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PUERTO RICOS' CULTURE - SOUTH COAST


  Flaming June painting in the Ponce Museum Caja de Muertos Island Ponce Faro Punta Tuna lighthouse Maunabo
Coamo Church
Ponce Museum
Caja de Muertos
Faro Punta Tuna
PONCE HISTORY: Ponce de Leons' great grandson founded the city of Ponce in 1692. Spanish colonial towns traditionally have a central plaza with a church and casa alcaldía (municipal building). Church and state were the center of any colonial city, socially and economically. Nearly half a billion dollars has been spent restoring the colonial architecture of central Ponce. The central plaza in Ponce dates from the late 1600's and is a national historic treasure with its' plaza, churches, colonial homes and a unique ( 1800's) fire station. Probably Puerto Rico's most beautiful fountain is in the plaza ( although presently under repair). Late afternoon is a perfect time to stroll the central plaza and several nearby streets with their examples of architecture. See' points of interest' below.
A few histories of Puerto Rico.

Ponce Points of Interest

The Ponce Museum of Art. The museum was donated by a foundation established by Luis A Ferré (Governor 1968-72). The building contains one of the most important pre-Raphaelite collections in the western hemisphere. Flaming June (photo above) is a painting by Sir Frederic Leighton, produced in 1895. The museum houses more than 1,000 paintings and 400 sculptures, works by Velasquez, Rubens and Rodin. Many important Puerto Rican pieces are included in the collection, some Inca pottery and even Thai pieces. The museum also offers exhibits by contemporary Puerto Rican artists. Open daily 10am - 6pm. ( closed Tuesdays) Admission: Adults $6, children $3, (787) 848-0511 or (787) 848-0505. 2325 Ave. Las Américas, Ponce . GPS: 18.0038, -66.617552

Castillo Serralles (Serralles Castle) located near to El Vigia Hill, is a lovely landscaped former residence of the most powerful rum-producing families, the Serralles family, producers of Don Q rum. The Serralles Castle is a magnificent example of Spanish Revival architecture, popular in the 1920's; indoor patio with fountains, beautiful formal gardens paralleling the style of the house, well-manicured flame of jungle plants growing in a pattern that matches the ironwork on the house, completed in the early 1930's. Open Thu-Sun 9:30am-5:30pm, admissions $3.00, children $1.50, groups must reserve in advance, (787) 259-1774.

For a incredible view, drive to the summit of El Vigia Hill, Visitors can ascend
La Cruz del Vigia, a 100-foot observation tower, and view of Ponce and Caja de Muertos.

The Museo de la Historia de Ponce (Museum of the History of Ponce) in a beautiful art deco house. One of the finer buildings in Ponce. Tells the story of the Seralles family as well. Located at 53 Calle Isabel. An easy walk from the central plaza. (Closed Tuesdays) 9am-5pm, admission US $3 for adults, US $1 for children, (787) 844-7071.

Hacienda Buena Vista also known as Hacienda Vives (Buena Vista Plantation) was built in 1833 originally devoted to growing fruits, converted into a coffee plantation and corn mill in 1845 and in operation till 1937, then restored by Fideicomiso de Conservación de Puerto Rico. All the machinery works (the metal parts are original), operated by water channeled from the 360m Vives waterfall; the hydraulic turbine which turns the corn mill is unique. Located at Rte. 10, Barrio Magüeyes, km 16.8. Open Fri-Sun, tours at 8:30am, 10:30am, 1:30PM and 3:30PM US$5 adults, US$1 children under 12. Reservations are required. Weekdays (787) 722-5882, weekends (787) 848-7020.

"La Guancha Paseo Tablado", the boardwalk, is a fun stop. The pier here is very social in the evenings. It is also the departure point for a regularly scheduled weekend ferry to "Caja de Muertos" Ferry services: Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 8 am and return by 5pm. $25. round trip per person or $53. with 'meals'. Departs at 8 AM. Photos Caja de Muertos below:

PONCE RESTAURANTS: Ponce dining includes: 'Lolas'. Lunch and dinner. Good food and right on the historical plaza. "For gourmet fusion cuisine that combines eclectic continental fare with Puerto Rican staples. "Everything is good! Their appetizers are incredible and their filet mignon my favorite, different kinds of risotto. Rated excellent to very good. Tel. 787.813.5050

After your visit to the Ponce firehouse venture across the street and try some famous 'King's Ice Cream'. For over 40 years they have been mixing creamy concoctions using local ingredients such as tamarind and passion fruit. Be prepared — these treats are so addictive the line sometimes stretches for half a block!

'Cafe Cocina Criolla', Also near the plaza. "Nice ambiance in that it is lively and portrays Puerto Rican culture. Coffee is very good. The food is different as it is typical food , but with sweet tropical sauces. Serves a terrific breakfast too.

'El Negocio de Panchi'. Tel. 787.848.4788 Rd. @14 # 1721 On Road 14, front of the Walmart Supercenter, a small nondescript wooden house. Need reservations. "We ordered the tomato soup and the octopus for starters. Delicious!! For the entree the fish with yautia mash followed by blueberry crepes. Perfection."We first ordered a crab cake, it came with a mango/melon salsa vinaigrette, the acidity was right on! For main course I ordered the duck breast with spinach salad, The duck was cooked medium with the crispy skin with a cherry sauce it was perfect! My husband ordered the tuna with the mix root mash and has been the best mash I have ever tried.

'La Casita del Chef' The fried, whole snapper was fresh and flaky. The crisp skin and soft mild fish were perfectly prepared. It was accompanied with traditional rice and beans full of flavor. I also ordered a side of fried sweet plantains; crispy on the edges and soft sweet center. The service was surprisingly attentive. The restaurant had a very trendy atmosphere. 787.843.1298

Southern Delights Rental Villas is the perfect place to stay to explore the south of Puerto Rico

Playing dominos on the plaza in Guayama
Playing dominoes in the plaza in Juana Diaz.

COAMO CHURCH & LOS BAñOS DE COAMO The town of Coamo is the second oldest city in Puerto Rico and third oldest in the Americas.. Now a small town with an excellent example Coamo Plaza and Catholic church.
HOT SPRINGS
The fee for use of the hot springs is $3. for adults, $1.50 for seniors. They provide lockers, bathrooms, an outdoor shower and security and the facilities are very clean and well maintained. Open until 9 pm. Hot Springs.


SUNSET RESTAURANTS SANTA ISABEL Watch the sun set into the sea from the boardwalk in Santa Isabel. There are several excellent fresh seafood local restaurants. You can sit, eat and watch the sunset, if you time it right! A new restaurant that serves Tapas is right on the water and it's called 'Sunset'. road #538, Cocal Beach, possibly live music on Friday nights.. then, for a complete meal 'La Fonda de Angelo' - the best! Also: 'Vela's Restaurant' on the water and 'El Platanal' with great view of water. You might want to watch the sun go down on the Malecon with a drink and a Tapa and then head to La Fonda de Angelo.

SALINAS RESTAURANTS: 'Chef Ramon' Tel 787.824.7601 (open 11 am to 10 pm) , 'El Balcon de Capitan', 'El Dorado' (sometimes live music on weekends) also 'Ladi's Place Restaurant' The Paseadora boat ride is behind Ladi's place ( tours, weekends only, stop at 5 pm)

SALINAS: There is a little dock and boat La Paseadora ferry operates on weekends and holidays. ( behind Ladi's place) The first boat from the mainland to ' Cayo Matías' is 9am. The last boat back is about 6pm. No set schedule — they wait until there are enough people to make the trip worth it . Call 787-824-2649 for info. Nothing on this pretty mangrove island except a white sandy beach. If you plan to spend some time ( the water is turquoise) you need to take everything with you. It's a popular little island and gets fairly crowded... or just go out and back for the ride. Nice ride through the little mangrove islands. $7. per person.

JUANA DIAZ Every child in Puerto Rico ( before the 60's) knew to gather a little grass and place it under their bed on Jan 5th. As the three kings go by on their way to see Jesus at Bethlehem they will let the camels eat the grass and leave behind a gift! To be opened on three Kings Day Jan.6 ( Epiphany) There were no gifts given on Christmas day! Now days the Christmas Holidays last until after Three Kings Day, no one even contemplates work before then!

SOUTH & EAST

Juana Diaz is one town where the spirit of the 3 Kings is kept alive with a yearly parade ( since 1884) and now has a new 3 Kings Museum. Juana Diaz also has a lovely plaza and church. One of the truly Puerto Rican treasured craft are wooden carving of the three kings ( and other saints ) there are some on display in part of the museum, along with other artwork by Puerto Rican artists. Open Wed. through Sunday until 4 pm. small fee.
GPS: 18.051746, -66.500315

The Cueva Lucero of Juana Diaz ( Lucero Cave), in the mountains above, are known for their size, geological formations, and carvings. Many symbols are Taíno in origin. You must go with a guide, which can be organized through the Juana Díaz tourism office (787-837-2185) and you will need a good flashlight for some of the caves.

FRENCH RESTAURANT JUANA DIAZ: 'Mademoiselle Coco'. Ocean front terrace in a simple house in Juana Diaz. "This is a genuine French restaurant." "The crepes were excellent. The lamb chops are to die for and the rose ice cream is to scream for. Call beforehand." "puff pastry filled with shrimps in a béchamel sauce with some spices, excellent. The main course was lamb chops cooked with garlic and rosemary, medium rare with gratin scalloped potatoes. Excellent chops, perfectly cooked. Open Saturdays and Sundays noon to 6 pm. French owners/Chef from Bordeaux. Rated excellent. Rd.#6, 179 Barrio Singapur. Tel. 787.604.9791 ( some weekdays with reservations). Website

GUANICA

Gilligans Island in Guanica is another beautiful beach you can only reach by ferry.

  • There is a small ferry that runs quite often and the cost for a round trip ticket is only $4. Boats run from Tuesday through Sunday from 8am to 5pm. For more information call 787-821-5706, 787-821-4343
  • By Kayak: You can also rent kayaks at MaryLee’s by the Sea and kayak to Cayo Aurora, it will take you about 30 minutes to get there. Kayaking tours are run by Eco Action Tours – (787) 791-7509 or (787) 640-7385
  • There is a public beach ( with facilities and parking) along the coast and a little further another beautiful beach.

The Guanica Dry Forest is an excellent example of a tropical dry forest with many paths. This hike is best in the coolest months of the year. Summers are simply too hot to hike here.
GPS: 17.971414, -66.868768

RESTAURANT & WINERY IN GUANICA The 'Bodegas Andreu Solé' vineyard and winery, you can taste the (very) local wine in their restaurant in Guanica, right on the water. . The restaurant/bar is open Friday and Saturday from 7pm to 1am, and Sundays from 2pm to 6pm. Tel. 787-951-9622 for reservations. Road 3116 KM 2.5 in Guánica. Inside the bamboo fence and open gate Website
GPS: 17.972829, -66.925818 On the bay in Guanica.

LA PARGUERA Scuba, snorkeling and boat rides. The bioluminescence in this 'biobay' is almost gone but the boat ride at night is lovely ($8. and up) . You can see the stars at sea. The scuba 'wall' is one of the best dives in PR and the snorkeling is great, many reefs to choose from.
GPS: 17.973579, -67.047687

Aleli Tours: Tours of the Biobay, snorkeling, paddle boarding, catamaran and rental of all water sports equipment. Call (787) 390.6086

Paradise Scuba and snorkeling Trips Tel. 787.899.7611

West Divers and snorkeling trips. Tel. 787. 899.3223

Excursiones Ecoborinquen offering kayak tours phone 787-951-0683 and boat ride to Mata la Gata Island. Boat rides usually cost $5 to $10

Parguera Fishing Charters: For the best Deep Sea fishing and charters in the Caribbean call Mickey Amador at 787-382-4698.
Cancel Boats: Day and night trips to the coral reefs as well biobay. (787)899-5891 or 899-5494), They rent out small boats as well.

Johnny Boats: Motorboat rental for licensed boaters or those over 35, cash only. Call for information at (787) 299-2212.

Kite Surfing: The Kitehouse - Tours offered May through August. best kite boarding and surfing in the Caribbean. For more information visit their web site at The Kite House at La Parguera Puerto Rico

FARO de LOS MORILLOS - Cabo Rojo Lighthouse

The Cabo Rojo Lighthouse was built in 1881 over limestone cliffs that drop 200 feet into the sea. It is also known as "Faro de Los Morillos". This old lighthouse was automated and electrically charged in 1967. The lighthouse is a spectacular site on a bluff facing the south and west seas. A great day trip to the south west tip of Puerto Rico, there is also a nice little sandy cove to swim in called Playa Sucia. On the east of the isthmus that connects to the lighthouse you can see the evaporation system of the salt flats, as well as piles of harvested salt.

The Salt Flats are considered very important for migratory birds in the Caribbean. Around 40,000 birds visit this place every year. The "Centro Interpretativo de las Salinas de Cabo Rojo" has a museum on the history and the ecology of the area.

SAN GERMAN The town has a lovely little church on the plaza called Porta Coeli. It was founded in 1606, making it one of the oldest churches in the New World. San Germán is the second oldest city of Puerto Rico, after San Juan and the third oldest city in the United States. Porta Coeli’s mostly unadorned façade houses many interesting religious artifacts inside the church/museum ( possibly closed Mondays and Tuesdays). San German is the only town in Puerto Rico that has two plazas and two churches in the heart of the town. GPS: 18.081997, -67.04128

The San German de Auxerre church is gorgeous, with a huge chandelier. It is a beautiful church on an island with many notable churches. Driving South off Rt 2 on Rt 122 to town, watch carefully for the signs which will direct you into the old section of town around the plazas. San Germans old section feels very colonial. There are examples of English, French and Spanish influences. Many of it’s structures are on the U. S. Register of Historic Places. There is even an old railroad station that used to handle traffic from as far away as San Juan via Mayaguez. That service ended in 1953.

SAN GERMAN 'Tapas' tel. 787.264.0610 'The high ceilings, flamenco music in the background, tiled floor, and bull fighting posters make you feel as if you've been transported to Madrid. The food is decent (except for the garlic shrimp, which is exceptional)". "The final bill was much lower than I expected for the quantity of food we had."..'Mike's Steak House' No pretentious stuff hear - outside or inside. Just a simple place to get great tender steak. Great service at lunch time. While prices are not cheap - neither is the meat or portions. De Lirios. "Located just off one of the old town squares. Decor is simple, bright, comfortable. My husband had risotto and said it was some of the best he's tasted. I had the grouper with cilantro sauce, which melted in my mouth". Martín's Pizzeria "Love pizza and the one here is really good. Also love the "calzone", they have a lot of ingredients to choose from. Always great service. My kids love it." Chateaux de Auxerre. "This was very tasty. 2 in our party are vegetarian and they whipped up an amazing asparagus risotto that wasn't on the menu.

EXPLORE THE SOUTH - EAST

GUAYAMA plaza fountain and lovely museum Casa Cautiño. . Guayama plaza church.

MAUNABO Past Guayama follow the coast through the Patillas beach areas and on to Maunabo with the very scenic FARO Punta Tuna (lighthouse), off of road #3 and at the end of 7760. Spectacular beaches are not for swimming, the undertows are too dangerous. Open Wed. through Sunday until 4 pm, entrance is free. but even if the path to the lighthouse itself is closed, the beaches are spectacular. ( There are decent rest rooms in the office).

Punta Tuna Lighthouse GPS: 17.990161, -65.886154