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After San Juan, Ponce is probably the biggest and most important city in Puerto Rico. While visitors usually stay in the capital, which is more famous, there are many reasons why, if travelers have the opportunity, they might want to consider going to beautiful Ponce instead.
It may be tempting to stay and travel just in San Juan, but driving to Ponce will expose visitors to scenery that they wouldn’t see otherwise. Between the two cities, travelers will have the opportunity to see the Monumento al Jibaro, part of the central mountain range, the popular entrance to Ponce, and the seaside to the south. There is much to see in Puerto Rico, and the drive to Ponce, the “Pearl of the South,” is a great way to take a look at attractions outside of San Juan.
Among the attractions on the west coast are surfing spots, lighthouses, and great restaurants. These must-visit places are easier and faster to access from Ponce, rather than San Juan, as the drive is about one hour versus the approximate three-hour journey from the capital. In addition, the closeness to the west coast also helps with travel to the Isla de Mona, a Puerto Rican island that’s known as the “Galapagos of the Caribbean.”
When visiting Puerto Rico, many people tend to stay in San Juan, missing out on other exciting adventures. By venturing out to Ponce, travelers can enjoy even more experiences than if they stayed in one place. There are many things to see and do in this lovely city such as visiting the Hacienda Buena Vista and stopping by La Guancha, which can enrich any trip.
Ponceños, which are people from Ponce, are very proud of their city, and the “Ponce is Ponce, and the rest is parking” phrase reflects just that. It means that their city is the best place to be, and it’s a common saying, especially in southern Puerto Rico. There are several other useful Puerto Rican phrases that you should know in order to better understand life on the island, but you could definitely add this one to the list.
Each city has its own unique history, and it’s no different in Ponce. Among its many nicknames, besides the “Pearl of the South,” Ponce is also known as the “City of Lions” and the “Noble City.” Historically, it has played a big role in coffee and rum production, had successful sports teams and hosted the Puerto Rican collegiate sports tournament called Las Justas. Check out the Museum of the Ponce Massacre, the Old Ponce Fire Station, the Museum of the History of Ponce, and the Serralles Castle just to get started.
There are few places in Puerto Rico where Taíno indigenous community grounds have been preserved and are open to the public. One of those ceremonial centers, or parks, is the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center in Ponce. The Taínos’ influence can still be felt in Puerto Rican culture today, especially language, and there was even an important cacique, or chief, in southern Puerto Rico at one time. San Juan has great museums, some with Taíno artifacts, but no location in San Juan can compare to Tibes.