Castillo San Felipe del Morro is a 16th century fortress. El Morro means “promontory” in English. The fortress is located on the northwestern tip of Old San Juan. El Morro is one of the most prominent and internationally known Puerto Rican historic landmarks. The original fortress, constructed in 1540, guarded the entrance to San Juan Bay from pirates. As time passed, the construction expanded. The Spanish added more walls over time and now the original round tower is in the inner heart of the fortress.
This fort is a complex structure consisting of barracks, lookouts, cannon-firing positions, dungeons, garitas (guard towers), vaults, and ramps. Underground tunnels connect El Morro to the nearby Fort San Cristóbal. The fortress stands as evidence of Puerto Rico’s protective role for the New World. Both the Dutch and the English attacked the fortification multiple times. Its history started with the Spanish Conquistadores. It played a very active military role in the 1898 Spanish-American War. This war ended with the Treaty of Paris which forced Spain to surrender its control over Cuba and Puerto Rico to the United States. El Morro’s name temporarily changed to Fort Brooke while occupied by U.S. military. The fortress, used actively during World War I, received a massive concrete bunker by the time of World War II. From the bunker, U.S. military monitored the activities of German submarines and coordinated the coastal artillery.
El Morro as well as Fort San Cristóbal became a part of the U.S. National Park system and a tourism site in 1961. UNESCO declared the fortress a World Heritage Site in 1983. In 1992, El Morro regained its 18th century appearance.
Those interested in history will enjoy the El Morro museum, where exhibits from different time periods are on display. Video presentations, authentic documents, and photographs explain details of the fort’s history. Information is available in both English and Spanish. You can either explore the fortress on your own or wait for a park ranger, who will take you to an hour-long guided tour.
The park is perfect for a family visit. The open field in front of the fortress is a popular site for locals’ kite flying. There are kites or chiringa for sale near the entrance of the fortress, if you want to get your child a special souvenir. El Morro has a gift shop, as well, where you will find interesting items related to the history of the town.
For more information, you can call (787) 729-00901. The fortress is open every day from 9 am to 6 pm. The entrance fee is SEVEN dollars for adults.
The $7 admission gets you access to both Cristóbal and El Morro and you have up to 7 days to visit the second fort. Kids under 15 years of age are FREE!