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 (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)
$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)
$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!