Ponce is the second largest city in Puerto Rico behind San Juan, and an easy hour and a half drive between the two.
I’ve struggled with this post for almost a week now, as we really try to share the positive good stuff. But sometimes you just get this post…
Ponce (pronounced Ponce, Eh!) was the largest city and port in Puerto Rico when the United States invaded in 1898, and also had the best roads on the island directly to San Juan. It was a key military stronghold in the Spanish-American war, but was quickly degraded when the US decided to centralize their administration in San Juan.
Many other socioeconomic factors further drove Ponce into a period of stagnation, resulting in the Ponce that we experienced these last few days.
After flying into San Juan and spending a late night there, we immediately headed to Fajardo on the northeast corner of the island for a few days of downtime.
From there we headed to Ponce, taking an interior route to hit the Ruta de Lechonera in Guavate for some uuuuh-mazing roast pig. Must Do.
There were high hopes of finding a quaint town square much like we had daily during our time living in Europe, along with the allure of the waterfront in the well-reviewed La Guancha boardwalk area.
Sad disappointment on all counts.
Colette found a wonderful little AirBNB flat a few blocks southeast of the town square, an easy enough walk if you’re comfortable with the quasi-sketchy area. Decent enough at 4pm, not necessarily somewhere you’d want to be out after dark.
The small town square has a very photogenic church, a fountain, some old people with a loudspeaker belching mariachi tunes that they beat their bongos to, and a closed bombero (firemen) museum. We try to find the best in everything, but this is a bit of a stretch.
We didn’t even bother stopping for King’s Ice Cream, although it sounded good in the heat.
La Guancha is a complete bust. Seriously.
Hurricane Maria DESTROYED the boardwalk in 2017, and despite FEMA and tourist dollars, it’s all boarded up and fenced off. This was a huge disappoinment since we wanted to stroll the boardwalk, and not something that came up on our radar despite the crazy research we do. Reviews from 2022 show photos of an amazing boardwalk and talk about how this is the best thing ever. No wonder people don’t trust the internet.
We highly recommend to avoid Ponce completely, there is nothing in this huge city worth stopping for.
But. This is part of our Go-See-Do. If we wanted perfection, constants, easy – we would just stay at home. If we wanted Disney dreamland experiences of far-flung places with perfection in every image – we would watch Discovery and Youtube and Instagram.
It can’t all be perfect, and there are lots of ugly areas right behind the image in the camera lens. We know it, we accept it, we look forward to it.
For every Ponce Eh, there are ten amazing places to experience, you just have to get our there and Go-See-Do.

Plenty of Fish

Plenty of Fish
There are dozens of these massive tarpon hanging out at the marina at La Guancha waiting to be fed. It’s sad that a photo of tarpon makes the top spot.

La Guancha Sunset

Ponce La Guancha Sunset
There isn’t much of a beach, but the sunsets sure are colorful.

Plaza Luis Munoz Rivera

Plaza Luis Munoz Rivera
Ponce’s historical town square is exactly what you’d expect

Catedral Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe

Catedral Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe in Ponce
Every town square must have a cathedral!

Parque de Bombas

Parque de Bombas
A colorful historical firehouse turned monument to the city’s firefighters

USS Ponce LPD-15

USS Ponce LPD-15
The ship’s bell from the USS Ponce sits inside the Ponce city hall.

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