El Morro


Its full name is the Castillo de San Felipe del Morro, but it is better known by El Morro, which means “promontory.” Perched on the northwestern-most point of Old San Juan, this daunting citadel must have been an intimidating sight to enemy ships. In fact, in its long history, El Morro was never defeated by a naval attack. El Morro only fell once, in 1598, when the Earl of Cumberland took the fortress by land.You’ll follow in the Earl’s footsteps as you cross a large green field to get to the fort. Today, people come here to relax, picnic, and fly kites; the sky is full of them on a clear day.

Once you reach the citadel, take your time to explore its ingenious architecture. El Morro is made up of six staggered levels, incorporating dungeons, barracks, passageways, and storerooms. Walk along its ramparts, where cannons still face the ocean, and step inside one of the domed garitas, or sentry boxes, which are themselves an iconic symbol of Puerto Rico. Looking out across the bay, you’ll see another, smaller fortification. Called El Cañuelo, this was El Morro’s partner in the island’s defense: ships hoping to attack Puerto Rico would be cut down in a barrage of crisscrossing cannon fire. Two modern structures were added to El Morro after Puerto Rico became a commonwealth. A lighthouse that was damaged and repaired by the U.S. in 1906-08 stands out in stark contrast to the rest of the structure. During World War II, the U.S. Army added another entirely incongruous fortification, installing a military bunker on the top level.

Place Details

  • Official Name: El Castillo de San Felipe del Morro
  • Located at 501 Norzagaray Street in Old San Juan
  • Phone: (787) 729-6754
  • Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. from June to November, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. from December to May
  • Price: $5