Mask Requirement (updated 18 Apr 2022)
😷 Masks are not required, neither indoors (with some execptions) nor outdoors. Masks are recommended in indoor situations where you cannot be certain of the vaccination status of other people
😷 Masks are required inside airports, per Federal/CDC mandates
😷 Masks are required at events/activities where 1000 or more people are gathered, effective 18 Apr 2022
😷 Masks are required indoors in places like hospitals, emergency rooms, nursing homes, medical offices, health centers, clinics, labs, pharmacies, and on public transportation (including taxis and buses). The Department of Health may make masks mandetory in other situations where their use is deemed necessary.
😷 Owners and operators of public and private establishments may, at their discretion, implement health measures that they deem necessary - including requiring the use of masks.
📄 These changes go into effect 10 Mar 2022, per Executive Order EO-2022-019
Restaurants, Bars & other Food Establishments (updated 08 Mar 2022)
👪 The capacity limit has been removed, as has the requirment to check for vaccination card or negative test result
😷 Owners and operators of public and private establishments may, at their discretion, implement health measures that they deem necessary - including requiring the use of masks, and screening for vaccination status or negative test results
📄 These changes go into effect 10 Mar 2022, per Executive Order EO-2022-019
Hotels, Resorts & other Lodging (updated 08 Mar 2022)
👪 The requirment to check for vaccination card or negative test result has been eliminated
😷 Owners and operators of public and private establishments may, at their discretion, implement health measures that they deem necessary - including requiring the use of masks, and screening for vaccination status or negative test results
📄 These changes go into effect 10 Mar 2022, per Executive Order EO-2022-019
Tours & Excursions (updated 08 Mar 2022)
⛵ Tour operators may require proof of vaccination or negative test results to participate. Check with the operator to make sure you have what they require.
Events, Stadiums & Theaters (updated 18 Apr 2022)
👪 The capacity limit has been removed, as has the requirement to wear a mask (if less than 1000 people are gathered)
😷 Masks are required at events/activities where 1000 or more people are gathered, effective 18 Apr 2022
🏟️ All attendees at group activities of 1000 or more people at facilities that encourage crowding — indoor or outdoor — must show proof of vaccination with booster (if eligible), OR negative test (molecular or antigen) results of test administered by an authorized health provider no more than 72 hours prior to arrival at the event. Facilities include theaters, amphitheaters, stadiums, conference and activity centers, and any other place where events are held. Effective 10 Mar 2022, per executive order EO-2022-019 and administrative order OA-2022-533
😷 Owners and operators of public and private establishments may, at their discretion, implement health measures that they deem necessary - including requiring the use of masks, and screening for vaccination status or negative test results
📄 These changes go into effect 10 Mar 2022, per Executive Order EO-2022-019
Cruise Ship Passengers (updated 08 Mar 2022)
🚢 All cruise ship passengers and crew who wish to disembark in Puerto Rico must be fully vaccinated, OR must have a negative molecular or antigen COVID test performed within 48 hours before disembarking in PR. All passengers and crew who test positive, or have been in close contact to someone who has tested positive, will not be permitted to disembark in Puerto Rico, regarless of vaccination status.
Air Travelers Arriving in Puerto Rico (updated 08 Mar 2022)
📄 The requirement to complete the travel declaration has been eliminated for ALL travelers arriving in Puerto Rico
✈️ DOMESTIC TRAVELERS (effective 10 Mar 2022, per EO-2022-019)
• The requirement to present a vaccination card or negative test results has been eliminated for DOMESTIC travelers
✈️ INTERNATIONAL TRAVELERS (effective 06 Dec 2021, per CDC)
• All INTERNATIONAL air passengers, regardless of vaccination status, must show (before boarding flight to the US) a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 1 day before travel to the US. This applies to all travelers, 2 years old and up, flying from INTERNATIONAL (outside of the US) destinations. Flights between Puerto Rico and the States are domestic flights, so this does not apply to travelers arriving in Puerto Rico from the States.

The Cisterns Beneath Fort San Cristobal

Since we wrote this article, the cisterns have been refurbished, they are being used to provide non-potable water to the forts. Since they are now full of water, the cisterns are no longer available to be toured.

Cisterns beneath Fort San Cristobal

The forts of the San Juan National Historic Site are hundreds of years old, and they hold many secrets from the past. Throughout the forts, you’ll find etchings on dungeon walls, underground tunnels, mortar shells embedded in the walls, and centuries-old graffiti.

You can discover some of these just by wandering around by yourself. There are others that can be discovered only by talking with a ranger or with a guided a tour to some of the lesser-known areas of the forts.

One of those more secret areas is the water cisterns located below Fort San Cristobal. We had the chance to visit those cisterns, and we were amazed by what we found.

Background

When the Spanish first came to Puerto Rico, they found that there was no source of fresh water in (what is now) Old San Juan. They realized that they would need to do something to maintain a constant supply for the troops at the fort.

When they were building the forts in the mid 1700s, their design called for large, underground cisterns to hold their water supply. The design of the forts included sloped floors (in the large outdoor plazas) and roofs that channeled rainwater into a system of drainage ducts that led to the underground cisterns. The cisterns are masonry collection tanks lined with lime and hydraulic mortars, which were chosen because those materials are stable when submerged underwater. The rainwater collected in these huge cisterns could provide enough fresh water to satisify the water needs of the entire fort for months.

Cisterns beneath Fort San Cristobal

In the main plazas in both forts, you can see large wells. Until recently, most people would use them as wishing wells — tossing loose change into them. But, those wells were actually open to the cisterns below, and that was how the Spanish soldiers had access to the water supply.

The Cisterns Today

There are cisterns below both El Morro and Fort San Cristobal. Back in 2010/2011, before the restoration was complete, one of the rangers suggested we visit the cisterns at Fort San Cristobal. Those ones are a little more interesting, since a couple of them contain paintings on the walls.

On the day of our pre-arranged tour, with flashlights in hand, we followed the ranger through a couple off limits areas at the fort, and we arrived at the doors that lead to each of the five cisterns beneath the fort. Going through a doorway, you find yourself at the top of one of the cisterns, with steps leading down to the bottom.

Cisterns beneath Fort San Cristobal

These cisterns are huge! Being inside, you have the feeling of being in a cavern or a large church. It is extremely "echo-y" inside.

Each cistern is about 30 feet tall, 20 feet wide and 60 feet long. They hold 145,000 gallons of water a piece. They each have a high, arched ceiling overhead, and a couple are interconnected so that a constant water level can be maintained across the series of cisterns.

Over the years, the cisterns have been altered and re-purposed. During World War II, they were used a bomb shelters — the yellow and black Fallout Shelter signs were still on the walls!.

During this visit, we were only able to access four of the five cisterns at Fort San Cristobal because the park service actually used one of the cisterns to supply non-potable water for use in the toilets in the restrooms of the fort’s visiter center. Starting late 2011, they finished the refurbishment of the cisterns and actually are using most of them as a water supply. This allows the fort to maintain working restrooms even when the public water supply in Old San Juan is cut off.

Painting from a cistern beneath Fort San Cristobal

I am happy we were able to see the inside of these before they were put back in service. We were able to see that three of the four cisterns have a religious figure painted just above the waterline — presumably to watch over the water supply and keep it safe and clean (remember, back in the day it was the drinking-water supply). The dates and the artists of these paintings are unknown, but they were interesting to see nontheless.

The Current use of the Cisterns

The National Park Service has finished restoring the cisterns. They have retrofitted some with filter systems to provide clean (though still non-potable) water for the fort. They have restored four 145,000-gallon cisterns at Fort San Cristobal, three cisterns (totaling 213,000 gallons) at El Morro, and the largest cistern (430,000 gallons) at El Morro — for a grand total of 1.2 million gallons of collected rainwater.

We’d like to thank Joandiel Resto and Dilcia González (both from the National Park Service) for giving us the "behind the scenes" tour and providing us with additional information about the cisterns at the forts.

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PuertoRicoDayTrips.com assumes no responsibility regarding your safety when participating in the activities described in this article. Please use common sense! If your mother or that little voice in your head tells you that you are about to do something stupid … then don't do it! Read more about Safety →

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