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 up 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 of them 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. For this reason, budget travelers often prefer Airbnbs vs hotels. You can also find VRBOs, hostels, or Paradores, which are small local hotels with a Caribbean vibe.
Eat Where The Locals Eat
If you want to enjoy local cuisine without draining your pocket, then eat where the locals do. Such as at 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 going long distances in Puerto Rico taxis can be 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. As I mention in my guide to Puerto Rico car rentals, Discover Cars is 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!
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 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. If that’s you, check out our guide to the best Puerto Rico tours to find one that works for you.
But, if you’re on a budget in Puerto Rico, taking tours can quickly consume your budget. And many places visited by tours are free or cheap anyway. It’s a bit more work, but 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.
Traveling with your family? Be sure to read my guide to planning a Puerto Rico family vacation.
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 specifically looking for free and cheap stuff to do:
Walk Old San Juan
📍 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 or the history.
Sunbathe on Puerto Rico’s Beaches
Most visitors could spend all of their trip bumming on beaches. 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
📍 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 is located just an hour away from San Juan. It’s the only one of its kind in the US National Forest System and is home to great waterfalls and exciting hikes for outdoor lovers.
See my guide to visiting El Yunque for practical tips and info. Importantly, note that you have to make a reservation to visit here.
For more hiking options around the island, be sure to see my list of the top Puerto Rico hikes.
Swim in the Waterfalls
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
If you’re into history and architecture, then 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
Puerto Rico is home to hundreds of breathtaking caves. While some have 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. Check out my full list of the top Puerto Rico caves for more.
👉 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
👉 Best Area For Sightseeing | ✨ Best Budget Hotel: Casa Blanca Hotel
San Juan’s big hotels can be expensive, but because they’re centrally located, you won’t need to rent a car to move around. Most attractions in this area are cheap or free, so you end up saving more.
👉 Best Area For Cheap Stays | ✨ Best Budget Hotel: Nomada Urban Beach Hostel • The 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. Here, 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.
👉 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 is 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. Check out my guide to the top things to do in Cabo Rojo for more.
👉 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.
👉 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, then 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.
Puerto Rican Traditional
📍 Map It: Piñones | Price Range: ($-$$)
Piñones is a food paradise close to San Juan. You’ll find dozens of food kiosks along the coast road. Although their appearance might not be the best and you won’t have any AC, you can eat authentic Puerto Rican dishes for a few bucks.
Puerto Rican Traditional
📍 Map It: Km 111.7, Isabela 00662 | Price Range: ($-$$$)
If you want to enjoy a well-stuffed mofongo for less than $10, you need to eat at By Cheff’s in Isabela. Besides the traditional mofongo, you can enjoy other local delicacies.
Puerto Rican & Caribbean
📍 Map It: 200 C. del Sol, San Juan, 00901 | Price Range: ($-$$)
If you’re looking for a quick and cheap lunch before continuing to explore the capital city, make sure to visit Deaverdura in San Juan. It’s local cuisine in a casual environment.
📍 Map It: Puerto Rico 184 km 33.2 Bo, Cidra 00739 | Price Range: ($-$$)
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 $10.
Puerto Rican, Mexican
📍 Map It: Calle C, Ponce, 00716 | Price Range: ($-$$)
If you’re visiting the south coast and you’re hungry, stop at La Guancha in Ponce, where you’ll find a variety of dishes and tropical Puerto Rican drinks.
👉 Short Trip to Puerto Rico? Just follow my Puerto Rico in a weekend planner!
Puerto Rican, Mexican, Seafood
📍 Map It: Luquillo 00773 | Price Range: ($-$$)
If you’re on a day trip through the north and east coast, then 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.
What is the cheapest way to get around Puerto Rico?
The most affordable way of getting around Puerto Rico is via public transportation, although for most tourists this method is only convenient within the San Juan metropolitan area. Rental cars are more convenient and can be found for affordable prices if you book ahead through Discover Cars.
🏝️ Read Next: How to Do the US Virgin Islands on the Cheap
Thanks for reading my guide to Puerto Rico on a budget! 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!
I hope I’ve helped you figure out how to do Puerto Rico on a budget.
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Love your tips
Do you have tips for moving to P.R.
I’m ready to move to Puerto Rico this month…..I’m excited and nervous
I’m going in July. Bought a one way ticket for San Juan. I’m tired of paying so much $$ for rent on the mainland. I can’t increase my income so lm will lower my standard of living.
I am concerned about power blackouts and thieves after dark.
Hi, I am going to Puerto Rico with mis amigos, in the spring. any tips on how we can ball out on a budget? thanks! 🙂