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Five Things to Do in Porta Caribe

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Puerto Rico's regions each offer a different side of the island, and Porta Caribe is no different. Comprised of 15 municipalities, its towns and cities hold the remnants of the wealthy Spanish aristocracy which prospered here in the 18th and 19th centuries. But its historic and cultural monuments extend far beyond the Spanish conquistadores, and include the most important archaeological finds in Puerto Rico. And its boasts the island's resplendent "Peral of the South," the charming and quaint city of Ponce. Porta Caribe's natural attractions include pleasant beaches facing the Caribbean Sea, a beautiful dry forest, and a couple of tiny islands that make for pristine escapes from civilization. Here are five ways to enjoy Puerto Rico's beautiful south.

1. Ponce

Photo © Zain Deane
The highlight of any visit to Porta Caribe, Ponce is the jewel of the south, a city worth several days' exploration. From its pleasant boardwalk to its beautiful main plaza to its lovely colonial architecture, this city has a quaint dignity and charm. It also has a fantastic array of cultural sights. Here's just a sample of what to see and do here:
  • Castillo Serrallés, home of the founding family of Don Q Rum
  • .
  • The world-class Ponce Museum of Art.
  • The Puerto Rico Fine Arts Gallery.
  • And the picturesque Plaza las Delicias, Ponce's main plaza, which houses some of its most iconic structures: the red-and-black-striped old firehouse, or Parque de Bombas, the cathedral, and the elegant Fountain of the Lions. From here, you can take the Ponce Trolley Tour to various stops around the city.

2. Hacienda Buena Vista

Photo © Zain Deane
Located outside the city of Ponce, Hacienda Buena Vista is a wonderful and authentic working coffee plantation. Dating from the 19th century, it is one of only a handful of plantations in the world to operate using water power. Set in the mountains, the hacienda will take you back in time to a time when the agricultural boom fueled the growth of a wealthy class of landowners.

The Hacienda also holds an engineering marvel: a 19th century Barker's hydraulic turbine.

3. Guayama

Photo © Zain Deane
Far smaller and less developed than Ponce, the colonial town of Guayama captures Puerto Rico's aristocratic roots as well as its laid-back genial hospitality. The abandoned ruins of an hacienda is an unmistakeable landmark, and its cultural icon is the Casa Cautiño Museum.

After, don't forget to head down to the water to enjoy excellent local foods like El Trapiche and La Casa de los Pastelillos.

4. The Guánica Dry Forest

Photo © Legends of Puerto Rico
The Guánica Dry Forest, a United Nations Biosphere, is over 10,000 acres of arid land and home to more than 600 types of flora and fauna. This pristine sanctuary includes 48 endangered species, including 16 that are unique to the island, and is a popular destination for hikers and bikers.

While you're here, head to Gilligan's Island, a tiny, undeveloped destination with lovely beaches and a delicious away-from-it-all vibe.

To get here, Guánica take Highway 2 to Road 116 and Road 116 to Road 333. The entrance to the parking is on the left side of the Road.

5. Patillas

Photo © Zain Deane
If it's a beach you seek, the miles of sandy coastland along Patillas is a worthy destination in Porta Caribe. While the beaches here may not have the dazzle and splendor of Playa Sucia in Cabo Rojo or Flamenco Beach in Culebra, what they also don't have is crowds. A stay at a rustic beachfront inn like Caribe Playa Beach Resort gives you affordable digs just steps from the water.

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