The Caribbean is full of stunning islands with fantastic food, culture, and beaches. However, Puerto Rico has a distinct flavor among them all. That’s why Puerto Rico is a fascinating destination for backpackers looking to see as much as possible without traveling too far.
Backpacking across Puerto Rico’s 3,425 square miles is one of the best ways to experience the island. For this reason, here you have this comprehensive guide to planning a backpacking trip in Puerto Rico. In which you find all you need to know about travel information, safety tips, places to visit, and budgeting.
Backpacking Puerto Rico: Accommodation
Finding suitable lodging can be the most challenging aspect of trip planning. However, you might be able to find a ticket for $100 or less.
For a cheap place to stay, Puerto Rico has affordable hostels all over the island. Hostels are an excellent choice for backpackers, as well as the best way to meet new people and make friends while traveling.
Getting a bunk bed for $20 is a much better deal than paying $100 for a hotel room. This way, you won’t have to spend all of your money on lodging and can instead spend it on the numerous activities available on PR.
You can also try different platforms such as Airbnb and Couchsurfing to find alternative accommodation that is even cheaper. For example, private rooms in San Juan can be found at $35 (it can be less or more) per night, which is an excellent value.
Backpacking Puerto Rico Safety Tips
Keeping safe while backpacking in Puerto Rico is similar to keeping safe in everyday life. Avoid going out at night alone and wearing expensive or flashy jewelry.
Although Puerto Rico is a US territory, Spanish remains the dominant language. Therefore, it is best to become acquainted with a few key terms, such as greetings and frequently asked questions.
Blending in is also important for staying safe. If you ever feel completely lost, don’t panic; instead, find a safe place to sit and figure out where you need to go and where you are. Staying calm will reduce your chances of being perceived as a target, not just in PR but anywhere in the world.
What to Pack for a Backpacking Trip to Puerto Rico
Traveling to Puerto Rico as an adventurer is best accomplished with a small backpack or carry-on suitcase. However, with so many places to visit, it’s best not to bring too much luggage.
Although each backpacker has their ideal and specific set of items that they stick to, here are a few things you should pack in your Puerto Rico backpack:
- A quality carryon sized backpack: a 40 L backpack should suffice.
- Bathing Suits: Of course, for swimming in the beautiful Caribbean sea.
- Hiking boots: For exploring the island’s many trails.
- A good daypack: it is best to invest in a high-quality bag that will not rip after a few months. A daypack is a bag that will be used for day-to-day adventures.
- A camera: any type of camera will work just fine. You don’t want to miss out on the beautiful PR views, whether it’s a phone camera or a professional one.
- Wet bag: Used to keep electronics and other items dry during water activities.
- Rain Jacket: The weather in Puerto Rico areas is quite tropical and unpredictable. It’s best to be ready just in case.
- Reusable water bottle: Tap water is safe to drink, so fill up and save money.
- Required travel documents: A passport is required unless you are a citizen (or resident) of the United States. Make sure to do research on any and all travel documents required to enter Puerto Rico.
- Clothing: shorts, tank tops, and other tropical-friendly clothing are appropriate.
What Not to Pack
Despite being a tropical Caribbean island, Puerto Rico is also a part of the United States. There are numerous convenience stores, including Walgreens. As a result, it may be best to leave space for other items and pick up toiletries (body wash, toothpaste, etc.) when you arrive.
Backpacking Puerto Rico Budget Tips
Here are a few money-saving tips for backpacking in Puerto Rico:
- Take advantage of the free activities: there are numerous free activities on the island. The El Yunque Waterfall is an excellent example.
- Travel during the off-season: Visit between June and November to avoid crowds and overpriced flights. Thanks to being a Caribbean island, the weather is enjoyable all year round.
- Eat local food: local street food isn’t just delicious, it’s also cheap. If you’re not sure about places and prices, always ask the locals where they eat and how much it costs, they always know the cheapest places.
- Tour the island on your own terms: many waterfalls, beaches, and forests can be explored on your own without paying for an expensive tour.
- Use public transportation around the city: it is great, and a single bus fare is about $0.70 ($5 for a day pass).
Backpacking in Puerto Rico: Places You Must Visit
Of course, there are numerous activities to participate in while in Puerto Rico; here are a few that are popular with tourists. However, if you want to see more of this beautiful island, always ask locals or other visitors for places to visit.
Old San Juan
Get lost in the vibrant historical district of Old San Juan. The capital city has a lot to offer, such as delicious food and colorful streets where you can listen to live Puerto Rican music. Also home to the most vibrant nightlife scene (especially during spring break) and some of the most vibrant shopping districts.
There’s plenty to see, such as the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a mighty castle built by the Spanish to repel pirates. Or the Catedral de San Juan, a stunning medley of Gothic structures that is the second-oldest cathedral in the entire New World.
Culebra Island, located on Puerto Rico’s eastern coast, has beautiful beaches and spectacular snorkeling views. It’s one of the smallest isles in the Puerto Rico chain with a continuous population, and it takes about 45 minutes to get there from the port in Fajardo (return tickets are only $4.45).
Culebra is also one of the best scuba diving destinations in Puerto Rico, with numerous coves and reef habitats where you can see rays and turtles. After dark, the beach on Culebra has some of the most vibrant bioluminescent displays in the territory.
El Yunque National Rainforest
Probably the most popular attraction on the island. El Yunque is open to the public and covers nearly 30,000 acres. It has the unique distinction of being the United States’ only protected reserve of purely tropical rainforest.
It’s a must-see for anyone looking to get off the beaten path and spend time with exotic birds and orchids rather than beach bums. So keep your eyes open to see coqui frogs and elegant birds wherever you go.
Hiking is at the top of the list. Trails are well-marked and well-maintained to help you explore the wild, wild depths of the island’s high mountain terrain. They lead you through a land of 10,000 different shades of green, from ancient Sierra palms to mist-gathering cloud forests.
Rincon is a must-see for any backpacker visiting Puerto Rico. It is located on the island’s far northwestern coast and encompasses approximately eight miles of world-class wave riding. There are numerous reasons why it is on the radar of professionals, ranging from Domes Beach to XXL Tres Palmas.
You must stop and gaze at the sunset when the day turns to even in Rincon. This town has won awards for its glittering night shows, which see the western Caribbean turn shades of ochre and vermillion as the sun sets.
The second-largest city in Puerto Rico is on the island’s south coast. This city, known locally as the Jewel of the South, has distinctive architecture. If you want to see a different side of the island, Ponce is the place to go.
It’s Puerto Rico’s southernmost city, tucked into a large bay at the end of the main highways that run across from the northern coast.
It is one of the best places to visit because it is less expensive than the north of the island, and Ponce is the gateway to the paradisiac beaches of Guánica. A place where crystal clear waters lap empty bays.
Vieques is a massive island six miles off Puerto Rico’s southeast coast. The Bioluminescent Bay, where tiny dinoflagellates light up the water at night, is the most popular attraction. The Guinness Book of World Records has named Mosquito Bay in Vieques the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay.
In Vieques, you can drive down dusty roads in search of empty bays and beaches with no one else in sight. The best of them are in the southeast, with lovely Playa La Chiva and Caracas Beach, which are swaths of white sand.
The cheapest way to get to Vieques is by ferry from Fajardo, and camping is available on the beautiful Balneario Sun Bay.
So, now you know everything you need to know about planning a fantastic backpacking trip to Puerto Rico. You’ll now have some knowledge about the island, safety tips, popular places to visit, lesser-known wonders, and packing suggestions.