On February 16, 2014, we took our 9th cruise, which sailed from San Juan, Puerto Rico. We had a couple of days to explore San Juan and the nearby El Yunque rainforest. I’ll be writing more about both. This post, however, is dedicated to San Juan’s beautiful forts: Castillo San Felipe del Morro (aka El Morro) and Castillo San Cristobal.
I haven’t visited every fort there is, but I’ve visited my fair share. These two definitely rank as the most picturesque I’ve had the pleasure of touring.
In the past couple of years my husband’s job has required him to spend some time in Puerto Rico. It never worked out for me to join him, but that was okay. He got a chance to explore a little bit, which worked perfectly for this trip. He knew exactly where to take me.
He was particularly excited to show me the Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
“I just know you’re going to love the cemetery.”
That piqued my curiosity. He’s not usually game on cemeteries, even though he knows I like to take pictures of them to post here and on HJ’s Facebook page. But he had high praise for this one. Hmmm….
GO FLY A KITE
The first thing that took my breath away was del Morro’s Esplanade. We visited on a Sunday afternoon. It’s spacious green grass and sea breezes presented an inviting spot for families to picnic and fly kites.
Below is a little video I took of three of the four of my favorite kites from that day. (I have a special affinity for hearts and turtles, but the octopus and scuba diver kites also enchanted me.)
CEMETERY BY THE SEA
Before heading into the fort proper, my husband guided us across the field of kite flyers to the cemetery. Words fail me. Instead, I tried to let my camera do the talking.
Two words sum up my feelings of this wonderful cemetery by the sea: hauntingly beautiful.
INSIDE EL MORRO
Next, we ventured inside.
WHERE ARE THE GHOSTS?
You can’t help but feel the ghosts of people past when visiting a structure like El Morro. We didn’t see any the day we visited, though.
According to About.com’s Ghosts of San Juan article, several are said to inhabit the fort. Such as a white lady who’s been spotted on the ramparts and the obligatory ghost soldiers perhaps still on duty in their afterlife.
But what about the haunted turret I’d heard about? The one where guards had been reported to disappear from at night? Was it one of El Morro’s turrets?
Nope. That exists near (but not within the property) of San Juan’s other fort: Castillo San Cristobal.
San Cristobal is the site of a tragic love story, though, one that’s sad to have resulted in some ghosts. In the 1700s the daughter of San Juan’s executioner fell in love with a rogue. He was caught and hung. She saw it, and, distraught, hung herself next to him. It’s said when her father came to take down her lover’s body, he saw his daughter’s body and dropped dead instantly.
Maria, the executioner’s daughter, and Betancourt, her rogue lover, are now said to wander San Cristobal’s grounds.
CASTILLO SAN CRISTOBAL
LABYRINTH OF TUNNELS
The majesty of El Morro’s walls enchanted me, but San Cristobal’s labyrinth of tunnels beguiled me.
SEA AND CITY VIEWS FROM SAN CRISTOBAL
ON THE GROUNDS OF SAN CRISTOBAL
THE DEVIL’S SENTRY BOX
We never did figure out how, or even if we could, get to the Devil’s Sentry Box, but we were able to see it from San Cristobal.
What is the Devil’s Sentry Box?
La Garita del Diablo is rumored to have been the site where at least one soldier disappeared while on night watch. Apparently they would call “Alert!” to each other during the night to make sure they were still awake. But one night the guard stationed in that garita did not respond. When they went to check on him, he was gone.
It’s not clear if more than one soldier vanished mysteriously from here. But some stories of the legend recount that soldiers were leery of this tower anyway because of weird noises they often heard coming from it.
I was just excited to see it in person, even if I didn’t get to enter it with my own two feet.