Get to know the island’s hub of culture and history. Immerse yourself in the south region’s colorful architecture, historic art, and stunning natural beauty. Puerto Rico’s southern region is comprised of 11 towns that offer visitors remote beaches nestled up to the calm waters of the Caribbean and marinas for boating excursions. This area is a natural destination for outdoor recreation such as water excursions and sightseeing.
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Known as “the city of thermal waters,” Coamo is the third-oldest town in Puerto Rico and is nestled in the center of a prehistoric volcano, which is now a lovely valley south of the Central Mountain Range. Its name originates from Taíno meaning “flat and extensive place,” in honor of its beautiful panoramic views.
As the only thermal pools in Puerto Rico, the Coamo Hot Springs are in high demand. The Taínos believed that the springs had healing powers. Another legend says these waters were the fountain of youth sought by Puerto Rico’s first governor, Juan Ponce de León. For less than $5 you can enjoy a soak surrounded by mountains in an outdoor spa setting, receive a therapeutic massage (for an additional charge), and peruse souvenirs at the small shop.
The historic Hollywood Theater is located near the town square, and its single-room, 214-seat cinema projects 4k movies at budget-friendly prices seven days a week. Take time to enjoy the building’s 100+ year history.
Known as the “Pearl of the South,” the Ciudad Señorial of Ponce is located on Puerto Rico’s south coast, and is distinguished by its historical and cultural attractions. It is the second-largest city on the island (after San Juan) and it’s also known as the “Museum City” due to its abundance of museums. If you meet a local — who are affectionately known as “the lions” — don’t be surprised by their exceptionally vocal pride in their hometown.
Eight miles off the coast of Ponce is Caja de Muertos island. This vibrant nature reserve is a gorgeous paradise with stunning beaches, hiking trails, a lighthouse, and a cave. To reach this islet, book a private boat trip in advance, and make sure to bring food and drink with you because there is no fresh water or dining options available once you’ve arrived.
Widely known as one of the best art museums in Puerto Rico, Museo de Arte de Ponce (MAP) has gained international recognition for its permanent collection of 4,500 pieces, consisting of paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, ceramics, photographs, video, and sound installations. MAP’s collection spans work from Puerto Rico, the Americas, and Africa, and has a notable collection of 19th-century European art. This important institution operates every day except Tuesday, and offers guided tours throughout the day. Admission is $6.
The public square of Ponce is popular among locals and tourists alike; with its ornate colonial buildings and lush shade trees, it’s easy to see why. One of the square’s most striking structures is the Parque de Bombas, an old fire station which has been converted into a museum. Around the plaza you will also find the magnificent Fuente de Leones, the mayor’s residence, and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Be sure to stop in at the many charming coffee shops, restaurants, and boutiques selling locally made products.
Perched on a hilltop with sweeping views of Ponce, this grand estate was formerly the home of the Serrallés family, owners of the Don Q rum distillery. On a guided tour of the museum, you can appreciate the ornate architecture, manicured gardens, and lavish swimming pool, as well as learn about how the family lived and grew their business.
Behind the Serrallés Castle is the imposing Cruceta del Vigía, a high tower located on a hill overlooking the whole city; and the Jardín Japonés, a beautiful natural space with trees, bonsai, and ponds. The Cruceta was built in the 19th century when the island was under Spanish rule and was used to monitor and alert of possible pirate attacks or the arrival of commercial ships.
Known as the pueblo del mojo isleño (named after a special local sauce used to marinate fried fish), Salinas is a gastronomic gem that’s bursting with restaurants serving local cuisine and fresh seafood.
This geological formation, known among locals as las Tetas de Cayey because of its resemblance to a pair of breasts rising from the ground, is a designated natural reserve and hotspot for adventure seekers. The mountains stand at around 841 meters, and multiple local companies offer rock climbing, hiking, and camping tours of the site.
Given that Puerto Rico is an archipelago, it is surrounded by dozens of islets and cays. In Salinas, there is Cayo Matías, which is a small mangrove island that you can visit via private tour or by boarding La Paseadora, a quaint ferry boat that operates on weekends and holidays. Since there are no facilities on the islet, you can bring a cooler with snacks and drinks, as well as beach chairs and other items to enjoy a day on the island.
From kayaking to jet-ski rentals, there are many fun activities that you can participate in all around Salinas Bay, with local tour operators offering excursions of many kinds. Even if you don’t take a dip, enjoy a stroll on the boardwalk overlooking the Caribbean Sea, where you can go restaurant-hopping to taste local seafood delicacies and the renowned local mojo isleño.