I spent a weekend in Cinque Terre in late May (2001). My fellow college student friends and I went to the tourist office outside the train station. We were put in contact with a woman who rents her extra apartment overlooking the square in Monterosso. We got it for about $25 a night per person (6 people). It was perfect and clean. We were lucky enough to overlook the annual lemon festival from our living room!
Cinque Terre is one of the most wonderful places on Earth. Make sure you look for a place to stay before you start you day’s hiking and exploring. Get the accommodations out of the way so you aren’t sorry later! We do speak Italian, so that helped us a lot. Be prepared to need an Italian phrasebook if you don’t speak it. Don’t expect them to understand English, and remember that repeating yourself louder doesn’t make it any easier for a non-English speaker to understand.
The hike from Monterosso to Riomaggiore is long and hot, but it is well-worth it for the views and peace it offers. Take the time to explore each town.
While none of the hikes take longer than an hour and a half, just give yourself the day and enjoy it!!