Ponce, The Pearl of the South
January 1, 1970
by Naomi Pujols Rivera
Ponce is known as the second largest city of Puerto Rico in terms of population. They have a saying, “Ponce is Ponce and the rest is parking”, this gives you an idea of how proud people are to be from this city in the south coast of the island. To get to and around in Ponce, although there are taxis, it is better to rent a car. This guide might take a day or two, depending on your pace and the time you have available.
Let’s give it a day. Let’s say you have spent half your morning sleeping in and packing, embrace island life and spend what’s left of it on a beach in San Juan. Time to get on your car and get to PR 52. Our first stop will be lunch. It will be roughly 35 to 45 minutes.
Lechonera los Amigos
Make your way to Los Amigos in Cayey. It is right off PR 52 so it is not way off route. Here you will try delicious roasted pork, which is a traditional staple in Puerto Rico, most Christmases, families get together on Christmas eve day and they spend the whole day together while the pork is cooked. It is served with yellow rice with pigeon peas and any root vegetable that is available at the moment. The awesome thing about this restaurant is that it is “deli” style so, no waiting for the food and there are many, many options in case pork is not your thing. Another great thing about this place is Café Prieto, a coffee house from the same owners with single origin coffee, with a deck overlooking a river to delight all your senses.
- Los Amigos 7:00am – 8:00pm
- Café Prieto 10:00am – 7:00pm
- +1 787-738-0222
Now we have about an hour before we make it to the next stop:
Museo de Arte de Ponce
This museum is a must, for its collections have represented Puerto Rico in many museums around the world. It opened its doors in 1959 and since then it has been a pioneer in conservation, retrospective collections on two of our most influential artists and educational programs such as training educators to incorporate art in the school curriculum.
- Wednesday to Monday: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
- Sundays: 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
- Closed on Tuesdays
- Members: Free Entrance
- Students and adults over 60 years: $3.00
- General Public: $6.00
At this point in the day, you can already check into a hotel, now, here you have two options:
Ponce Plaza (+1 787-813-5050), that it’s more on the modern side or Hotel Melia (+1 787-842-0260), which is on the historical building side. They are both on the main square of Ponce so in terms of location, they are perfect.
If it is a Thursday, Friday or Saturday, you may want to consider the fact that there are a few bars around the square and if you are staying in the Ponce Plaza, and really want to get a good night sleep, the music is going to keep you up.
Now you have the afternoon to explore the Plaza or square.
Plaza Las Delicias and Plaza Degetau
Here you have the only Plaza in Puerto Rico that is divided in two. You will be surrounded by historical buildings such as:
The Cathedral to our Virgin of Guadalupe 1835
Casa Alcaldía or City Hall 1846
Histórico Teatro Fox Las Delicias 1930
Parque de Bombas 1882
As you make your way around the plaza, you will see two souvenir shops and an Ice Cream place, DO IT! You will not regret it. Then, you can walk towards Calle Amor, an idyllic alley with lamp posts and cornices in the buildings that will take you back in time, where this street was used to promenade and court ladies taking an afternoon stroll. This year, they also started the Ponce es Ley festival, where they got over 20 regional and international artists to take over the walls of the “Ciudad Señorial”. You will see your first few murals here.
Teatro La Perla
As you walk, make a left on Calle Mayor Cantera, you will see more murals and the Teatro La Perla which was opened in 1864 and it is second oldest theater of its kind in Puerto Rico. After this you will get to:
Ponce History Museum
Located in a historical house that is a work of art on its own. The museum is closed on Mondays and opens from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:00 to 4:30. Which means that if you are around there before 4:30 you can visit! After this visit, you have an option, either go back to the hotel to change for dinner or keep walking for another half hour to explore the farmers market, which used to be the main commercial area back in the day, this will also give you an idea of bars and local places to visit. If you decide to visit the market, you can make a left on Calle Isabel and a right on Calle Leon, and walk past two streets on Calle Castillo, you will look to your left and you will see an art deco building, it will say Plaza del Mercado open from 6:00 to 5:00, although there are not many businesses left, you get an idea of the concept of market that we had. One that you can explore in San Juan too. Then, make your way back to the plaza through Calle Atocha.
Last but not least, dinner.
is the spot to go if you only have one night in Ponce. This is a family owned restaurant and the quality of the food and the service will surpass your expectations, whether you are on your own or with a group of 20, they will tend to your every need. You can make reservations here: 1 787-848-8384, also visit their Facebook page so that you’ll see the menu and other specials.