Puerto Rico offers abundant expressions of creativity, including a vibrant street art scene and studio visits with artists. This itinerary takes you to a lesser-known hub of art and culture, Ponce, a seaside city in the southern part of the Island, where nearby murals cover entire neighborhoods and celebrated paintings are waiting to be admired in museums and institutions. No passport is needed for U.S. citizens, so board the next flight and explore the ways art expresses and preserves Puerto Rico’s roots and culture.
ItineraryPLAN YOUR TRIP
Get to know the city by signing up for a Ponce Walking Tour with Isla Caribe Tours. Your guide will take you through the streets and bring their stories to life. Learn about danza, a local music and dance where performers used fans for courting and sending messages.
Stroll the Paseo Amor, lovers’ alley, and see the Sangre y Resistencia mural, honoring firefighters who battled a citywide fire in 1899. You’ll also glimpse Calle 25 de Enero, a street with distinctive red houses gifted to the firefighters who saved the city and currently inhabited by their descendants. The Mural Para Pensar is one of the most impactful political pieces of street art on the Island, tackling topics including capitalism, U.S. federal rule, hurricanes and disaster relief, Taíno culture, and the Puerto Rican diaspora.
Witness the power of art to revitalize neighborhoods in Yauco, about 30 minutes west of Ponce. The colorful area known as Yaucromatic is part of a larger initiative throughout the Island that paints residential houses in bright and cohesive colors of hope. In turn, this revitalizes local pride and drives tourism, revenue, and media attention beyond San Juan. Reggeatón artist Ozuna has filmed a music video here, among others.
For dinner, head to Mesa Cocina & Vinateria, which specializes in fine dining and wine and can recommend the perfect pairing. Savor dishes like the risotto lobster thermidor in a Cognac-and-Manchego sauce or the grilled swordfish with creamy lemon pasta.
Spend the night in the creative Fox Hotel. Formerly a theatre, the property boasts pop art, a gorgeous Art Deco exterior with eye-catching colors, and a flamingo fountain.
Day 2Embrace Ponce History
Next, drive about an hour north to Utuado to visit the Centro Ceremonial Indigena de Caguana. This is an important site on the Island for learning about Taíno culture, the Indigenous people of Puerto Rico. You can see petroglyphs on rocks that have stood the test of time and learn about sports and recreation of when the site was in use. There’s a small museum on-site containing artifacts found throughout the property.
On your way back to downtown Ponce, grab a bite at El Patriota, specializing in classic Puerto Rican food like sorullitos, a corn fritter filled with meat, and fried pork chops served with rice and beans. The plates are large and satisfying, and they have live music on the weekends.
Day 3Ponce’s Fine Art and Castle
Afterward, visit Museo Castillo Serrallés, once the home of the Serrallés family, the founders of Don Q rum. The estate was constructed in 1930 and is a museum, event space, and national landmark today. It sits on over two acres and has an ornate outdoor fountain, an interior courtyard, and panoramic views of the city below. You can take a tour of the property itself, or if you’re so inclined, sign up for a Don Q rum tour where you can see decades-old advertisements and bottles and make classic rum drinks.
Local art reigns supreme at Centro Cultural Carmen Sola de Pereira. Located in downtown Ponce in a pink mansion, you’ll often find artists on site ready to explain their works to guests. The exhibits vary and the institution often hosts different cultural events, dance rehearsals, and classes.
Enjoy sunset by the beach at La Guancha, a pier with kiosks, vendors, and restaurants. Souvenirs range from handmade jewelry to coquito, a Puerto Rican eggnog-like drink. You can buy sardines to feed the pelicans and tarpons. Out front, you’ll find a life-sized bronze statue of Hector Lavoe, a famous salsa singer. He graduated from Ponce’s Escuela Libre de Música, today known as the Instituto de Música Juan Morel Campos.