This cemetery is described by some tour guides as San Juan's "Pere-Lachaise". Located between El Morro and Castillo San Cristobal, many of Puerto Rico's most notable citizens were buried at Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis. However, most of its fame comes from the fact that the cemetery is beautifully situated by the sea. On a sunny day, the dazzling white tombs make for a stunning contrast with the blue ocean and sky and you'll find many people walking around the top of the ramparts that surround the cemetery to take photos. I didn't see anyone walking in the cemetery, though. It could be because it leads to La Perla, a neighborhood visitors are usually told to avoid. In any case, the view is amazing from the top of the fortifications!
If the barrio La Perla (see my Tip on the Subject) can arguably be said one of the most picturesque slums in the world, the same - i.e. about picturesqueness - can be said of San Juan's Historical Cemetery, that you will find today right next to El Morro, bordered by La Perla on one side and El Morro on the other side.
In the old days, for sanitary reasons, cemeteries had to be located outside the cities and, as a result, San Juan's cemetery was allocated between the fortified wall and the ocean, enjoying at that time as well as today a dramatic and spectacular location.
I understand there are few famous people from the colonial era buried here, but, to me, of better interest to visitors will be the scenic setting and the views. You don't need to get down into the Cemetery and can enjoy beautiful views of the Cemetery itself, the coast and the ocean from the esplanade in front of El Morro.
I don't even know where the entrance to the cemetery is, I guess through La Perla, therefore, if interested in getting to the graveyard, you may want to be careful.
My love of cemeteries did not go unfulfilled while I was in San Juan. Between El Moro and El Castillo de Cristobal, is the San Juan cemetery. The cemetery is filled with beautiful statues and tombstones. There was an angel that was absolutely amazing in the details of its carving. In the middle of the cemetery is a chapel dedicated to Mary Magdalen. It's easy to find given that it is a dome with a red roof. You have to walk down a long driveway to get to the cemetery itself, so if you are out of shape, you may want to just admire the view from the stone wall near El Moro. This burial ground was originally intended to be the resting place of war veterans. If you take the time to walk through the cemetery you will find famous people from the 19th and 20th centuries.
I visited the Old San Juan cemetary Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis with my students a couple of years back. It was amazing because I asked the tour guide to give us a walking tour of Old San Juan and asked her to take us there. She called and had a local guide who knew historical information about the cemetary meet us there and walk us through the cemetary pointing out the historical figures, landmark tombs and significance of the elaborate tombs. It was very interesting and my students got a history lesson as well. I recommend it and suggest contacting the Old San Juan tourism office and coordinating a tour here. It is worth it and the views spectacular. I have never again seen a blue ocean as beautiful as when seen in contrast to the cemetary walls.
This is a small but remarkable cemetery, full of elaborate gravestones. It is located next to El Morro fortress.