Time seems to move slower in Puerto Rico. Whether you’re passing it by watching the sun set on a world-famous beach, kayaking in a bioluminescent bay, or trekking through a tropical rainforest, Puerto Rico will satisfy adventure seekers and hammock fans alike. On this group of four islands, Spanish is most widely spoken, but both English and Spanish are official languages. Therefore, you’re sure to see the English-language influence as you are picking up new vocab. It’s boarding pass rather than tarjeta de embarque in these parts. So, hurry up, grab that boarding pass and enroll in a language program in Puerto Rico!
If your goal is to study Spanish in Puerto Rico, that likely means your homebase will be in San Juan, the nation’s capital and population center. Although you could easily spend all of your time getting to know this enchanting city, be sure to save some time to visit the rainforest and some of the many lovely beaches the islands have to offer.
San Juan is a must-see city of the Caribbean. You’ll be able to compare the cosmopolitan feel of the neighborhood of Hato Rey, where many language schools in Puerto Rico are located, to the old-world charm of Old San Juan, where you can walk the blue cobblestone streets from the Spanish Colonial era. Then, head to Rio Piedras, home of the University of Puerto Rico with its 25,000 students, or take a stroll down Paseo La Princesa, a promenade that stretches from the docks to the bronzed Raíces Fountain. On the weekends, San Juan is a happening place, as stalls line the streets and musicians strum a tune. To top it off, the city boasts killer nightlife and gorgeous beaches amongst year-round warm weather.
If you haven’t had enough of Puerto Rico’s beaches after chilling in San Juan, Vieques will knock your socks off. Then again, you’re probably not wearing socks due to the aforementioned warm weather and likely beach attire. Nonetheless, island-hop to Vieques to see a truly spectacular bio bay. If you can work it out, go on a night without moonlight to best witness the tiny glowing microorganisms illuminating the bay with blue-green light. Increíble!
Puerto Rico’s magic doesn’t end at the beach. It’s also home to the only tropical rainforest in the United States, El Yunque Rainforest, in addition to waterfalls, more glorious beaches, and an adventure travelers playground, local legend tells of raining frogs. Tiny coquí tree frogs climb the forest canopy and as their predators wait beneath, the light as a feather coquís leap to safety and float like rain to the ground below. Magical, indeed.
Language Programs in Puerto Rico
Most Spanish language programs in Puerto Rico are hosted at language schools. Generally, you’ll find small classes, flexible start dates, and the opportunity to add on cultural or recreational excursions, meaning you can totally customize your experience. Before you know it, you’ll be rolling your “r’s” with the best of them.
You can begin your language study in Puerto throughout the year, and it will typically be up to you how many weeks you want to stay. At least six weeks is recommended to maximize your learning potential, but the longer you stay, the more you’ll benefit from the immersive experience.
Expect to spend about three hours a day in language instruction. That’s enough to quickly push your language skills to the next level, but still leaves plenty of time to practice with the locals. If you’ve studied Spanish previously, you will probably take a placement test on the first day to verify you’re in the correct level. Don’t worry if you are a true beginner, most language programs in Puerto Rico can accommodate any level student.
Most language classes in Puerto Rico are small, with no more than eight to ten students, so you and your classmates will come to know each other very well. On the flip side, if you really want to maximize your time, for a little extra moolah, you can sign up for private instruction. Language schools in Puerto Rico can be fantastic for intensive, one-on-one, or small group instruction, but if you’re hoping to earn university credit, be sure to double check with your school to make sure they will accept it.
Costs & Affordability
Overall, Puerto Rico is a moderately affordable destination for language study abroad; it’s not the cheapest, but definitely not the most expensive place you can go. When comparing it to other Spanish-speaking locations, again, it’s middle of the road; it is cheaper than Barcelona, but more expensive than Lima.
As a territory of the United States, the currency in Puerto Rico is the U.S. dollar, and the cost-of-living in San Juan is in line with a similarly-sized U.S. city. A one-bedroom apartment averages about $800 per month in the city center of San Juan, a one-way bus ticket is under $2, and an average meal will cost you about $10. As you head out of San Juan and explore the island, food, lodging, and transportation prices generally drop.
Despite not necessarily being the cheapest destination, when it comes to language programs in Puerto Rico, you can get a solid value. Generally, a lot is included in program fees; what you see is what you get, there aren’t hidden costs. A four-week language program in Puerto Rico will generally cost you anywhere from $3500 to $4200, but that will include high quality language lessons, housing, two meals a day, health insurance, on-site orientation, and local cultural visits and excursions.
Accommodations & Visas
Mi casa es su casa (My home is your home) in Puerto Rico. Homestays are the most common type of housing available for language students in Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans place a high value on family, and the opportunity to become a part of a Puerto Rican family, even for a short time, is one you don’t want to pass up. The hospitality and welcoming warmth you’re sure to encounter is something you can only know by experiencing.
Homestays typically include a private room and two meals a day (pass the sweet, custardy flan, please), and laundry may be included as well. So, in addition to an irreplaceable chance to get to know a Puerto Rican family, homestays are a bang up deal, too. Do be aware that a home with A/C may be considered an upgrade.
U.S. citizens can travel to Puerto Rico without a passport; super easy! If you’re home country qualifies for the U.S. visa waiver program, which is the case for citizens of the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada, you will need a passport, but no visa. Also, super easy! Citizens who apply for the waiver program must make sure their passports are valid for at least 90 days before they enter the U.S. and for at least six months after their departure.
Be sure to check GoAbroad’s Puerto Rican Embassy Directory for current visa application requirements.
Benefits & Challenges
Probably the biggest challenge you’ll face while learning Spanish in Puerto Rico is the temptation to speak English. Words used for colors and foods, for example, are often English words with a local pronunciation. When you meet new friends, they may want to practice their English, rather than giving you the opportunity to practice your Spanish, so you’ll have to work a little harder to hone your skills.
On the other hand, total beginners won’t be completely lost and can easily navigate the islands as they pick up the language. Add small classes, a thoroughly customizable experience, and the opportunity to interact with locals through homestays to the list, and you have an ideal language learning locale.
On the night of June 24th, according to legend, the waters contain special powers to bring health and good fortune in the year ahead. Puerto Ricans line the beaches at midnight to partake in a baptism of sorts by falling backward in the water either three or seven times (depending on who you ask). There’s no better place to start anew than Puerto Rico, no matter the day of the year.
You can’t help but slow down in Puerto Rico, with its leisurely pace and ageless spirit. Learning Spanish in Puerto Rico is an experience you can make your own every step of the way, and you’ll head home not only with greater fluency in Spanish, but with a refreshed and renewed mindset!