After San Juan, Puerto Rico's second city is PONCE, best known for its art museum and handsome centre, an excellent example of nineteenth-century criollo architecture. The city is liveliest during Carnaval, when the streets fill with parades of musicians, floats, dancers and vejigantes – revellers in devilish-looking painted masks. Things also heat up in November during the Fiesta Nacional de Bomba y Plena, when drummers and dancers gather to compete. In between festivals, there are a number of interesting sights on the outskirts of town, including Tibes Indian Ceremonial Centre and Hacienda Buena Vista.
Historically fiercely independent from the capital, Ponce's heyday was in the late nineteenth century, underpinned by riches generated from its surrounding sugar and coffee plantations. But Ponce's growth was not sustained and nowadays if arriving from San Juan you will need to shift down a gear or two to adjust to its sleepier pace of life. Note that on Mondays and Tuesdays many of Ponce's cultural and historical institutions are closed.