One way to protect their islands from pirates of the Caribbean, were with the forts of the Caribbean. Built hundreds of years ago, these massive and beautiful forts represent a time when these small islands had to protect themselves from the Spanish, Dutch and British, among others.
While the beautiful Caribbean is known for its magnificent beaches and romantic sunsets, there is a lot of history to be found there as well. Below is a list of some of the most popular Caribbean forts, but you can find many more.
History buffs flock to these sights as well as those looking for something a bit different to do while on a cruise in the Caribbean. Families are sure to enjoy them as kids experience something different and unexpected. Guarding the various islands, most of the forts were built high up, so you can also enjoy fabulous views.
Brimstone Hill Fortress, St. Kitts
Boasting one of the most famous in the Caribbean is Brimstone Hill Fortress, located near Sandy Point in St. Kitts. Called “Gibraltar of the West Indies”, the massive 800-foot-high British fort was built between the 1690s and 1790s. Despite its thick walls carved from black volcanic rock, the mighty fort was conquered by the French in 1782, but then later reclaimed by the British under the Treaty of Versailles.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the restored structure is one of the island’s most popular tourist attractions, not only for its own magnificence, but for the breathtaking views of the Caribbean and Nevis, Montserrat, Saba, St. Barts and St. Martin.
Perched atop the hill and restored to its original grandeur, Brimstone Hill Fortress is a fascinating place to visit. Tours are conducted daily, and highlights include ammunitions stores, artillery office’s quarters, the Prince of Wales Bastion and the Citadel of Fort George.
Fort San Cristobal, Puerto Rico
Construction of the amazing Fort San Cristobal in Old San Juan began in 1634 and took more than 150 years to complete. Built for land defence and to keep the enemy from gaining access to its interior, the fort boasts a myriad of dry moats and varied levels of gunnery positions. However, the most unique features and the winding tunnels and passageways that allowed Spanish troops to move throughout the fort without being seen.
Also part of the defence system, its winding tunnels could also be easily set with blackpowder and exploded to stop any incoming troops. Though never used in battle, today they are for educational purposes.
You can see the fort and amazing tunnels for yourself on special “Tunnels Tours”, a perfect opportunity for the entire family to learn about the history of Puerto Rico. Illuminated for the public, they were used to move men and then supplies and cannons during battles. You can even see drawings of soldiers along the wall.
Highlights include the main plaza, used for troop formations and drill practice. These vaulted rooms or casemates, overlook the ocean and would have housed a canon during battles. Another is the Santa Barbara Chapel, located in the main plaza. Added in the 1860s, the soldiers would pray to Santa Barbara, the patron saint of artillerymen.
Located off the main plaza are four large barracks called the Troop Quarters, where soldiers of the 18th century lived. Constructed in 1771, one room is now completely restored, so you can truly step back in time.
Boasting amazing views to the east, as well as of San Juan Bay and Old San Juan, the second level also features the historic World War II Artillery Observation Post, added by the US Army.
You can also see a pyramid of original mortal balls and another interesting exhibit is the garitas or sentry boxes, which provided lookout points for the soldiers. One closest to the ocean is known as the “Devils Sentry Box” and dates back to 1634.
Fort Amsterdam, Curaçao
Guarding the entrance to St. Anna Bay, is Fort Amsterdam, one of Curaçao’s first permanent constructions. Built in 1635, the structure is considered the most important of the eight forts built here and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Perfect for family visits, kids are particularly delighted when they see a cannonball fired by Captain Bligh’s troops that is embedded in its southwest wall.
Fort Zoutman, Aruba
Built in 1798 as protection from pirates and others, Fort Zoutman now holds the title as Aruba’s oldest building. Named after Dutch Rear Admiral Johan Arnold Zoutman, who outwitted a British convoy on the North Sea in 1799. Though he never stepped foot in Aruba, the fort now bears his name in recognition of Zouman’s heroic feat.
Later added to the fort, is the famous Willem III Tower, built in 1868. Housing Aruba’s first public clock. Later used as a lighthouse, it was first lit on the King’s Willem III’s birthday and later used as both a public clock tower and lighthouse.
Today, the now restored fort, located across the street from the Governor’s office, is the Historical Museum of Aruba and is a proud symbol of Aruba’s heritage. Every Tuesday night you can enjoy a Bon Bini Festival here, celebrating the island’s culture and history.
Fort James, Tobago
Dotting the landscape of Tobago are several forts, each a reminder of the 32 times the Caribbean island changed hands as European powers fought over the small, but strategically placed island.
Overlooking Great Courland Bay, Fort James is one of the oldest colonial forts on the island. With original fortifications dating back to the 1650s, it was originally called Jekabforts or Fort Jacobs. The coral block fort was built by the British in the early 1800s after recapturing the island from the French.
Fort King George, Tobago
One of the last of the old colonial forts built in Tobago, the fort originally named Fort Castries and was started by the French to protect Port Louis and renamed Scarborough after they took the island from the British in 1781. However, that did not last long and it was renamed Fort King George (after King George III), six years later when reclaimed by the British.
As the best preserved colonial fort on the island, she boasts a small museum boasting artifacts from the island. Other forts on Tobago are Fort Bennet, Fort Granby and Fort Milford, and all offer a something different to see.
All of these forts and others in the Caribbean offer an amazing glimpse in the history of the region. While enjoying the romantic sunsets and beaches of the Caribbean, don’t miss the opportunity to visit these fascinating forts of the past. Kids will love them and they will create memories to last a lifetime.
Have you visited any of the forts above and have photos you’d like to share with our readers? If so, let us know below!