The beautiful downtown Plaza de las Delicias is a worthwhile stop, with lovely fountains, a cathedral and local bench sitting denizens. The unique red and black, century old wooden firehouse, commonly known as "Parque de Bombas" is a landmark and still in use. Parque de Bombas originally built in 1882 for an exposition and from 1883 to 1989 it served as headquarters of the Ponce Fire Corps. In 1990, the firehouse was reopened as a museum, there are exhibits on the second floor, and the municipal band plays a free concert every Sunday night.
Other interesting buildings around the plaza include Casa Alcaldía (city hall), the oldest colonial building in the city, dating to the 1840s. Nearby sits Casa Armstrong-Poventud a magnificent example of the neoclassical architectural heritage of the island.
The Museum of Puerto Rican Music traces the rich musical history of the island through memorabilia of famous musicians and displays of Indian, Spanish and African musical instruments. Open Wednesday-Sunday 9 am - noon and 1-5:30 pm; free admission; 70 Christina St., 787-844-9722.
The world class Ponce Museum of Art, designed by Edward Durrell Stone (Museum of Modern Art, NY), is the only museum of stature, houses the most extensive art collection in the Caribbean. Located on the southern coast of Puerto Rico, 90 minutes from San Juan. The museum was donated by a foundation established by Luis A Ferré (Governor 1968-72). The building, with seven interconnected hexagons, glass cupolas and a pair of curved staircases, contains one of the most important pre-Raphaelite collections in the western hemisphere. The museum houses more than 1,000 paintings and 400 sculptures, including the finest collection of European works in the Caribbean, such as works by Velasquez, Rubens and Rodin. Many important Puerto Rican pieces are included in the collection, some Inca pottery and even Thai pieces. The museum also offers exhibits by contemporary Puerto Rican artists. Open daily 10am - 5pm. Admission: Adults $4, children $2, (787) 848-0511 or (787) 848-0505.
"La Guancha Paseo Tablado", the boardwalk, is a fun stop where you can loiter with lively local Ponceños-the teen scene, elders and the toddler-mamma set. The pier here is the departure point for a regularly scheduled weekend ferry to "Caja de Muertos" (Coffin Island or Dead Box Island), a small island of pristine beaches, an old lighthouse (built in 1887) and a marked snorkel trail (under construction). Ferry services: Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 9am and return to 5pm.
For a incredible view of how the mountains meet the sea at Ponce, drive to the summit of El Vigia Hill, where scouts once scanned for attacking ships. Visitors can ascend "Virgin's Cross" (La Cruz del Vigia), a 100-foot observation tower, and view of Ponce and Caja de Muertos. Built in 1984, the cross is a memorial to the Spanish garrison established atop of the hill to watch for smugglers' ships attempting to unload contraband on the southern coastline of Puerto Rico back in 1801.
Castillo Serralles (Serralles Castle) located near to El Vigia Hill, is a lovely landscaped former residence of the most powerful rum-producing families, the Serralles family, producers of Don Q rum. The Serralles Castle is a magnificent example of Spanish Revival architecture, popular in the 1920's; indoor patio with fountains, beautiful formal gardens paralleling the style of the house, well-manicured flame of jungle plants growing in a pattern that matches the ironwork on the house. It was designed by architect Pedro de Castro and was completed in the early 1930's. Open Tues-Thur 9:30am-4:30pm, Fri-Sun 10:00am-5:00pm, admissions $3.00, children $1.50, groups must reserve in advance, (787) 259-1774.
Nearby is the Tibes Indian Ceremonial Center discovered in 1975 after hurricane rains uncovered pottery and only a small portion has so far been excavated, is site of the oldest cemetery uncovered up to date in the Antilles, with some 200 skeletons unearthed from AD300, is considered the largest and the most important archaeological finds in the West Indies. These ancient Indian sites include seven bateyes (ball fields), some carved with petroglyphs, said to have been used for a soccer like game. On one of two dance grounds, stones line up with the sun during the equinox and solstice, making Tibes a pre-Columbian astronomical observatory. This archeological discovery affirms that the Igneri Indians (pre-Taino) did not completely disappear without leaving traces of their existence other than samples of ceramic pottery. At Tibes, there is proof that the Igneris were farmers, fishermen, and hunters of birds and small animals. The site is now a tourist attraction which is open to the public. There is a reconstructed Taíno village with thatched roof bamboo huts. Open Tues-Sun, 9am - 4pm, admission US$2 for adults, US$2 for children, (787) 840-2255.
The Museo de la Historia de Ponce (Museum of the History of Ponce) displays documents, objects and relics related to the historical development of the city. The musuem opened its doors in 1992 and it was the first museum in Puerto Rico totally devoted to the history of the people of a city. Located at 53 Calle Isabel. Open Wed-Mon, 9am-5pm, admission US $3 for adults, US $1 for children, (787) 844-7071.
Hacienda Buena Vista also known as Hacienda Vives (Buena Vista Plantation) was built in 1833 originally devoted to growing fruits, converted into a coffee plantation and corn mill in 1845 and in operation till 1937, and restored by Fideicomiso de Conservación de Puerto Rico. All the machinery works (the metal parts are original), operated by water channeled from the 360m Vives waterfall; the hydraulic turbine which turns the corn mill is unique. Located at Rte. 10, Barrio Magüeyes, km 16.8. Open Fri-Sun, tours at 8:30am, 10:30am, 13:30am and 15:30am; groups of 20 or more admitted Wed and Thur; US$5 adults, US$1 children under 12. Reservations are required. Weekdays (787) 722-5882, weekends (787) 848-7020.
South of Ponce you can find Cardona island, where a 19th century lighthouse still stands.
Ponce ships coffee, tobacco, molasses, rum, and bananas and other tropical fruits. Its principal manufactures include textiles, shoes, cement, paper, electrical devices, and metal products. Industries include tourism, the processing of agricultural products, rum distilling, canning, and diamond cutting.
What to Do and See?
- Caja de Muertos Lighthouse
- Centro Ceremonial Indigena de Tibes
- Hacienda Buena Vista
- La Guancha Paseo Tablado
- Museo de Arte de Ponce
- Parque de Bombas
- Serrallés Castle
- Casa de la Masacre de Ponce
- Casa Paoli - houses the Puerto Rico Center for Folkloric Research
- Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Guadalupe - built in 1883
- Central Mercedita
- Escuela de Bellas Artes
- Parque de La Ceiba
- Parque del Tricentenario
- Plaza del Caribe (shopping mall)
- Teatro La Perla (inaugurated in 1864)
- El Tuque Beach
- Acqua Pazza
- El Ancla
- Festival de Teatro Luis Torres Nadal - February
- Ponce Crafts Fair - March
- Semana de la Danza - May
- Festival Playa de Ponce - May
- Festival de Bomba y Plena - November
- Fiestas Patronales de Nuestra Senora de la Guadalupe - December