For a tropical Caribbean island with world-class beaches and amenities, Puerto Rico might not seem like the ideal destination for budget travelers looking for an exotic getaway. But this island can be surprisingly affordable for the savvy tourist. There are great bargains to be found, as well as numerous incentives and deals designed to help you save money.
In this guide to budget travel, you'll find tips on when to go, where to stay and eat, and what to do while you're in Puerto Rico. Add it all up, and you'll be surprised at how far you can stretch your dollar when you visit la isla del encanto.
When to Go
Financially speaking, the best time to visit Puerto Rico is during the long off-season, which runs from May to November. While the summer is peak travel time for many destinations around the world, in the Caribbean it's hurricane season. With the arrival of the storm season comes a drastic drop in prices for hotels and airfare, as the tourist industry seeks to lure visitors. In Puerto Rico, they have good reason to do so: there are ample reasons to make a trip during these months, and at the top of the list is the great values you'll find on lodging. I've found four-star hotels at two-star prices during the off-season. Even so, it's always a good idea to check the local weather forecast before you travel.
Where to Stay
The nice thing about Puerto Rico is that you can find a beachfront luxury resort located less than a minute away from a budget inn. Both provide virtually the same access to the beach and the surrounding area, but only one can offer a room for less than $100. With that in mind, here are a few resources to get you into a place that is comfortable for you and your wallet:
- The best cheap hotels in San Juan
- Paradores around Puerto Rico (Paradores are country inns dotted throughout Puerto Rico (away from San Juan; they're well worth a look for those looking for an off-the-beaten-path vacation.)
- In Rincón, check out The Lazy Parrot Inn and the Dos Angeles del Mar Guesthouse, where you can find rooms for under $100.
Where to Eat
Dining in Puerto Rico can be hazardous to your health because there is no shortage of rib-sticking, gut-busting criollo specialties to challenge your appetite. Fortunately, it doesn't cost much to stuff yourself silly with excellent local food. Here are just a few recommendations:
- Restaurants in San Juan
- Restaurants in Vieques
- Cheap food kiosks abound in Puerto Rico, selling all kinds of fritters and bite-sized snacks. A visit to the ones in Piñones and Luquillo should not be missed.
- Panaderías, which are Puerto Rican bakeries, offer a lot more than your neighborhood bakery and are a great place to grab a cheap lunch and mingle with the locals.
What to See and Do
You'll be happy to know there are plenty of freebies for tourists in Puerto Rico. Some restaurants will be happy to offer a free sample of their house drink; many events in and around San Juan are free of charge, and there are enough festivals around the island to keep you entertained all year long.
- Free activities in San Juan
- Cheap day trips from San Juan
- Of course, one could argue that Puerto Rico's best attraction, its beaches, are the most obvious free activity around. Even the public beaches, or balnearios, that charge for parking and use, only ask for a nominal fee.