Ponce & South Coast

Crumbling monuments to the sugar industry are evident everywhere in Puerto Rico's southeast, but there’s no more heartbreaking reminder of departed ‘King Sugar’ than sleepy Aguirre, which abuts the Bahía de Jobos and is so far off the beaten path that it doesn’t appear on tourist maps. The now-moldering sugar town was booming in the early 20th century, complete with a mill, company stores, hospital, theater, hotel, bowling alley, social club, golf course, marina, executive homes and narrow-gauge railroad.

This was the planned private community of the Central Aguirre Sugar Company, and at its zenith around 1960, it processed 12,500 tons of sugarcane per day. Declining prices of sugar, foreign competition and escalating production costs drove the company under in 1990 and Aguirre became a virtual ghost town, which makes for bizarre sightseeing. The community's rusting train tracks remain, as does a weedy golf course.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Ponce & South Coast attractions

2. Malecón

5.05 MILES

The seaside promenade at Playa Salinas runs alongside the strip of seafood restaurants. Along its length, there are public gardens, restrooms and a stage…

3. Centro de Bellas Artes

7.18 MILES

This fine-arts center stands west of town in the former home of the Puerto Rican High Court. The collection focuses on emerging and established Puerto…

4. Museo Casa Cautiño

7.63 MILES

On the northern side of the plaza, this museum was built as a criollo-style town house in 1887 to house the wealthy Cautiño family, who profited from cane…

5. Antigua Casa de Aduana

10.63 MILES

The elaborately carved former customs house is filled with Morse memorabilia. Call ahead as hours vary and the building is often closed for ‘renovations.’

6. Mirador La Piedra Degetau

12.09 MILES

This nest of boulders crests a hilltop alongside the Ruta Panorámica (Hwy 7718 here), just south of Aibonito. Once the ‘thinking place’ of Ponce-born…

7. Balneario

12.23 MILES

A scruffy but uncrowded strip of beach near the Centro Vacacional Punta Guilarte. Be aware that the waters here do suffer from pollution. It’s about 3km…

8. Iglesia San Blas

12.24 MILES

On the plaza in central Coamo is one of Puerto Rico's more interesting provincial churches. This Catholic church contains paintings by island masters…