11 Things to Do in Ponce, Puerto Rico
By Janet Benoir – October 20, 2023
Discover the vibrant city of Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second-largest city, brimming with rich culture and history. With countless extraordinary attractions and activities, deciding where to begin your adventure could be overwhelming. In this article, we provide a comprehensive guide to help you navigate Ponce’s art, architecture, nature, gastronomy, and shopping scenes, ensuring you make the most of your visit.
From searching for captivating street art to exploring the city’s musical heritage and people-watching in the picturesque Plaza Las Delicias, you will be immersed in Puerto Rico’s charm without breaking the bank. Dive into our guide, and experience the best that Ponce has to offer.
Parque de Bombas
An iconic emblem of Ponce, Parque de Bombas stands tall with its distinctive red-and-black striped façade. Originally constructed as the main exhibit pavilion for the 1882 Exhibition Trade Fair, it later served as the city’s fire station for over a century.
Today, this historic building has been transformed into a museum, celebrating the bravery of Ponce’s firefighters. The intricate Moorish architectural details and captivating displays make it a must-visit, echoing tales of heroism and the city’s enduring spirit.
Plaza Las Delicias
When visiting Ponce, Puerto Rico, one essential location to explore is Plaza Las Delicias. This central square provides a picturesque setting to take in the local culture and architecture. Surrounded by historic buildings, you’ll find the renowned Parque de Bombas, Ponce Cathedral, and Ponce City Hall, each offering a unique glimpse into the city’s rich history.
Take a leisurely stroll through this bustling plaza and enjoy the lush greenery, ornate fountains, and vibrant atmosphere. You’ll encounter local vendors selling a variety of Puerto Rican snacks, as well as artisans showcasing their talents. As a central hub to Ponce’s cultural activities, Plaza Las Delicias often hosts concerts and other events for you to experience and immerse yourself in the Puerto Rican lifestyle.
Ponce Museum of Art
For art lovers, the Ponce Museum of Art, also known as Museu de Arte de Ponce, is a must-visit destination. Open since 1959, it houses a diverse collection of paintings, ceramics, and sculptures from not only Puerto Rico but also Africa and the Americas.
Nearby, you can explore the picturesque Calle 25 de Enero, where red houses were given to worthy citizens in honor of these firefighters. Don’t miss visiting the impressive Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in the city center, or the captivating Castillo Serralles, which was once home to a prominent rum-producing family in Puerto Rico.
Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
As you explore the historic city of Ponce, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Built with exquisite architecture, it stands as a testament to Puerto Rico’s rich past. While the grand building attracts visitors, it also offers activities suited for kids. Pass by the majestic lion sculptures, and take a moment to appreciate the tranquility in the surroundings.
Make the most of your Ponce trip by checking out nearby attractions, including serene cemeteries and the notable Serralles family home. For the adventurous spirit, consider taking a private boat ride to explore the nearby canals. You’ll be delighted by the natural wonders like sand, turtles, and lush landscapes. Keep in mind that restrooms and ticket booths may be available at various locations throughout your visit. Enjoy your journey through Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second largest city.
Castillo Serralles is a place you won’t want to miss while visiting Ponce, Puerto Rico. This historical, Spanish Revival-style mansion was once the home of the Serralles family, a prominent Puerto Rican family that produced the renowned Don Q Rum. Today, it stands as a museum where you can learn about the rich history of Ponce, its contributions to the rum industry, and appreciate the well-preserved architecture of the mansion.
As you wander the beautifully landscaped gardens and take in the stunning views of the city, you’ll be transported to the past. Additionally, you can explore the exhibits on rum production and the history of sugar cane cultivation in the region. Visiting Castillo Serralles will certainly offer an enriching and educational experience, making your trip to Ponce truly unforgettable.
History Museum of Ponce
Nestled in the heart of Ponce, the History Museum offers a rich tapestry of Puerto Rico’s past, shedding light on its vibrant culture and colonial heritage. Visitors can traverse its extensive galleries, witnessing artifacts, paintings, and interactive exhibits that chronicle centuries of history.
Beyond its captivating exhibits, the museum itself is a testament to Ponce’s architectural grandeur. Its classical design is a nod to the city’s opulent past, making the museum not just a place to learn, but also a visual delight.
Museum of Puerto Rican Music
While visiting Ponce, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the Museum of Puerto Rican Music. This cultural institution celebrates the rich musical history of the island. As you wander through the exhibit halls, you’ll uncover the diverse range of sounds that have contributed to Puerto Rico’s musical landscape, from indigenous Taino influences to African and European beats.
At the museum, you can examine a variety of musical instruments from different time periods, learn about the lives of prolific Puerto Rican musicians, and even attend live performances or workshops. As you immerse yourself in this melodic world, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the unique sounds that have shaped Puerto Rico’s vibrant musical heritage.
Paseo Tablado La Guancha
When visiting Ponce, Puerto Rico, be sure to explore Paseo Tablado La Guancha, a lively boardwalk situated along the Caribbean waterfront. This picturesque area offers a variety of enjoyable activities perfectly suited to enrich your travel experience.
Begin by strolling down the vibrant promenade, where you’ll find numerous food kiosks dishing up delicious local cuisine. As you relish the flavors, you can also catch live music or other entertainment events frequently held in the area. Don’t forget to visit the iconic Cruceta del Vigía or the nearby historic lighthouse, both offering magnificent views of the surroundings.
Isla Caja de Muertos
When visiting Ponce, make sure to explore Isla Caja de Muertos, a small uninhabited island located approximately 5 miles from the coast. This magnificent destination is a protected nature reserve offering beautiful sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and fascinating wildlife. It’s an ideal choice for a day trip, during which you can indulge in various activities such as swimming, snorkeling, and hiking.
Allow yourself to fully experience the island’s natural beauty by hiking to the iconic lighthouse located on the island’s highest point. This 19th-century structure, known as Faro Caja de Muertos, offers breathtaking panoramic views of both the island and the ocean beyond. While exploring Isla Caja de Muertos, remember to respect the environment and adhere to the established rules, leaving the nature reserve just as pristine as when you arrived.
While visiting Ponce, Puerto Rico, there are many exciting activities for you to explore. One such opportunity is to take a trip to Gilligan’s Island, a tiny and stunning unspoiled islet just off the coast. Officially known as Cayo Aurora, it’s a popular destination for locals and tourists alike seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Crystal-clear turquoise waters and white sandy beaches make this the perfect spot for a relaxing day under the sun.
Once on the island, spend your time swimming and snorkeling in the calm and shallow waters, admiring the vibrant marine life. If you’re more of a beach enthusiast, soak up the sun while lying on the pristine shorelines or take a leisurely walk and explore the island’s natural surroundings. Don’t forget to pack all the essentials for your visit, including sunscreen, water, snacks, and snorkeling gear, as the island does not have any facilities or vendors.