La Fortaleza means “The Fortress,” and it was certainly intended as such when it was completed in 1540 as part of a massive construction effort to secure the island’s defenses. It didn't do so well, though, falling to the Earl of Cumberland in 1598 and the Dutch Commander Boudewyn Hendrick in 1625. In 1846, it was remodeled and converted for full-time use as the governor’s house. The building, which is also known as El Palacio de Santa Catalina (Santa Catalina Palace), has housed no less than 170 governors of Puerto Rico.
Although visitors aren't permitted to roam the governor’s mansion at will, guided walking tours are offered Monday through Friday between 8:15 am and 3:30 pm. This 30-minute tour will cover the lush gardens and will venture inside the building when the government is not in session. Please wear appropriate attire. Photo ID required for everyone 21 years of age or older. La Fortaleza is a functioning government building and it’s subject to closures without warning. It is advised to call beforehand to get the itinerary of the day.