Ponce has a D-grade, according to Crimegrade.org, which indicates a much higher average than other U.S. cities.
Ponce is only in the 13th safety percentile indicating that 87 percent of cities are safer and 13 percent are more dangerous.
Ponce’s crime rate is 64.27 per 1,000 residents in a typical year.
The probability of becoming the victim of a crime in the city is as high as 1 in 10 or as low as 1 in 28, neither of which are promising figures for tourists.
On the other hand, Ponce’s southern Puerto Rican coastline location equates to stunning beaches and plenty of outdoor activities, making it a popular destination for tourists.
Before traveling to Ponce, it’s important to understand the dangers and warnings, the best and worst places to visit, safety tips, and other useful information.
Keep reading to learn more!
Warnings & Dangers in Ponce
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
Parts of Ponce are safe to travel to, especially near the attractions and squares, which are touristy and heavily policed; however, at night, the city can be unsafe in certain less populated and poorly lit areas, so it's best to take precautions. The suburban areas, specifically in the southwest, can also be unsafe for tourists, so it's advisable not to travel to these sections unless accompanied by a local or family member.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: MEDIUM
The core areas of Ponce are always bustling with traffic, scooters, and pedestrians so traffic jams can be unpredictable. Riding a bicycle is a great way to get around the city, but some of the infrastructure in some areas may be subpar, so it's important to consider this when determining your path. Taxi scams are common, so negotiate a price before being dropped off. Ridesharing is available, which can help eliminate this risk. Pickpockets are common on buses, so ensure your belongings are unreachable.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM
Be aware of pickpockets in crowded tourist spots, markets, and mass transit at all hours of the day. Bag snatching is also common, with scooters pulling up and grabbing bags off their shoulders. This can be avoided by carrying a cross-body bag with a cut-proof strap. For further protection, never carry all your money with you and put valuable items in the trunk when out and about.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
Most hurricanes rip through Puerto Rico from the south, right where Ponce is located. Hurricanes are prominent during the season, but the island generally knows how to deal with them, which is why this is considered a medium risk. Heavy rains and flooding are common, given its tropical location, so that natural disasters can become dangerous with subpar infrastructure in certain areas.
MUGGING RISK: MEDIUM
Mugging is common in certain areas of Ponce, especially at night. If this occurs, do not resist, and hand over your possessions immediately, then contact the police. The most common places this occurs are in deserted areas that are poorly lit, so sticking to the tourist areas will lower this risk.
TERRORISM RISK: HIGH
Terrorist attacks occur in Ponce because Puerto Rican terrorists have existed in the state and country for over 20 years. Given the island's political status, separatist attacks occasionally occur, so it's essential to constantly remain vigilant. While these small uprisings and attacks don't happen daily, separatists tend to attack government buildings, so if you're a tourist visiting one of these locations, you can become a victim.
SCAMS RISK: MEDIUM
Scams are common in Ponce, so negotiate everything up front, never pay in advance unless it's through a ridesharing system, and double-check your change. Also, it's crucial to be careful around ATMs as someone may be watching, ready to target you. Furthermore, children are skillful pickpockets who may try to distract you.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: MEDIUM
Solo female travelers aren't advised to go to Ponce unless they have family, friends, or other local contacts. When visiting, you must walk with a group or another individual, but never alone, especially at night. Avoiding deserted streets and poorly lit areas and those who are visibly intoxicated are great ways to lower this risk.
TAP WATER RISK: HIGH
At one time, Puerto Rico had an excellent water supply that was safe to drink. However, as more manufacturing has moved onto the island, the freshwater sources are depleted, so bottled water is the lifeline. In addition to the manufacturing water pollution, the island is experiencing failing infrastructure at treatment plants.
Safest Places to Visit in Ponce
Most of the tourist attractions in Ponce are safe to visit during the day and safe in the evening.
These include the Plaza Las Delicias, the main town square, Plaza del Caribe, and La Guancha.
These areas boast activities throughout the day and evening fit for the entire family, with locals and tourists congregating to enjoy these beautiful squares.
Places to Avoid in Ponce
There are several areas of Ponce that locals advise against visiting, and the crime statistics corroborate those claims.
The southwestern part of the city has a high overall crime rate.
These include the areas of Comunidad Baramaya, Punto Oro, Encarnacion, Magas, Tallaboa Poniente, and Sector Los Lugaro.
North of the city, it’s best to avoid El Madrigal and Sector Las Canitas, although these areas only have small pockets of crime.
Within the city, the small neighborhood between Calle Acadcia and Calle 10 is a place to avoid.
Additionally, outside of Ponce, in a more rural setting, areas like Sector Caribe, Jauca II, and Felicia II to the east of the city are considered dangerous.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t venture into the countryside, but it’s best to go during the day with an experienced guide who knows the area well and can keep trouble away from you.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Ponce
Traveling to Ponce can be an amazing cultural and outdoor experience, but you need to remain safe by following these tips:
- Always Keep Your Belongings with you. Ensuring your belongings are always within sight and of you will prevent theft headaches. Never leave your items unattended, as anyone can simply walk by and scoop them up instantly. These thefts occur regularly, even in a restaurant or store in broad daylight, so keep your bags within eyesight and arm’s reach.
- Be Careful Swimming. Riptides can sweep out unsuspecting tourists to see and be deadly. Also, the sea contains poisonous and potentially deadly creatures like sharks and jellyfish. Always read the beach warning signs for that day and notify the lifeguard of any issues. If you are caught in a riptide, swim parallel to get out of it so you can safely return to shore.
- Be Cautious in the Rainforest. If you plan to hike or camp in the rainforest, always contact the local ranger’s office so they understand where you will be and which days you will go missing. Also, bring the proper gear, plenty of water, and strong shoes with good traction, and cover your arms and legs to protect you from poisonous plants and insects. It’s best to go with an experienced guide, but if you plan to go alone, take these precautions and be prepared.
- Keep Objects Out of Sight. If you rent a car while visiting, never leave belongings, even a jacket, in plain sight. Car break-ins and thefts are a regular occurrence in Ponce, so an opportunistic criminal will justify breaking your windows to scoop up even the most seemingly inexpensive article of clothing. It’s not worth losing anything or going through the insurance hassle following a break-in, so just throw everything in the trunk.
- Seek Well-Lit Areas. Never travel into dark, poorly lit side streets or back alleys, even in a group. This is just asking for a mugging or worse. Staying in the more populated, well-lit areas in the evening and late at night will help maximize your safety.
- Stay Out of the Abandoned City Areas. Unfortunately, large city sections have been abandoned due to a series of intense earthquakes that have crippled buildings and infrastructure and resulted in a declining population. As a result, these areas are poorly lit and teamed with drug and gang activity. Therefore, don’t visit these city sections at night, and there’s no reason to visit them during the day as they’re just large swaths of abandoned construction.
- Stick to the Outdoor Attractions During the Day. The safest time of the day to visit Ponce’s cultural attractions is during the late morning to late afternoon. This is when most people are visiting, and the police presence is at its highest. While pickpocketing and other petty thefts may still occur, it’s rare to have violent crimes. However, after the sun goes down, criminals target unsuspecting tourists who aren’t with a group.
- Try To Blend In. They’re you aren’t able to look like a local; attempt to look like someone who has confidence in where they’re walking and what they are doing for the day. Also, looking at what locals wear is always helpful, so you can not scream, “tourist.” This will remove unwanted attention. For instance, if everyone is wearing jeans and the tourists are wearing shorts, then try to wear jeans as much as possible.
- Understand Local Laws. Although Puerto Rico is part of the United States, some laws may differ slightly between states and municipalities. For instance, drinking on the streets in certain sections of the city can result in a fine or even overnight in jail. Just because locals or other tourists are doing it doesn’t mean it’s legal.
- Watch Your Drink at Bars. Drugging of tourists to rob them later or sexually assault female visitors occurs, so it’s critical to cover your drink when at a bar or a nightclub or bring it with you to the restroom. Also, if a bartender offers you a free drink and you don’t see them make it before you, decline it. You never know what they are adding to the mix.
So... How Safe Is Ponce Really?
Ponce is not considered a safe city overall.
While safe areas certainly exist, the city and island have a lot of issues surrounding crime, infrastructure, and travel that are common to cities.
The Ponce city center and touristy areas are well-maintained, but the island continues to experience third-world issues, despite being part of the United States.
There’s a lot of police presence in the tourist areas, so if you stay there, you will be fine.
How Does Ponce Compare?
|Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
|Siem Reap (Cambodia)
|Phnom Penh (Cambodia)
|Niagara Falls (Canada)
Visa requirements for Ponce are the same as the United States, with some countries requiring visas and others not. The U.S. has a harsh policy for tourists, and resident visas are even more difficult to acquire.
Puerto Rico uses the United States dollar as the official currency, with ATMs being readily available. Since the island is part of the U.S., there are abundant strong banks, and debit and credit cards are widely accepted.
Ponce experiences hot, windy, tropical weather with brutal summers and milder winters. The island experiences significant rainfall throughout the year, which can cause flooding and other prominent issues around Ponce.
Mercedita International Airport is Ponce's main airport, with domestic flights into the U.S. and international flights to South America and other Caribbean destinations. Visitors can also fly out of San Juan International Airport since it's only 100 miles away and connects to significantly more destinations.
Although travel insurance isn't required for all visitors, it's highly recommended when traveling to any destination. Travel insurance covers lost or delayed baggage, canceled flights, theft, and medical problems that could arise.
Ponce Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Puerto Rico - Safety by City