Ponce On a BudgetPonce is on the south coast of Puerto Rico. It's the second largest city on the island and has been around since 1692 when it was originally founded by Ponce de Leon's grandson Juan Ponce de Leon y Loayza. The city has several nicknames, including La Perla del Sur (The Pearl of the South), La Ciudad Senorial (The Noble, or Lordly, City), and La Ciudad de las Quenepas (Genip City).
Ponce is less of a tourist destination than San Juan, but it does have a lot to offer in the form of history and interesting architecture. It's a relaxed city that doesn't have the hustle and bustle of San Juan, but it also is a pleasant place to spend some time without too much chaos.
Ponce has a tropical savannah climate. The winter highs average about 87 degrees Fahrenheit and the summer highs average about 93 degrees Fahrenheit. There is a short wet season in May and a dry season through June and July. Then there is a longer and wetter season through September and October, followed by a longer and drier season from December to April.
SightsYou'll find most of the city's sights in the Plaza las Delicias. On the east side is Parque de Bombas, which is the former fire station and today is a symbol of the city. It is distinctly painted with red and black stripes and currently houses the tourist office and a small exhibit on the history of firefighters in the area. The City Hall, or Casa Alcaldia, is on the south side of the square. On the west side is Catedral de la Guadalupe. Other sights in the area include Castillo Serralles, Casa de la Masacre de Ponce, the Museum of Puerto Rican Music, La Cruceta del Vigia, and Centro Ceremonial Indigena de Tibes.
NeighborhoodsMost of the city's sights and attractions are found in the area around the main square of Plaza las Delicias. This area is easy to walk around. La Guancha Paseo Tablado is a boardwalk to the south of downtown near the harbor. This is a nice area to explore as well.
Most of the city's hotels are located in the Plaza Degetau area, just a short walk from the downtown area with its many attractions. Unfortunately, the area is a much farther distance from the beach and water. Most hotels include private parking in case you have a car with you.
ActivitiesSnorkeling is a fun activiting in the areas around Ponce. You can take a half day guided snorkeling tour to Caja De Muertos. This is an uninhabited island that also has a century old lighthouse and wide stretches of beach. There are ferries that travel to the island as well on weekends.
Hacienda Buena Vista Plantation is a historic coffee plantation that is found in the northwest part of the city. Today it is used as a museum and worth a visit. You can also tour Hacienda Pomarrosa Plantation, which is a privately run coffee plantation that is found in the mountains to the north of the city.
There are also many other water sports in the area including snorkeling, diving, and jet skiing.
Food and DiningYou'll find some great restaurants in town with many of the best ones in the downtown area. If you're looking for a good, hearty meal, Classic Delights is a great option. There are also some great cafes, coffee shops, and ice cream shops around town if you're looking for a sweet treat after a long day of exploring. If you're looking for a local tradition, head to King's Cream for delicious and cheap ice cream.
TransportationPonce's downtown area is small and compact so you can easily walk around most of it. Taxis are also a cheap option, but in general you aren't likely to need one as most museums and attractions are only a short walk from the central plaza. There is limited public transportation in the city but there is a simple tourist train, "chu-chu train", that makes a loop around the downtown area. There is also a growing bus system that is a decent option if you plan to travel a greater distance into outlying areas.
If you drive into the downtown area, on street parking can be challenging. There are two large parking garages within a short walk of the central downtown plaza.