Established in 1949, the San Juan National Historic Site is home to some of the city’s most famous attractions. Here, visitors can climb Castillo San Felipe del Morro, which overlooks San Juan Bay, and Castillo San Cristóbal, built to protect against land attacks. The site also encompasses most of the city walls, the San Juan Gate, and Fort San Juan de la Cruz.The Basics
Travelers can learn about historic battles that took place against the English and Dutch while visiting the restored lighthouse, chapel, and vintage cannons at Castillo San Felipe del Morro (nicknamed El Morro for short). History buffs will also love Castillo San Cristóbal, located near the gate of Old San Juan. While El Morro protected Puerto Rico from sea attacks, Castillo San Cristóbal was designed to stop intruders approaching by land. With grounds stretching some 27 acres (11 hectares), it’s Puerto Rico’s largest fortification site, as well as the biggest built by the Spanish after arrival in the New World.
Guided tours of Old San Juan include visits to the San Juan National Historic Site, plus you can catch views of El Morro while riding around on a Jet Ski tour of the bay.
Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- History buffs and military enthusiasts will enjoy exploring San Juan National Historic Site.
- In addition to exploring the forts, you can also walk along the Paseo del Morro trail, which follows the city wall from the San Juan Gate to Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
- Be aware that the surfaces of the historical structures are uneven and rugged, and the ramps and staircases are steep and sometimes narrow.
- Comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
The San Juan National Historic Site is an easy walk from the pier where most cruise ships dock; head north past Plaza Colón from there. Free trams depart every 20 to 30 minutes and travel three different routes around Old San Juan, including past the historic site. Taxis are also available.
When to Get There
In February, over the course of several days, the San Juan National Historic Site celebrates its anniversary with special programming. Park staff and volunteers dressed as uniformed soldiers conduct cannon-firing demonstrations from Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Fort San Juan de la Cruz in the morning and afternoon. In general, the site attracts the most tourists and locals on the weekends.
El Yunque Rain Forest
Located about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from San Juan, El Yunque Rain Forest is a popular attraction for first-time and returning visitors to Puerto Rico and a must-see for nature lovers. Although it is relatively small in size, it is the only tropical rain forest in the United States Forest Service and boasts plenty of biodiversity.