Overlooking the city of Ponce are the remains of a place once synonymous with entertainment and luxury: the Intercontinental Hotel of Ponce, also known simply as “El Ponce.” Despite being closed for more than 40 years, the abandoned and decaying structure continues to loom over the city and has even become a sort of national icon of Puerto Rico.
Opened in 1960, El Ponce was the first modern hotel in the city, designed by American architect William B. Tabler in a functional and futuristic style. It was built with plenty of space for cross-ventilation and light, taking advantage of its location at the top of El Vigía Hill, which offered breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea and the city below.
The hotel became the go-to place to stay on the island’s south coast. Hosting everyone from celebrity performers to international diplomats, it saw the birth of great artistic, social, and political events in Puerto Rico. With its success, the city experienced a touristic boom, and the future seemed rosy for El Ponce.
But unfortunately, a rosy future was not to be. Just 15 years after opening, the hotel closed for good. The true reason remains a mystery to this day, but some theories have persisted through the decades. The most prominent include labor conflicts, high operating costs, and the location itself, which was difficult to access. The closing was strange and unexpected news, as there was no clear indication of any decline during the hotel’s short and bright lifespan.
The property would have some future use, in October 1985, as a temporary shelter for the survivors of a landslide that destroyed the poor Mameyes community nearby. Through the years, several propositions to repurpose the building came and went, but no progress has been made on repurposing or reopening the hotel. The empty structure may remain there for a very long time, or disappear mysteriously in the blink of an eye.
Update as of May 2021: The hotel has been bought by Marriott and is now being restored.
Know Before You Go
The hotel is right behind the famous tourist destinations Cruceta Vigía and Castillo Serrallés; the road leading to it is near the ticket booth. Keep in mind that the interior of the hotel is off-limits, and entering the property is considered trespassing.