Camping in Puerto Rico is one of the cheapest ways to enjoy everything that the island has to offer. With it’s beautiful beaches, amazing local foods, and cheap tequila, it’s no surprise that Puerto Rico has become one of the most popular vacation spots in the Caribbean. We spent over two weeks exploring the island and put over 1000 miles on our rental car. I struggled to find much info on the internet in regards to camping, so here are our tips and favorite spots to check out.
Top Places to go Camping in Puerto Rico
1. Flamenco Beach
Our review – Consecutively ranked as one of the top 10 beaches in the world, it’s surprising that more people don’t take advantage of the opportunity to stay here for such little money. Situated on the tiny island of Culebra, you’ll need to take a short ferry ride out to the island from the port in Fajardo. It still cost $35 per night, but was extremely affordable compared to other options. We stayed for 5 nights and really had a blast.
- Rent a golf cart or jeep for a day (get your bearings and decide what to see more of)
- Hike to Carlos Rosario beach and go snorkeling
- Check out Tamarindo Beach, also a great snorkeling spot
- Zoni Beach is super cool and worth the trip, there are great views along the drive
- If you’re going to eat in town, check out Zacos Tacos
What we loved
- Ferry tickets are dirt cheap, about $3 each way
- It’s super easy to get around the island by hitch hiking or taxi
- The campground has food kiosks and places that sell convenience items
- There are great snorkeling spots within walking distance
- The local community seemed really great and we had a blast in town
- The further you walk, the better camping spot you’ll find
What we didn’t love
- Stray roosters start crowing extremely early in the morning; we’re talking 4 am wake up calls
- Outlets are limited, so be sure to bring a solar panel
- The showers in our area didn’t work and getting water is always an issue
- Restaurants are very expensive in town and not that extraordinary
- a lot of tourists come here for snorkeling day trips and they’re pretty much the worst kind of tourists in existence (the kind who step on coral and had selfie sticks before they were trendy).
- Hammock camping is expensive because they charge you per hammock, which doesn’t really make sense. Cram 6 people into a tent and pay $35, or pay the same rate for 1 person in a hammock.
2. El Yunque Rainforest Camping
Our Review – Staying overnight in a Rainforest definitely earns you some bragging rights. After just one night, we were ready to call it quits and resort to plan b. You can easily apply for a permit with the park, and choose a camp site, but my best advice is to opt for road side camping. Had we gone with this option, we would’ve been more than comfortable and likely had a much more relaxing experience. Instead, our campsite was about an hour hike from the road and we nearly got washed away. But seriously, we were there during a flash flood.
Reasons to do it:
- Be totally isolated and submerged in nature
- Hike up to the Mt. Britton Tower for a panoramic view
- Great option for hammock camping
- See wild life species up close and personal
- Feel like Tarzan
- Constantly be mesmerized by new flora and fauna around the camp site
- Test out your primitive camping skills
- Check out some awesome waterfalls
What we loved:
- This option was super cheap, as in free
- You’re automatically going to beat the crowds in the morning
- Maximize your time exploring the forest (gates close early, around 7 pm)
- Watch the sunset or rise, not an option if you’re visiting due to park gates
- The kebabs and fresh coconut from the kiosks are insanely awesome
What we didn’t love (just skip this part & go for it):
- We weren’t informed of flash flooding until it had already happened, and we weren’t aware of hazardous species.
- Lack of information about the park. We bought a NatGeo map and another map, but both were pretty obsolete. Unfortunately, the map that they give out in the park office is even worse.
- The park employees didn’t seem very well informed and most didn’t even know that camping was available. We live in Western North Carolina, and working in any of the local parks here is pretty competitive. Most workers strive to be knowledgeable about park rules and regulations, as well as basic biological facts. Example, if you’re a ranger in Yosemite, you probably know what kind of rock Half Dome is comprised of. And if you work in Yellowstone, you’re probably going to warn visitors of hazards and bears.
- The park is touristy, yet lacks park rangers. We didn’t see one the entire 4 days, even after actively pursuing one. It doesn’t make sense that there’s somebody to sell key chains, but not someone to represent the park.
- We went to the visitor center for free on day one to pick up our permit, then the next day there was a guy collecting a $10 fee for parking/entering. This particular park is part of the United States National Forest System (what our tax dollars go towards, so I expect consistency).
- You’re locked out if you aren’t back in the park by 7 pm.
3. Luquillo Beach
Our Review – We found this option once we were already in Puerto Rico upon the recommendation of a lady who worked in the El Yunque park office. Although it isn’t as scenic as the other two options, it’s still a great way to save money and be close to local attractions.
Reasons to do it:
- It only costs $10 per night
- It’s a home base. Stay here for cheap 3 or 4 nights and take day trips to El Yunque and Old San Juan.
- It’s a short ride to El Yunque and Fajardo
- Old San Juan is only an hour away, so you can go there on a day trip
- One of the Bio luminescent bays is close by at La Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve
What we loved:
- security seems pretty tight here and there’s always a person on duty at night to patrol the park
- when we were there in December we were the only people camping (apparently camping culture isn’t very big here and the park is used more or less as a locals beach)
- There are coconuts everywhere. We had fun driving around and knocking them out of trees (to drink).
- Shower facilities and electrical outlets are easy to come by
- Boardriders is a really cool spot in the town area where you can grab drinks or have brunch
- Luquillo felt very local and authentically Puerto Rican.
What we didn’t love:
- I hate to say it, but some areas in Luquillo still felt pretty rough around the edges.
- Sand fleas are brutal out on Luquillo beach. We really only went swimming once, but the water seemed clearer than what we saw in the San Juan area.
- There are a lot of stray cats and dogs in this area, so it’s important to store your food properly.
Reasons to go Camping in Puerto Rico
1. You’re going to Save a Ton of Money – We were able to spend 17 days in Puerto Rico for the price of a long weekend at an all inclusive resort in San Juan. It isn’t going to be 100% free, but the camping permits and fees are extremely low compared to lodging options within the capital.
2. You’ll see the REAL Puerto Rico, Not Just the Tourist Areas – Don’t get me wrong, we still stayed a couple nights in Old San Juan, but the lesser known areas are where we had the most fun. The majority of people who say they’ve been to Puerto Rico have more than likely just stayed in the capital, and taken a day trip to the rainforest or gone on a tour of the Bacardi factory. This isn’t exactly what our travel style is all about. We like seeing as much as we can for as little as possible and feeling totally submerged within the cultural.
3. Bucket List Worthy Camping Sites – Ever dreamt of staying right in the rainforest, being surrounded by thousands of tropical frogs and other indigenous species? Ever wanted to sleep right by a white sand beach, where you can wake up, walk 20 feet, and go snorkeling? All of this and more is possible on the island, but you have to know where to go.
4. Add more to your Itinerary – since you’re going to save about $1000 during a one-week stay, you can put that money to use elsewhere. We used it to go on an epic cave adventure tour with Aventuras Tierra, and have a rental car for 17 days. You could also add scuba diving or a private boat rental to your itinerary with the money that you’ll be saving.