The author sitting on a boulder stone near the beach

Puerto Rico on a Budget | How to Stay, Eat, and Travel Cheaply

If concerns about money are stopping you from visiting Puerto Rico, then after reading this post, you’ll be booking your next trip to this Caribbean paradise. 

It’s true that Puerto Rico is not as cheap as other destinations in Latin America but, after growing on the island, I can confidently say you can enjoy a great vacation for less than what you’ve spent shopping online this year. 

You just have to know how to do Puerto Rico on a budget – and I’m going to give you the best budget travel tips to make it happen.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

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6 Tips to Do Puerto Rico on a Budget

I have an entire article laying out dozens of my best tips for Puerto Rico, but here are 6 ones that will specifically help you to do Puerto Rico on a budget:

Stay in an Apartment Rental

Most hotels in Puerto Rico cost over $150 per night. If you’re on a budget, instead of looking for a Puerto Rico hotel, try searching for Airbnb’s, VRBOs, hostels, or Paradores, which are small local hotels with a Caribbean vibe.

Eat Where The Locals Eat 

The author with fruits around her in Puerto Rico's Market

If you still want to enjoy local cuisine, without draining your pocket, eat in places where the locals eat like chinchorros, small food kiosks, Chicken BBQs, and local bakeries. We’ll cover some of my cheap local eats later in this post.

Rent a Car

Renting a car might sound like a crazy tip to keep a budget, but long distances in taxis in Puerto Rico are pricey, and public transportation isn’t great. Getting your own car rental is cheaper than paying for tours or shuttles, and driving a car in Puerto Rico is super easy if you’re accustomed to driving in the USA.

To find the best price on a rental, use a search engine like Discover Cars. They are great because they let you compare prices and agency reviews on one page.

Make Your Own Food 

If you’re staying in Puerto Rico for a longer time, try to book a place with a kitchen, so you can prepare some of your meals and snacks. You’ll find everything you need in local groceries, from bread to pasta.

Walk as Much as you Can 

Few cities in Puerto Rico are walkable, but Old San Juan is one of them. If you’re staying within Old San Juan, you can save a lot by walking the city instead of taking taxis. Alternatively, you can try renting scooters too! 

Travel Off-Season 

View of a beach in Puerto Rico and a palm tree by the beach
Puerto Rico beaches are still great on the low season

While winter and spring are the driest seasons to visit Puerto Rico, they aren’t the cheapest ones. You can find flights for as low as $60 round trip during the fall because of the hurricane season on the island. 

👉 Pro Tip: Use Google Flights in to check prices for airfares, and wait from 6 to 1 month before your trip to find cheaper flights.

Drop the Tours 

I get that many people feel safer with a tour guide, and that’s great if you have the cash to splash. But, in Puerto Rico, taking tours for completely free places can consume your budget. You can save by researching and mapping your own routes.

👉 Read Next: Top Places to See in Puerto Rico

Travel with Someone 

You can double the fun, and lower your trip costs if you plan to share your Puerto Rico itinerary with a friend. Traveling with a friend, or a group of people means you can save by sharing hotel and transportation expenses.

6 Cheap & Free Things to Do in Puerto Rico

I’ve got a full guide to nearly 50 fun things to do around Puerto Rico, but here are 6 of my favorite activities if you’re looking specifically for free and cheap stuff to do:

Walk Old San Juan

The author in Old San Juan and a fountain with statue on her background

📍 Map It: San Juan, 00926 

Exploring Old San Juan cobblestone streets and historical San Juan landmarks like El Morro, San Juan’s Gate, Paseo de la Princesa, and Castillo San Cristóbal is one of the cheapest things to do in the country, without sacrificing the culture nor the history.

Sunbath on Puerto Rico’s Beaches

View of a man walking by the beach with a dog beside him

Most visitors could spend all of their trip beach bumming. You can access Puerto Rico’s beautiful beaches for free, or for a little low parking fare for the entire day. You will find beaches close to you if you’re staying anywhere on the coast, and you can even bring your snacks to avoid additional expenses.

Hike the Only Tropical Rainforest in the US

Aerial view of Yokahu Tower in El Yunque forest

📍 Map It: PR-9938, Río Grande, 00745  | Phone: (787) 888-1880 | Website | Hours: 8 am – 3 pm daily | Entrance: $2.00 per ticket for vehicle

El Yunque Tropical Rainforest located an hour away from San Juan, is the only one of its kind in the US National Forest System and it’s home to great waterfalls and exciting hikes for outdoor lovers. Due to the pandemic, you have to make a reservation to visit here

Swim in the Waterfalls

View of people admiring the waterfalls in El Yunque

If you dislike sand, then head over to one of the many waterfalls Puerto Rico offers. You will find La Coca and La Mina Falls in El Yunque, but Fajardo, Arecibo, San Sebastian, Utuado, and Orocovis sport beautiful waterfalls you can visit for free.

Soak in the Historical Plazas

View of the historical church in Plaza de Aguada at night
Admire Aguada’s main plaza

If you’re into history and architecture, tour through the multiple plazas of Puerto Rico. Plazas in Puerto Rico were the original town centers, so they usually sport a historical church with amazing architecture. You will find great plazas in almost every city on the island.

Explore Puerto Rico’s Caves

The author inside a cave in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is home to hundreds of breath-taking caves. While some sport an entrance fee, like Cueva Ventana and the Camuy Caverns, you can visit others for free, like Cueva del Viento, Cueva del Indio, and Cueva de las Golondrinas.

👉 Looking for more stuff to do in Puerto Rico? Read my complete guide to the top activities you can do visiting the island.

Where to Stay in Puerto Rico on a Budget

The place you stay in Puerto Rico will probably be the most expensive budgeting item during your visit. You can lower your expenses by traveling off-season, staying in hostels, or staying off the main tourist area. Here are some tips budget tips for choosing where to stay:

Old San Juan

The view of Puerto Rico Tourism Company from the outside at night

👉 Best Area For Sightseeing | ✨ Best Budget Hotel: Casa Blanca Hotel

San Juan’s big hotels can be expensive, but you’re centrally located, and you don’t need to rent a car to move around. Most attractions are cheap or free, so you end up saving more.

Ocean Park

Aerial view of a residential area near Ocean Park

👉 Best Area For Cheap Stays | ✨ Best Budget Hotel: Nomada Urban Beach HostelThe Dreamcatcher

If Old San Juan’s hotels are still too expensive for you, but you don’t want to stay off the beaten path, stay in Ocean Park’s area, where you’ll find cheap hotels, and hostels close to the beach. From this area, you can reach the ferry port to Vieques and Culebra in less than an hour and a half.

Cabo Rojo

View of the Joyuda Beach and a colorful sky during sunset

👉 Best Area For Beaches & Surfing | ✨ Best Budget Hotel: Mi Tierra

Cabo Rojo is only a few hours away from San Juan on the west coast, and it’s a top destination for beach lovers and surfers. Cabo Rojo is also close to other attractions like La Parguera, one of Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent bays.

👉 Local Tip: If you’re staying outside the tourist zone of San Juan, learn some basic Spanish, since not everyone on the island speaks English.

Ponce

View of a Catholic Church from the outside in Ponce

👉 Best Area For History Lovers | ✨ Best Budget Hotel: Bélgica Boutique Hotel

Ponce is another great destination in Puerto Rico for sightseeing and experiencing the local culture. Ponce is home to multiple attractions, and its location is ideal to stop at the bioluminescent bay in La Parguera, or the beach in Isla Caja de Muertos.

👉 Keep Reading: Don’t miss my full guide to the best areas to stay in Puerto Rico.

Cheap Eats in Puerto Rico

If you’re tight on your food budget, you can eat cheap in Puerto Rico as long as you aren’t picky about appearances. You’ll find the best food deals on small food kiosks, panaderias, and restaurants outside the tourist zones, but you might need to use your basic Spanish skills to order.

Piñones

Puerto Rican Traditional

View of foods on a plate in Puerto Rico

📍 Map It: Piñones | Price Range: ($-$$)

Piñones is a food paradise close to San Juan. You’ll find dozens of food kiosks along the coast road. Although their appearance might not be the best and you won’t have any AC, you can eat true Puerto Rican food for a few bucks.

By Cheff’s

Puerto Rican Traditional

View of the By Cheff's sign in Isabela

📍 Map It: Km 111.7, Isabela 00662 | Price Range: ($-$$$)

If you want to enjoy a well-stuffed mofongo for less than $10, you need to eat at By Cheff’s in Isabela. Besides the traditional mofongo, you can enjoy other local delicacies.

Deaverdura

Puerto Rican & Caribbean

View of a meat and a mashed potato with a Puerto Rico flag on a plate

📍 Map It: 200 C. del Sol, San Juan, 00901 | Price Range: ($-$$)

If you’re looking for a quick and cheap lunch before continuing exploring the capital city, make sure to visit Deaverdura in San Juan, and enjoy local cuisine in a casual environment.

Guavate

Puerto Rican

View of roasted pig getting cook

📍 Map It: Puerto Rico 184 km 33.2 Bo, Cidra 00739 | Price Range: ($-$$)

If you want to try the traditional lechón then head over to the restaurants in Guavate, a neighborhood of Cayey. Guavate is famous for its restaurants, called lechoneras, and you can enjoy a good meal for less than $10.

La Guancha

Puerto Rican, Mexican

View of a palm tree on Boardwalk at Ponce

📍 Map It: Calle C, Ponce, 00716 | Price Range: ($-$$)

If you’re visiting the south coast and you’re hungry, stop at La Guancha in Ponce, where you’ll find a variety of dishes and tropical drinks.

Luquillo Kiosks

Puerto Rican, Mexican, Seafood

View of different kind of seafoods in Luquillo Kiosks

📍 Map It: Luquillo 00773 | Price Range: ($-$$)

If you’re on a day trip through the north and east coast, make a stop in the Luquillo Kiosks to eat a snack and later take a deep in Luquillo Beach, one of Puerto Rico’s top beaches.

FAQs About Visiting Puerto Rico on a Budget

How much should I budget for a trip to Puerto Rico?

A week’s expenses in Puerto Rico for two people can range between $1,200 and $2,300. Visitors should always budget $200 or $300 more in case of any emergency.

Is Puerto Rico cheap to visit?

Puerto Rico isn’t a cheap destination in comparison with other Caribbean islands, but solo travelers can spend a week in San Juan for $700, and couples for $1,200. Budget travelers can save even more by cooking their meals or traveling in the low season.

How can I go to Puerto Rico on a budget?

Visitors who want to visit Puerto Rico on a budget should travel during the fall and stay on parador, hostel, or Airbnb. Travelers can also save on their travel budget by cooking their meals and visiting completely free attractions on the island. 

How much money do I need per day in Puerto Rico?

Overall, budget travelers will need an average of $80 per day in Puerto Rico if they get good deals on hotels and car rentals, and eat at budget-friendly places.

***

There you have it! Now you know all the tips to travel to Puerto Rico while saving money! 

👉 Before you go, make sure to check out my guide to the top activities you can do on the island!

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