Known as the “Island of Enchantment”, Puerto Rico is one of those countries that has something for everyone. It ticks all the boxes for a picture-perfect Caribbean island holiday, with beautiful beaches that could compete with any in the world. But there’s more to this tropical island than just sun, sea and sand…
There are a hoarde of easily accessible diving and snorkelling spots along the coast lines, plus numerous places to hire kayaks, jetskis and boats. For those interested in nature and conservation the bioluminescent bays are a must, and if you’re outdoorsy there are 28,000² acres of El Yunque National Rainforest to explore.
For culture vultures, the Spanish-American influence in Puerto Rico makes for a fun melting pot of culture. There’s an abundance of heritage to learn about, as well as some tasty local dishes to sample.
Adrenaline junkies will love the ziplining and adventure parks dotted across the island, and for those wanting something a little tamer, there are plenty of charming cities worth visiting.
Obviously, there’s the capital, San Juan (home to the country’s largest colony of feral cats). But outside of this I’d definitely recommend taking a trip to Puerto Rico’s second capital, Ponce. It offers a distinctly different feel from its big brother, despite being just an hour away.
The municipality of Ponce is Puerto Rico’s southern jewel, with one of its many nicknames being “La Perla del Sur” (the pearl of the south). Ponce’s actual name gives away its Spanish roots: the great-grandson of Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce De León founded the hamlet from which the city later sprung.
Though the people of Ponce – also know as Ponceños – are not afraid of modernity and are keen to keep up with the times by developing hotels, casinos and malls, there is an abundance of buildings from different historical periods scattered throughout the city.
These buildings are what I loved so much about Ponce. They add a touch of colour to the corners of a city that would otherwise be grey and undistinguished.
One of the most notable buildings in Ponce is the Parque de Bombas, a red and black striped historic fire station. It was built in the town’s plaza in the Spanish architectural style of immigrants from Cataluña. Nowadays though it’s a museum and tribute to the bravery of its firefighters, closely guarded by colourful lion statues (another nickname for the city is “Ciudad de los Leones”, or city of the lions).
Other buildings around Ponce’s main plaza include the Casa Alcaldía (Ponce City Hall), which is the oldest colonial building in the city, dating back to the 1840s. And the Armstrong-Poventud Residence is a great example of the neoclassical architectural heritage of the island. The architecture of Ponce really is beautiful:
But don’t be fooled by the colonial style glamour shown in these photos – there are plenty of neighborhoods in Ponce that aren’t so affluent, which look somewhat run-down, dilapidated and almost shanty-esque.
There was still plenty of colour lining the streets though, in the form of pastel-painted concrete apartment blocks and multi-coloured murals:
We spent a lovely day exploring Ponce, despite the weather being a bit grey and clammy. On the two-hour drive back to the hotel in Levittown however, the heavy dark clouds that had been looming burst open, refreshing the muggy air. Just as quickly as the downpour started though, it stopped, paving the way for a breath-taking sunset.
It rounded off our trip to picturesque Ponce nicely.