Discover why “Ponce is Ponce,” a center of culture and hub city of the south of Puerto Rico. Ponce’s rich history, traditions, natural assets and people make it one of the most unique gems of Puerto Rico. Here are some tips to explore and fall in love with this culture-rich Caribbean city.
Ponce is home to numerous archaeological sites and home to the oldest human bones found in Puerto Rico, dating more than 5,000 years. Ancient bones have been found at the Maruca site, while unique petroglyphs were found at the Jácana site. The Tibes Indian Ceremonial Center is the only one open to the public, and the most important archaeological site in the Antilles. It is home to the largest known indigenous burial paying tribute to the pre-Columbian Igneri and Taíno who originally inhabited the Caribbean archipelago more than 1,000 years before Columbus arrival.
Ponce beachside social and food offering is varied. Restaurants by the Caribbean Sea in El Tuque and La Playa de Ponce, offer great food with sunset views. The most famous beachside spot is La Guancha, a place to try local food and drinks. It is also the perfect place to sample local cuisine at the kiosks such as bacalaitos (fried codfish) and empanadillas (meat or cheese turnovers). If possible, plan ahead and explore Isla Cardona, a stunning island with white-sand pristine beaches, as well as a lighthouse. Boats depart from La Guancha but must be booked in advance. Contact Waterland Adventure for a trip over.
Take a car to the north of Ponce and experience its cool mountains, rivers, lakes, and coffee plantations. The coffee of Ponce and nearby towns such as Adjuntas and Jayuya once served the Vatican. For the history and experience of coffee haciendas visit Hacienda Buena Vista, a restored hydro-powered coffee plantation featuring the only existing model of the Barker hydraulic turbine. For a historical coffee brand still serving high quality coffee visit La Torrefaccción Café Mayor, it’s been around for over 150 years and still roasts its coffee in downtown Ponce. For a cup of coffee of a new gourmet brand check out Café Lucero in La Playa de Ponce. And finally, for a complete coffee experience visit Hacienda Pomarrosa in the rural and mountainous frontier between Ponce and Jayuya!
Ponce’s history is connected to the sugarcane industry, and the Serrallés family, the makers of Don Q Rum, play an important role. Besides trying their Don Q Rum, which is still produce at its original site in Mercedita, Ponce, a visit to their former residency is a must. El Castillo Serrallés, a beautiful mansion constructed in the 1930s, is now a museum offering a glimpse into the lifestyle of the Serrallés family, the history of the sugar cane and rum industry in Puerto Rico. Located on top of a hill near downtown, the gardens and city views are some of the best you will find in Ponce.
Ponce’s architecture is an eclectic mix of influences. Take a stroll around La Plaza Las Delicias, the main plaza surrounded by statues, monuments, and colonial edifices. Dozens of museums can be found just minutes from each other. Start at Museo de la Música Puertorriqueña, the headquarters of Puerto Rico’s Institute of Culture (ICP) in Ponce. From there visit Ponce’s History Museum (Museo de la Historia de Ponce) located inside a beautiful colonial pink house. Another interesting museum managed by Ponce' Municipality, is Pacho's Coimbre Museum, dedicated to the history of sport in Ponce. Finally make sure to visit Ponce's Cultural Center: El Centro Cultural Carmen Sola de Pereira.
Parque de Bombas, a museum honoring Ponce’s firefighters, was one of the first fire stations in Puerto Rico. Constructed in1882 for La Feria Exposición, a world fair that marked Ponce’s entrepreneurial spirit and made it the commercial capital of Puerto Rico. Soon after the Fair it was turned into a fire station in 1883 and base to the heroic firefighters that saved the city from a catastrophic fire in 1899 known as El Polvorín. Today the Parque de Bombas is one of the most important landmarks on the island, a place filled with history and symbol of Ponce’s proud entrepreneurial, revolutionary and heroism spirit. It is also the most photograph fireman house in the world, and most photographed structure in Puerto Rico after El Morro in Old San Juan.
Ponce’s Carnival is the oldest ongoing party in Puerto Rico, a tradition of more than 163 years, it is celebrated with parades, music, coronations and vejigates, the traditional carnival monsters that roam the streets to the song of plena, a genre of music and dance native to Ponce. The vejigante mask is among the most impressive in the world, traditionally made by artisans from La Playa de Ponce neighborhood. The Carnival is one of the traditional festivities that make Ponce worth a visit, other include: La Semana de la Danza, Las Fiestas Patronales, Homenaje Póstumo Pete "El Conde" Rodríguez, El Festival Toñín Romero, among others.
Besides checking out the festivities, a visit to Ponce must include an experience of the local music, dances and artists. Try out a bomba and plena dance class at the Centro Cultural Carmen Solá de Pereira, or check out the Paseo de La Salsa, a stage naming all the famous salsa singers from Ponce. Or just sit back and enjoy the city that was home to prominent world-known salsa musicians such as Hector Lavoe and Cheo Feliciano.
There are many more things to do such as checking out the art scene, restaurants, nightlife, sunsets, and shopping at traditional spots like La Plaza Juan Ponce de León, or Puerto Rico's largest souvenir shop, Utopía. We also suggest just simply walking through the main city plaza, Plaza Las Delicias, and relaxing with a natural ice-creme from King's Creme.
For a complete enriching and unique experience of Ponce history, don't miss walking the city with one of our tour guides, especially our classic Ponce Walking Tour, an introduction to Ponce's history, culture, architecture, music, famous sights, and much more with a local certified guide.
We hope you enjoy Ponce, known as "La Ciudad Señorial," "La Perla del Sur" and "La Ciudad Ideal"!!