Last year I spent my spring break in London, England. I had an amazing time but let’s just say I wasn’t drinking mojitos in my bikini at any point during the trip. Well this year I did a 180° turn and planned a fun-filled, sun-filled week in Puerto Rico!

My friend Hannah and I spent 6 days and 5 nights in an AirBnB in Old San Juan and had an amazing time—and as college kids you know we had to finesse it all on a tight budget. I’m sharing with you our itinerary and a exactly how much it cost to visit Puerto Rico, in hopes that you too will find San Juan the perfect balance of piña coladas and culture.

*Last updated 10/7/18



Day 1: Welcome to Old San Juan

We touched down at 2:30PM March 7, 2016 in San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport and hopped into a taxi into Old San Juan to our AirBnb. The AirBnB itself was perfect for us as we were within walking distance to a local university, museum, and of course the infamous El Morro. We dropped off our things and walked around (but not in) El Morro, and down by San Juan’s Cemetery.

Old San Juan, PR
One of the many colorful alleyways in Old San Juan.
View From El Morro
Ocean view from Castillo El Morro.

As the day went into evening we walked into inner Old San Juan down Calle de San Sebastion. Somehow we ran into a group of Hannah’s friends from home (seriously, what are the odds?) and joined them for dinner at a restaurant called Moreno Spot. I ordered a very strong margarita and a small pizza.

Expenses of the Day

Beware: Old San Juan is very expensive for food and drinks!
If you have a kitchen I suggest a balance of cooking for yourself and eating out. I usually cook a simple breakfast every day, and carry snacks in my bag. Also, a college pro-tip, if you buy your own bottle of alcohol and carry a flask while you’re out, you can just pay for a soft drink instead of mixed drink with can be up to 3x cheaper. Taxi’s are also going to be significant part of your expenses if you don’t rent a car.
– Taxi from Luis Muñoz Marín airport to Old San Juan: $24
Average meal at a casual restaurant: $20 – $25
Average alcoholic drink (rail drinks, mojito, margarita, piña colada, etc.):  $7 – $12
Average soft drink: $2
Average car rental: $65/day
Average taxi ride: $15 – $20
Average AirBnb per day in Old San Juan: $80/day


Day 2: El Morro, Bacardi Tour

We woke up early to buy groceries from a local Walgreens for breakfast because, as I’ve said, we are ballin’ on a budget. After eating we walked to El Morro and did the actual tour of the grounds which was breathtaking, hopefully as demonstrated by the photos! The fresh sea breeze and wide open skies were in complete contrast with the magnitude of the weathered fortress.

Hannah and I at El Morro
We’re on that ultralight beam, San Juan style!
Bacardi Factory
Gorgeous Puerto Rican tiling and colors at the Bacardi Factory. As you can see, I blend!

We then went on the famous Bacardi Factory tour in Cataño, a town just a 15 minute ferry ride away. The tour itself was moderately interesting, but it was mostly fun to see a bit of Puerto Rico outside of San Juan and we had a fun time just relaxing and sipping out complimentary Bacardi drinks (buy sipping I mean gulping, and by relaxing I mean ascending to heaven.)

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The night started out pretty slow and Señor Frog’s was not living up to it’s reputation. But it picked up speed after we got to NoNo’s, an absurdly loud bar near our AirBnb in Old San Juan. After having the strongest drinks of our lives at the lower level we headed to the top level and played pool with some locals. Eventually the night did start to blur… but luckily for us we were within crawling distance to our beds!

Expenses of the Day & Budget Tips

The ticket to gain entrance into El Morro can also be used for entrance into Cristobal; and it can be reused for unlimited entrance to both forts for up to a week after you buy it!
– Ticket for El Morro
: $5
Ferry ticket to Cataño: 50¢/person
– Taxi ride to and from pier to Bacardi Factory: $3
Bacardi factory basic tour: $13.38 each, which includes the informational tour and one free drink.
Bus ticket from pier back to Old San Juan: 50¢/person . The bus system is very unreliable though, so it will likely be $5 per person for a taxi ride back.


Day 3: El Condado Beach

After waking up much later than planned (read: moaning in bed all morning taking Aleve and donning sunglasses inside), we decided the perfect hangover cure was a beach day.

We caught a taxi to El Condado Beach, and laid out on our towels to enjoy the palm trees and 80 degrees. On the beach we befriended two more puertorriqueños and grabbed lunch at Bun’s Burger Shop, a local favorite (at least says those two). Afterward we headed back to the beach to soak in as much sun as possible until the afternoon rain came.

El Condado Beach.Packslight
El Condado could not have had more perfect weather, but I think I was the real view 😉
Fruit Sherbert
Street sorbet? Si!

After a homecooked meal and siesta, we headed over to Señor Frogs to try our luck again and this time were not disappointed! Luckily for us it was ladies night, so drinks, dancing, and embarrassing tourists were bottomless. The venue was packed with partiers of all ages (believe me, from girls with braces to old men with toupees) and everyone was into the electric MC that led the party. We stayed and shredded the dance floor until around 12:30AM, and then headed back to our AirBnb, exhausted in the best way.

Expenses of the Day

– Taxi from OSJ to main El Condado beach: $15
– Hot dog, fries, drink at Bun’s Burger Shop: $13 (god bless a reasonably priced meal)
Señor Frog’s Ladies Night: ladies pay $8 and drink free all night!

 

Day 4: A Day of Culture: Puerto Rican History and Salsa!

Sunburnt and still drained from Señor Frogs, we decided Day 4 was our designated “chill day.” We visted to the Museo de Las Americas, a 2 minute walk from our house. It had gorgeous architecture, and learning about the history of Puerto Rico in respect to African slavery, indigenous peoples, culture, and it’s political history put our trip into a new perspective and deepened our understanding of Puerto Rico. We grabbed lunch and stopped by the other fort, San Cristobal, to take pictures and see the views before heading back to our AirBnb to regroup.

Museum of the Americas
Museum of the Americas, Old San Juan

Our night began with checking out Café Nuyorican, a place frequently recommended to us by visitors and locals.  We arrived at 10pm (early, apparently, for Puerto Ricans), and were happily surprised that there were free salsa lessons on Thursdays! We learned the basic salsa steps and struggle and laughed with the other clumsy tourists in the lesson. We even found out that Cafe Nuyorican was a bit more famous than we’d thought, with Latinx celebrities frequenting it and that Mick Jagger was even known for dancing the night away here!

Around 11pm it transformed into a real latin club as the live band showed up and more people arrived. We had the time of our lives dancing, drinking, meeting both tourists locals, and being mesmerized by the professional salsa couples.

Expenses of the Day & Budget Tips

You can leave and return to the Museum of the America’s as many times as you link in one day (to grab lunch, to run back to your hotel, etc.), but keep your receipt on you.
Also, Café Nuyorican is not at 312 Sebastian St. as your GPS will tell you(!!!) It’s located on a nearby side street; ask any local or police man for directions, or do what we did and just follow the music!
Cover charge for Café Nuyorican: $5
– Average drink at Café Nuyorican: $6


Day 5: Hike in Naranjito

This day we finally met up with Brenda, a local puertorriqueño and fellow travel blogger I’d been friends with online for quite some time! Brenda was kind enough to coordinate a day with Hannah and I to show us some of the “real” Puerto Rico, via an amazing day hike and swim at a hidden lagoon in the mountains of Naranjito, a small rural town about 1.5 hours drive from San Juan.

Naranjito.Packslight
The result of our 30 minute hike. UNBELIEVABLE.

After coming back from the mountains we were lucky enough that the San Turce International Urban Art Festival was in town. Both of us coming from Richmond, Virginia where street art is also famous, we couldn’t resist! As it was adjacent to the University of Puerto Rico the crowd was young and friendly, the drinks were cheap and the displays of art ranging from dance to scultpture to live music. We soaked up the energy of being young and lost in Puerto Rico.

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As the night was still young, we then went clubbing to the main party scene in El Condado called La Placita de San Turce, which is basically an entire a little town of clubs and restaurants. We hopped in bars with old men smoking Cuban cigars to bars bumping house music and a youthful crowd. We had a great time but wanted to get back to Old San Juan a little early because of the distance, so we drove back to Old San Juan and ended the night at Café Nuyorican.

Budget Tips

Ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft are currently illegal and discouraged in Puerto Rico to try to save taxi businesses. While I understand the ban I don’t think it will last forever—however, for now the only way to get around if you don’t rent a car is by moderately expensive taxis or by wonderful local friends like ours who have a car!

*10/7/18 As of at least August 2018, Ubers and Lyfts are no longer illegal in Puerto Rico and can be utilized casually. Yay! This is sure to give you some savings on your vacation.

 

Day 6: El Yunque

Our final day in San Juan! Attempting to squeeze in every ounce of eastern Puerto Rico we could, we headed off to El Yunque National Park at 9:30am. It was indeed a rainforest, as it was raining and misting the entire time we were there. I think this is what I love about Puerto Rico—one can go from salsa and mojitos in San Juan to a peaceful jungle with an exquisite ecosystem and listen to the coqui tree frogs chirp. El Yunque is actually the only tropical rainforest in North America.

But while the waterfalls and little hikes were well worth it, we eventually had to leave to make a mad dash and catch our 5PM flight!

El Yunque
Imagine waterfalls like these at every turn!
El Yunque
The view was amazing, you could see San Juan at some points!

 

Final Thoughts & Costs

Puerto Rico is an amazing country with rich food, rich history, rich culture, and people rich in life!

I was initally skeptical about going for spring break to save money over Greece or Colombia. But while visiting Puerto Rico does not require U.S. passport if you’re an American citizen, Puerto is not the “American”. It is it’s own country with a unique dialect and rich experiences to have only to be found in Puerto Rico. Old San Juan made me feel like I was in a seaside town in Spain, and central San Juan was unlike any Caribbean island I’ve visited. I truly felt like I had a much many more cultural experiences, adventure and minor language barriers than I would have ever imagined possible with a three hour flight from Washington D.C.!

And luckily for me, with a lot of preplanning and budget consciousness, it didn’t break my delicate college bank.

Total Cost: ~$786.30

Roundtrip Flight: $290.30
One week of accommodations (AirBnb): $289 ($578 split for 2 people)
Total local expenses: $207.30


Update: Hurricane Maria

*10/30/2017
Hurricane Maria struck the island of Puerto Rico in September of 2017. This guide was written in May of 2016 so many things may be out of date or have changed. For example, I have been made aware that Café Nuyorican was an unfortunate casualty of the hurricane.’

*09/22/2018
One year after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico still needs you to visit now, more than ever! Today the island is still recovering from the effects of the natural disaster. The island is rebuilding, and by spending your tourism dollars here you directly support them. They are working harder than ever to make San Juan safe, beautiful, and enjoyable for tourists, so your trip will not suffer—it may actually be better than ever!

Want to donate to Hurricane Maria relief? You’ll find here a link of reputable donation sites for donating clothes, money, supporting agriculture, churches, the rebuilding of homes, etc.

Want a $40 Airbnb Coupon?
Click here!

 


Are you headed to Puerto Rico soon and did you find this helpful?
Drop a comment below and let me know!

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58 thoughts on “Spring Break in Puerto Rico: Free Itinerary and Cost Breakdown

  1. Kate

    Love that you include an itemized break-down of your costs. That is so helpful. I visited Puerto Rico years ago and was able to see Bacardi, but clearly missed a lot of other amazing sights. This itinerary looks like a blast!

  2. Sky

    Oh I love this budget breakdown! Puerto Rico is at the top of my “must visit” destinations and I’ve been curious about how affordable it really is. I would love love love to do the Bacardi tour!

    1. Gabby

      Hey Mark, thanks for commenting!
      I did actually see this, as there was a street art festival during this week I was there! 🙂
      Unfortunately it was at night and I couldn’t get any great photos, but I will definitely be back as that festival was great!

  3. Atiyaa

    Hi! Thanks for the great article. My friends and I are going to Puerto Rico in the coming months. I was wondering if you found it easier to carry cash or if using your card was sufficient enough. Thanks so much!

    1. Gabby

      Hey Atiyaa, thanks for reading! I definitely found it easier to carry cash, because 1) the taxis only take cash, 2) they take USD so converting it wasn’t a problem 3) Some places (like bars, or rural restaurants) only took cash, and it’s good for tipping. However in Old San Juan though and in most of the main places in the city you won’t have an issue using card 🙂

      Hoped that helped, enjoy your trip!

  4. Jonathan

    Sorry to say this but they spent waaayyyy to much and did not stray much from SanJuan and its surrounding towns being from PuertoRico I can tell you that was a waste of a spring break especialy being in PuertoRico my advice to everyone that goes there to stay away from SanJuan at all cost its the crappy tourist area spend time on the other side of the Island for a change… 780 is waaaay to much when beers are just a dollar and so many hidden legal beaches and locations for tourist like eating brick oven pizza at the top of a mountain where you can see everything or waterfalls that make hollywood and shows like travel chan look sad … Just saying…

    1. Gabby

      Don’t be sorry Jonathon! I’m definitely not 🙂
      Thanks for the advice. As a 20 year old going with another 20 year old to PR for the first time, we had a great time in San Juan thanks. And I think $780 including flights is perfectly reasonable, apparently a lot of other people think so too.

      Feel free to write your own article, I’d love to read it!

  5. Princess

    This is an awesome article especially as I try to decide between London and Puerto Rico! I was just curious which day of the week did Senor Frog have ladies night and which day of the week you went to Nuyorican and had salsa night.

    1. Gabby

      Hey girl, thanks for reading! Depending on the time of year would decide between London and PR for, but PR is a good time for sure 😉
      I’m pretty sure ladies night at Senor Frogs was on Wednesdays, and salsa night at El Nuyorican is every night BUT on Thursdays from 10-11 they have salsa lessons you can go to for free 🙂

  6. Kaitlyn

    Hi Gabby!
    My fiance and I just booked our 5 night stay for spring! We too are wanting to pack our trip with all the wonderful things we can see and discover. I would love more information on everything you would recommend us doing! This post was very helpful to us, and we don’t want to miss out on all kinds of adventures. 🙂

    1. Gabby

      Hey Kaitlyn, thanks for dropping by. I’m glad you liked the post 🙂 This article is pretty expansive on my Puerto Rico trip, but if you have specific questions feel free to send me an email at gabby@packslight.com and I’ll as best I can!

      Puerto Rico is absolutely one of my most favorite place I’ve traveled, I’d love to help you have an amazing time too!

  7. Suzannah

    Haha England is definitely not the place for bikinis and mojitos, but hopefully you found something in England that you loved and enjoyed! Puerto Rico looks stunning, I’d love to go!

  8. Victoria

    Looks like you had so much fun, that’s awesome. I enjoyed watching your video, as well as your pictures. I’ve heard many good things about vacations in Puerto Rico, but you actually showed it through pics and video in this post. Good job, and love the shot where you are walking into the ocean 🙂 makes me really wanna take a vacation. Have a great week!

  9. Karyl

    Oh wow this looks like it was such a great trip! I had no idea the Bacardi factory was in Puerto Rico. And a whole trip for under $1,000…that’s an amazing deal

  10. Ivanna

    I’ve been to Puerto Rico many times, but only a few times as a tourist and I’m so jealous! I’d love to go back and do some of what I’ve obviously been missing out on! Thanks for detailing all the pricing and writing this recommendation. Very helpful!

    1. Gabby

      It really was! I also thought Puerto Rico would be just like Key West or something… It’s a hold new world! I’m glad this post influenced you! 🙂

  11. Meagan

    This is really informative. My friend is heading there soon with her boyfriend, and since it’s been a long time since I’ve been, I’m sending this her way. Budget Tips = super smart! (and honestly, I need those tiles from the Bacardi factory in my house!)

  12. Rachel

    I spent a week in Dorado and San Juan in November. Great breakdown of how you can do a trip like this on the cheap but still have a great time!

  13. Stephanie

    I am slowly becoming a better budget traveler. Haha I think my 5 days in Barbados are floating at under $500 now for flight + hotel, but i have to find some cheap eats and activities although our #1 activity will be sitting on the beach. PR looks lovely, and seems like a fabulous option for Spring Break. That waterfall is amazing. I was disappointed to find out Barbados doesn’t have many waterfalls, but there is one tiny one and I’m gonna go find it!!!!!!

  14. Kerri

    Looks AMAZING! The photos absolutely drew me in and I now know a lot more about this location that I have not visited yet. Did Bacardi originate in Puerto Ricp (hence the tours) ?

    1. Gabby

      No, Bacardi was founded in Cuba but the factory in Puerto Rico is just one of the original factories, and also the largest 🙂 It was so cool to learn about! Thank you!

  15. Natasha

    wow — this is great. It looks like you had an amazing time — even on a budget. I am all about stretching my dollar when traveling, so I will keep this in mind in the event that I visit Puerto Rico someday soon!

  16. Sally

    It’s funny – I recently came back from Puerto Rico and had a totally different itinerary! Yours looked like SO much fun though – there’s so much to see and it’s great that it’s so budget friendly as well!
    PS loved the video!

    1. Gabby

      Really! I stayed on the North side of the island definitely, so if you went around any other areas that’s awesome! I’d lobe to hear what yours was 🙂

      And thanks so much!

  17. Chantell Collins

    Wow you did so well. I love itinerary posts and seeing what other people spent. Whenever I write them I always put a disclaimer – you can save A LOT more money if you don’t drink as many beers / cocktails as I did ha ha. I love this ladies night idea and think I have heard that Señor Frog’s is crazy (maybe they have one in Playa Del Carmen?). Anyway looks like you had a great time :).

  18. Ruthie Turner

    Reading and seeing your blog post reminded me of the year I took my husband for the first time! It brought back wonderful memories and oh sooo romantic. We stayed in San Juan and walked all around the city and ate all the Puerto Rican food we could find. It helped that I’m Puerto Rican and I was able to get a few things cheaper than expected.

    Great post and video of Puerto Rico!

    Best,

    Ruthie

  19. Kelsea Sullivan

    That’s amazing for less than $1000! Sounds like you had a fantastic experience. Personally loved the tip about carrying a flask – that’s one of the best travel hacks I’ve heard yet!

  20. Vy

    Excellent pictures and very informative post! I really enjoyed the budget tips and expenses,it really helps when planning an itinerary

  21. Rachel

    This is so helpful in terms of planning cheap vacations! Money is one of the biggest barriers to travel, so I love seeing your breakdown on how you made your money stretch without having to miss out on awesome experiences. Thanks for posting!

  22. Shauna

    Hey Gabby, I saw this post summary on facebook and the display pic attracted me on your site. Then I read the whole post on Puerto Rico and absolutely like the way you described it. It only tells me compellingly that even if a non-traveler plans to come here on his first trip, everything’s gonna be smooth if he follows this post. Great post. Enjoyed reading and learning about Puerto Rico.

  23. Natasha

    This is great! At first I was like $1000/week? Seriously? But then I saw you included your flight in there. Was the Airbnb $289 total? $200 for a week of expenses isn’t bad, especially considering how much stuff you did. Do you think you would’ve spent less overall if you’d have rented the car? I love your pictures, btw! <3

    1. Gabby

      AirBnb was split between the two of us, so $578 total for the week, but just $289 for my half. I think $200 was awesome considering all the alcohol and food we had! If we rented a car I think we wouldve paid the same, considering gas and the rental cost 🙂 But if you want to go furhur around the island a rental car is a must!

      And thank you!

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