Ponce Tourist Attractions
Puerto Rico's second largest city, Ponce, is known as the "La Perla del Sur" (Pearl of the South). Lying 3mi/5km from the south central coast of Puerto Rico, Ponce has an area of 115sq.mi/302 sq.km and a population of 200,000. Officially founded by Loíza Ponce de León (Juan Ponce de León's great-grandson) in 1692, Ponce was the capital of Puerto Rico's southern region until it fell to the U.S. in 1898. Ponce's historical center dates from the 17th C and many interesting plazas, churches, museums and colonial homes are found in the city. The patron saint of the city is the Virgin of Guadalupe, and locals are referred to as ponceños. Since the Second World War, the town has seen quick development in the industrial, commercial and tourist arenas.
Hacienda Buena Vista
About 10mi/16.1km north of Ponce is the Hacienda Buena Vista, a colonial coffee plantation built in 1833. With major support from the Smithsonian Institute, the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico restored the plantation to its original condition. The Hacienda Buena Vista sits in a subtropical forest near the Caños River, where visitors can observe a 60ft/18.3m waterfall. The house itself is two-story, furnished with period antiques, and the machinery, mill and waterworks are in working condition. The plantation at Hacienda Buena Vista has been registered with the National Trust of Historic Sites. Observe the milling of corn and try grinding and de-pulping coffee beans.
Address: Route 10, Puerto Rico
Opening hours: 8:30am-5:30pm; Closed: Mon, Tue
Always closed on: Martin Luther King's Birthday - USA (3rd Monday, Jan), Eugenio María de Hostos' Birthday - Puerto Rico (2nd Monday, Jan), Epiphany (3 Kings' Day ) - Christian (Jan 6), New Year's Day (Jan 1), President's Day - USA (3rd Monday, Feb), Valentine's Day (Feb 14), Emancipation Day - Puerto Rico (Mar 22), José de Diego's Birthday - Puerto Rico (3rd Monday, Apr), Mother's Day - Puerto Rico (2nd Sunday, May), Memorial Day - USA (last Monday, May), Father's Day - Puerto Rico (3rd Sunday, Jun), Luis Muñoz Rivera's Birthday - Puerto Rico (Jul 17), José Celso Barbosa's Birthday - Puerto Rico (Jul 27), Constitution Day - Puerto Rico (Jul 25), American Independance Day (Jul 4), Labor Day - USA (1st Monday, Sep), Columbus Day - USA (2nd Monday, Oct), Thanksgiving - USA (4th Thursday, Nov), Veteran's Day - USA (Nov 11), Discovery of Puerto Rico Day - Puerto Rico (Nov 19), Easter - Christian
Entrance fee in USD: Adult $7.00, Child 12 & under $4.00, Senior $4.00, Child 4 & under FREE
Useful tips: Reservations required for tour.
Guides: Guided tour included with admission.
Typical Visit: 2 hours
Plaza of Delights
Formerly known as Plaza Central (Plaza Las Delicias) the area is made up of two adjoining squares. Surrounded by 19th C buildings, within the plaza are Cathedral, benches and the Fuente de Leones (Fountain of Lions), a monument originating from the 1939 World's Fair in New York.The Plaza Las Delicias is as the name suggests a delightful place. It is an oasis away from all the outer, less appealing neighborhoods that you need to traverse to get into the old town. Spend an evening here in an outdoor café just watching the people of Ponce interact and enjoy life. There are also two statues of note in the Plaza Las Delicias, one of Luis Muoz Marin and the other of Juan Morel Campos.
Ponce Museum of Art
Visitors interested in Art will be pleasantly surprised by the Museo del Arte de Ponce (Ponce Museum of Art). For a city the size of Ponce, the collection at the museum is quite amazing. Representing 500 years of Western Art, The Museo del Arte de Ponce houses more than 850 paintings, 800 sculptures, and more than 500 prints in its collection. Former governor Luis Ferré donated the collection and building which houses it in 1959. Featured in the collection are pre-Raphaelite works and Italian baroque paintings, as well as works by Diego Velázquez, Benjamin West, Peter Paul Rubens and Eugène Delacroix. Puerto Rican artists Francisco Oller and José Campeche are also featured.
Cathedral Our Lady of Guadalupe
Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Guadalupe (Cathedral Our Lady of Guadalupe), built in 1931, stands on the site of the original chapel (damaged by fire and earthquake) built by colonists in the 1660s. The Cathedral is painted blue and white and features twin bell towers, stained-glass windows and a pipe organ. It is registered with the National Trust of Historic Sites.The Catedral Nuestra Señora is a wonderful place to escape the heat, hustle and bustle of the surrounding areas. The ephemeral quiet will soothe your senses and recharge your soul. Regular services are held at the Catedral Nuestra Señora and donations are always gratefully accepted.
Pancho Coímbre Museum
Named for Ponce's own baseball great Pancho Coímbre, this museum is Ponce's sports hall of fame.Named for Ponce's own baseball great Pancho Coímbre, the Museo Poncho Coímbre is Ponce's sports hall of fame. Puerto Ricans are baseball crazy. It is practically every boys dream to play in the major leagues in the continental United States. Pancho Coímbre was practically a national hero during his playing days and the museum in his honor does an excellent job of detailing his every achievement.Also at the Museo Pancho Coímbre are interesting displays detailing the lives of other key sports heroes. The museum is chock full of all kinds of sporting memorabilia that the visitor could possibly image including jerseys, baseballs, and awards.
History of Ponce Museum
For first time visitors eager to learn more about their beautiful surroundings, the Museo de la Historia de Ponce (History of Ponce Museum) is a good starting point. This museum exhibits the growth and change of the city of Ponce since the time of the Taíno Indians. Considered a large museum in relevance to the size of Ponce, the Museo de la Historia de Ponce has ten galleries documenting the city's history regarding politics, culture, economy, ecology, education, medicine, architecture and daily life. The local citizens donated most of the artificats to the museum. The building (1911) combines typical ponceño, Moorish and neoclassical elements of architecture and is unique in its appearance.
House of the Ponce Massacre
Now a small museum, the Casa de las Masacre de Ponce (House of the Ponce Massacre) was the former office of the Nationalist Party. The museum recalls a fatal confrontation between the armed police and the Nationalist Party in 1937, which ended in a shooting leaving 19 dead.The history of the Ponce Massacre is well laid out with the story of how the students marching for independence had their permit withdrawn at the last minute. In a fit of fervor they decided to march anyway and came to face a force of 150 policemen.The resulting confrontation resulted in the deaths of 17 protesters all of who were shot in the back. Two police officers also died. All of this is remembered at the Casa de las Masacre de Ponce.
Old Ponce Fire Station
One of Puerto Rico's most famous buildings is located in Ponce. The Parque de Bombas (Firehouse) is a unique looking, red and black striped wooden building. Built in 1883, the building housed Ponce's volunteer firemen until 1990. Today, the second floor of the firehouse is a museum highlighting fires in Ponce and the local firemen. The Firehouse has been registered in the National Trust of Historic Sites. You can ring the old fire engine bell and make the siren go off if you are so inclined.The Parque de Bombas is located in the plaza near the Catedral Nuesta Señora de Guadalupe. The building was originally built as part of an agricultural exhibit that came to Ponce in 1882.
Tibes Indian Ceremonial Centre
Visitors to Puerto Rico and Ponce interested in tribal history will be pleased to discover the Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Tibes (Tibes Indian Ceremonial Center). Located just 2mi/3.2km north of Ponce, The Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Tibes is the site of the oldest cemetery yet to be uncovered in the Antilles. The ruins were exposed due to a tropical storm (Eloíse) in 1975, and since then 5ac/2ha of land have been excavated. Burial grounds, at least 180 skeletons, seven ball courts, two ceremonial plazas, charms, tools and pottery have been uncovered, of both the Taínos and Igneris Indian cultures. Indian objects are on display in a small museum on site.
Taking place six days proceeding Lent in February, the Carnaval Festival is a Catholic rite involving indulging in life's pleasures before giving them up for Lent. Carnaval features masquerade, dance, food and more.It is not unlike other Carnavals that take place throughout the Caribbean with lots fun taking place throughout the city. A parade is part of the activities as are costume balls and lots and lots of loud music.Ponce can be very crowded during the Carnaval festival so be sure to book well in advance if you are planning on staying in the town. Also, keep an eye on your valuables during the street festivities.
Castle Serrallès Museum
The Serrallès Castle Museum displays the lifestyle of the Spanish elite. The castle is Moorish style, with verandas, turrets and a red-tiled roof. The rum baron Serrallès built the castle as a monument to his wealth in the 1930s. Tour the house and a historical display of his industrial pursuits. The castle is registered with the National Trust of Historic Sites.The Serrallès Castle Museum location is easily located by a 30m / 100ft cross located on the property. If you feel hungry or thirsty, there is a pleasant café on the premises and the grounds surrounding the building are well manicured, perfect for a quick stroll.
Address: 17 El Vigia Sector, Ponce 00730, Puerto Rico
Opening hours: 9:30am-6:30pm; Closed: Mon
Entrance fee: FREE
Useful tips: Groups should reserve in advance. Bilingual tour guides available.
Guides: Guided tour included with admission.
Facilities: Restaurant or food service
Typical Visit: 1 hour
Museum of Puerto Rican Music
The Museo de la Musica Puertoriqueña (Museum of Puerto Rican Music) is housed in a pink villa, exhibits the development of music on Puerto Rico. The evolution of the island's folk music (bomba y plena) is understood through exhibitions of Taíno, Spanish and African instruments. Also explained is the formal danza. The exhibitions are in Spanish and English.The Museo de la Musica Puertoriqueña was built by Calderoni, a famous builder responsible for many fine structures throughout Puerto Rico. The pastel pink color makes for fantastic photos, especially in the early morning and late afternoon sun.
National Festival of the Dance
Taking place mid-May, the week-long National Festival of the Dance, known as Festia Nacional de la Danza celebrates music and dance. Concerts feature string-quartets and 19th C dance. It is a delight to see the varied styles of dance on display.Some of the dancing is quite formal with men dressed up in tuxedos and tails and women in fine long silk gowns. The Festia Nacional de la Danza takes place in the center of town in the Plaza Las Delicias. Ponce is very busy during this festival; it is a good idea to call at least several months in advance to secure accommodation.
Designed by Juan Bertoli Calderoni in the 1860's, the Pearl Theater (Teatro La Perla) is a neoclassical structure with a six-columned entrance. The building was damaged in the 1918 earthquake, but rebuilt 20 years later with better acoustics technology. With a capacity of only 1,047 the public get dressed up and gather in the music hall for plays and concerts.The lobby of the Teatro La Perla has a small museum dedicated to the history of the building and past shows that have come and gone. There are always interesting shows coming to the theatre. Check with the box office in the ornate lobby to see what's playing soon.
The City Hall at Ponce has one of the most unusual histories of any city hall throughout the world. Originally built in the 1840s as a public assembly hall, Ponce's current City Hall was a jail until the end of the 19th C. Current galleries were former cells, and executions were held in the courtyard. Four U.S. presidents spoke from the balcony - Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt and George Bush. The building is registered with the National Trust of Historic Sites and is well worth a visit as you stroll around the Plaza Las Delicias.
Only 3mi/4.9km off the coast of Ponce is the Isla Caja de Muertos (Coffin Island). The name of the island is believed to derive from a French author's perspective that the island looked like a body in a coffin. Coffin Island is 1mi/1.6km long and is a rare wildlife refuge with a reef system. The environment is dry, which supports reptiles and endangered plants. The island is made up of rocky and sandy coastline, and a combination of lowlands and hills. On the island is a restored lighthouse built in 1887 that is registered with the National Trust.
The Paseo Tablado La Guancha (Boardwalk) is a good place to mingle with local Ponceños (people of Ponce). Built in the 1990s, the boardwalk overlooks the yacht harbor and features a concert pavilion, an observation tower, many restaurants and bars, and a public beach. This can be a busy place, with lots of live salsa music and crowds.The Paseo Tablado La Guancha is also a great place to look out at the water and catch a cool breeze. With the exception of Monday and Tuesday, the boardwalk is usually quite a lively place and great for people watching.
The Watch & Cross of the Watch
The Spanish Crown posted lookouts on this hill in the 19th C. Still a lookout site, you can see the view atop the Cruz del Vigía, a 100ft/30.5m observation tower which is a concrete cross. Ascend to the top by elevator. The Watch and Cross is located on the same property as the Museo Castillo Serrallés and a combined visit is recommended.The view from the top of the concrete cross is quite spectacular on clear days as visitors can see the Caribbean, the mangroves of the coastal plain, and a good view of the city of Ponce and its suburbs.
Mostly domestic flights take off from Mercidtia Airport (Aeropuerto de Mercidita) here, however there are a few overseas flights to the U.S. The airport is located approximately 4 miles / 6.5 km from the center of Ponce. The taxi terminal is on Calle Mayor at the Texaco station.