One of the first places the Vacation Gals went to see in Puerto Rico was the Castillo San Cristobal, part of the larger Fort San Cristobal, and a San Juan National Historic Site. We’d never traveled to Puerto Rico together as a group before, and it adds value to a vacation to experience and appreciate the culture, history, and natural environs of the destination.
We all know that the Spanish were the first Europeans to discover Puerto Rico, although there were indigenous Arawak and Taino Indians there already. As so often happened, the original natives of the island were enslaved and they did much of the manual labor to build fortifications against the Dutch and other Europeans who might try to claim Puerto Rico as theirs. The Castillo de San Cristobal is the largest fort (and castle) built by the Spanish in the New World. Construction started in 1508 or so, and the Spanish Empire spent over 250 years building the fort. Castillo San Cristobal is fortified to guard against land attacks, whereas Castillo del Morro – about a mile away – protects the port from sea attacks. Our guide told us that there are underground tunnels connecting the two, but these passageways have been closed. They’re not geologically safe, apparently. Too bad! That would’ve been an exciting trek.
All-you-can-eat (and drink) inclusive vacations are tons of fun, and great breaks from our everyday lives. But to add meaning and depth to traveling, it’s important to experience the culture and history of a vacation destination too. The Vacation Gals are glad we took the time to explore the forts of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.