The south coast stands in stark contrast to Puerto Rico ’s north coast. Instead of lush, rocky coastlines, rough Atlantic waters, mountainous karst country, and a dense population, the south coast features a flat, dry topography, the calm waters of the Caribbean, and considerably less development. It’s a great place to go if you want to escape the traffic and American influence found elsewhere on the island. And there are many great historic and cultural sights to explore.
Historically, the south coast was a major player in the island’s sugar industry. It was once dotted with enormous sugarcane plantations, as well as sugar refineries, rum distilleries, and shipping operations. As that industry died out, the south coast turned its economic development toward the manufacturing of goods, although it hasn’t come close to restoring the area to the level of wealth it once enjoyed.
Ponce  is the south coast’s biggest city, and what a city it is. It has a large, lovely central plaza  that bustles with activity night and day, and it rivals San Juan  as the island’s cultural, historical, and architectural center. Home to the founders of Don Q rum, Ponce was once a very wealthy city, which is apparent in its many beautiful buildings, museums, and elaborate festivals .
The natural jewel of the south coast is undoubtedly Bosque Estatal de Guánica , on the western end. The 10,000-acre subtropical dry forest is reminiscent of the American Southwest, with its dry, sun-bleached soil and plenitude of cacti that create a stark but lovely landscape on the Caribbean. It is also home to a couple of beautiful beaches and some great snorkeling sites. Although there is some dispute as to where Christopher Columbus first set foot on the island in 1493, the majority of experts agree that it was probably in Guánica.
The south coast’s other well-known natural site is Baños de Coamo , a natural hot springs near the center of the region. Believed to contain restorative powers, Baños de Coamo has been a tourist attraction since colonial times. Despite the fact the south coast is on the Caribbean, it’s not particularly known for its beaches, but there are a couple of noteworthy ones, particularly Gilligan’s Island and Balneario Caña Gorda in Guánica .
The south coast was home to a significant Taíno Indian community, established in the 1200s, that stretched from Guánica to Ponce. At the time of Columbus’s arrival, its chief was Cacique Agüeybaná, who is believed to have been the island’s most powerful leader at that time. But the south coast’s indigenous history predates the Taíno culture. Just north of Ponce, Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Tibes  is one of Puerto Rico ’s most significant historical sites. Many ceremonial ball fields, plazas, and petroglyphs have been discovered on this site, which archaeologists have attributed to Pre-Taíno and Igneri cultures that date back as far as 300 B.C.
The southeastern corner of Puerto Rico is the least populated part of the island. Aside from a couple of nice beaches, its sights are few. But it’s a good place to go if you want to get away from it all, and you can find some terrific seafood restaurants in the fishing village of Salinas .