"Travel Notes from Ponce" Top 5 Page for this destination Ponce by gdilieto

Ponce Travel Guide: 49 reviews and 155 photos

Nothing Going On in Ponce

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Ponce was my second and last stop in Puerto Rico after San Juan. The "Pearl of the South", the city that with its history of immigration and isolation has developed over the centuries, and still preserves today, a peculiar cultural identity and personality. Ponce has indeed a distinctive elegance, in its architecture, buildings, museums as well as, when compared to Old San Juan, a more genuine look and atmosphere a Spanish-colonial town. Yet it still misses the street-life, the colors, the sounds, the crowd, the confusion of typical of Latin America towns and the paradox is actually more evident here than in Old San Juan as the town is quieter and not overwhelmed with tourists. In the Saturday afternoon of my visit, in one of the most picturesque colonial city centers I have visited in the whole Latin America, there was simply nothing going on.

I spent a full day in Ponce and left the day after to Guavate and San Juan. The morning I was leaving, a Sunday, I went out for a walk in the Town Square at about 8:30 am and was surprised to find nobody around. Surprised of my surprise, my hotel's concierge gave me the explanation: "Señor, a los Ponceños les gusta dormir!" (Ponceños love sleeping late!). Like waking up from a dream, I finally found myself in Latin America.

Different and Unique

"An irreducible bastion of Puerto Rican essence" (A. Díaz Alfaro), "Something Different and Unique" (M. Vidal Armstrong), "Ponce is Ponce" (don't know who said that). Ponce owes its distinctive cultural heritage and personality to the many immigrants who have flown into town over the 18th and 19th century. Already a wealthy port in the 18th century, many immigrants came from other Spanish colonies of the New World in early 19th century, after those achieved independence (1810-1825). Other immigrants came from Europe fostered by incentives given by the Spanish Crown in order to populate and develop the island (after 1825 the only Spanish territory remaining in the New World along with Cuba). Those immigrants, along with the slaves they imported from Africa, developed sugarcane, coffee and tobacco plantations and many of those who made fortune embellished the city with elegant buildings and imports, while the increased wealthiness and the cultural diversity contributed in establishing Ponce as the cultural center of the island. The golden age of Ponce ended at the beginning of 20th century with the decline of the plantation industry and with the US (who had taken Puerto Rico over from Spain in 1898) deciding to develop San Juan as hub for the island. Today Ponce is recovering from a century of stagnation with the economy based on manufacturing and chemical and a developing tourism industry.

Driving Along the South Coast

For centuries isolated from the North Coast by the Central Mountains, today the South Coast can be reached in less than a two-hour drive via the expressway connecting San Juan to Ponce. Beside Ponce, there are few other towns along the coastal highway of little interest to tourists. The best attraction in the South is the Guánica State Forest, one of the best examples of subtropical dry forest in the world. The forest owes its climate to the presence of the Central Mountains that creates a "rain shadow" in that area resulting in a dry and cool climate. In 1981 UNESCO designated the forest as a "Biosphere Reserve" a world-rarity since only an estimated 1% of dry forest remains on earth. There are also few beaches along the rocky coastline that are, with few exceptions, undeveloped and isolated.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Relaxed atmosphere in a pretty colonial setting
  • Cons:Nothing going on in Ponce
  • In a nutshell:A more relaxed side of Puerto Rico
  • Last visit to Ponce: Nov 2008
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (8)

Comments (3)

  • razorbacker's Profile Photo
    Oct 8, 2011 at 9:51 AM

    Great narrative, great photography taken with a great eye, great pages all around, Giuseppe. Wish there was some way to rate your Ponce travelogue as a whole instead of piecemeal, but I viewed every page on Ponce, and they were all insightful and well-developed. Thanks!

  • monica71's Profile Photo
    Apr 8, 2010 at 12:46 PM

    excellent page! i enjoyed reading about your trip and experience in Ponce. great job!

  • VdV's Profile Photo
    Jan 14, 2009 at 6:24 PM

    Liked your few observations re: your day in Ponce. I had similar feelings/observations about the place. I wonder how much it is transformed with activity during Carnaval....


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