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Backpacking Puerto Rico: A Guide

Milton Keynes...
Level Contributor
115 posts
42 reviews
Backpacking Puerto Rico: A Guide

There have been many people asking about cheap accommodation and trying to do things on a budget in Puerto Rico and there really isn’t a lot of easily accessible information. In this post I will try to give advice on how best to spend 2 weeks (obviously you could do shorter) on this fantastic island. A friend and I have just got back from a 2 week backpacker trip and had a brilliant time, spending approx $1200 each. I must stress that I think that it can be done for cheaper; we ate out approx 1-2 meals a day and went to see Shakira, so the price could be cut by approx $150-200. Below is a summary of our route so you can skip to the part in which you are interested in.

San Juan

Vieques

Naguabo (El Yunque)

Ponce

Mayagüez (Boqueron)

Rincon (Isabela,

San Juan (Rio Camuy Caves, Arecibo, Barceloneta on way back to San Juan)

San Juan (3 nights)

Stayed at Posada San Franciso (Bookable on www.hostelworld.com)

Excellent $30 per person on offer (stayed in a double room), shared bathrooms. Very clean, very friendly staff, great central location in Old San Juan, 2 mins walk from bus station.

Cheapest way get B40 bus from Airport to Isla Verde (approx 5 min journey) then bus from same stop on T5 to Old San Juan (not A5 as the sign says!). Cost 0.75 each journey, worst part is waiting for buses, as much as 40 mins per bus.

Everything else the Lonely Planet Guide can tell you much better than I!

Vieques (3 nights)

Stayed at Bananas in Esperanza (www.bananasguesthouse.com)

$70 plus tax for two double beds, lots of mosquitos, take deet and use lots of it. Great location, friendly staff, clean room. Would have preferred a bit cheaper, but seemed to be best we could get.

If you are already in San Juan (as we were), most convenient (cheapest way to fly) way to get there is on Vieques Air Link (http://viequesairlink.com) from Isla Grande Airport (from Old San Juan bus C53 to Convention Centre is 5 min walk or Bus M3 to just over the water strip and 10 min walk), total journey (after waiting for bus!) no more than half an hour to the airport, flight time is approx 20 mins. Cost $65 each way, such an amazing journey in a plane that fits no more than 10 people. 30 pounds of luggage weight max each.

We did Bio Bay tour with Abe’s (www.abessnorkeling.com/bio_bay_tour.shtml) $30 for tour, was well worth it, included pick up and drop off, kayak’s + tour guide.

Hired bikes to see the island from Gary at Vieques Adventures (http://viequesadventures.com/) for $25 per bike per day. We only had them for one day, well worth it. Gary said he only normally rented for 2 days at a time. Saw so much of the island without hiring a car, is very hilly though and you need to be good at map reading!

Naguabo (1 night, wish had been more)

Stayed at Bahia del Paraiso Hostel (http://www.bahiadelparaiso.hostel.com, also on www.hostelworld.com)

$25 each person in dorm room, double available for $60 I believe.

Cannot recommend enough! Is on South side of El Yunque, amazing views, cheap food and drink nearby very easy access (with a car) to the rain forest. Owners of hostel are great, gave great advice on going to a waterfall (‘El Hippie’) on South Side of El Yunque which allowed us to swim in a waterfall plunge pool.

Ponce (0 nights)

Didn’t actually stay, spent the day there, woudn’t say there was that much to do, but I’m not a museum person.

Drove onto Lighthouse at Cabo Rojo which is awesome, next to insane beach, really need a 4x4, but if you are fit you can leave your car when the road gets too rough and walk for approx 15 minutes. Someone else with a similar car to ours was seen holding their bumper in the car park!!

Mayagüez (1 night)

Stayed at the Hotel Colonial (http://www.hotelcolonial.com/)

$70 for a double room, acceptable place, safe free parking near to great bakery

Rincon (3 nights)

Stayed at Rincon Inn (http://www.rinconinn.com and www.hostelworld.com)

$60 (inc tax) for double room, cheap and cheerful (can get dorm for $25 per person). Others have given bad reviews, but at that price have nothing bad to say. Free wifi near the office, lots of parking, mini golf course, fridge in room, much recommended.

Good beaches, not a surfer so can’t offer any great recommendations. Beach at Isabella in the north took about 45 minutes to get to and was really nice and seemed better surf.

San Juan (2 nights)

Back in San Juan stayed at San Juan International Hostel (hostelspuertorico.com and bookable on www.hostelworld.com)

$24 per person in a dorm of four, believe cheaper if bigger dorm.

Best night out we had on Puerto Rico. Friendly owner and staff, good mix of international people, really good fun. Recommend at least one night here (if you are youngish) for fun factor. Not in Old Town, not necessarily bad thing as on way to the airport, close to beaches.

On route back to San Juan went to caves at Rio Camuy which are awesome, but pretty expensive. Arecibo observatory was huge and worth a trip, only stayed half an hour though. Beach at Barceloneta was amazing, well worth a trip on the way back to San Juan. To get there go off PR-22 at Manati PR-149, right onto PR-2, then right again onto PR-604, end of the road take a right, then 2nd left onto PR 684, is a car park there, poorly signposted though.

I realise this isn't the most well written travel guide ever, but happy to answer questions!

San Juan
Level Contributor
4,471 posts
13 reviews
1. Re: Backpacking Puerto Rico: A Guide

Your post is awesome. Wish other backpackers add to your great experience. Thanks!

Atlanta, Georgia
Level Contributor
1,850 posts
25 reviews
2. Re: Backpacking Puerto Rico: A Guide

This is a great post. This should be posted on the top ten questions for budget travelers. Did you forgot Culebra?

Level Contributor
429 posts
7 reviews
3. Re: Backpacking Puerto Rico: A Guide

Hmmm just saw this past while getting ready to write more my trip report. Sounds like we were pretty much on the same trip at the same time except we did culebra instead of vieques and mostly camped...although we too stayed at the naguabo hostel. Yiu are right, getting info for our trip was hard so I'm glass you are pouring it out there too!

Milton Keynes...
Level Contributor
115 posts
42 reviews
4. Re: Backpacking Puerto Rico: A Guide

Thanks for the praise, we didn't "forget Culebra". Sadly, Puerto Rico has really poor public transport (outside of San Juan) so we had to chose between Vieques and Culebra. We could have gone (very easy to get to the ferry terminal from the hostel in Naguabo), but the beaches on Vieques were stunning too so didn't really feel the need to.

Amazingly, there is no direct ferry from Vieques to Culebra (I did even go to the terminal on Vieques to ask), so would have been more hassle than we thought it was worth.

Milton Keynes...
Level Contributor
115 posts
42 reviews
5. Re: Backpacking Puerto Rico: A Guide

Fair play on Camping Amanda, think people would definitely appreciate advice on where you camped. I was coming from the UK so didn't have enough baggage allowance to bring a tent, plus it was the rainy season so don't think my travel mate would have been best pleased!

Best thing about hostels is the ability to cook own meals, really saves a lot of cash.

Atlanta, Georgia
Level Contributor
1,850 posts
25 reviews
6. Re: Backpacking Puerto Rico: A Guide

I wished PRTC and ATM read rvp2 post regarding transportation, particularly Vieques and Culebra. I have no clue why these agencies are clueless that there is an urgency to normalized this service. All I heard is talk and new maintenance plans, but no improvement. BTW, how did you learn about Puerto Rico? Any travel adds about Puerto Rico in the UK? Hope you had a safe trip back to T5 and viva Manchester United.

danvers
Level Contributor
634 posts
35 reviews
7. Re: Backpacking Puerto Rico: A Guide

hi we're headed over for christmas -- i just started our "guide" that's cut and pasted from yours for ideas thanks!

Milton Keynes...
Level Contributor
115 posts
42 reviews
8. Re: Backpacking Puerto Rico: A Guide

Hi Boricua-one, it is a mystery why PRTC and ATM don't do more, particuarly regarding Culebra and Vieques. I would love to have done the whole trip on public transport, but it really wouldn't have been practical.

How do you mean "how did I learn about PR"? We got the idea as my mate who I was travelling was is American so can get to PR easily and cheaply, coming from London we can get to anywhere for about $1000, which although isn't cheap, is doable.

We have a direct flight (via Antigu, but you don't get off the plane) on British Aiways, not joking only 10 people were on our flight between San Juan and Antigua then the whole plan fills up!!

Best advice I can give anyone travelling to PR is to do good research (online and latest Lonely Planet) and be patient, lots of things in PR run a lot slower than most people in the developed world are used to, just stay calm, relaxed and enjoy yourselves.

You're welcome Danver8, feel free to ask any questions.

Flew back to Gatwick, not Heathrow and I'm an Arsenal supporter!

Puerto Rico
Destination Expert
for San Juan
Level Contributor
4,758 posts
23 reviews
9. Re: Backpacking Puerto Rico: A Guide

Great info, thanks. For Mosquitos I use Lavender oil, just a few drops in hand and rub around arme ^ legs. Also taking vitamin B complex helps

Atlanta, Georgia
Level Contributor
1,850 posts
25 reviews
10. Re: Backpacking Puerto Rico: A Guide

rvp2,

Most visitors come from the states, most Europeans travel either Cuba, or Dominican Republic which tells me or gives the impression that Puerto Rico is little known there as vacation spot. I noticed in the UK and France that they do have direct flights to DR. I was curious about it because I spent a night in London, and meet some Britts in South Africa and Middle East. Most knows about Puerto Rico in general but not as a vacation spot.

I saw few post about Bananas having some Mosquitos. Hope they do some spray.

The flight you mentioned is maybe about a year old. Like BA, free wine and beer :)

Thanks for the advise.