If paying top dollar for your hotel and vying for elbow room on the beach is your idea of fun, put on your masochist hat and head to Puerto Rico in the winter. From December to April, expect to pay about 25% more than in the off-season, and be sure to be grasping your lucky rabbit’s foot if you’re trying to wrangle a room around Christmas or February…the whole month of February.
The north and northeast, i.e. San Juan, Vieques, and Culebra, become most expensive. To escape the madding crowds, head to the quieter southwest portion of the island.
Snowbirds love to flock to Puerto Rico’s temperate climes when the chill of northern winters sets in, but the truth is the weather is gorgeous – nay, nearly unchanging – year round. Winter temperatures in San Juan range from 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, not a far cry from the island’s annual average of 76. You won’t have to pull out the umbrella unless you plan heading to hilly areas inland: that 25% extra you paid for your hotel room went to fund top-secret precipitation-control equipment, and the coastal areas are dry and sunny this time of year as a result.
Oh, it’s not as dire as it sounds. You can have a tra-la happy time in Puerto Rico in winter just as easily as in any other season. Conditions may be busier, but that also means the welcome mat is rolled out in full force to welcome tourists. Just plan your trip ahead of time – two to three months in advance. For the slackers among you, deals CAN be found on short notice. Major cities, particularly on the East Coast, often offer roundtrip airfares in the $250 range in winter.
Sports and fun are popular year round, but winter is when Puerto Rico’s surfing really shines. Fabulous waves can be found all around the island’s hundreds of miles of coastline, but the northwest is world-renowned as the “Hawaii of the East.” From Isabela’s white sand beaches to Rincon, which became a worldwide surfing destination after 1968’s world championships were held there, you can hang ten on waves up to 35 feet high.
Prefer to see what’s under the surface rather than ride atop it? Dive in and explore Puerto Rico’s gorgeous coral reefs off of the islands of Culebra and Vieques, or snorkel and enjoy the warm waters and dozens of species of marine life. Windsurfing, fishing, boating, golf – March marks the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open – and horseback riding…the list goes on. For the landlubbers, try hiking El Yunque National Park, the only rainforest in America, or mountain bike some exhilarating singletrack by the beaches of Cerro Gordo.
After all this activity, think it’s time for a rest? Think fiesta, not siesta. Puerto Rico bursts with carnivals and festivals all winter long. Old San Juan hosts the San Sebastian Street Festival every January, featuring parades in Mardi-Gras style masks and a hopping variety of music, traditional foods, carnival rides, and salsa dancing. Head to historic Ponce, on the southern coast – hey, it’s named after that Juan Ponce de Leon fellow – for pre-Ash Wednesday festivities, aka Carnaval. For some highbrow entertainment, check out the Casals Festival, held in late February through early March. Honoring the revered cellist Pablo Casals, the festival draws the world’s best classical artists to Puerto Rico to perform concerts at the Centro de Bellas Artes Luis A. Ferre.
Sun, surf, glistening beaches, historic charm, culture, and joyous festivals…Puerto Rico in wintertime. Pack your bags and aprovechar (Spanish for “take advantage of”) all the fun the commonwealth has to offer.