Bursting with culture and history, the city of Ponce comes second to San Juan in size and population. There are so many extraordinary things to do here that most people wouldn’t know where to start.
Check out our guide below as well as the best free things to do in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
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- Best Time To Visit Puerto Rico
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- 5 Day Puerto Rico Itinerary
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Here's what we're covering:
- Guide to Best Things To Do in Ponce, Puerto Rico
- Our Top 3 Free Things to Do in Ponce
- Final Thoughts
- Frequently Asked Questions
Guide to Best Things To Do in Ponce, Puerto Rico
While San Juan is what comes to mind when visitors begin planning their city trips in Puerto Rico, it is Ponce that offers something special. Visitors will find that the activities in Ponce are diverse and charming and will add depth to their Puerto Rico vacation.
If you love art and history
If you love art then the Ponce Museum of Art should be one of your top things to do. Opening in 1959, the Ponce Museum of Art or Museu de Arte de Ponce is an eclectic display of paintings, ceramics, and sculptures. Works not only come from Puerto Rico but also Africa and the Americas. This stop can also be a part of your Ponce, Puerto Rico Guide if you love history.
Are you one of those travelers that love digging deep into the history of the place you are visiting? Housed in the gorgeous Casa Salazar-Candal, the History Museum of Ponce should be one of your first things to do in Ponce. The museum showcases everything visitors need to know about the city, from the ecology to what it is like to live there today.
If you love architecture
Parque de Bombas is one of the most well-known sites and images of the city. Rich in history, visiting this iconic location is one of the main things to do in Ponce. This stunning facade was designed with inspiration taken from Moorish and Gothic Revival architecture. The architect became the first mayor of Ponce, and it was he that made it the first firehouse of the area.
This former fire station is now a small museum dedicated to the firemen and saved the city from being ruined by fire in 1899. From here, you can visit the housing cluster on Calle 25 de Enero. This area tops off this wonderful piece of history.
For 45 years after the city was saved one of the red houses in this area was given away to a worthy citizen to honor the brave firemen. This area is only located five minutes from the city center and should be added to your list of free things to do.
If you’d prefer to do be taken around this site along with Centro Cultural Carmen Sola de Pereira de Ponce, check out this guided walking tour of Ponce.
Your Ponce, Puerto Rico guide would not be complete without mentioning the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Named after the saint, Guadalupe, this beautiful cathedral is open to anyone that wants to admire the stunning architecture. It’s located in the center of the city.
Visitors who cannot choose if they love history or architecture more will be in for a real treat when visiting Castillo Serralles. Originally built for the Seralles family, the distinguished rum family of Puerto Rico, this gorgeous mansion is open to the public. Check out the original furniture and the manicured gardens and be in awe of the spectacular view of the city.
If you love nature
Not only are the gardens at Castillo Serralles a must for nature lovers, but you can enjoy a change of scenery and head to the water. Only 15 minutes from the downtown area, you can enjoy the Paseo Tablado la Guancha. This boardwalk is lined with shops and restaurants and is the gateway to many more things to do in Ponce. From the beach, you can rent kayaks or check out the boats that can take you to come off the smaller islands in Puerto Rico.
One of the best spots to visit for nature lovers is Isla Caja de Muertos. Perfect for a day trip, check out the island’s hiking trails and cave. The turquoise waters line beautiful beaches, perfecting for lying in the sun.
Other islands worth noting are Gilligan’s Island and Isla Mata La Gata – perfect for snorkeling and swimming in calm waters.
If you love food and drink
Ponce is the up-and-coming place to go when it comes to quality food. Known for its seafood, more and more visitors and locals drive from San Juan to Ponce for the area’s recent love of fusion cuisine.
However, it is the delicious local snacks that are what’s worth adding to your list of things to do. Some of these wonderful snacks include empanadas filled with a variety of seafood and meat, octopus salad, and Mallorca breakfast sandwiches.
For a fine dining experience, a highly reviewed restaurant is Lola that you should definitely check out.
Like all places in Puerto Rico, Ponce is no exception to offering visitors delicious cocktails, especially Pina Coladas. This rum-based drink was born in Puerto Rico. Every bar puts its own twist on the classic cocktail, and you can find some great bars along the boardwalk.
Rum lovers will want to try some of the locally distilled Don Q rum. It is widely available in stores, even though you cannot visit the distillery.
If you love shopping
Shopaholics will be able to get their fix when they are in the city. Window shopping is one of the best free things to do in Ponce, especially Mi Coqui, a store specializing in handmade island crafts. Even the most experienced window shopper will be able to find a handmade souvenir they love.
By visiting local galleries around the city, you will be able to support local artists with your purchases. In addition, the Ponce farmers’ market is great to visit for more handicrafts as well as freshly grown produce.
Plaza del Caribe is the place to go for Puerto Rican chain stores if you need shoes or clothing. For traditional souvenirs, check out Utopia which also has a café on site.
Our Top 3 Free Things to Do in Ponce
1. Search for Street Art
While there are many walking tours available, there is nothing quite as thrilling as strolling the streets to be met with a magnificent mural.
Puerto Rico has many places around the island that boast wonderful street art, Ponce is one of them. The artistic community has brightened walls with colorful pieces, some are even political. You will also see unique pieces on roads, hotel walls, and parking spaces.
2. Explore the city of music
Music lovers will not be disappointed by what is offered. Visitors should head to the Museum of Puerto Rico Music where Ponce’s music heritage is shown proudly. Unique instruments are on display, and if visitors are lucky, there may be a random concert while you are there. The museum also offers a free tour.
Make sure you plan your day around a chance to see the municipal band play a live open-air concert. Mainly held on Sundays in the main part of town, this band is the longest-serving municipal band in the world.
3. People watch in Plaza Las Delicias
The most visited area of Ponce is the Plaza Las Delicias. This part of the city is a gateway to museums and stunning architecture. It is also a brilliant place to wander the tree-lined plaza and take in the atmosphere. Insta-worthy fountains and statues, as well as the stunning facades of iconic landmark buildings, are waiting for you.
As one of the best places to visit in Puerto Rico, Ponce will certainly bring rich culture and history to your holiday. With so many things to do in Ponce, Puerto Rico, make sure you schedule more than a few days to visit this city.
Frequently Asked Questions
Ponce is a unique city that brings out Puerto Rico’s stately past with brilliant architecture, ornately decorated streets, and sparkling fountains. As a historic center, you’ll find plenty of museums, art galleries, a famous castle but in contrast you’ll find beautiful southern beaches, and nearby islets.
Ponce has a population of 194,636 and is PUerto Rico’s second largest city next to San Juan.
Ponce is located on the southern part of the island of Puerto Rico. It is a 1.5 hour drive from San Juan.
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