With its lush beaches, historic cities and party vibe, Puerto Rico is emerging as among the top island escapes in the Caribbean. However, when compared with neighboring islands such as the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Cuba, traveling here can be expensive.
With the possible lack of reliable public transport, rising living costs, an 11.5% tax rate on all goods and services, an over-all lack of hotels offering all-inclusive packages, and also the island's political relationship using the Usa, a visit to Puerto Rico could be a high-priced affair.
But don't despair. There are many pocket-friendly methods to experience the better of exactly what the island has to offer. From feasting on great food to relaxing on crystal clear beaches and strolling through historic city streets, here's how you can visit Puerto Rico on a budget.
Visit throughout the off-season to keep a lid on costs
Traveling throughout the off-season is essential for a budget visit to any Caribbean destination, and this is particularly true in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is the land of eternal summer, with daytime temperatures which range from 70oF to 80oF year-round on the coast, so there's never really a bad time to visit.
The peak tourist season is between December and April, coinciding with the cold winter season within the Northern hemisphere. Tourist numbers drop sometimes – to prevent crowds, overbooked tours and spikes in hotel prices, come between May and July or from September to early December.
Keep in your mind that visiting Puerto Rico within the off-season means coming in hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30. Direct strikes are infrequent but it pays to take out good travel insurance and keep track of the elements forecast.
Hunt down cheap accommodations to reduce your costs
Traveling during the offseason will also bring on the price of accommodations – likely to be your biggest expense in Puerto Rico. Room rates at three/four-star hotels can soar up to the high 100's of dollars every night throughout the peak holiday months, but the same room might opt for as little as US$120 -280 every night during the off-season.
Hotels outside the San Juan municipality go for around US$180, so staying away from the capital is yet another method for saving. Another good method to shrink accommodation costs would be to look out for paradores – smaller, independently owned hotels and guest houses, which are mostly found away from San Juan metropolitan area. Seek out family-run paradores in the mountains of Adjuntas or around the beautiful beaches from the Southwest Coast, between Rincón and Ponce.
If you're seeking to save money by cooking your own meals, sites for example Airbnb, JoinaJoin and Vrbo are great places to locate affordable apartments. Hostels continue to be quite new in Puerto Rico and largely based in the Santurce and Old San Juan areas, but they're a somewhat cheap option. A bed in a six-person dorm-style room at Conturce Boutique Hostel on Calle Loíza – a significant entertainment hub – costs around US$73 per night.
Rent an automobile for affordable day trips
The cheapest option for exploring the island beyond San Juan would be to rent an automobile. Public transit is almost nonexistent when you leave the metropolitan area, and tours and excursions are expensive. With respect to the season, you can rent an automobile from US$24 per day or US$239 each week, and the cost of gasoline floats between 97 cents and US$1 per liter.
While renting a car isn't exactly cheap, it'll allow you to see a lot of island and move about at the own pace, without having to pay out for organized trips. Considering Puerto Rico's size, you ought to be in a position to reach the majority of the island (including more off-the-beaten-path places) in under two hours.
As an alternative, you can get around using rideshares hailed via the Uber app, or official metered taxis registered using the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, though the costs can soon increase.
Take advantage of low-cost days in the beach
In Puerto Rico, beaches are thought public land, meaning days at the beach will always be free, if you exclude parking and snacks. In built-up areas such as San Juan, Carolina and Condado, the beachfront may be obscured by hotels or apartments, but locals points you to definitely the general public entrance should you ask.
Free comes at a cost. While there's no entrance fee to make use of the sands, you won't find beach chairs and umbrella rentals, restrooms or lifeguards. For better facilities, look for the beaches referred to as balnearios – Boquerón in Cabo Rojo and 7 Seas in Fajardo are a couple of of the greatest. These popular beach areas are designated as state parks and have parking facilities, restrooms and picnic tables. Parking fees range from US$3 to US$5, and there's no time limit for your stay.
Local tip for cheap beach days: Puerto Ricans are pros with regards to beach trips, and you will likely see whole families loaded up with coolers and picnic food ready for a trip to the beach. Follow their lead and stop by a local supermarket to maintain stocks of food and beverages before striking the sand.
Shop for fresh produce at local markets
Farmers' markets are an excellent place to glimpse Puerto Rican culture and pick up some cheap eats into the bargain. The island's markets sell the freshest local vegetables and fruit in season and offer an opportunity to chat with farmers from all over the area.
Generally, produce cost less at markets than at supermarkets, and you will be supporting the local economy. La Placita de Santurce and the Placita Roosevelt in San Juan are the two most famous outdoor markets, and both are full of vendors. Go at the start of the morning and shop alongside chefs from nearby restaurants who're picking up fresh fish and produce for their nightly menus.
Markets also offer an opportunity to grab a cheap lunch. Santurce's La Placita hosts numerous stalls selling traditional meals, for example arroz con habichuelas (rice and beans), roast pork, tostones (fried green plantains), carne frita (fried pork chunks), alcapurrias (fritters stuffed with meat) along with other fried goodies.
Eat at food trucks for cheap, portable feasts
While beachside food stalls happen to be a fixture in Puerto Rico for centuries, the past decade has witnessed a string of chefs and restaurant owners shifting their kitchens onto food trucks, bringing restaurant-quality food towards the streets.
On any given night, you are able to enjoy both local and international dishes in the Miramar Food Truck Park located near to Condado in San Juan. This is not the only park available in San Juan, but it's the most cost effective and it has a rotating choice of foods and artisanal beers that won't hurt your wallet.
You'll also find food trucks parked of all street corners across the Miramar-Condado-Old San Juan corridor and the rest of the metropolitan area at mealtimes. Beach areas such as the Isla Verde portion of Carolina will also be teeming with affordable food options.
Find inexpensive eats in the island's bakeries
Alongside the ubiquitous food trucks and beach kiosks, Puerto Rico's best-kept foodie secret is its collection of panaderías. Equal parts bakery and eatery, these low-cost snack stops offer plates of traditional foods such as rice and beans and carne guisada (beef stew) for as little as US$10.
Track down bargain glasses of Puerto Rican coffee
Puerto Rican coffee is really good that it has become the favorite brew of the Vatican and royal courts across Europe. Skip the big coffeehouse chains and savor Puerto Rican beans at mom and pop stores and independent coffee shops through the country.
To enjoy superior coffee in an agreeable price, visit Old San Juan. Consider using a cup from Café Cuatro Sombras in Old San Juan – a charming coffeehouse with its own roastery – or Caficultura, a captivating coffee shop with lovely high ceilings along with a tasty food menu.
Take an excursion to Vieques and Culebra
Vieques and Culebra are two island municipalities from the coast of Puerto Rico and both are wonderful spots for travelers searching for pristine, uncrowded beaches and also the tranquility of small-town life, in addition to affordable prices.
These languorous islands are blessed with enviable natural resources, from volcanic beaches to wildlife reserves, ornamented with a bewildering assortment of bunkers and wartime artifacts left behind after the US Navy vacated the islands. If you're able to, spend some time exploring the islands, and remain for several days in a local guesthouse.
However, should you would like to spend the day at the many beaches there, the most frugal option is a day trip. Ferries make daily journeys to every island from Fajardo and Ceiba. The boat visit to Culebra usually takes around an hour and charges just US$4.50 for a round-trip ticket.
You'll spend the money for same fare to achieve Vieques, and you may be prepared to be on the water for 30 -45 minutes. For an additional US$1 fee, passengers can take coolers with food and snacks aboard. Kiosks and eateries around the beaches of Culebra and Vieques are scarce, so bring lots of water and ice for the day.
Find free fun under the sun in Puerto Rico
Skip the big clubs for cheaper nights out
Dancing in Puerto Rico is one thing that happens anywhere and everywhere – you'd be hard-pressed to locate any nightlife spot that doesn't feature some kind of party area and loud music. To save on drinks prices, entry fees and parking, skip the big, glitzy nightclubs and head over to more lowkey hangouts for example chinchorros (food kiosks), neighborhood bars and outdoors drinking hangouts (Santurce's La Placita is a superb place for a meal and a few drinks).
By drinking where locals drink, you'll reach experience nightlife just like a Puerto Rican, and enjoy low prices on beer and drinks along with a more enjoyable dress code – well suited for a post-beach beverage on the way to your accommodation.
Daily costs in Puerto Rico:
- Hostel room: US$50 -75
- Basic room for two: US$120 -280
- Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): US$60 -180
- Local bus ticket: US$0.75
- Urban train ticket: US$1.50
- Cup of Puerto Rican coffee: US$3 -5
- A lunchtime sandwich: US$7
- Restaurant dinner for two: from US$40
- A beer inside a local bar: US$5