Want a taste of the Caribbean islands, but with no hassles of passports and customs inspections, and with low-cost lodging and free activities to stretch your vacation dollars? Consider Puerto Rico. Traveling to Puerto Rico is easy. Direct flights are offered daily from more than 20 major continental U.S. airports. Since the island is a U.S. territory, no customs inspections or passports are necessary for travel by U.S. citizens. Additionally, the dollar is the national currency and English is widely spoken throughout the island.
Low cost lodging options in Puerto Ricoinclude accommodations called “Posadas.” These are historical buildings that have been reconstructed and restored into unique hotels (typically offering from seven to 75 rooms). Rates quoted are the best we found online at the time of writing this article. Examples of Posadas include the Hotel Colonial, which was built in the 1920’s and served as a convent. The restoration of this property incorporated its religious history, including a remodeled portico. Rates start at $59 per night. It is located at 14 South Iglesia Street, in Mayaguez. Visit www.hotelcolonial.com. Another Posada option is Da’House Hotel, a hotel-art-gallery that offers guests an opportunity to immerse themselves in Puerto Rican art and music. Hotel personnel are cultural hosts and art experts. The building itself once served as the National Center for the Arts in the 1970’s. It is located at 312 San Francisco Street, in Old San Juan. Rates start at $80 per night in early June. Visit dahousehotel.com.
Free activities in Puerto Rico includebeautiful beaches (the island, though small, has more than 270 miles of coastline). Since all of Puerto Rico’s beaches are public, visiting is free. Popular beaches include Playa Flamenco, Playa Isla Verde and Boquerón Beach. Another popular free activity is strolling the blue cobblestone streets of Old San Juan. Visitors can walk by pastel-painted colonial buildings dating back to the 16th and 17th century Spanish colonial period. El Paseo de la Princesa, considered by many San Juan’s most beautiful promenade, is the perfect location to walk and explore. El Paseo de la Princesa is lined with antique street lamps, trees, statues, fountains and street vendors.
Other free sightseeing opportunities includethe Casa Blanca or White House in San Juan. Built in 1521, the estate is one of the oldest monuments in San Juan and belonged to the Ponce de León family for 250 years. It is open Wednesday through Sunday and offers free admission to all.
Free museums include the Museo de la Historia de Ponce that focuses on all aspects of Puerto Rican culture including its ecology, architecture, government and daily life. It is located in the town of Ponce where arguably the most whimsical building is the Parque de Bombas Museum that features a history of the city’s firefighters. The building, built in 1882, was once Ponce’s primary fire station. Admission is free.