Ponce is the second largest city in Puerto Rico. The city was founded by Ponce de Leon's grandson Juan Ponce de León y Loayza in 1692, and it is richly colonial in character. Ponce's draw is its rich history and unique architecture. The atmosphere is charmingly laid-back, a stark contrast to the bustling economic and nightlife districts of San Juan. Even as the island's second largest city, tourists may find Ponce to offer unsurpassed opportunities as a tourist destination.
Ponce is reachable by car from San Juan via Puerto Rico Highway 52, a modern 4-lane road. Ponce is located some 65 miles from San Juan, making for a trip of a little over 1 hour. The road has the convenience of ready access to towns along the way, making for easy access to restaurants, shops, and other such facilities along the trip.
Ponce has a large públicos terminal (787-842-1222) at the intersection of Calle Union and Calle Vives, a few blocks north of Plaza las Delicias. Públicos to San Juan (2 hrs, $20) depart from pier 5A, mostly early in the morning. Call Chóferes Unidos de Ponce at 787-764-0540 to make a reservation; they can also pick you up for a small extra fee.
The downtown area is compact and very attractive to explore on foot. Cabs are inexpensive and plentiful, should you need one, although many museums and restaurants are within a very short distance of the central plaza. The historic center has quality sidewalks. Public transportation in Ponce consists of modern air conditioned buses that, as of 2012, served some 800,000 riders annually. The city has also recently (2012) embarked in an ambituous bus-based mass transit system plan aimed at serving the entire city plus parts of the outlying areas. There are some five city-wide bus routes and, as of 2013, plans to add additional routes and service. As of January 2013, the bus service continued to be free citywide. There is also a tourist "chu-chu train" that does a loop of the downtown. On-street parking can be quite a challenge at times. However, there are two large parking garages within two blocks of the central downtown plaza.
Most of Ponce's sights are tightly packed around the main square of Plaza las Delicias.
Parque de Bombas, east side. The former fire station, painted with highly distinctive red and black stripes, and the symbol of the city. The building now houses the tourist office and a free exhibition of the history of fire fighters in Ponce, and is the departure point for the sightseeing train around the city.
Casa Alcaldía (City Hall), south side.
Catedral de la Guadalupe, west side. Directly behind Parque de Bombas,
La Guancha Paseo Tablado. A boardwalk south of downtown, near the harbor.
Casa de la Masacre de Ponce
The Museum of Puerto Rican Music 70 Christina St., 787-844-9722. Open W-Su 9AM - noon, 1-5:30PM. Free
'Museo de Arte de Ponce (787) 840-1510. Is quite impressive. A modern building, that is arguably one of the top and finest museums in Latin America. Covers European art -- most notably "Flaming June" -- as well as some Puerto Rican art. The museum hosts many visiting exhibits, as well. Daily 10AM - 6PM Close on Tuesdays. Adults $6, children $3, students $3.
La Cruceta del Vigia. (Open Th-Su)
Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Tibes - Indigenous Park about the Tainos (the pre-Columbian Island natives) Open Daily, close on Mondays. Adults $3
Caja de Muertos (Coffin Island) is an uninhabited island just off the coast where you can visit a century-old lighthouse, empty stretches of beaches and a marked underwater snorkel trail. Ferries leave from the pier, weekends. $4. 787-842-8546
Caribbean Images Tours, La Guancha,Ponce ☎ 787 244-6283,url="http://www.caribbeanimagespr.com" . 9AM-6PM. 1/2 day guided snorkeling excursions to Caja De Muertos. All snorkel equipment is provided. For the novice and non swimmer, we offer instruction and an actual 'hand holding’ experience, if necessary, as safety and education are our top priorities which in turn makes an enjoyable day for everyone. $55.
Hacienda Buena Vista Plantation, is a historic coffee plantation turned into a museum about growing and processing coffee. It is located northwest of the city of Ponce, along Carretera 123 in the Corral Viejo neighborhood.
Hacienda Pomarrosa Plantation. Tours on request, $15/person. Hacienda Pomarrossa is a privately run active specialty coffee plantation in the mountains north of Ponce at the intersection of highway 143 and 511 (note that highway 511 from Ponce is blocked off by a gate roughly 2/3 of the way to Pomarrosa; take highway 143). Owners conduct the tours themselves and speak English, Spanish and German.
El Tuque Beach
Caribbean Water Sports, La Guancha, Ponce, ☎ 787 244-6283. 9AM-6PM. We guide you on an exciting jet ski ride to near by deserted cays and islands. You can snorkel on the beautiful reefs of these cays or tour around them at your own pace. Fast or slow!$80 per hour. edit
King's Cream, Calle Marina 9322 (opp Parque de Bombas), tel. 787-843-8520. A Ponce institution dishing out hand-made ice cream in a dozen flavors for two generations. Generously sized portions start from $1.10.
Classic Delights Calle Marina, Ssq Comercio Ste 3. If you've had your fill of heavy meat & fish dishes, head over to Classic Delights for some fresh baked breads, veggie wraps, pizzas and lasagna. They offer a full breakfast menu, fresh juices, and salads, soups and sandwiches too.
Hotel Meliá, Plaza Degetau y Calle Cristina, tel. 787-842-0260, . Located right off the central plaza, this family-run hotel has both colonial charm and modern facilities. Great little pool, free wi-fi in room, free PCs in business center. Rooms from $90.
Holiday Inn Ponce and Tropical Casino
Howard Johnson Ponce
Hotel Ramada Ponce, corner of Union and Reina Streets, tel. 787-813-5050. Located on main square across from Cathedral. Pool and restaurant.
Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort, 1150 Caribe Avenue, 1-787-259-7676, , This one's on the beachfront, but a 5-minute drive from town. The Hotel has a 27-hole Golf Course, vegas-style Casino, 2 swimming pools, tennis courts, ample garden areas and recreational facilities for family vacations, and a complete Conference/Convention Center for events and banquets.
Guests at the Hilton Ponce usually enjoy day trips to Caja de Muertos (Coffin) Island for a snorkel or Scuba Diving adventure, visit "La Guancha" nearby boardwalk for a friendly interaction with Ponce's people, and explore the museums and spanish revival architectural jewels in downtown.
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