Ponce is a city -- not a beach resort -- and should be visited mainly for its sights. There are no beaches within the city, but an offshore cay ringed with white sand and aquamarine waters filled with marine life is just a ferry ride away.About 30 minutes to the west, however, are some of Puerto Rico’s best beaches. They ring the coast from Guánica through Cabo Rojo.
Because the northern shore of Puerto Rico fronts the often-turbulent Atlantic, many snorkelers prefer the more tranquil southern coast, especially the waters off the coast of La Parguera. Throughout the southwest coast, water lovers can go snorkeling right off the beach, and it isn’t necessary to take a boat trip. Waters here are not polluted, and visibility is usually good, unless there are heavy winds and choppy seas.
La Guancha is a sprawling boardwalk around Ponce’s bayside harbor area near the Ponce Hilton. Several eateries are located here, and it is the scene of free concerts and other events at night. There’s no beach, but during weekend afternoons children and their families come here to fly kites or ride bicycles. Hundreds of yachts and pleasure craft tie up here, which is also home to the Ponce Yacht Club. La Guancha is a relatively wholesome version of Coney Island, with a strong Hispanic accent and vague hints of New England. On hot weekends, the place is mobbed with families who listen to merengue and salsa. Lining the boardwalk are small establishments selling beer, party drinks, fried beach snacks, and souvenirs. There is also a lookout tower here, which is worth a climb.
A ferry runs from La Guancha to Caja de Muertos, or Coffin Island, an uninhabited cay that’s covered with mangrove swamps and ringed with worthwhile beaches. It’s some of the best snorkeling in the southwest. A 125-passenger ferry run by
Other private outfits will take passengers to the island, with some providing snorkeling equipment and even lunch to guests. There are hiking trails, gazebos, and basic bathrooms, but no running water. The island has a lighthouse and a nice beach. Make sure to visit Almeida Cave. Legend says it was named after a pirate who buried his bride there following a fatal attack, visiting her every year to adorn her coffin with stolen gold, silver and emeralds.
The city has a municipal-run tennis facility at sports complex
One of the south coast’s best golf courses is the
Another course, Club Deportivo del Oeste, Hwy. 102, Km 15.4, Barrio Joyuda, Cabo Rojo (tel.
Ponce also has several nice parks, which may be especially attractive if you are travelling with children. The Julio Enrique Monagas Park (tel. 939/247-9336) is a sprawling oasis with two ponds with paddle boats, several splash parks, beach volleyball courts, an exotic bird aviary, a skate park and a miniature train. There are a number of picnic gazebos across the park and a children’s playground. The
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