Porta Caribe – South of Puerto Rico
Porta Caribe is Puerto Rico’s balmy south coast and it is known as gateway to the Caribbean. It’s a designation that neatly sums up its laid back appeal. This is the only part of the island that faces the Caribbean Sea. The waves in this area are calmer, the sky warmer and the air is definitely drier than in the rest of Puerto Rico. Porta Caribe has a lack of beaches, therefore you will see few visitors which will make your visit more private. Porta Caribe’s traditional Puerto Rican culture remains vibrant here, towns and villages exuding a strong Spanish identity closer in spirit to that of Cuba and Central America.
Some of the most powerful Taíno kingdoms were based here, home to Agüeybaná himself, overlord of the island when the Spanish arrived in 1508. Sugar changed everything, with plantations rapidly colonizing the narrow strip between the Central Cordillera and the coast in the nineteenth century. By World War II the sugar industry had collapsed, and today great swathes of the south are empty, overgrown prairies, a daunting reminder of a lost era.
Ponce is the capital of the south, Puerto Rico’s second city and peppered with ebullient architecture and museums, a poignant legacy of those heady days of sugar. Outside Ponce, make time for the Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Tibes, one of the most important archeological sites in the Caribbean, and Hacienda Buena Vista, a lush coffee plantation frozen in the nineteenth century. To the west, the humdrum town of Yauco boasts a number of less-visited treasures to complement its prestigious coffee, while Guánica is best known for its remarkable dry forest and series of enticing beaches, the only section of the south coast mobbed by tourists. To the east, the hot springs at Coamo are a pleasant novelty, but the town itself is a fine product of sugar country, with nearby Guayama another gracefully weathered example.