On opposite sides of the small district of Old San Juan, in San Juan Puerto Rico, lie to sea forts. San Cristobal and Del Morro. They look out over the ocean and protect the small city. They were built and maintained by the Spanish for over 250 years before being taken over by the United States during the Spanish American War. Now they are a National Historic Sight and one of the best attractions in all of San Juan.
We went there to step back and time and get a glimpse of how these island fortresses used to protect the island. Admission to both forts is only $5 per person and grants you access for a full week. We decided to tour both of them in just one day because they are so close to each other. Upon entering Old San Juan Fort Castillo San Cristobal is one of the first land marks you see. It looms in the distance as you cross the bridge into Old San Jun.
It lies atop a small hill and once you enter you are treated to an entrance area that documents the restorations that are ongoing on the forts. Display cases and placards describe to visitors what type of tools are used and how the builders recreate the process used to build the forts on its restoration. A tunnel takes you from there into the fort. Tours run every 20 minutes during the day but we opted to explore on our own.
You can walk into all of the different rooms of the fort and see the sleeping quarters, ammunition stores, cannon decks, kitchens and more. The real treat of this fort is to look out over the observation tower. It gives you not only an amazing view of the entirety of the fort itself, but the city district of Old San Juan. Lookout towers surround the outside of the fort and really are an impressive sight to see. If your lucky enough, (we weren’t) to get there by ten AM on Saturdays you can actually take a guided tour of the tunnels that connect San Cristobal with Del Morro.
We spent a little over an hour exploring every nook and cranny of the fort, including its many spiral staircases, before heading on to Fort Castillo San Felipe Del Morro. On the other side of the city lays the more impressive of the two forts. When you get there a large grassy area lies in front of it. It’s the perfect place to fly a kite or have a picnic. To the right you can see the top of the mausoleum of San Juan cemetery. Out of the top of the fort rises the beautiful blue light house that looks out over the ocean.
When you get inside you simply hand your receipt to the security guard at the counter from the last fort and they let you in. There is no visitor center at Del Morrow you immediately enter into the large square that would have been where soldiers spent most of their day. The interior of Del Morro is by far larger than San Cristobal. It has quite a few different levels to it and more places to explore. On the top level of the fort the scene is much prettier than at San Cristobal, while you can’t see Old San Juan it does give you a much more scenic view of the coast and the ocean.
We’d have to say that Del Morro was our favorite between the two. It was a nicer fort, the view was amazing, and the breeze that came off the ocean through the fort was exactly what we needed to cool us down from the blazing Puerto Rican Sun. If you find yourself there buy a kite from a nearby vendor and spend a few hours exploring the fort and it’s history.