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The winter months in San Juan – mid-December through April – offer the best weather of the year. It is also the busiest and most expensive time to visit this island paradise. If you plan to visit San Juan during this time you will need to book your hotel reservations well in advance. Otherwise, expect limited rooms and higher hotel rates. The spring season – mid-April through June – also offers excellent weather that averages close to 80 degrees Farenheit. During the spring travelers typically can find more rooms available and at lower rates. In June, which is the hottest month in San Juan, hosts one of the city’s best events: the SoFo Culinary Week. The Calle Fortaleza(South Fortaleza Street) becomes an outdoor street fair with tasting booths where visitors can taste all the wonders of Puerto Rican cuisine.
The most cost-effective time to visit San Juan is during the summer months - July through September, officially the off-season. During these months, the weather is much hotter and humid and punctuated by frequent rainfall; moreover, it is the hurricane season. Hotel rates and air fare, however, drop significantly during these months and, if you are fortunate to have good weather, it won’t be a struggle to get a spot at the beach. The months of October through mid-December – is another season where airfare and hotel rates are dramatically less than the winter and spring. The weather, for the most part, is rainy and there is always a chance of a hurricane.
While the time of year you visit San Juan will affect your hotel rates, it won’t necessarily limit your enjoyment of the city’s beauty and many attractions. San Juan is increasingly becoming a year-around travel destination since the weather is typically mild throughout the year – even during hurricane season. In other words, don’t let concerns about rain and hurricanes prevent you for enjoying all that San Juan and Puerto Rico have to offer.
When booking hotels in San Juan, confirm if they charge a hotel or resort fee as these can be quite steep – typically 20 percent of your stay. Also, taxes are not always listed when booking online so be sure to ask how much the additional taxes will be. Add the fees and taxes to the nightly rate to ensure you have an accurate cost comparison between hotels. Also, it is recommended that you ask the hotel about its cancellation policy - in the event your plans change. Most hotels in San Juan have a 24-hour cancellation policy; however, this may not always be the case, especially with Airbnb or other vacation rentals.
Another thing to consider when booking hotels in San Juan are the differences in the nightly rates during the week and on the weekends. Hotels in San Juan typically charge lower rates during the weekdays and then bump up the prices over the weekends. Flying in on a Monday and leaving on a Friday will probably save you a lot of money, but then you will miss out on San Juan's colorful weekends.
Airbnb is a great option for travelers in search of low-cost lodgings in San Juan. With more than 100 San Juan Airbnb listings, you can find full homes to apartments to single rooms. There is a wide range of options in locations along the beach, in the city center and in Old San Juan. Many San Juan Airbnb listings have a minimum stay of three nights (some longer) and rates range from $50 to $450 per night. Depending on how many people will be traveling with you, Airbnb may be the most cost-effective option. Lodgings are usually equipped with a full kitchen that enables travelers to cut their expenses by preparing their own meals. Most San Juan Airbnb rentals also offer weekly rental rates except during the peak winter season due to the high demand.
Booking cheap hotels in San Juan really comes down to two things - what you want to do and where you want to do it. If you intend to spend most of your time at the beach, Old San Juan is not the best location because you will either need to rent car, map out the bus schedule or hire a taxi to get back and forth from the beach. The additional cost in time and expense may not be worth the savings in the hotel rate. While hotels in the neighborhoods of Condado, Isla Verde and Ocean Park may cost more per night, you can actually save money on transportation and time since the beach is only a short walk away.
If sightseeing and soaking in the history of Old San Juan is more up you alley, staying in Old San Juan is ideal. Hotel prices are typically much less, and there are smaller, more boutique hotels, hostels and apartments available to travelers. (You will be a cab ride away from the beach and most hotels in Old San Juan do not have a pool.) Try Hotel Plaza de Armas or Da House which offer nice, inexpensive accommodations in the heart of Old San Juan.
If you really want to save money on accommodations when visiting San Juan, book at a hostel which typically charges as low as $15 a night. Posada San Francisco and Fortaleza Guest House are two hostels in the city to check out if you’re looking to stay in Old San Juan. Both are near a bus stop and within easy walking distance to the areas historic sites and shops – not to mention the nightlife.
All beaches in San Juan, even those fronting the top hotels, are open to the public. (Caribe Hilton is the only hotel that has a small private beach, one of the reasons it’s regularly named a top family friendly hotel.) Beach hours are typically 9-5pm. Most of the beaches in San Juan have strong riptides which should be remembered if you’re not a strong swimmer or traveling with kids. While the beaches in San Juan are all open to the public, not all are created equal. Only two beaches in San Juan have lifeguards – El Escambron (right next to Caribe Hilton) and Isla Verde Public Beach. These two beaches also have changing rooms, bathrooms, showers, picnic areas and onsite restaurants or snack bars. Both are also protected from reefs and rocks, providing a bit calmer water for swimming. Isla Verde Beach is another popular beachfront lined with resorts, which makes access a bit more difficult. This beach sits on the same stretch of land but access to it is much easier if you’re not a hotel guest. Isla Verde Beach is a great beach for families given its calm waters and the variety of amenities along the beachfront. There are a number of kiosks along the beach where you can rent snorkeling gear or participate in a variety of water sports – snuba, parasailing, etc.
American citizens do not need a passport to visit Puerto Rico as it is a U.S. commonwealth and the U.S. dollar the island’s official currency. While Spanish is the official language spoken in Puerto Rico, most residents of San Juan speak or understand at least some English. However, as you travel outside the city, you will encounter fewer English-speaking natives.
Even though Puerto Rico is a U.S. commonwealth, many of its laws differ from those of the U.S. One of these is the drinking age which in Puerto Rico is 18 years. Travelers will be required to provide identification of their age before they can be served alcoholic beverages. Puerto Rico is also known as the most gay-friendly island in the Caribbean with a variety of bars, restaurants and hotels which cater to LGBT clientele.
More likely than not, you will need to use some type of transportation in San Juan unless you intend to stay at or near your hotel. The bus system in San Juan is very easy to use, well-marked by upright yellow or white signs that say PARADA which can take you from Old San Juan to Condado’s oceanfront or the Convention Center. There is also a free trolley in Old San Juan that runs through the historic district. It’s a great way to see the city and give your feet a break.
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© 2015 Hipmunk, Inc. Hipmunk is a trademark of Hipmunk, Inc.