Darn Good Digs

"Darn Good Digs Reveals Outstanding Accommodations with Budget Prices" - Arthur Frommer

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Darn Good Digs in Puerto Rico

Darn Good Digs are the world's best independently owned accommodations for budget-minded travelers, all with rooms under US$150. Darn Good Digs stand out for their originality, spectacular locations, scrumptious food, and great vibes.

Guanica (south coast)Las Marias (western mountains)Naguabo (east coast)Utuado (central mountains)Vieques

  =   Editors' Choice


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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Guanica, Puerto Rico (southwest coast): Mary Lee's by the Sea
Nominated By: Allison and Michael, Brooklyn, NY, March '08

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Price Range: US$110-$300 # of Rooms: 10 Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes Mary Lee's by the Sea so Darn Good? The apartments are where it's at at Mary Lee's. They are huge and decorated to the nines in a funky Floridian style. We had great fun exploring the bay and mangrove islands in a kayak that we launched right from Mary Lee's dock, just a stone's throw away from our porch.

Location: Mary Lee's is located on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico, two hours from San Juan and just up the street from the Guanica Dry Forest, a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve. This truly special place is the largest remaining strip of tropical dry coastal forest on earth. The reserve has great hiking trails, remote beaches, and renowned bird watching, but what we enjoyed most was spotting all sorts of crazy looking cacti.

Rooms: Bright and colorful fabrics cover the couches, beds, tables, curtains, chairs, you name it, in all of Mary Lee's gigantic apartments. Most of the apartments have several rooms and would be great for a family or a big party. When you feel like getting some fresh sea air, you can relax in your outdoor sitting area, most of which have sea views.

Food: Mary Lee's doesn't serve food, but all the rooms have fully equipped kitchens and access to barbecues. Don't forget to pick up groceries before you arrive. We also recommend that you make a pit stop at the little empanada hut on Guanica Bay along the road to Mary Lee's. If you are not in the mood to cook dinner, it is just a short drive to a couple of restaurants, including a somewhat fancy one at the nearby resort.

Vibe: Mary Lee's by the Sea felt like our own little hideaway on the Puerto Rican coast. We relaxed, did our own thing, and hardly saw a soul.

Things to Keep in Mind: Although Mary Lee's is on the coast, you need to drive or take a boat to get to the beach.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Las Marias, Puerto Rico (western mountains): Maravilla
Nominated By: Stacy at Butiki Teas, Hamilton, New Jersey, USA, October '11

Price Range: US$110-$210 # of Rooms: 3 Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes Maravilla so Darn Good? My husband and I stayed in the "luxury" cabin for six nights and chose the luxury all-inclusive option, which includes an unbelievably amazing breakfast, lunch, and multi-course dinner each day. The view of the lush rainforest during breakfast is spectacular, and our dinners by candle-light were very romantic. Maravilla's owners, Margo and Mark, along with their staff, are so welcoming – we can't wait to go back some day!

Location: Maravilla is located in the rainforest at the end of a long, winding road through hills planted with coffee, oranges, and plantains. Hiking trails wind through the property (a Mecca for bird watchers) past streams, waterfalls, and swimming holes. While guests may easily spend their days lounging in their hammocks or wandering the jungle trails, many take a day or two to explore more of western Puerto Rico. Popular trips include the surf town of Rincon or the cute little coffee town of Maricao. San Juan is two and a half hours away, but Aguadilla has a closer airport.

Rooms: Maravilla offers three choices of accommodation: the cabin, a cottage room or suite, and camping. We stayed in the cabin, which has an open kitchen and sitting area allowing for a spectacular view of the rainforest. The cabin has no electricity and is lit by propane lanterns and heated by a gas fireplace on chilly days, all adding to its charm. The cottage has two upstairs rooms that can be rented together, a living room, and a small balcony. Downstairs is a full kitchen, and dining area where the breakfast buffet is served. For those who choose to camp, Maravilla supplies tents, air mattresses, linens, and lanterns.

Food: Margo prepares unbelievably delicious food. We went vegan, although Maravilla also offers raw and vegetarian options. Some of the highlights for us were the coconut crusted tofu over noodles, the sesame and walnut crusted tofu, and the fried green tomatoes with pepper jam. Desserts were to die for, and we looked forward to the breakfast buffet every morning with its fresh-baked pastries and tropical fruits picked right on the property. Margo was very accommodating with meals and packaged several breakfasts and lunches for us when we went on day trips.

Vibe: Natural, lush, and laid-back.

Keep in Mind: Our advice is to splurge for the luxury all inclusive option if you can – so worth it. Also, plan to spend a few days at Maravilla exploring the beautiful property – we took many day trips but wished that we had spent more time just relaxing. And finally, if you are staying in the cabin, you may want to bring some extra lights.

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Traveler Favorite

Naguabo, Puerto Rico (east coast): Casa Libre
 Nominated By: ScubaRN7, Hurley, New York, July '09

Price Range: US$80-$100 # of Rooms: 4 Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes Casa Libre so Darn Good? "A bed and breakfast on a hillside overlooking a bay, a pool with a waterfall, a lovely bedroom and bathroom, any breakfast of your choice AND the absolutely best host and hostess you could possibly imagine... within hours you consider Josue and Patti friends. I was charmed with this little tucked away oasis. I enjoyed a day in the sun by the pool, an afternoon with the hostess walking two beaches, a local cafe lunch, and then cocktails. Casa Libre is an experience I will share with all my friends traveling to Puerto Rico, and I plan on returning there on my next dive adventure in the area." Read more.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Utuado, Puerto Rico (central mountains): Casa Grande Mountain Retreat
Nominated By: Allison and Michael, Brooklyn, NY, February '08

Hotel Website: www.hotelcasagrande.com     Phone: 787-894-3939

Price Range: US$95-$115 # of Rooms: 20 Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes Casa Grande Mountain Retreat so Darn Good? With its network of private cabins weaving through the lush mountains of central Puerto Rico, Casa Grande is darn green. Whether hanging out on your private balcony, taking a dip in the refreshing pool, or enjoying a delicious meal at the outdoor restaurant, a sea of deep green trees envelops you. To top it all off, Casa Grande has won several Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Green Inn Awards. Now that's green!

Location: Casa Grande is twenty-five minutes from the nearest town and two hours from San Juan. Some of our favorite day trips in the area include the Rio Camuy Cave Park and the Arecibo Observatory. We also took a boat ride on Lago dos Bocas, just fifteen minutes away.

Rooms: The cabins are big, airy, simply decorated, and they all have ceiling fans and balconies with a hammock, great for relaxing and wiling away the day.

Food: The delicious restaurant on site, Casa Grande Cafe, serves traditional Puerto Rican dishes, and much more. For breakfast we ate the freshest fruit salad ever with mangoes, oranges, grapefruits, bananas, and papayas all grown right on the grounds. While there is indoor seating, we recommend eating on the veranda overlooking the forest, where you can get drunk on the cool mountain air alone.

Vibe: Casa Grande is a super relaxing mountain escape. The staff is friendly and the tropical gardens are gorgeous. The owner, Steven, leads a Yoga class every morning.

Things to Keep in Mind: The road from Utuado, the closest town, to Casa Grande is long and curvy. Also, young children are more than welcome, but parents should be aware that the wooden railings on the balconies have wide gaps.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Vieques (Isabella Segunda), Puerto Rico: Casa de Amistad
Nominated By: Peg, Gloucester, Massachusetts, USA, November '08

Price Range: US$75-$110 # of Rooms: 7 Kid-Friendly: 10 and older

What makes Casa de Amistad so Darn Good? Casa de Amistad is a true island oasis at a great price. If you want to feel so comfortable that you can get coffee in your pajamas, then this is the place for you! With their house just next door, your hosts, Owen and David, are at your call, yet completely unobtrusive. They have stocked their guesthouse with everything you might need for the perfect beach vacation, including snorkeling equipment, beach chairs, and coolers for a picnic lunch. We just came home from a seven day stay and already want to return!

Location: The island of Vieques, six miles off Puerto Rico's east coast, is full of gorgeous beaches and unspoiled nature. Casa de Amistad is located in the town of Isabella Segunda, just two blocks from the ferry dock and close to many bars and restaurants. Vieques can be reached by ferry from Fajardo or plane from San Juan.

Rooms: Casa de Amistad's seven rooms all have comfy beds, air conditioners, and private bathrooms, although two are not en-suite. Common space abounds, such as the sweet street-side porch for people watching and morning coffee. Guests can also swim in the backyard pool, lounge in front of the satellite TV, and take in the sun on the rooftop deck.

Food: While the guesthouse does not serve food, there are two grocerias within walking distance and several restaurants nearby. The inn has a café for morning coffee, a kitchen to cook your own meals, and an honor fridge stocked with bottled water and Medalla beer.

Vibe: Casa de Amistad is the place to lay your head after a long day enjoying the beaches, sailing, or riding the local Paso Fino ponies. It's cozy here and you'll feel right at home.

Things to Keep in Mind: Rent a jeep! The best beaches are on former naval bases and are not on bus routes. Also, the guesthouse has beach towels for guests to use. The first is free, and each exchange is two dollars.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Vieques, Puerto Rico: La Finca Caribe
Nominated By: Matthew Fleck, Brooklyn, New York, USA, June '08

Hotel Website: www.lafinca.com     Phone: 787.741.0495

Price Range: US$87-$185 # of Rooms: 10 Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes La Finca Caribe so Darn Good? La Finca Caribe is incredible! We loved hanging out with our fellow travelers and soaking up the beautiful scenery. This place really attracts great people and we made fast friends. Plus, the outdoor showers are amazing.

Location: La Finca Caribe is on a hill in the middle of Vieques, a small island just six miles off the east coast of Puerto Rico, and the views of the forest down to the Caribbean Sea are fantastic. Over half of Vieques is designated a National Wildlife Refuge, which translates into miles and miles of amazing, unspoiled, white sand beaches. Vieques can be reached by ferry from Fajardo or plane from San Juan.

Rooms: The main guesthouse has six rooms, and four additional cabins are scattered throughout La Finca's lush, fruit-tree and flower-filled grounds. While most rooms have shared bathrooms and are fairly simple, the newly built Casa Nueva offers a few more creature comforts. La Finca also has a pool if you are all beached out.

Food: Although La Finca doesn't serve food, it does have a big open-air kitchen and a well-stocked communal bar. Guests can enjoy their meals at one of the many colorful outdoor tables situated on the deck. If you are not in the mood for cooking, a restaurant is nearby and the village of Esperanza is less than three miles away.

Vibe: La Finca provides loads of pillows, hammocks, and cushy seating areas where travelers mingle, and share stories and margaritas. Our hosts were terrific and they gave us many helpful hints and suggestions about things to do in Vieques.

Things to Keep in Mind: You pretty much need to rent a car on Vieques for maximum beach exploration, so make sure you rent one in advance! Also, La Finca has a three night minimum stay in the guesthouse and a week minimum stay in the rest of the cabins.

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