It is hard to pinpoint what makes a visit to Isla de Cabras such an interesting hop across the San Juan Bay, but the best guess would have to be its location, sitting at the western end of the bay’s entrance. There is no better vantage point for a panoramic view of the majestic capital city of San Juan as it stands today, as well as for a glimpse into the Spanish colonial past of Puerto Rico.
Isla de Cabras represented one of the strategic lines of defense for the capital city during Spain’s rule. The island’s most famous spot is the National Historic Site known as El Cañuelo, a fort originally built in 1610 and baptized Fuerte San Juan de la Cruz. Across the bay one can still spot the San Felipe del Morro fortress, instrumental in holding back invading forces attempting to take over the colony.
Visitors can take in the fantastic views by strolling along the rocky seashore or by taking a break on the park benches. At the north end of the small island one encounters another set of ruins, a building that housed a community of lepers from the late 19th to the early 20th century. Although uninhabited these days, Isla de Cabras leaves an indelible memory on those who visit, or even those who see it from Old San Juan. The image of its lined-up palm trees breaking the blue horizon from their small, rocky stretch has become iconic in tourism ads. Isla de Cabras now serves a purpose quite opposite to keeping people away from Puerto Rico: it is now one of the island’s own welcome signs.