On my last day in Puerto Rico, I explored Castillo San Cristobal, a fort built by the Spanish to protect San Juan from attack by land. It was built between 1634 and 1790, and then the U.S. added a few concrete additions during World War II. The fort is huge and has a series of tunnels. Some of these tunnels are huge, connecting the different levels and areas of the fort, and were designed to have defensive explosives. Some of the tunnels are really small, and you have to stoop to move through them. If you ever get a chance to visit, try to get one of the ranger guided tours of the tunnels. Those tours besides being very informative, let you go inside some of the really small tunnels in which you normally aren’t allowed.
I got to visit Cueva Ventana (Window Cave) today in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. The tour starts by walking by Pee Wee Cave, which only meets the bare minimum requirements of a cave. You don’t go in. There is no point or room really. There is a short walk through the forest, which when I visited meant getting to see among other things a bunch of giant snails on the trees. Then you walk through cave number two, which I don’t think they actually named. The middle portion of this cave is, well, cavernous, with huge ceilings and wide walls. However the walk through it is fairly short. Then you walk down an extremely steep path to get to the actual Cueva Ventana. There are bats living in there among the limestone columns. At the end of the cave is the Ventana. It has amazing views of the Arecibo River valley. The valley is gorgeous, and you can see the mountains beyond. The tour is worth the view alone. However the caves are really neat to see also, and I love bats, so getting to hear and see them was also a highlight. Sadly while there, you can see vandalism from years past, but tourism is now helping to support security and clean up for the site.
I love buildings that are painted bright colors. They grab you and make you look at them. They look fun, festive, and alive. The Caribbean is famous for its colorful buildings, and Viejo San Juan has its share. Here are a few of the colorful buildings I saw in Viejo San Juan that I really liked.
It wasn’t until I walked around Viejo (Old) San Juan, especially the perimeter of it, that I realized how it really is a walled city. El Morro guards the entrance to the bay, but the fortifications encircles the entirety of the old city. One of the few ways, and the historic way, from the sea level to the city is through La Puerta de San Juan. Walking through the La Puerta, you realize the fortification is serious fortification, as La Puerta is almost a tunnel in terms of the distance you must walk to go from the sea side to the city side. The fortification is truly impressive with the wall thickness and garitas and small openings for guards to stand ready. One modern day bonus of the fortification is that it must help protect Viejo San Juan from any hurricane storm surge. There is a promenade that follows the wall from its beginning on the bay side and ends on the ocean side of El Morro. It gives spectacular views of the fort and the water as well.
While touring El Morro, I discovered that it is guarded by a platoon of iguanas. I will assume that is what they are all doing there. That, and most of them seem to be there because they know that is where there is a lot of tourists, and the iguanas like to have their photos taken. Iguanas are hams. One was posing on the top level. I took a few photos, walked away to take photos of the fort, and walked back. The iguana had moved closer to the edge and where the people were. I kneeled down and got out my macro lens, and the iguana obliged by posing to make sure its best side was shown while I took photos for several minutes. Now, I only do what the iguana clearly wanted and post its photos.
I’m on my first visit to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Today we visited Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro), a fort originally built by the Spanish to guard the entrance to San Juan Bay. The original foundation was laid in 1539, and it was modified and enlarged over 250 years. The United States then added to it during World War II. Finding out that a fort this old was modified and used during WWII surprised me. I was born long after WWII, so I forget that our military has advanced a great deal in terms of technology used since then. The fort is impressive. It has six different levels and is incredibly well built. I am impressed with those people who built it with the amount of stone and brick that must have been laid. Currently it is maintained by the National Park Service and guarded by iguanas, who by the way like to have their photos taken.