Ponce de León, Juan (1460?–1521), a Spanish explorer. He was the conqueror of Puerto Rico and the discoverer of Florida. Ponce de León fought in wars against the Moors before coming to the New World in 1493, on Columbus's second voyage. Later he assisted in the conquest of Hispaniola. In 1508 Ponce de León landed in Puerto Rico with 50 men and soon overcame the Indians. He served as first governor of the island, 1509–12.
In 1513 Ponce de León set out in search of a land to the north called “Bimini." Legend has it that he was attracted by a rumor that the land had a fountain whose waters would restore the youth of all who drank from it. On Easter Sunday, 1513, he sighted the east coast of Florida and named it for Pascua Florida, the Easter feast of flowers. Ponce de León explored both the east and west coasts of Florida, and supposed it to be an island. In 1514 he was appointed governor and given the sole right to conquer and colonize Florida.
Ponce de Léon returned to Florida in 1521 with 200 men, landing on the west coast. Repeated attacks by Indians forced the Spanish to abandon their settlement. Ponce de León was mortally wounded and died after his expedition returned to Cuba.