I recall thinking that surely I’d be a millionaire by now. That hasn’t quite panned out, but sometimes I think I live like one. If you’re like Wendy and me, you could live this New Rich lifestyle, too.
If you follow me regularly, you know that Wendy and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in Puerto Rico. We are having a blast! We are halfway through our vacation, the inexpensive half behind us. Wendy and I have a day planned backpacking in El Yunque Rainforest and returning to San Juan tonight for a swim in our hotel.
Yes, we’re spending mucho donero. However, looking back from what we’ve learned from our three nights on Isla Culebra, we could have easily spent the entire week for under $2000. And that’s with quite-a-few hundred left in pocket change. Let me explain how.
First, let me tell you that I’m writing this for you and your spouse to consider a similar trip. It’s far too easy to let the years roll by without dropping some money into excursions like this, especially if you’re a frugal couple like Wendy and me. I’m typing this for the not-so-rich reader with a far-too-rich appetite for a romantic getaway. It’s worth it!
Here’s a very typical itinerary to Isla Culebra, a vacation spot off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. Most everyone from mainland America that we met on the island fit this mold:
- Flights: $1200, round-trip, into San Juan.
- First night hotel in Jan Juan: $180.
- Flight to Culebra: $280, round-trip for two.
- Jeep rental: $600 for the week (a golf cart is half that).
- Hotel on Culebra: $600 for the week ($400 on the off-season).
- Snorkeling Guide: $120 for two.
- Dining and Miscellaneous: $1000 for the week.
This is a $4000 trip! Wendy and I are now in San Juan, and we will likely spend this much with the expensive living in San Juan. However, looking back, a week on Isla Culebra would have fit our fancy just fine. And, you’d think differently, but it would have been cheaper. Here’s a second look at an itinerary that would have had us swimming the beautiful Caribbean for under $2000.
- Flights: $796. For Wendy and me, this was the best deal we could find. Southwest flies out of Denver, which makes our opportunity to cash into their quarterly deals fairly easy. Puerto Rico is an eight-hour flight from Denver, so getting tickets for under $1k is an excellent deal.
- Rental: $118 for the week. Rentals out of San Juan International Airport are an incredible deal. Tight driving and scanty parking is the norm on Isla Culebra, so cheaper compact cars are actually preferred.
- Moonlight Hostel: $70. We flew into San Juan, rented the car, and drove to Fujardo to spend the night at a hostel. NOTE: This was my daughter Alissa’s idea (she and her husband do hotels all the time in their world travels). This hostel was a decent deal, but it was a dive. Not for the faint of heart.
- Ferry to Culebra Island: $20 round trip. There is a cargo ferry that is able to get your rental to the island. If I took the time to arrange this, I would have been able to bring our rental to the island, which would have been fantastic. I ended up renting a golf cart for three nights, totaling more than my entire week’s car rental from the airport.
- Flamenco Island Campground: $30 per night. Don’t diss camping, especially on Culebra. It is absolutely heavenly. Some of the campsites can be set up directly off the beach. You get to fall asleep listening to waves, and you roll out of bed to enjoy coffee on the beach. Why we spent only three nights there, I don’t know. Total cost for six nights would have been $180, the average cost of one night in Jan Juan.
- Snorkling: $60 for two sets, new. I do not regret our guided tour with Culebra Divers ($60 each for four hours). However, if I had an entire week, we could have explored ourselves and been totally content. There are plenty of maps on the island that show you where the best diving is, and the locals are more than willing to tell you where to go.
Total basic costs: $1,244. Add a few nights eating out at some of the great dining on Isla Culebra and other miscellaneous expenses, you have yourself a Caribbean vacation for under $2,000. Easy.
I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m complaining. Wendy and I are naturally frugal people, that’s all, and we like to share the savings tips where we can. If you and your spouse can squeeze out $2,000 and a week of time, Isla Culbebra could be in your future.