The El Morro fort is one of the things that has to be done in San Juan. The large structure makes you feel safe and protected from any pirates. There are multiple levels to the fort and many artifacts to see. My favorite are the old cannons. Wander around and explore the site!
El Castillo San Felipe del Morro, usually referred to as "El Morro", dates back to 1539 when a small, turret-like tower was built by the Spanish settlers to defend the bay of San Juan. Over the next two centuries, the fort grew until it reached the present form towards the end of the 18th century. El Morro was attacked several times during the course of its history and was at the centre of battles against the likes of Sir Francis Drake, George Clifford and Ralph Abercromby. It was also involved in the two World Wars, when the American army made some slight modifications to convert El Morro into a military base and to watch for possible German attacks. In 1961, El Morro was finally opened to the public and the fort's sentry boxes, or "garitas", have since become a national symbol that can be found on license plates as well as most souvenirs.
It only costs $3 to visit El Morro (for $5, you can buy a ticket that also gives you access to the Castillo San Cristobal - the ticket is valid for 7 days), and it's open every day from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. Every hour on the hour, you can catch a 20 minute orientation talk, and there are also some special guided tours (check the website for schedule). However, what I enjoyed the most about visiting El Morro was that we were able to roam around the fort on our own. We picked up a map at the entrance and made our way through the different rooms, going up and down El Morro's six levels and taking plenty of pictures along the way - good walking shoes are a must!
This is the fort that we have seen before in travel documentaries and so I wanted my family to have a picture at one of those nice towers – I also wanted the twins to go around the many corners of the turrets.
We decided to go down at Old San Juan near the entrance of the fort which is located at the end of Norzagary Street at the entrance to the bay of San Juan. There is a big green lawn to walk towards it, and you can take that famous FREE trolley but we wanted to go through all the people who were enjoying kite-flying on the Monday morning. The walk was just a quarter-mile. It was also a great picture taking opportunity.
Once at the entrance gate, we just paid $5 per adult to see both forts (just $3 if you se only one fort)…and the 5 year old twins were free. This Castillo San Felipe del Morro protected the rich port from sea going enemies during the Spaniard Era, and it is part of the World Heritage UNESCO Site List (1983, as San Juan National Historic Site)
The fort is amazing and the twins found this group of cannon balls arranged like a pyramid and nobody could stop them from climbing up – this seems to be a popular place for pictures. And then we just went everywhere around this big fort, enjoying the views and even having some jumping pictures.
There are several levels on the fort, the famous being the uppermost level and the one with the artillery. There’s a map available for you once you get there so you can navigate yourself and choose the places you want to visit. I will not go into detail about this…but all the levels were fun!
Moro means 'promontory' or 'headland'. The original actual name is for of King Philip II of Spain. Construction began in 1539. El Morro's last active fight occurred during a naval bombardment by the United States Navy during the 1898 Spanish-American War.
In 1843, the first lighthouse in Puerto Rico constructed atop El Morro. A second one replaced it in 1876. The second lighthouse took a direct hit during the 1898 bombardment of El Morro by Sampson's U.S. fleet, but the brick foundation was salvaged and reused in 1906-1908 when the present lighthouse seen atop El Morro was built by US Navy.
In 1961, the United States Army officially retired from El Morro. The fort became a part of the National Park Service to be preserved as museums. In 1983, the Fort was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.
In honor of the Quincentennial of the voyages of Columbus in 1992 the exterior esplanade was cleared of palm trees that had been planted by the U.S. Army in the Fort Brooke era, and restored to the open appearance this "field-of-fire" for El Morro's cannon would have had in colonial Spanish times. Parking lots and paved roads were also removed, and the El Morro lighthouse repaired and restored to its original appearance.
What this meant for me was that I could not get close enough to the lighthouse or fort for a quick visit. I had to be satisfied with views from the ship in the harbor, or from the car across the FIELD OF FIRE. This "esplanade" was historically maintained without trees or plants or any object that could shelter the approach of enemy soldiers. Attackers here would be in the line of fire from the cannon of El Morro. Today it is used as a picnic grounds.
The views of San Juan Bay from El Morro are spectacular. The area was designated a National Historic Site in February, 1949 with 74 total acres. It is the largest fortification in the Caribbean and rises 140 feet above the sea with 18 foot thick walls which proved to be a very important defense.
The fort is a maze of tunnels, dungeons, barracks, outposts and ramps. It is full of small, circular sentry boxes called 'garitas' that are unique to the forts of Puerto Rico and have become a national symbol.
The fort underwent a major restoration in 1992 for the 500th anniversiary of the discovery of Puerto Rico.
Taking a stroll through El Morro is like being transported to a different time and place. From the old world architecture to the cannons still pointed out to sea, El Morro has a unique flavor and personality of its own. Looking out into the sea from one of the watchtowers is a scene that has changed in hundreds of years, one can almost imagine how boring it must have been for the watch guard, and also imagine how frightening it would have been to see battleships appear from the horizon. It takes about a hour to explore the fort and the cost of admission is well worth the views and experience!
Built in 1539, this fort was in use as late as the Spanish American War. Evidence from this war can still be seen in the form of shell fragments still visible in the walls. The garitas(sentry boxes) is what give this fort it's character. The fort is surrounded by water on two sides of it's triangular shape providing great views from the sea. The views of the Santa Maria Cemetary are spectacular. If you only had time to visit one spot in San Juan, this would be it in my opinion.
Built between 1540 and 1589. San Felipe del Morro was named in honor of King Phillip II. Most of the walls in the fort today were added later. The fort is a maze of tunnels, dungeons, barracks, outposts and ramps. El Morro is studded with small, circular sentry boxes called "garitas" that have become a national symbol. The views of San Juan Bay from El Morro are spectacular. The area was designated a National Historic Site in 1949 and it's the largest fortification in the Caribbean.
In 1539, King Carlos V of Spain ordered the construction of this fort to guard the sea approach to San Juan. Since then, the basic plan of the old fort hasn't changed. Sir Francis Drake attacked unsuccessfully in 1595. Later, the Duke of Cumberland attacked and took the fort, only to see his army decimated by dysentery. A Dutch attack was also repelled in 1625, but the Dutch did manage to sack the city.
The Spanish-American War of 1898 resulted in an American bombardment, followed by the loss of Puerto Rico and all other Spanish possessions in the Caribbean. The US Navy erected the lighthouse in 1908. During World War II, the fort was an observation post, but saw no action.
The National Park Service acquired this property in 1949, and restored most of its original appearance. It's been designated a UN World Heritage Site.
The fort has a nice museum, a small theater, a vintage Spanish cannon, and its original "garitas". These are fortified sentry posts, which soldiers manned around the clock. They have come to be symbols of Old San Juan.
Starting with the construction of a single tower in 1539, Castillo San Felipe del Morro eventually became a massive fortress covering more than 70 acres and taking more than 250 years to build and fortify. Most of the walls standing today were added in a period of tremendous construction between the 1760s and 1780s. Referred to by locals simply as "El Morro" ("promontory" in English), the fort was designed to guard the entrance to San Juan bay and defend the city from seaborne invaders. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fort attracts more than two million visitors a year to its windswept ramparts and passageways, making it one of Puerto Rico's most popular tourist attractions. Opening hours vary depending on the season with entrance to the fort costing $3 per adult (for $5 you can purchase a ticket allowing entry into del Morro and Castillo San Cristobal).
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