Budget-Friendly Guide to Puerto Rico
If you think a tropical getaway is beyond your budget, think again! A Puerto Rico vacation can cost anywhere from an average of $174 to $250 per day – and sometimes less depending on the time of year you visit. That average includes a round-trip flight from a major U.S. city, daily meals, local transportation and hotel accommodations.
A Puerto Rico vacation is also the perfect way to experience the Caribbean without the challenges of international travel. Americans don’t need a passport, English is widely spoken and you don’t need to change currency. Did we mention that it’s super easy to get there with many airlines offering daily straight flights to San Juan from major hub cities?
Planning your visit
Snag the best flight deals by visiting from major U.S. airlines during the off-peak season (May-Nov). Right now, you can fly coach for less than $200 from Chicago, Miami, Newark, Raleigh, Dallas, Atlanta and Philadelphia. Another perk to an off-peak season visit? Fewer crowds.
Where to stay
Inexpensive accommodations on the island are plentiful for those visiting Puerto Rico on a budget. There are more than 10,000 Airbnb listings on the island for every travel style, budget, and region you wish to visit. You can overnight it for as little as $36 a day. Plus, if your Airbnb comes with a full kitchen, you can save even more by making some of your own meals.
Consider a stay at a paradores. These small, often family-owned hotels range in size from 7 to 75 rooms. You can book a room for as little as $50 a night. Also, many offer free breakfast or other meals. This perk will save you money and provide a wonderful chance to connect with locals and savor authentic Puerto Rican cuisine.
Love the outdoors? Try camping or glamping in Puerto Rico. Rio Blanco Campground overlooks the El Yunque Mountains. Amenities include bathrooms, showers, gazebos, a campfire area, tables and even hammocks. It’s just $10 per person to camp here.
If you spend time in Old San Juan, take advantage of the trolley system. It runs daily and is totally free. You can hop on and off at various stops including El Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal, City Hall, the Capitol Building, Bahia Urbana and others. The island’s metropolitan bus authority is a good bet too. The main bus terminal is located just across from Cruise Ship Pier 4, the pier owned and managed by Carnival Cruise Lines.
Things to do
Old San Juan
Take a self-guided historical walking tour of Old San Juan. You get a two-for-one deal at San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal. Your $7 (per person) pass gets you into both sites and is good for 24 hours if you want to visit one later. Both sites are part of the National Parks System too. If you already have a national parks pass, they’re free!
Other historical landmarks and points of interest that are free include Paseo de la Princesa, Catedral Basílica Menor de San Juan Bautista, Casa Blanca Museum and Parque de Palomas (a must if you have kids in tow).
There’s also no cost to peruse Old San Juan’s many art galleries and local shops. Since you’re saving money with the tips here, you can treat yourself to a lovely locally-made souvenir, right?
Puerto Rico is called “The Island of Enchantment” for good reason. It boasts 434 km (270 miles) of spectacular stretches of sand. Most of the 300 beaches found in Puerto Rico are public too. Some are convenient to local food vendors, offering a cheap and yummy way to refuel. Not sure which beaches to visit? Check out our article “10 Best Beaches in Puerto Rico” for inspiration.
The El Yunque National Forest is usually free to enter. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the park service regulates the number of park visitors each day. You can reserve your time slot online (for a $2 fee) up to a month in advance. They also release a number of tickets 24 hours in advance, but they disappear quickly. Reserve your ticket at Recreation.gov.
“Visiting El Yunque solo requires you to secure your own transportation. If you aren’t already renting a car for the rest of your time on the island, it might be more cost-effective to book a guided group tour.”
Where to eat
Beyond fixing your own food or taking advantage of your accommodations’ included meals, there are other ways to stay within your budget on eats in Puerto Rico.
Food vendors all over the island serve up cheap and tasty local favorites—alcapurrias (a fritter dish), empanadillas (fried turnover), tostones (fried plantain slices) and much more. Additionally, visitors can find great prices at many restaurants.
Here are some we highly recommend.
Hours: Mon–Thurs, 11:30am–4pm; Fri and Sat, 11:30am–9pm; Sun, 11:30am–5pm
Price: Average entrée, $12.95
A meal here is like eating at your grandma or abuela’s house. It’s tucked within the San Juan neighborhood Santurce’s residential enclave. Frequented by local families, it’s been open for 30 years.
Hours: Daily, 7am–10pm
Price: Average entrée, $9.95
This bakery/deli buzzes with locals too. The menu features pastries, overstuffed sandwiches and other diner delights. President Barack Obama dined here during his visit to Puerto Rico in 2011, so you know it’s that good.
Hours: Mon–Wed, 11am–7pm; Thurs, 11am–10pm; Fri, 11am–10:30pm; Sat, 11am–8pm; Sun, 11am–7:30pm
Price: Average entrée, $7.99
A restaurant that began 10 years ago as a food truck now has seven locations throughout Puerto Rico. Enjoy tacos, quesadillas, burritos and killer margaritas.
With these money-saving ideas, it’s easy to explore Puerto Rico on a budget.
“In order to save money on food, you can also buy ‘Pan De Agua’ at a local supermarket with some ham and cheese and create a picnic basket to have a picnic at El Morro. Entrance to the forts is free on Saturdays, I believe.”
– Local foodie, Gigí Nieves Bosch