Lonely Planet Writer

You’ve never seen Puerto Rico like this: one couple’s quest to photograph and preserve the island’s heritage

At first glance, you might think this is just another young couple taking beautiful travel photos of exotic locales for social media, but after a closer look, you’ll find that Fernando Samalot and Bárbara Cruz – the Puerto Rican explorers behind the project One Island, One Journey  – are on a mission to help protect Puerto Rico’s nature and heritage. “I felt a profound need to connect deeply with my island’s nature, people, culture and history,” said Samalot. “Only those who love their home will be willing to fight for it and protect it.”

Woman jumps into a waterfall
Waterfall, Puerto Rico. Image courtesy of Fernando Samalot

Samalot and Cruz – who travel with their deaf rescue Border Collie, Nube Sordita who has her own Instagram – want to encourage other Puerto Ricans to discover the island by posting visceral, magical images and videos (all taken with an iPhone) of little-known locations on platforms like Instagram. “Every single inch of this island has a deep and rich history as well as some of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders. I wanted to connect with that myself and then share it with others in hopes of inspiring them to connect with their own heritage,” said Samalot.

Samalot and Cruz want to encourage people to preserve the heritage of Puerto Rico on social media
Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. Image courtesy of Fernando Samalot

When they took on this project, the two decided to move into a small SUV and travel around Puerto Rico for eight months with a budget of just $10 a day. “We never lacked food or places to stay. Since we were sharing the experience on our social media platforms, everywhere we went people would offer us places to stay. We got to stay on farms, in beach side apartments, camping out in backyards, vacation homes, etc.,” said Samalot. After exploring the island for eight months, they settled down in the mountains of Adjuntas, where they are working on a few new projects, including another round-the-island adventure, workshops, and a short documentary.

Barbara Cruz at Lares
Lares, Puerto Rico. Image courtesy of Fernando Samalot

The biggest lesson from their journey? That it’s not necessary to roam the globe to have a transformative traveling experience. “Puerto Rico is truly one of the most beautiful places on Earth and our natural resources are world-class. Every place we would go had something to offer, whether it was a pristine river, waterfalls, mountain hikes, caves and caverns, beautiful beaches, seaside caves—you name it, it’s here. We also got to experience the bond between the Puerto Rican people. Everywhere we went we were received as family and treated with warmth, humility and respect,” said Samalot. “Everywhere we went felt like home.”

Forest scene, Puerto Rico
In the forest. Image courtesy of Fernando Samalot

By Melissa Alvarado Sierra