollars at any bank.
Business hours: Banks are open Monday to Thursday from 8am to 2pm and on Fridays they are open until 4pm. Other business places are normally open from Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm and 8am to 1pm on Saturdays.
Dress: Mostly casual but clothing that is too revealing isn’t appropriate in their towns and villages. Going topless on the beaches – a no-no.
Getting around: Rental cars are readily available as well as taxis.
Water: safe to drink.

Fun fact: The daughter of Canadian-Portuguese singer, Nelly Furtado, was born in Nevis and named after the island.

Some Personal St. Kitts Experiences
This is one of the neatest islands we have seen in the Caribbean or actually anywhere in the world. I mean, when you drive around the island you see grass neatly cut all along its roads – which takes a lot of sweat and effort to pull off. Kudos to the Kittitian municipality!  And driving around the island takes about 3 hours if you stop for coffee, take a stroll up to the fort and museum at Brimstone Hill and at a few beaches for some photo-ops and a swim.

You can be ‘stylin’ the drive by renting a SuperBuggy from Leroy, like we did. Just make sure you have a driver’s license and get a permit on the island, plus someone who can drive stick gears. These buggies are something else with some nice torque and good looks. We got a lot of comments and waves driving around in these.

Or you can book a fun tour to Reggae Beach through Liz Perreira Tours. She is very friendly and meets you at the pier to take you to an open-air taxi that stops at some great viewpoints for photo’s and vendor’s goods. Lots of fun to be had at Reggae Beach where there is a restaurant, bar, watersports like SUP, kiteboarding, fly boarding, jet skiing, kayaking. And, of course, you don’t have to rent the ocean for a lovely swim in clear, cool water.

All in all, fun and kindhearted people live here and the streets are clean and neat. St. Kitts & Nevis is a Caribbean destination like no other. No wonder this island is called the “Jewel of the Caribbean”.

For Super Buggy rentals or tours: PereiraTours.com lizpereiratours@yahoo.com

St. Martin/Maarten Back in Action for 2018

Image of foil kite board
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ST. MARTIN/MAARTEN, Phillipsburg. Things are looking on the up and up for the hurricane-devastated island. Three months since the island was hit by Irma and Maria cruise ships are back. This is great news for affected businesses on the island, especially those connected to tourism.

We walked and drove around the island today and here is what we saw:

Orient Beach – a famous beach on the French side that had many Ibiza-style restaurants, a nude beach and various water sport huts is now swept clean of all except a few palm trees, sand and seaweed. No facilities anymore. Hence, since the French side was hit very hard, a kind of ‘copy’ of what was once Orient Beach is now being set up in Simpson Bay on the Dutch side of the island.

Palm Island – this little islet in the middle of a small lagoon in Phillipsburg is now a stash for debris. From old cars to washing machines and couches can be found here. Since it is an island, moving debris left by the hurricane is a difficult issue – where do you take all the remnants of what once was a casino’s outside display or the wall of a business or a house’s roof? Various areas where huge mounds of such left-overs that Irma and Maria spewed out are to be seen around the island.

Phillipsburg – is cleaned up nicely. But if you’ve been to this town many times over the years like us, you know what it looked like in boom time before the hurricanes and you miss tree covered lanes next to the beach lined by lovely bistros and shops. Now you might find some of those same shops – not all of them survived – but not the beautiful scenery that came with it before. But in general, most of the high-end shops are operational again. Very good to see that. Holland House Hotel on the beach looks practically untouched.

Nettle Bay – we connected with B52 Kitesurfing at the severely damaged, but still standing Flamboyant Resort. Pierre was back in business teaching people to kite surf on boxing day. He had a smile on his face because people are slowly coming back to the island. He also seized an opportunity to create a new and more efficient location for his business. He was able to build a neat shack that hosts storage for his equipment and a small bar and snack venue for his clients. We salute this small business owner who looks at the bright side of all these big events. He sees it as a chance to start anew and work at something bigger and better – kudos to you, Pierre!

Simpson Bay – We met with Cyndi and Anil of Sax Car Rental next to the international airport. They have an amazing story of rebuilding their business after their offices were practically swept away by winds stronger than a thousand giants. In fact, some buildings looked like their roofs were trampled on by giants’ feet. Cyndi mentioned how surreal it was to watch the hurricanes unfold from their house on a hilltop. Looking down on Simpson Bay they could see cars and roofs and debris flying and swirling as if a wind soup was being concocted by an evil witch called Irma. Maria hit a certain part of the island that they didn’t see much of at the time of the hurricane, but that had more water in it. “…and a watery hurricane is incredibly strong in terms of devastation”, she said.

All in all it was great to be back on this cool 😎  island which holds unforgettable memories for us. The people have gone through serious hardship and hard life lessons but found new opportunities to rebuild their lives on. Soon this island will be back to its former glory thanks to such wonderful people. Most of all, what attracts most to St. Martin/Maarten is its glorious beaches and people. They are all still there, just the trimmings need some time and some TLC.

Car Rental: SaxCarRental.com. Kitesurf Lessons: B52-Kiteschool.com

 

Festival of Chocolate in Grenada 2018 – Healthy Decadence!

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Grenada Chocolate Fest: 11 – 19 May, 2018

Chocolate Museum Grenada

Pic of Chocolateria inside Chocolate Museum above. 

Pic of cocoa bean mill inside Chocolate Museum. 

You’ll find (left to right) friendly staff at The Chocolate Museum – Kendra, Maria, Rina and Kay.

Have a passion for everything chocolate? The Grenada Chocolate Fest is a delectable event that celebrates the island’s delicious organic and ethically produced cocoa and chocolate. It is truly something to behold and experience for yourself. People sing, do the “cocoa dance” through the streets and douse themselves in liquid chocolate to celebrate this integral part of the island’s heritage.

In Grenada, the chocolate artisans craft famous ethical “tree to bar” products. During the festival you can “take a journey through the island’s rich history and visit cocoa farms nestled in its lush Caribbean rainforest… dance the cocoa or be a cocoa farmer for a day. Jam by the turquoise sea at sunset, and run through a cocoa forest! And when you are ready to relax and unwind, indulge in some authentic chocolate-inspired cuisine and luxuriate in cocoa-infused island life!” (http://grenadachocolatefest.com)

What’s more, because the chocolate produce on the island is so pure, central to their local history and world famous, there is even a Chocolate Museum in St. George, the biggest town in Grenada. They display a brief history of the island in terms of cocoa produce here and you can have a shot or shake of chocolate or buy cocoa butter or chocolate lava cake, all things chocolate. They also focus on the health benefits of pure, organic chocolate here. Did you know how good it is for you? Here are some benefits they listed at the museum:

  • Protection from Disease-Causing Free Radicals.
  • Potential Cancer Prevention.
  • Improved Heart Health.
  • Good for Overall Cholesterol Profile.
  • Better Cognitive Function.
  • Blood Pressure and Blood Sugar Aid.
  • Antioxidant-Rich Superfood.

Photo of downtown St. George, Grenada from coolestcarib.com

So! Have some chocolate right now. And remember, it needs to be dark chocolate, preferably 70% or more cacao and sorry, no sugar, in order for it to have these health benefits . Without sugar it truly becomes an acquired taste.  A suggestion is to have it with stevia or honey if you don’t like the bitter taste.

Best in chocolate to you and hope to see you in Grenada at the chocolate fest!

More pics taken this week  in St. George, Grenada click here or follow us on Instagram.com/coolestcarib

Discover Pig Beach, BAHAMAS – Where Pigs Rule (and Swim)

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You’re stuck in your office, surfing the web for just about any getaway to sunny shores and you come across this story about pigs living it up on their own island in the Bahamas. WTF!? – as in Modern Family’s Phil’s acronym – Why The Face? Well, stop making a face and start reading this. For if pigs can swim in the Bahamas, so can you!

Picture from Instagram.com/theswimmingpigs

You can even visit and swim with them, these porkers. There are about 20 pigs and piglets on Pig Island, also known as Major Cay, Big Major Cay or just Pig Beach. The island is uninhabited and located in an area that comprises more than 300 islands in the Bahamas, called Exuma. They are not the only animals there, there are some goats and stray cats to be seen too.

How did they get there and how do they survive, you ask? For one thing, in order for any living being to survive, they need water. Lucky for these porkies, there are three fresh water springs on the island. What about food then? Currently they are fed by locals and tourists – a big attraction in the Bahamas.

But how these hogs got to the island is somewhat of an urban legend. There are various theories and speculations, one being that the boars were brought to the island as part of a business venture to create a tourist attraction. Another, and the most “famous” one, is that sailors brought some sows to the island with the intention to eat them at a later stage. But they never returned. Then there is the story that the swine survived a shipwreck and swam to the island to save themselves and survived on food dumped from passing ships. A last theory is that the pigs escaped from a nearby islet – and decided to rule their own island, named after themselves.

If you want to stay near Big Major Cay where the hogs are cohabitants, according to Angie Away, “your best option is itty-bitty Staniel Cay, which offers a sizable marina, several small hotels (EMBRACE Resort is my favorite) and an airstrip. From there, you can rent a small boat or hire a local guide to whisk you over to Pig Beach. From Staniel Cay Yacht Club, it’s only about 10 minutes to the pigs.”

If you do decide to visit Pig Beach, be respectful, remember these are wild-ish animals you’ll encounter and that its their island, for goodness sake! Reminds me of Animal Farm – “where all animals are equal, some are just more equal than others…”

Pigs are very clever and cute but their bite can be very serious – when you try to take selfies they might think your camera is food, or even your face! (to quote an observation by Angie Away).

So, take care and be safe on Pig Beach – it will certainly be a very different getaway story to tell when you get back home.

Continue reading “Discover Pig Beach, BAHAMAS – Where Pigs Rule (and Swim)”

Best Pics of GUADELOUPE – First Week!

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I’m visiting Guadeloupe currently and loving the views! Guadeloupe, if you didn’t know, is a French territory island in the Caribbean. It is shaped like a butterfly on the map, surrounded by a few other islands under its government: Marie Galante, Les Saintes, Petite Terre and Désirades. The mainland is divided in two islands that are connected with a natural bridge: Grande Terre and Basse Terre.

So far we’ve explored Grande Terre from St Francois to the furthermost eastern point of the island to the north at Le Moule and west past St Anne and Le Gosier to Pointe-á-Pitre where the international airport is located.

Here is some proof of the beauty of this place. Enjoy!

2017 Holiday Season in the CARIBBEAN – a Tax Deductible Donation?

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by Lizpiano.

Steel pan versions of Christmas songs are playing again. Probably including my favorite Christmas song by the indelible Jimmy Buffett, ‘Christmas in the Caribbean’:

“It’s Christmas in the Caribbean, snow birds fill the air.
… send away for mistletoe.
It’s Christmas in the Caribbean, we’ve got everything but snow.”

No-one will be singing any songs with Maria in them or naming their newborns after grandma Irma this holiday season, of course. However, slowly but surely Caribbean people are picking up their lives and businesses, some trying their best to be ready for the holiday season.

And low and behold, some islands are back in a new way (like with more solar power, thanks to Elon Musk, see my blog: More Tesla Solar Powerpacks Arrived at Puerto Rico Airport link below) and open for business.

Photo of Labadee, Haiti, from moveabroadnow.com

The headline, ‘The Caribbean is now Open for Business’,  www.caribbeanisopen.com, is a quote from a campaign launched in October 2017 after the devastating effects of hurricanes Irma and Maria this year.

It is called the “Caribbean is Open”-campaign and aims to make tourists aware that 90% of islands in the Caribbean are unaffected by the hurricanes.  According to some Caribbean websites, there has been about a 26% decrease in business to the Caribbean because of a perspective that the whole Caribbean has been devastated. This is not true. The US Virgin Islands, St Martin, St Barth and Puerto Rico are the most developed and well-known ones affected. Smaller ones include British Virgin Islands, some of the Bahamas but not the most visited islands, Barbuda, Turks & Caicos, Dominica and Cuba that were affected by the hurricanes this year.

The fact that these islands were so hurricane-slapped should urge tourists to visit them in order to support their road to recovery.

But that also means other favorite islands are still ready for the picking this upcoming holiday season. Off the top of my head there are so many – in alphabetical order: ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao), Anegada, Antigua, Anguilla, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, St Eustatius, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia,  St Vincent & The Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago.

Since these islands are mostly dependent on tourism, this could be a very good idea and an altruistic-tourist-move – beneficial for everyone involved. After all, since it started snowing in the northern hemisphere again, what more do you want than a sandy beach and sunny shores, those are still on the islands. Hotels have electricity, water and food as they were more prepared for disaster than the general islander, so why not? For instance, 65% of hotels in Puerto Rico are now operational and so are many resorts on Turks & Caicos.

Why not view a visit to the affected islands as your own personal donation to their hurricane relief programs?

Here’s a thought for every tax-paying tourist – why not speak to your legislators and request that your away-time this year to the Caribbean, or if you’re from the US – St Thomas, St John, St Croix or Puerto Rico – can be made tax-deductible (as a donation)?

Just a thought. I am looking into doing that.

Hope to see you in the Caribbean this holiday season. Season’s greetings!

Continue reading “2017 Holiday Season in the CARIBBEAN – a Tax Deductible Donation?”

More Tesla Solar Powerpacks Arrived at PUERTO RICO

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Since our blog titled, “Elon Musk Willing to Power Puerto Rico” of 6 October, a few hundred Powerwall battery packs for solar power energy arrived in Puerto Rico.

According to *Frederic Lambert of Electrek.co, “The new shipment arrived not long after Musk spoke with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello last week to talk about ways for Tesla Energy to help rebuild the power grid destroyed by the two hurricanes that recently hit the Caribbean.”

That’s not all. Elon Musk is now putting extra effort into bringing power back to Puerto Rico AND other affected areas by unveiling his new Tesla Semi truck earlier than planned:

Tesla, the automaker, is changing the planned revealing date of its electric truck, the Tesla Semi, from October 26 to *November 16 (according to Electrek.co) as it focuses on Model 3 production and aiding “power-less” Puerto Rico.

Tesla Semi, Model 3 truck image from trucks.com

Currently, less than 20% of the island has power and some areas may experience months without electricity. That is why Tesla plans to first focus on helping hospitals and medical centers to get stable power.

Puerto Rico and Tesla seem to be committed to work together beyond short-term solutions and rebuild the power system to be more sustainable with solar power and energy storage. Continue reading “More Tesla Solar Powerpacks Arrived at PUERTO RICO”