Puerto Rico

7 Unique Things to Do in Ponce

by Paul Joseph  |  Updated May 16, 2024

Often described as “the Pearl of the South” thanks to its many historical and cultural attractions, the Puerto Rican city of Ponce offers visitors a glut of unique things to see and do.

Museo de Arte de Ponce

Quirky artefacts on display at the Museo de Arte de Ponce (Photo: Hank Anderson via Flickr)

Nearly half a billion dollars have been spent preserving Ponce’s colonial core – and anyone that’s visited must surely agree it was money well spent. With its grand mansions, pastel-painted townhouses and cobbled streets, the picture-postcard old town oozes character and charm. But this is also a city at the cutting edge of things, with a thriving cultural scene and restaurants and bars aplenty. We’ve picked out 7 of its most unique ways to spend your time in Ponce.

Explore a fascinating museum

Home to more than 800 art objects, the Museo de Arte de Ponce is one of Ponce’s most cherished cultural institutions. There are pieces hailing from all over the world on display, but mostly from Latin America, Puerto Rico and Europe, with everything from 3,000-year–old pottery pieces to modern art and sculptures. All of the exhibits are artfully arranged, spread across numerous display spaces with individual themes, each designed to inspire thought and conversation. Head outside to the garden areas and you’ll find even more eye-catching sculptures and art pieces.

2325 Boulevard Luis A. Ferré Aguayo / Weds-Sat & Mon 10am-5pm; Sun 12pm-5pm; Closed Tues

One of Ponce’s most unique attractions – and almost certainly its most recognisable – the Parque de Bombas museum is housed in a historic firehouse building where it now serves as a museum celebrating the noble vocation of firefighting. Overlooking the Plaza Las Delicias town square, the brightly coloured red and black candy-striped building houses a huge variety of exhibits of firefighting equipment and memorabilia dating back to its original incarnation as a working fire station, including pictures of the heroic men who fought in the legendary fire of 1883 that threatened to engulf the city.

Plaza las Delicias / Mon-Fri 8am-4.30pm; Closed Sat-Sun

Parque de Bombas

The distinctive and colourful exterior of the historic Parque de Bombas firehouse building in Ponce (Photo: Bogdan Migulski via Flickr)

Visit a former coffee plantation

Puerto Rico is known for many things, but is perhaps most famous of all for its coffee, which has a world-class reputation thanks to the country’s rich soil and cool mountain regions. Nestled in the lush mountains above Ponce, the beautifully restored, 19th-century Hacienda Buena Vista coffee mill and plantation provides a glimpse of living and working conditions in times past. There are regular guided tours that take in the main house, slave quarters, farm buildings, and processing areas.

Km 16.8, PR-123 / Fri-Sat 9am-2pm Closed Sun-Thurs

Join a guided city walking tour

Taking to the streets on foot is perhaps the most simple but effective way of getting to know a city, letting you experience its sights, sound and smells in a way that isn’t possible aboard a bus or coach. Run by local company Isla Caribe, this 2 to 3-hour walking tour of Ponce begins at the charming Utopia Café – ideal for picking up souvenirs and gifts – before taking you on an immersive journey through the city’s history, culture and people. During the walk, your expert guide will regale you with tales of the city past and present. The tour involves easy walking terrain with no hills.

You can book a Ponce walking tour at GetYourGuide

Castillo Serrallés

A walking tour of Ponce (Photo: Isla Cariber)

Marvel at an eye-catching cathedral

The long-standing catholic traditions of Puerto Rico date all the way back to the start of the 16th century. Remaining central to this religious heritage is the Cathedral Our Lady of Guadalupe – also known as Ponce Cathedral – which has stood as a beacon on the landscape since 1931, when it was built on the same site as where colonists erected their first chapel in Puerto Rico in the 1660s. Pleasing on the eye both inside and out, the cathedral and its striking twin bell towers are open to the public  at select times every day of the week.

Check out a majestic mansion

Perched on a hill overlooking Ponce’s downtown district, the magnificent Castillo Serrallés mansion dates back to the 1930s when it was the summer home of a wealthy sugar cane and rum-making family. Today it is open for public viewing and almost all of the fittings and furnishings displayed are original to its original owners. Tour guides will take you around the home while telling you fascinating stories about the family that once lived here, as well as explaining the art of sugar production and rum distillation.

120 East Superior Street / Mon-Thurs 3pm-12am; Fri 1pm-1am; Sat 11am-1am; Sun 11am-10pm

Castillo Serrallés

A distant shot of the opulent Castillo Serrallés mansion (Photo: Daniel Lobo via Flickr)

Peer up at a huge statue of Christ

It may not be able to compare with its more famous Brazilian counterpart in Rio de Janeiro, but El Vigía, a 100-foot reinforced concrete statue of Christ, is nonetheless one of Ponce’s most unique and eye-catching landmarks. Not only does it provide a superb vantage spot from which to enjoy views over the city and wider region, but it’s also a useful point of orientation for those below. There’s also a pretty Japanese garden located on the same site.

Barrio Portugues Urbano