Region & Time Zone: Caribbean, Eastern Standard Time
Passport required: Yes
Languages Spoken: Spanish, English
Currency: US Dollar
Power: Standard US plug at 110 volts
A little background
Although it is the second-largest city in Puerto Rico behind San Juan, Ponce is much more under the radar as a tourist destination. Ponce is located on the southern coast of Puerto Rico, and was named after the great grandson of Juan Ponce de Leon. Because many buildings in the city are built in a neoclassical style, Ponce is also known as the "Ciudad Senorial" - majestic city. In addition to beautiful beaches on the Caribbean Sea, Ponce offers many cultural attractions - from museums to performing arts and even a number of professional sports teams.
Parque de Bombas
You'd never guess a century old wooden firehouse is Ponce's most photographed landmark. But when you stand in front of the Parque de Bombas, you'll understand the hype. Impossible to miss-- its exterior is painted red with black stripes. Built in 1882 for an agricultural exposition, Parque de Bombas served as the Ponce Fire Corps' headquarters from 1883 to 1989. In 1990, it reopened as a museum. Extinguish your curiosity by visiting the exhibits on the second floor and fuel up with the municipal band's free Sunday night concert at Plaza Las Delicias.
Located in the center of Ponce's town square, the cathedral has a history that dates back to 1660s, when a small chapel was built on the current site of the cathedral. The small chapel was demolished in 1835 in order for a larger cathedral to be built for worship. Survived earthquakes, fires and restoration projects, the existing neoclassical cathedral is known for its colonial and gothic interior, including the sky-blue ceiling, the alabaster altar and beautiful stained-glass windows. The cathedral was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 for its historic significance.
Step inside a majestic castle and former residence of Serrallés family, the most powerful rum-producing and distribution clan (producers of Don Q Rum). Built in 1930, the magnificent Serrallés Castle is the largest and most imposing structure in Ponce. Knowledgeable tour guides are offered to inform visitors about the Serrallés family, the rum distillation and the furniture in the mansion. Perched high on a hill with a breathtaking view of the mountains and the sea, the castle also features magnificent Spanish architecture, panoramic courtyards with fountains, and formal gardens.
Caja de Muertos
Just off the coast of the city of Ponce is Caja de Muertos - an uninhabited island perfect for day trips that include swimming, snorkeling, and lounging on the beach. It is unclear where or how the island got its name (which translated, means Dead Man's Chest) - but many theories exist, some dating back as far as 1800. In any case, today, the island is protected as a nature preserve and is home to four beaches - one of which is a blue flag beach.
Gilligan's Island Guanica
Located around 40 minutes from Ponce, the town of Guanica is the principal town of the municipality. The small town is also the home of Guanica Dry Forest Reserve, which has been designated as a United Nations Biosphere Reserve. Because the town is located in the dry forest area, the beaches of Guanica has a unique landscape with more of a desert like look than swinging palm trees. Guanica is also a nice beach town with miles of quiet, secluded beaches. Gilligan's Island, formally named "Cayo Aurora," is a beautiful mangrove island with shallow and crystal clear waters that are perfect for snorkeling and swimming.