Ponce, the second oldest city of Puerto Rico, is centered along the southern coast of Puerto Rico. The city faces the Caribbean Sea gently sloping towards the hills of the central mountains. Ponce was founded in 1692 by Ponce de Leon’s great-grandson, known as “La Perla del Sur” (The Pearl of the South) housing one of the most elegant squares and buildings on the island.
Ponce is a central location to explore various points of interest in the central mountains and the southern coast of Puerto Rico.
In Ponce, visitors will enjoy days full of activities, take a walk in the historic city center, visit coffee plantations, take a walk in the past where Taino Natives danced, and visit one of the best art museums in the Caribbean. Take a day trip to the gorgeous uninhabited island of Caja de Muertos, where you can snorkel and swim in clear turquoise waters.
Following are the best things to do and interesting places to visit in Ponce and nearby.
Places & Info on this Ponce Puerto Rico Tourist Guide
Top Places to Visit & Things to Do
Things to Do & Top Places to VisitPonce, Puerto Rico
Caja de Muertos is a short scenic boat ride from Ponce. The island is a nature reserve, you’ll be visiting a place untouched by development or tourism. Caja de Muertos is one of the most underrated places in Puerto Rico, it certainly doesn’t get the attention it deserves, once you get there, you’ll probably wish it stays that way, keeping it nice, quiet, and pristine. This uninhabited island is home to Playa Pelicano, a uniquely beautiful beach, named after all the beautiful pelicans that nest on the hill adjacent to the beach.
You can enjoy a full day of beach-combing, suntanning, snorkeling, and hiking. If you’re staying in Ponce, Playa Pelicano is truly the only beautiful beach in the municipality.
Top Rated Tours to Caja de Muertos & Nearby Islands on the South Coast
Parque de Bombas is the most visited attraction in Ponce and one of the most photographed landmarks in Puerto Rico. In 1984, Parque de Bombas de Ponce was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. As you drive towards the plaza, the bright tones of red and black immediately capture the visitor’s attention. The firehouse is a symbol of pride and respect for the heroic work of the firemen of Ponce.
+ Highlights - Parque de Bombas
Highlights of Parque de Bombas de Ponce
- First firehouse in Puerto Rico.
- Built in 1882 as the main pavilion for that year’s Exhibition Trade Fair.
Location: Plaza Delicias
Hours: Monday to Sunday 9:00am – 5:00pm
Top Rated Tours to Ponce, Puerto Rico
|Flaming June by Frederic Leighton.||Flaming June – Wikipedia|
Museo de Arte de Ponce is the most prestigious art museum in Puerto Rico, and one of the most well-known across the Caribbean. “The Ponce Museum of Art is recognized worldwide as an important center of European art in America and continues to offer its visitors a rich panorama of Western art, from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century. Two strong points within the European collection are Baroque art and Victorian painting.”
“The permanent collection consists of 4,500 paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, ceramics, three-dimensional objects, photographs, engravings, drawings, videos, and installations of sound art. The works of art span 30 centuries (from 900 BC to the present) and come from Europe, America, and Africa. In 1956 Luis A. Ferré established a foundation that bears his name and acquired his first group of European paintings for the future museum in Ponce that opened in 1959.”
Like other towns in Puerto Rico, Plaza Las Delicias is located at the center of the historic district. This is the cultural center, where old friends meet, festivals take place, and the location of some of the most recognized landmarks in Ponce.
While here, you won’t be able to miss the commanding red and black Parque de Bombas and the town cathedral. Take a stroll around the plaza, you can visit the Armstrong Poventud Residence (across the cathedral), souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants, a casino, admire the elegant architecture, stop at art murals for some colorful vacation photos, and refresh with some ice cream at the beloved Rex Cream.
Top Rated Taino Cultural Tours
Castillo Serralles, a 4 story mansion built in the early 1930’s designed with an elegant Spanish revival style. The mansion was built by Juan Serrales, son of Juan Serralles, founder of Destileria Serralles (Serralles Distillery), which was the family’s headquarters for 70 years. Today the mansion houses a museum; it is one of the most photographed buildings in Puerto Rico, a popular venue for events and weddings, and one of the most visited attractions in Ponce. As you drive around town you can see Castillo Serralles sitting at the top of the hill next to La Cruceta overlooking the center city of Ponce.
Quenepas Cultural Event
The Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe) commonly known as Catedral de Ponce (Ponce Cathedral) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The cathedral is located at the center of Plaza Las Delicias facing west, it is the only church situated at the center of a plaza, dividing the square into two plazas (squares).
+ Quick Facts, Events & Hours
- History dates back to 1670. Original structures were damaged by earthquakes and fires.
- From 1931 – 1937 church was reconstructed. Cathedral was designed by Francisco Porrata Doria. The facade was designed in a neoclassical style. Interior design is colonial and gothic.
- The cathedral features a large pipe organ played by famous Puerto Rican composer Juan Morel Campos.
Important Events at Catedral de Ponce
- December 12th – Annual event held since 1965 with an average attendance of 10,000 people. Procession and Mass presided by the Bishop of Diocese. Attendees congregate at the entrance of the Cathedral before dawn for a procession to sing Las Mañanitas (a song typically sang on birthdays in Mexico), accompanied by a mariachi band to celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Ponce. Following a Holy Mass is held at the Cathedral at 5 am.
- Monday – Friday from 6:00 am to 12:30 pm
- Saturday – Sunday: 6am to 12pm / 3pm to 8pm
- Monday – Friday 7am, 9am, 12:05pm
- Saturdays: 9am, 4pm, 7pm
- Sundays: 7am, 8:30am, 11am, 4pm, 7pm
Monday – Friday: 9am / 1pm
Leave the city and head up to the mountains to Hacienda Buena Vista, there you can enjoy a guided tour of what used to be one of the most important coffee plantations in Puerto Rico. Hacienda Buena Vista was built in the mid-19th century. Visitors can learn about the methods of coffee production back in the 1800s. The plantation was purchased from the Vives family in 1984 by The Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico. Hacienda Buena Vista is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Please Note: La Guacha Boardwalk is closed as they make improvements due to Hurricane Maria’s damage, but food trucks and artisans have moved to the parking lot next to the playground until improvements are completed.
La Guancha is a favorite place for locals to gather with friends and families. It is located in Avenida Malecón (south end) next to Puerto (Port) de las Americas. You will find a few restaurants open for lunch where business workers come for a nice break by the sea. La Guancha is a cultural center where the municipality and private organizations celebrate events throughout the year. Weekends are festive where you may find live music, artisans, and food trucks.
- Restaurants & Kiosks
- Observation Tower
- Boardwalk (Currently closed to damage from Hurricane Maria).
- Boat Ramps
Nearby Places to Visit from PoncePuerto Rico
Other Places of InterestPonce, Puerto Rico
Teatro La Perla
Teatro La Perla is a beloved cultural center in the city of Ponce, where locals and visitors alike can attend a variety of shows, musicals and events. Music and art are an integral part of the Puerto Rican culture, some of the most important events held are: Pablo Casals Festival, Luis Torres Nadal Theatre Festival and Theatre Festival of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.
Teatro La Perla is the second oldest theatre in use on the island. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1918 and further damaged in 1924 by a fire. Teatro La Perla was rebuilt in 1941 with the same facade designed by architect Francisco Porrata Doria and Francisco Gardón. Teather was remodeled in 1990, it has a capacity of 1,047 seats
La Vigía is a watchtower next to Castillo Serralles, visitors can enjoy sweeping views of the city. In 1801 when the city was under control by Spain the city was at risk of attacks, The Vigía was built to serve as a watchtower to protect the city from invaders and pirates. It was also used to guide ships approaching the port.
The Vigía could use some TLC, it would look amazing painted in white with brand new windows and updated facilities. Photography enthusiasts and those wishing to have a bird’s eye view of the city will find this attraction worth a stop. See the map below for the location.