|Subject: Winter destination|
I have not been to Costa Rica or Panama, but have been to Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico can be both expensive and commercialized, but you can get still some good deals on hotels/air, and try to steer away from the more commercial areas. My experience has been that you can spend a little or alot on Puerto Rico - the range is quite wide.
Although it can be quite touristy, the old San Juan is area absolutely worth a few days. some great architecture, lots of history. The hotels along the Condado, or further east in Isla Verde, are pretty touristy, but nice beaches and you can usually find a nice place for not too much money if you don't mind the crowds.
When I was there last we stayed in Dorado at the Hyatt (not the regency, but the dorado beach). It was perfect, but very pricey. Dorado is a small town about 45 minutes west of San Juan. Not much to do except veg out on the beach.
The western side of the island is just beautiful - much less crowded than San Juan. Not too many hotels - you may find a nice guest house here. Beaches are not as nice - rougher water for surfers, etc.
A great day trip is one to the Caves of Camuy in the the northern center of the island. Just spectacular.
Your best bet might be to spend a few days either at the beginning or end of your trip in the San Juan area, and then move on to a more rural part of the coast. Car rentals are reasonable, but be careful - the cars you get are not always the most reliable!
That's my take on PR. I try to go back every couple of years. It has worked well for me both on a budget and off!
Wherever you decide, have a great time! Vanessa, cutchogue, ny