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Ponce Travel Guide
Get Your Bearings in PonceWhere to Stay
Ponce is a relatively small, manageable city. Most of the hotels are sprinkled around Plaza Degetau, within walking distance of the major tourist attractions. The Hilton Gold & Casino Resort is the crown-jewel of the city and is nearest to the coast. Staying here will allow you quick access to the off-shore island Caja de Muertos, perfect for day trips.
Caution: The south side of Puerto Rico is not known for its beaches. Staying in nearby Guanica will allow you access to the best ones.
Hot Tips: Take the guess work out of the hotel choice and choose Ponce Hilton.
What to Eat
When in Puerto Rico, eat Puerto Rican. To sample the scrumptious local fare, you won't have to venture too far outside your hotel in the city's center. Rationally situated on the city's coast are some solid seafood dining establishments serving up locally seasoned catch and spectacular views of el mar.
Hot Tips: Try El Ancla for seafood with a view.
Be Sure to Sample: Hand-made ice cream from King's Cream.
Things to See
Ponce is a city of deep culture and legacy, having been founded by the grandson of famed explorer Juan Ponce de Leon. In the city center you can find many great museums and Spanish architecture. The "wow" inducing exterior of "Parque de Bombas" must be experienced. The coastline access offers visitors a variety of water activities such as snorkeling and jet skiing. An underrated attraction are the nearby "Camuy Caves".
Caution: Depending on the route, driving to the Camuy Caves can be tough for those with fear of heights and narrow roads.
Hot Tips: Take a ferry off the pier to Coffin Island. Spend the day snorkeling above beautiful reefs.
Places to Party
Ponce has a respectable nightlife scene led by the cluster of bars around the center square. "La Gauncha" (a boardwalk lined with cheap drink dispensaries) is popular with locals and tourists, filling to the brims on weekend nights. The area around the Tuque Water Park is good for midweek imbibing.
Take It or Leave It: You'll be in Puerto Rico, so expect to dance to some Reggaeton. Virus is a good place for dancing to this niche genre.
Hot Tips: On Wednesdays, the Hollywood Cafe has a "party of the broke a**," which rationally includes cheap drinks.
Where to Shop
Traditional malls and local craft stores dominate the shopping scene in Ponce. "Centro del Sur" is a shopping center/mall located in the heart of Ponce. There you will see traditional mall stores just like in the States. Drive down "Pso Perla Del Sur" and you will bump into three more shopping centers including the "Fox Delicias" mall. Finding local crafts, will involve scoping out the boardwalk and keeping the old eyes peeled for street vendors.
Hot Tips: Mi Coqui is where to go to find great souvenirs and local novelties.
Best Local Souvenir: A Vejigante mask.
Ready for Your Dream Vacation?
Puerto Rico's second largest city lies nestled on the island's southern coast a ninety-minute drive from capital city San Juan. First settled by the Spanish in 1580, the city is named for Loiza Ponce de Leon — not his more famous great-grandfather. The latter 1800s were Ponce's golden years. Money flowed in from trade in Ponce's deepwater port, and the local coffee and sugar plantations were thriving. Poncenos sank their money into civic buildings and the arts, and the city became one of Puerto Rico's cultural centers. Fortunes turned and Ponce declined in the mid 1900s but the Puerto Rican government has come to the rescue in recent years. More than 600 of Ponce's 1,000 historical buildings have been renovated and the city is full of architectural gems. Wander the streets around Plaza Las Delicias and you are likely to see examples of Spanish Colonial, neoclassical and Moorish architecture, with a heavy emphasis on wrought iron balconies. Ponce's rich history and beautiful surroundings have rightly earned her the nickname of "La Perla del Sur" — the Pearl of the South.