Whether you're a history enthusiast or a curious traveler, exploring the forts of San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a journey through time. Standing as a testament to the island's rich colonial past, these fortresses offer a glimpse into the life, struggles, and resilience of the inhabitants of the island during four centuries of Spanish rule. They are not just attractions but stories carved in stone. 

Discover San Juan鈥檚 forts with us and remember, your journey can be greatly enhanced with our free audio guides, offering an immersive experience like no other.

San Juan Forts

San Juan is home to a number of historical forts, each one brimming with its own unique story. Let's embark on a journey through time as we visit each fort in this charming old city.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro)

El Morro is perhaps the most iconic fort in Old San Juan. Built by the Spanish in the 16th century, this six-level citadel stands majestically against the azure Atlantic Ocean. Open to the public from 9AM to 5PM year-round, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day, the fort is a window to the past, offering stunning views and a deep dive into the island's history.

El Morro's strategic location on a 120-foot cliff allowed Spain to control the valuable sea lanes to the New World. The fort was designed to guard the entrance to San Juan Bay and protect the city from seaborne enemies. However, its value wasn't just in its ideal location. The fortification itself was a marvel of military architecture.

Perhaps the most fascinating chapter in El Morro's history came in 1595 when the fortifications were put to the test against the Dread Pirate Francis Drake. Our guided tour of El Morro actually includes an audio recreation of the battle, with the whiz of cannon balls and the crackle of fire placing you in the middle of the action. The English privateer, operating under the commission of Queen Elizabeth I, sought to capture a sizable treasure stored in San Juan. Despite Drake's formidable reputation and fleet, El Morro's defenses held firm. Thanks to a clever defensive strategy involving sunk ships blocking the harbor entrance and the powerful cannons of El Morro, Drake's attack was repelled.

Today, visitors can explore the fort's complex network of tunnels, dungeons, barracks, outposts, and ramps, and imagine the hustle and bustle of soldiers preparing for an incoming attack.

Castillo San Crist贸bal

Castillo San Crist贸bal is the largest fort built by the Spanish in the New World. It served as a formidable defense structure, protecting the city from land attacks. 

Exploring the underbelly of Castillo San Crist贸bal, one can delve into a labyrinth of tunnels with a chilling past. These passages, once considered a military innovation, permitted covert troop movements within the fort, giving defenders an edge over the enemy. In the dark embrace of these tunnels lies the fort's dungeon, marked by late 18th-century ship drawings possibly etched by a condemned Spanish captain. 

The dungeon's most notorious tenant, however, was Fray Pablo de San Benito, whose story we tell in our San Crist贸bal Castle guided tour. His tragic obsession with a young churchgoer in his parish in Spain led to his exile and a twenty-year confinement in this very prison. He survived chains and gangrene, eventually leaving San Crist贸bal in 1797 as authorities made room for incoming prisoners of war during the British attack on San Juan of that year. 

Fort铆n San Ger贸nimo del Boquer贸n

Despite its smaller size compared to El Morro and San Cristobal, Fort铆n San Ger贸nimo del Boquer贸n played a significant role in defending San Juan from foreign attacks, all of which we recreate in our San Ger贸nimo guided tour. This fort is known for its remarkable preservation and offers a quieter, more intimate experience. It is located next to the Caribe Hilton Hotel and was the first line of defense for invaders attempting to cross onto the island on which Old San Juan sits from the bridges that connect it to the larger island of Puerto Rico. 

Fort铆n San Juan de la Cruz (El Ca帽uelo)

Across the bay from El Morro is Fort铆n San Juan de la Cruz, also known as El Ca帽uelo. Once a critical defense point that would allow Spanish soldiers to fire on incoming attackers from both ends of the mouth of the bay, this fort offers unique views of El Morro. While it's smaller than the other forts, its strategic location and historical importance make it a must-visit. It鈥檚 also next to a popular public beach on Isla de Cabras, so while not technically in San Juan, a day trip to this location will allow you to enjoy a bit of history and some relaxation in the sun.

Exploring San Juan鈥檚 forts is a step back in time, unveiling the tales of courage, determination, and resilience that shaped Puerto Rico's history. From the grandeur of El Morro and San Cristobal to the quaint charm of San Ger贸nimo and El Ca帽uelo, these forts offer an unmatched exploration of the island's past. 

Enhance your experience with our free, podcast-style audio guides, designed to bring history to life with local insights and immersive recreations of important events. Ready to step into the past? Join us on this exciting journey through time at Free Audio Guides: Puerto Rico.