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Ponce is the second largest city in Puerto Rico, situated on the south coast. The city is rich in history and unique architecture, and has a charming laid-back atmosphere. Ponce's downtown is a single quaint city square around which most of the city sights are tightly packed..75 miles (121km) SW of San Juan"The Pearl of the South," Ponce was named after Loíza Ponce de León, great-grandson of Juan Ponce de León. Founded in 1692, Ponce is today Puerto Rico's principal shipping port on the Caribbean. The city is well kept and attractive, with an air of being stuck in the past, like a provincial Mediterranean town. On weekday afternoons, men dressed in starched guayaberas and hats play dominoes while uniformed school girls run along the large walkways.
 
Its historic district underwent a $440-million restoration for 1992's 500th anniversary celebration of Christopher Columbus's voyage to the New World, and improvements have continued. The streets are lit with gas lamps and lined with neoclassical buildings, just as they were a century ago. Horse-drawn carriages roll by, and strollers walk along sidewalks edged with pink marble. Contemporary Ponce has been restored to its former splendor, the city as it was at the turn of the 20th century, when it rivaled San Juan as a wealthy business and cultural cente
 
Downtown Ponce is approximately 7 km to the north of the port, opposite an expressway. Some form of transport is needed to take visitors to the city's attractions. The municipality is building a new visitor wharf at Eugenio Maria de Hostos Street to hold two large cruise ships at once.
Public transportation in Puerto Rico isn’t that good. Other than San Juan, there are no scheduled buses or trains. Taxi's are very pricey. Rental cars start at $30 a day
 
Docking & Local Transportation
Port Location - There port of Ponce is located in the southern tip of the city. A new tourist wharf for cruise ships is soon to be built at Eugenio Maria de Hostos Street. The heart of the town is as small and striking place to discover by a nice walk. There's a complementary tourist train that does a round of the downtown area each afternoon. The trolleys halts throughout the town and you can get in and out whenever you want to.
 
There is so much to see in Ponce that you will want to extend your stay while leisurely exploring its remarkable tourism offer.
 
Museo de Arte de Ponce
Without any doubts, The Ponce Art Museum is honorably the number one tourist attraction in the City. Celebrating its 52nd anniversary in 2011, is the ONLY one in Puerto Rico credited by the American Association of Museums (AAM) and is widely recognized as a world class, premier institution of Italian Baroque, French Academic, and British 19th-century art.
 
Flaming June
It hosts an extraordinary collection of approximately 4000 art masterpieces in a building designed by famous architect Edward Durell Stone (New York's Radio City Music Hall and Museum of Modern Art), an amazing piece of art by itself often referred to as the Parthenon of the Americas. Showcased is Frederic Leighton's captivating 1895 painting Flaming June, certainly one its most valuable treasures.
 
Ponce Art Museum
Madrid’s El Prado and London’s Tate Britain, are only two of more than eighty renowned institutions all around the globe that have shared Ponce Art Museum's traveling exhibitions over the years.
 
On November 2010, and after a major (USD $30 million) expansion and renovation, the museum proudly reopened its facilities to the general public. Boasting nearly twice its former exhibition space plus a new library, a museum store, the Luis A. Ferré Historical Archives and the Anton J. Konrad Center for Restoration and Conservation, the museum will also open a new restaurant and cyber-cafe in early 2011 - 787.848.0505 – WED thru MON (10:00am-6:00pm) - USD$6PP. Daily guided tours at 11:00am and 2:00pm
 
The Ponce Art Museum, the many other Ponce attractions as well as its TEN additional museums (most for any other municipality in the island) will surely guarantee a cultural feast for your well spent, precious vacation time...
 
Hacienda Buena Vista Nature Reserve
Carefully maintained and well managed by the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust (Fideicomiso de Conservación) this restored coffee hacienda museum truly is a 19th century GREEN (water driven) engineering wonder in the middle of a paradise. Visitors take 2-hour tours by well prepared interpreters in a fascinating journey back through Ponce’s colonial history.
 
Hacienda Buena Vista in Ponce
You will be guided through the house of the Vives family, the slave quarters, the warehouse, the depot where the coffee processing machinery and the corn mill are lodged and their inspiring natural surroundings. Separate educational birding and hiking tours are also offered. RESERVATIONS required - 787.722.5834 Ext 240 – WED thru SUN (8:30am-3:30pm) - $8PP
 
Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center
Eroded by storm waters and discovered by a local farmer in 1975, this Igneri (pre-Taino tribe) settlement, dating back to the First Century (25 AD), constitutes the oldest astronomical observatory in the Caribbean and one of its most precious archaeological sites.  Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center A total of 9 ancient courts and ceremonial parks, the largest indigenous cemetery in the region with 186 human remains, a museum depicting articles recovered at the site, an exhibition hall and other facilities for the general public. Guided tours – 787.840.2255 – TUE thru SUN (9am-4pm) – $3PP.
Serralles Castle
 
A sugar industry museum located in an imposing hill top mansion overlooking downtown Ponce, with spectacular panoramic coastal views. Built in the 1920’s by the wealthy family owners of the local rum distillery.
 
Serralles Castle in Ponce
Designed by famous Puerto Rican architect Pedro de Castro Besosa, in splendorous Spanish Colonial Revival style, this gem among the Ponce attractions is a little piece of Andalusia in Puerto Rico. It includes a restaurant with facilities for group activities, an auditorium, plus lush, manicured gardens and magnificent fountains. Well illuminated at night, the castle offers all residents and visitors a romantic, nostalgic view from the town center below. Guided tours – 787.259.1774 – TUE thru SUN (9:30am-5:00pm) – USD$6PP.
 
Parque de Bombas
The emblematic Old Ponce Fire Station, right behind the cathedral at main Plaza Las Delicias, was originally built as the principal exhibit pavilion for an 1882 Trade Fair Expo.  Old Ponce Fire Station Designed by a Spanish Army architect who later became Ponce mayor (coronel Don Máximo Meana y Guridi), the black and red wooden structure was later turned into the City’s main firehouse; a function which it served for more than 100 years. Its Gothic style exhibits a Moorish influence and is by far the most easily recognized landmark in the island. Today it serves as a small museum honoring Ponce's heroic firemen. 787.284.3338 – OPEN 7 DAYS/WEEK (9:00am-5:00pm) – FREE ADMISSION.
 
Costa Caribe Golf and Country Club
Designed by Bruce A. Besse, Jr. of Willowbend Golf & Land Design, this spectacular course features the first island green in Puerto Rico. Set on a former sugar cane filed, its physical setting provides breathtaking views of the Caribbean and the Central Mountains coupled with the natural beauty of its 14 man-made lakes and numerous species of birds. Total Holes: 18.
Road #1, Los Caobos Ponce, PR 00734  Map this -- (787) 848-1000 Fax (787) 812-2675
 
Museo de la Música Puertorriqueña
The Museum of Puerto Rican Music is dedicated to preserve the traditions 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 Wed-Sun 9am-noon, 1-5:30pm. Admission $1.
45 Isabel St.Ponce (787) 844-9722
 
Museo de Arte de Ponce
The Ponce Museum of Art holds works by Puerto Rican and other Latin American artists. It has one of the most important pre-Raphaelite collections in the Western Hemisphere, which include pieces by a respectable representation of European artists, like Van Dyck, Reubens, Rodin, Delacroix and Gainsborough. The building, was designed by Edward Durell Stone (Museum of Modern Art, NY). Open daily 10am-5pm. Admission: Adults $3, children $2.
2325 Av. Las Américas Ponce (787) 848-0505  (787) 848-5011

Stroll through Plaza las Delicias. Constructed in 1670, the Plaza of Delights is the heart of Ponce’s historic zone. Visit the city’s oldest colonial building, the Casa Alcaldía (City Hall), cool off at the Fuente de los Leones (Fountain of the Lions), or hop on a trolley to other city attractions.
 
Get lost in the Museo de Arte de Ponce. Ponce’s art museum boasts a 4,500- piece permanent collection from Europe, Africa and the Americas, including works spanning 30 centuries. ($6)
 
Mingle with Ponceños at La Guancha. Ponce’s boardwalk overlooking the Caribbean is a great place to sample local cuisine at the kiosks. Try a cold malta (a nonalcoholic carbonated malt beverage) and cuchifritos (fritters), including bacalaitos (fried codfish) and pastelillos (meat or cheese turnovers).
 
Visit the house that rum built. Constructed in 1926 during the height of sugarcane production in Ponce, El Castillo de Serrallés (Serrallés Castle) was once home to the powerful rum-producing family of the same name. When the tour ends, buy a bottle of Don Q, Serrallés’ most popular rum. (Tour fee: $7)
 
See Ponce’s most iconic symbol. Constructed in 1882, the wood-framed, red-and-black-striped Parque de Bombas was the first fire station on the island. Today, it is a museum honoring Ponce’s firefighters. (Free)
 
Step back in time. The Tibes Indian Ceremonial Center site, about three miles from Ponce, pays tribute to the pre-Columbian Igneri and Taíno who originally inhabited the archipelago. It includes the largest known Indigenous burial ground in the Antilles, a reconstructed village and a museum. ($3)
 
Learn about Puerto Rico’s Independentistas. Once a shoemaker’s shop that served as a clandestine meeting place for the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, the Casa de la Masacre de Ponce (House of the Ponce Massacre) commemorates the 1937 police killing of 19 peaceful protesters and chronicles Puerto Rico’s pro-independence activism. (Free)
 
Experience a hydro-powered coffee plantation. At its height, the nineteenth-century Hacienda Buena Vista produced 10,000 pounds of coffee per year. The restored plantation, about seven miles from Ponce, features the only existing model of the Barker hydraulic turbine. Reservations required. ($10.70)
 
 Leave civilization behind. Take a ferry ride to the Isla Caja de Muertos (Coffin Island), where you can hike, visit the lighthouse constructed in 1887, snorkel, kayak, or just enjoy a day on the beach. Bring your own food and water. Reservations required. ($25)
 
Feel the island rhythm. The Museo de la Música Puertorriqueña (Museum of Puerto Rican Music) celebrates the island’s musical heritage, with special emphasis on traditional danza, bomba and plena. (Free)

Nearby Attractions
Caja de Muertos (Coffin Island) is a secluded island just off the coast where you can visit an old lighthouse, uninhabited beach stretches and a marked underwater snorkel trail. Ferries leave from the pier, weekends.
 
Eating Out
La Casa de Las Tias 
In a cozy historical home, ‘the aunts’ kitchen is overseen by Wilda Rodriquez, one of Ponce’s most creative, least pretentious chefs. The unhurried service and atmosphere may lack a little polish, but whimsical specials (such as the fantastic midweek ‘Deli & Burger Queens Night’) balance traditional and fusion Puerto Rican dishes, such as the seafood stew and rib eye glazed with a guava redu.
Address 46 Reina Isabel Telephone +1 787 787 840 4149
Prices mains $15-30 Opening hours -- 6-10pm Wed-Sat, noon-10pm Sun
 
Pito's Seafood
The fish dishes can't be bettered (they practically swim up to your plate) and Pito's also has one of the city's best wine cellars, making a trip out here worth the inconvenience. To get here, head west on Hwy 2 from the center for about four miles and you'll see it on the left after Laguna de las Salinas.
Address -- Hwy 2 s/n Sector Las Cucharas  Telephone +1 787 841 4977 Prices mains $15-35

Café Café
For the best coffee in Ponce and an excellent breakfast, start at this art-filled, bilingual cafe, where the clientele ranges from businessmen to skiving students. The coffee beans couldn’t be fresher – they’re roasted next door – and the egg scrambles excellent. For lunch, try the mofongo (mashed plantains) ‘a caballo,’ stuffed with corned beef and topped with a fried egg.
More information www.cafecafeponce.com  Prices mains $10-18 Opening hours 11am-3pm Mon-Sat
 
Shopping
The entire island of Puerto Rico has been successful in keeping the import taxes lower and have the VAT prices duty-free. Visitors looking collect wines and spirits, especially the famous Puerto Rican rum, this is the region to do it.
 
Ponce’s historic downtown has a small but vibrant shopping district that radiates from its central Plaza Las Delicias. The Atocha Pedestrian Mall, which runs north of the plaza along a single block, is a decidedly local affair, with sidewalk merchants hawking homemade sweets and cheap colorful jewelry in front of electronics and clothing shops. Follow it to the end to reach the city’s Plaza de Mercado, the recently renovated traditional farmers market selling fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, flowers and much more. The area has been a commercial district for centuries.
 
The historic district has many shops attuned to the cultural wonder that surrounds them, with beautiful handmade crafts and high quality works of art for sale. Many stores are a throwback to a simpler time
For artisans’ work, Mi Coquí, Calle Marina 9227 (tel. 787/812-0216), right on the plaza near the ice cream shop, is much more than a souvenir shop. They do sell many of the higher quality souvenirs you have seen before, but there are also real works of art, quality santos, vejigantes carnival masks, and original prints and paintings. The staff is knowledgeable and helpful, informative and friendly. Prices are quite good for many pieces when the quality is considered.
 
Utopía, Calle Isabel 78 (tel. 787/848-8742), also right on Plaza Las Delicias, is another fine shop dedicated to high quality crafts and works of art, including the colorful carnival masks for which the city is famous. Gourmet items, handmade jewelry, and more are on offer. The store also carries indigenous arts and crafts from elsewhere in Latin America.
 
El Candil, Plaza Vilariño, Corner Calles Unión and Sol (tel. 787/242-6693), has a fine book and music selection and an excellent cafe, with gourmet coffee and tea as well as wine and tapas. There are more than 500 titles available; selections are weighted towards Spanish titles, but there are several fine editions regarding Puerto Rico and the arts that visitors will find interesting.
 
Plaza del Caribe is the most elegant shopping mall in Ponce. You will find over 100 shops as well as six theaters and a restaurant area to satisfy their entertainment and gastronomic needs. Mon-Sat 9am-9pm; Sun 11am-5pm. Plaza del Caribe , Hwy. 2 ([tel. 787/848-5566 or 848-1229), is the biggest mall in the south, with many of the same stores that are found in your local mall back home (Sears, JCPenny’s, and American Eagle Outfitters, among others), you may for a moment forget where you are. But with local surf and clothing shops, Caribbean cuisine in the food court, and Spanish titles dominating music and print choices, this is not quite home. Like other big malls in Puerto Rico, there is always some festival or other event taking place in the mall’s wide passageways, be it fresh Puerto Rican coffee, or a boat show, that expands on the shopping possibilities.









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