Ponce, known as “La Perla del Sur“, or “The Pearl of the South”, was founded in 1692 by Juan Ponce de Leon’s great-grandson, Loiza Ponce de Leon. Once one of the Caribbean’s busiest ports, visitors can enjoy strolling through the city, viewing magnificent architecture, browsing through museums and shops, and enjoying the atmosphere of this laid-back downtown area. While staying at the Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort, guests can enjoy all the activities, entertainment, and amenities we have to offer and be conveniently close to downtown Ponce and other popular area attractions.
Venture off-property for an afternoon of exploration in historic downtown Ponce. Here you’ll find theaters, museums, exquisite architecture, and much more.
Known as the most important archaeological deposit in the Caribbean, Tibes represents the room of continuous indigenous life by more than thousand years before the arrival of Columbus to the Island. Bordered by the Portugues River and excavated in 1975, this is the oldest pre-Hispanic cemetery in the Antilles. It contains some 186 skeletons, dating from A.D. 300, as well as pre-Taino plazas from A.D. 700. The site also includes a museum, an exhibition hall, and a re-created Taino village.
Once one of the most successful plantations in Puerto Rico, this hacienda showcases the era of 19th century farm production. It was a working coffee plantation until the 1950’s, and 86 of the original 500 acres are still part of the estate. Tour the beautiful grounds and see authentic artifacts from the 1850’s.
Built in the neoclassical style of 1864; this theater is the largest and most historic of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Its renowned acoustics are so clear that microphones are not necessary. Come learn the history of this ancient theater and enjoy a journey to a time gone by.
The first thing you may notice is this museum’s unique black and red appearance. It was constructed in 1882 as the centerpiece of a 12-day agricultural fair intended to promote the civic charms of Ponce. Within one year, El Parque de Bombas was designated as the island’s first permanent headquarters for a volunteer firefighting brigade.
Here you can discover the history of the city of Ponce dating back from the Taino tribes to the present day. The museum features interactive displays, a conservation library, souvenir and gift shop, cafeteria, and conference facilities.
Featuring the finest collection of European and Latin American art in the Caribbean, this museum was donated to the people of Puerto Rico by Luis Ferre, a former governor. The collection represents the principal schools of American and European art of the past 5 centuries. Among the nearly 400 works on display are exceptional pre-Raphaelite and Italian Baroque paintings. Visitors will also see artworks by other European masters, Puerto Rican and Latin American paintings, graphics, and sculptures. On display are some of the best works of the two “old masters” of Puerto Rico: Francisco Oller and Jose Campeche. The museum also contains a representative collection of the works of the old masters of Europe, including Gainsborough, Velazquez, Rubens, and Van Dyck. The museum is best known for its pre-Raphaelite and Baroque paintings and sculpture — not only from Spain, but from Italy and France as well. Both the Whitney Museum in New York and the Louvre in Paris have borrowed from its collection. Temporary exhibitions are often featured.
Take a tour of the largest and most imposing building in the city of Ponce – the Serralles Castle is known as one of Puerto Rico’s most treasured architectural masterpieces. Guides will lead you through this Spanish Revival House where you’ll see panoramic courtyards, a baronial dining room, and much more. Built on El Vigia Hill during the 1930’s by local rum distiller owners, the Serralles family, the castle is the best evidence of the wealth produced by the turn-of-the-century sugar boom.
The Serralles family is the last Puerto Rican family on the island that (legally) continues the rum distillation tradition, manufacturing and distributing more than 60 percent of the rum sold in Puerto Rico. It’s doubtful you’ll encounter Puerto Rico’s moonshine “Canita” or “Pitorro” as a visiting tourist, but Serralles Distillery rums can be purchased under the brand names Don Q, Ron Llave, Palo Viejo, and Granado. The company produces the famous DonQ brand, reputed as the best Puerto Rican rum, and many variations of flavored rum, including “mojito”, coconut, lemon, or passion fruit, are being introduced to the Domestic US and international markets, aside from the DonQ Cristal, and the Gran Añejo, some of which were awarded highest honors in recent international drinks and spirits competitions.
Don Juan Serralles, whose Spanish father settled in Puerto Rico, began the family’s fortunes in 1865 opening the Hacienda Mercedita sugar plantation (near the current Mercedita Airport), where sugar cane molasses imported from the Dominican Republic is still transformed into rum to this day. Don Felix Juan Serralles, Jr., Don Juan’s great-grandson, presides over the company in present times.
A tiny pristine island known in Spanish as “Caja de Meurtos”, Coffin Island is a great place to spend a few hours soaking in the sun and snorkeling. White sand beaches and an abandoned 19th century lighthouse and mangrove swamps make up this one-mile by three-mile hideaway. Ferries are available as well as scuba diving and snorkeling trips.
La Guancha is located a few minutes out of town, and is the center of activity for everyone from teenagers to senior citizens. The boardwalk is across from the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club and encompasses an impressively large area. The grand attraction, besides the cool breeze from the sea and the fun of mingling with crowds of young lovers, families and friends, is the food. Countless kiosks serve up frituras (fritters) stuffed with nearly every ingredient available from the land and sea.
One of our most popular beaches, Gilligan’s Island, is a five-minute ferry ride from the island. It’s a wonderful outing for adults and children with a clean, well-cared-for beach. Part of the Guanica Dry Forest Reserve, you’ll enjoy seeing the beautiful mangrove channels, including a double tunnel-like channel that takes you to the outside of the beach.
A United Nations designated International Biosphere Reserve, this forest showcases a historic lighthouse, a lookout tower, 700 types of plants and trees, the richest population of birds on the Island (136 different species), a lignum vitae tree that is over 1,000 years old, 14 hiking trails, several beaches, and offshore cays where you can kayak and snorkel. The Guanica Forest Reserve is a coastal mangrove forest and has been a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve because of several endangered species found only in Puerto Rico.
A nature lover’s delight, this phosphorescent bay is a sight to see. The phosphorescence is actually bioluminescence generated by microscopic organisms in the water. It is believed to be part of a natural defense system triggered by the movement of predators. Many scientists believe these tiny organisms light up so their predators can see more desirable prey – and thus leave them alone. The phenomenon occurs sporadically in warm seas around the world, but Puerto Rico is one of the only places on the planet where you can depend on it every evening at two different protected bays. The best-known is at La Parguera, between Mayaguez and Ponce in the southwest of the island. A cottage industry in the village is based on showing the bay to visitors.
Coamo is a small town nestled in a valley about 10 miles east of Ponce (about 30 minutes by car). Archeological digs near the region have produced some of the best examples of the island’s pre-Columbian cultural artifacts, and some say these baths were Juan Ponce de Leon’s “fountain of youth”. The water in the hot springs is a constant 44 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit), and very rich in minerals. The effect of soaking for a while in these waters is said to be very therapeutic. Without exaggerating the healing powers of the waters, it is no mystery why the Spaniards and the natives before them became fans of the hot springs, as one feels so rejuvenated after taking a dip in the springs!
Rental cars and taxis are readily available in and around Ponce for your convenience.
As a commonwealth of the United States, Puerto Rico uses the American dollar.
A tropical savannah climate, the weather in Ponce is warm year-round with average highs in the upper 80’s in the winter and 90’s in the summers. On the coldest winter days, the temperature rarely drops below 50 degrees (Fahrenheit).