Ponce is one of the most visited cities in Puerto Rico, both by locals and international tourists, so if you weren’t already planning to do so, you should definitely be adding Ponce to your list of places to visit on the island.
La Perla del Sur offers the historical charm of a colonial city, combined with museums, street art, good food, and great beaches.
If you’re planning a trip to Ponce, here are some of my favorite fun ideas for what to do in Ponce.
Table of Contents
- 19 Best Things to Do in Ponce
- Visit Parque de Bombas
- See the View from Cruceta del Vigia
- Stroll through a Japanese Garden
- Enter a Real Castle
- Look for Street Art
- Learn About the Taino
- Walk Plaza de Las Delicias
- Eat Local Food in La Guancha
- The Ponce Art Museum
- Take a Walking Tour
- Explore Caja de Muertos
- Unwind at A Local Park
- Visit a Coffee Plantation
- Enjoy a Beach Day
- Admire the Ponce Cathedral
- Taste Local Ice Cream
- Go on a Day Trip to Guanica
- Climb Over the Letters of Ponce
- Party at the Carnival
- FAQ’s About Ponce
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19 Best Things to Do in Ponce
Visit Parque de Bombas
Parque de Bombas is a historical landmark of Puerto Rico and one of Ponce’s main attractions. This stunning building was the first fire station on the island, founded in 1883, the station is now a symbol of Ponce’s city and is part of Puerto Rico’s National Register of Historic Places.
👉 Looking for more exciting things to do? Check out the other 49 activities you can do around Puerto Rico!
See the View from Cruceta del Vigia
If you love looking at things from a different perspective, then you see the view from La Cruceta del Vigia. Located on a hill overlooking the Caribbean Sea, this cross was a watch-out point to look at the boats that entered the bay. Visitors can reach the bridge on top through the elevator or stairs.
👉 Did you know? Ponce is also called The Pearl of the South and La Ciudad Señorial, but the city’s name actually came from Juan Ponce de León y Loayza, grandson of the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León.
Stroll through a Japanese Garden
One of the unique things to do in Ponce is strolling through a Japanese Garden. The garden forms part of Castillo Serrallés and it’s ideal to unwind and relax. This Japanese Garden is filled with pagodas, koi ponds, bonsais, and lotus flowers.
Enter a Real Castle
One of its kind in the country, Castillo Serralles was once the home of the Serrallés family, creators of the famous Don Q. Visitors now can take a tour through this beautiful 1930s Spanish Revival-style structure to learn more about the history of Juan Eugenio Serrallés, the founder of Serrallés Distillery, and about the sugar cane and the rum industry of Puerto Rico.
Look for Street Art
Besides its historic landmarks, Ponce sports an amazing display of urban street art you shouldn’t miss during your visit. The countless murals around the city come from the festival Ponce Es Ley, which started in 2017, following the same concept as San Juan is Ley. During this festival, muralists from around the world use buildings around the city center as their canvas.
Learn About the Taino
📍 Map It: PR-503, Ponce, 00730 | Phone: (787) 840-5685 | Hours: 9:00 am – 3 pm Wed – Sat, Closed Sun-Tues | Entrance: $3, $2 under 12, $1.50 seniors
Few people know that Tainos lived in Puerto Rico before the Spaniards arrived on the island. One of the places where you can learn about them and see the artifacts they left behind is at the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center, where you get to see burial sites and ruins from the Taino. The place also sports a museum and a shop.
Walk Plaza de Las Delicias
During your visit to Ponce, make a stop in the historical Plaza de Las Delicias, in the historical town center. This plaza plays an important role in Ponce history and it’s nationally known for the iconic fountain with lions. You will also find Parque de Bombas and Ponce’s Cathedral on it.
Eat Local Food in La Guancha
📍 Map It: Calle B, Ponce, 00716
La Guancha is one of Puerto Rico’s most popular spots. Although the beachfront boardwalk was partially destroyed after Hurricane Maria in 2017, the food kiosks in La Guancha still operate today and it’s a great place to enjoy local food while feeling the ocean breeze.
📚 Read Next: How to Do Puerto Rico on a Budget
The Ponce Art Museum
Visiting the Ponce Art Museum is one of the top things to do in Ponce since it’s one of the best art museums on the island. This museum is better known for displaying the painting Flaming June, an important classic of Victorian art. It also hosts 4,500 artworks of both European Art and Puerto Rican art.
👉 Local Tip: As of October 2021 Ponce Art Museum is temporarily closed for renovations, so before adding this stop to your Puerto Rico trip itinerary, check their social media to know if they’re open again yet. If not, you can still visit Ponce’s History Museum instead.
Take a Walking Tour
Besides the famous Plaza Las Delicias and the fire station, Ponce is home to beautiful historical buildings with exquisite architecture and history. If you’re visiting Ponce for a day, make sure to take a walking tour around the Historic Zone of Ponce, to discover the best-hidden gems of this historical site.
👉 Local Tip: Ponce is a great destination to stay in Puerto Rico if you’re a history and art lover. It also sports a prime location to visit other surrounding attractions like La Parguera and Guanica’s Dry Forest. Read my complete guide about the top places to stay in Puerto Rico, so you find the one that fits you best.
Explore Caja de Muertos
📍 Map It: Calle C Paseo Tablado La Guancha, Street #12 Paseo de los Caballeros Final | off, Ponce, 00716 | Phone: (787) 842-8546 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 6 pm daily
Isla Caja de Muertos is a small island to the south of Ponce famous for its bright turquoise waters and its virgin nature. Playa Pelicano in Caja de Muertos sports a Blue Flag and it’s one of the top beaches in Puerto Rico.
Unwind at A Local Park
📍 Map It: PR-139, Ponce, 00730 | Phone: (787) 812-0076 | Hours: 9:00 am – 5 pm Wed-Sun, Closed Mon-Tues | Entrance: $1 parking
If you’re looking to relax with your kids in a safe environment, Luis A. “Wito” Morales Park in the north of Ponce is a great option. This park sports a playground, hiking trails, and areas for running bicycles and skateboards. Close by you’ll also find Cerrillos Lake.
Visit a Coffee Plantation
If you’re a history lover, you can’t miss a visit to Hacienda Buena Vista. This site was a coffee plantation on the island that functioned through a slavery system. Nowadays the restored site is the best place to learn about how the coffee beans got processed in Puerto Rico. You need to make a reservation to visit via the website.
Enjoy a Beach Day
Even if you visit Ponce for its history, you’ll be happy to discover you can also enjoy a beach day in the city. Ponce sports a main public beach known as Balneario El Tuque. La Guancha is also a place where you can enjoy the sun and dip your feet in the water, and Playa Pelicano in Caja de Muertos is the top beach in Ponce.
👉 Local Tip: Before visiting any beach in Ponce, Puerto Rico, check the local weather to learn about the ocean conditions. Not all beaches in Puerto Rico are for swimming and even those that are could sport rip tide currents. Check out my complete guide to the best season to visit Puerto Rico for nice beaches and weather.
Admire the Ponce Cathedral
The Catedral Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, or the Ponce Cathedral, dates back to 1670 and is one of the best stops to do in the city center. The cathedral combines both French neoclassical architecture in its exterior and colonial and Gothic on the interior. It also sports an impressive pipe organ on its second floor.
Taste Local Ice Cream
📍 Map It: 9223 Marina, Ponce, 00730 | Phone: (787) 842-3821 | Hours: 9 am – 12 am daily
Cool down from the south coast’s heat with ice cream from King’s Cream right next to Plaza Las Delicias. This ice cream shop is famous among the locals for offering refreshing local flavors like pineapple, passion fruit, and soursop. Many locals enjoy ice cream while visiting the plaza and Parque de Bombas.
Go on a Day Trip to Guanica
Ponce’s location is ideal to visit many of the attractions on the south coast on a day trip. If you’re staying in the south city, hop on your rental car and drive to Guanica, where you’ll find a dry forest, a sunflower field, breathtaking beaches, and even a boathouse on a hill.
👉 Did you know? Puerto Rico sports three different bioluminescent bays and you can find one of them close to Ponce. La Parguera is a fishing town in Lajas that sports a bioluminescent bay, only 45 minutes away from Ponce. Check out the top tours on Viator so you don’t miss the experience.
Climb Over the Letters of Ponce
📍 Map It: Expreso Luis A. Ferré, Ponce, 00716
If you take Expreso Luis A Ferre to get to Ponce, you’ll notice giant letters with the name of Ponce on the entrance of the city. Make a stop and walk to those letters to take a picture in them. This is something even locals do all the time when they visit the city.
🚗 How to Get There: In Puerto Rico, public transportation doesn’t run around the island. If you want to visit Ponce, Puerto Rico, it’s best to rent a car and self drive. You can find cheap and affordable prices on rental cars using Discover Cars Puerto Rico.
Party at the Carnival
Ponce is home to Puerto Rico’s oldest carnival, known as Ponce Carnival. The Carnival that dates back to the 1700s, takes place a week before Ash Wednesday. The one-week-long festivity is full of Puerto Rico music, local artists, food, parades and vejigantes, costumes with colorful masks representing the evil that fight King Momo, representing the good.
FAQ’s About Ponce
Is Ponce or San Juan better?
Ponce and San Juan are both Spanish colonial cities with a historical town center, museums, and beaches. While both cities have similarities, San Juan offers a better location, public transportation, and nightlife, but Ponce is home to the most important museum of Puerto Rico, and it’s also cheaper to stay in than San Juan.
Does Ponce have nice beaches?
Ponce has one of the top beaches in Puerto Rico, Playa Pelicano, but visitors need to travel on a boat to reach it. Beaches in the mainland are average, but they’re good enough for a beach day.
You’ve reached the end of the top things to do in Ponce!
As you see, Ponce has a lot to offer and it’s a great destination for a memorable vacation.
If you’re looking for more adventures in Puerto Rico, check out my complete guide to the top activities on this Caribbean paradise.