Ponce, Puerto Rico (2022 Guide) – All You Need To Know

Ponce is one of the most important and celebrated cities in Puerto Rico. 

Known as the “Manorial City” and “The Pearl of the South”, Ponce shines for its attractions, topography, architecture and history.

I frequently road trip from my rainy hometown, Bayamón, to Ponce for a sunny visit. 

In this article, I’ll cover all you need to know about Ponce:

 

What is Ponce?

Founded in 1692, Ponce is the second-largest city and municipality in Puerto Rico. 

image of Ponce City aerial view
In 1692, Ponce was founded by the famous Juan Ponce de León’s great-grandson.

Named after conquistador and the first governor of Puerto Rico, Juan Ponce de León, Ponce recalls its visitors to the 17th century when the island was under Spanish rule (15th to 19th century). 

Ponce stood as the capital in the south. 

Below is a video showing Ponce, Puerto Rico:

 

Where is Ponce located?

Ponce rests on the island’s southern coast, with Peñuela at its left, Juana Días at its right, and bits of Adjuntas, Utuado, and Jayuya at its north. 

A map showing the Ponce region.

Due to its location, Ponce is known to be very hot, dry, and partially cloudy. 

Below is a Google Map showing the location of Ponce:

 

How far is Ponce from the airport?

Ponce is 73 miles (118 Km) from Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU) in San Juan.

image of an airplane
An Air Canada flight taking off from Ponce Airport.

However, the city serves the Mercedita International Airport (PSE), which usually has reasonable fares for domestic flights, although limited offerings. 

Here’s a Google Map showing the drive from to Ponce from SJU: 

SJU is the best choice if traveling to San Juan or visiting the island for the first time, but if you wish to diversify and plan a stay in the south, PSE is an excellent alternative. 

 

What is the best way to get to Ponce from San Juan?

The best way to get to Ponce from San Juan is by car.

The Puerto Rico Highway 52 (PR-52) is the fastest and most efficient route. The breathtaking drive covers 74 miles (119.1Km) and takes around one hour and 45 minutes to complete. 

image of highway road
A preview of the scenic drive on highway 52 from San Juan to Ponce.

Renting a car is indispensable regardless of where you’re traveling to in Puerto Rico.  

 

How do you get around Ponce?

The easiest way to get around Ponce is by car.

Since Ponce is an old town, navigating its streets can be challenging (similar to Old San Juan’s), but all is possible with a good GPS.

image of City of Ponce aerial view
Spain’s capital of the southern region was Ponce until falling to the United States in 1898.

Finding parking on the street is relatively easy, and private parking lots are available around the city.

 

What is Ponce Puerto Rico known for?

Ponce is famous for its museums and architecture. Below are some highlights:

1. Plaza Las Delicias: a 17th-century plaza where the renowned firehouse museum, Parque de Bombas, stands proudly—accompanied by the oldest hotel in Puerto Rico, the Meliá Century Hotel (1895), the fourteen life-sized fiberglass Lions of Ponce, and the Ponce Cathedral.

image of Plaza Las Delicias
Plaza Las Delicias, located in central Ponce.

The plaza is also a well-known gastronomic center and nightlife hub. 

 

2. Museo Castillo Serralles: a Historic Spanish Revival 1930s mansion built for the Don Q distillery founders. 

image of Museo Castillo Serralles
Alongside Bacardi, Don Q is a very popular rum in Puerto Rico.

The mansion is frequently booked as a wedding venue and center for other private activities. 

To book your tour, visit Museo Castillo Serralles’s website.

 

3. Isla de Caja de Muertos: a small island eight miles from the coast known for its beautiful reefs, shallow waters, dry forest, and turtle nests. 

image of Isla de Caja de Muertos
Visiting Caja de Muertos is the ultimate secluded beach experience.

In La Guancha, you can charter a boat to the island.

 

4. Cruceta del Vigía (The Watchman Cross) and the Japanese Garden: At 100 feet, the watchtower offers, at its top, a beautiful panoramic view of the city. There’s a new restaurant in its middle and a brief exposition of its history at its bottom. Parallel to the tower adorns an elegant Japanese garden. 

image of Japanese Garden
The Japanese Garden with a view of Cruceta del Vigía.

The Japanese Garden is another popular wedding venue. 

 

5. Hacienda Buena Vista: a historic plantation, coffee mill, and refurbished 19th-century estate powered by a hydraulic turbine. 

image of Hacienda Buena Vista
Hacienda Buena Vista is one of the island’s remaining examples of a historic coffee plantation.

To book your tour, call +1 (787) 722-5882. 

 

6. Ponce red letters: Huge metal letters spelling “Ponce” welcome visitors to the city. Everyone who visits Ponce has to stop at least once for a picture inside the letters. 

image of Ponce red letters
The Ponce letters are a perfect photo opportunity in the area.

Note: Unfortunately, due to the passing of Hurricane María in 2017, La Guancha’s pier and boardwalk are temporarily closed, and the Museo de Arte de Ponce has been permanently closed.

image of a boardwalk
La Guancha boardwalk in Ponce.

 

Are the beaches nice in Ponce?

Ponce doesn’t have the nicest beaches, but you can charter a boat to the uninhabited Isla Caja de Muertos. 

image of Catamaran Ponce Beach Trip
Take a catamaran from Ponce to Caja de Muertos for the ultimate beach trip.

The next best thing is to take a forty-minute drive to the beautiful Playa Santa and La Jungla in Guánica. 

 

Is Ponce worth visiting?

Ponce is, without a doubt, a fantastic city to visit. 

image of Parque De Bombas
The famous Parque De Bombas in Ponce, another great photo opportunity.

Proud Ponceños (citizens of Ponce) frequently praise, “Ponce es Ponce y lo demás es parking” (“Ponce is Ponce, and the rest is parking”).

That’s all to say that they believe their city is the best and that the rest of the island is just extra space. 

Here’s a short aerial video of Ponce: 

Although I’ll always defend my hometown, Bayamón, I have to agree that Ponce is marvelous. 

 

Do people speak English in Ponce, Puerto Rico?

People and businesses in Ponce, Puerto Rico, speak English and Spanish. The city is highly tourist-friendly.

Is Ponce Puerto Rico nice?

Ponce is one of the nicest places to visit on the island. Filled with modern, cultural, and historical attractions, this city has something for everyone.

 

Final thoughts

Ponce is a city rich in history, culture and charm.

If you are only staying in Ponce for a short period, then you should take a tour at Castillo Serralles and stop at Plaza las Delicias.

If you plan to stay for longer, then you can stay at the Ponce Hilton or Ponce Aloft (it even has a Hard Rock!). There are also other hotels at the plaza. 

One of Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent bays is located less than one hour from Ponce.

La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay offers the unique opportunity to swim in one of the island’s famous bio bays.

If you are looking for other fun activities, then check out our article where we cover the 45 best things to do in Puerto Rico.

Article by

Cristina Rosa

Writer at PuertoRico.com. I was born and raised in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. I know all the ins and outs of the island. For 22 years, I’ve tasted, seen, experienced, and explored most of Puerto Rico’s gems. I still have many road trips planned for all of the things that I’ve yet to experience in Puerto Rico.

About the author

Find the best things to do
by interest