Ports of Call: San Juan, Puerto Rico
With so many places still on our bucket list, I have a hard time spending precious vacation time revisiting somewhere we have already been. One of the many benefits of cruising, however, is that there are usually itineraries we can find with a mix of new ports and old-favorites. Recently, we sailed back to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where we had previously explored the Castillo San Cristobal.
This time, we had our sights on trekking to the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, roughly a mile's walk from the cruise terminal. The first part of our journey was the same path we took to Cristobal several years ago. We enjoyed the reassuring feeling of knowing we were not lost and the nostalgia of recognition as we walked down a familiar brick path lined with colorful architecture. Perhaps coolest of all was when we were able to help reassure a group of fellow cruisers that Cristobal was walk-able from the terminal and well worth the effort.
As the morning cruise-masses continued on to Cristobal, we turned left and climbed a steep hill. Grateful this would be downhill on the way back, we were rewarded at the top with a flat, ocean view stretch the rest of the way. The land-side approach to El Morro we found to be much different than the initially-imposing Cristobal. Groups of school children were flying kites on the vast green space in front of what appeared to be a relatively small compound.
Once inside, we discovered El Morro is much larger than first impression - certainly more vertical than Cristobal. From the entry, we climbed up to the rooftop. In years past, soldiers would have been able to climb even higher to the top of the lighthouse. Then, after returning to 'ground' level, we - slowly - descended 3 more lengthy and sometimes-steep staircases. From the bottom, the sheer height of the wall is an impressive marvel.
A couple of hours later, we still had not managed to explore every inch of this fascinating fort. Our legs, however, were beginning to remind us we still had to trek a mile back. Sweating, with wind-blown hair and smiles on our faces, we returned to the ship, already discussing our next return to San Juan - now solidified as one of our favorite ports of call.
Find out more about the forts at the National Park Service.
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Our Favorite Photos from the Trip:
Top Tips & Notes for Next Time:
1. We noticed that none of the vans dropping off tourists drove up the long driveway to the Castillo. Be prepared for at least a short trek!
2. There is a modest entrance fee to explore the forts, which goes towards their ongoing maintenance. Since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, if you have one, you can use your National Parks pass, too.
3. There are clean, nice public restrooms inside El Morro, complete with an ocean view!
4. El Morro has a lot more stairs than I remember Cristobal having.
5. Since the last time we were here, we got caught in the rain, I made sure to stick an umbrella in our luggage. This visit, we were blessed with sunny, windy weather.