Museo Ruinas de Caparra
Considered an island paradise with a long and storied history, Puerto Rico is home to Museo Ruinas de Caparra, where the remains of the first Spanish settlement from over 500 years ago reside. The archaeological evidence from their time in the region can still be viewed today for those traveling to San Juan and it is definitely a site – among others there – that should be seen to be believed.
Located in Guaynabo to the south of San Juan, the Museo Ruinas de Caparra – also known as the Caparra Ruins – is a small historical site that is layered with history that begins with the first Spanish settlers that arrived in 1508. Led by cconquistador Juan Ponce de León, Caparra and the inhabitants established the Caparra region in Puerto Rico because of the gold mines and fresh water springs nearby. The initial buildings were constructed of wood, while de León’s residence was fortified with rock to protect from potential attacks. It is conveniently located near our San Juan dispensary, Sinsemilla.
Fast forward to more than 400 years and in 1917, the Caparra ruins were uncovered when Route 2 was under construction. 1935, however, was the year when archaeological excavation commended and the Ponce de León house was discovered. No other buildings from his era were salvaged, but in 1958, the land was handed over for preservation to the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, which decided to excavate further and search for any historic pieces in and around the site. Presently, the foundation has been tasked with maintaining the house and the grounds, with displays featuring the items that have been found on the site. There are also other artifacts and historical documents related to the excavation that are featured at the museum. The park has been listed since 1984 on the United States National Register of Historic Places.
For travelers that are interested in viewing this area firsthand, there are several other destinations to take in while on the way along route 2 in Guaynabo. There are local retail shops for souvenirs, restaurants, coffee shops, and even a dispensary to enjoy for those that prefer to make a day excursion while in the area. Once you reach the Mueso Ruinas de Caparra, there is a large sign that provides a detailed description of Ponce de León’s house in Spanish. After taking in the foundation on a small tour, the small room in the museum provides even more detailed information on what the settlement looked like originally, with much of it based on settlements formed also in the Dominican Republic. For those that do not speak Spanish, there are guards and curators on staff that are able to translate into English.
The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture was able to find and salvage many historical documents on the site and from other parts of the island that have been relocated to on centralized place for tourists to view. Some of the featured items include ceramic tiles, pottery, items made from metals, and war gear like armor and swords. Outside next to the museum is a small plaque that designates the area as the first church set up in the Americas, dating back to 1512. As the church was made from wood, there are no remains that have been discovered through excavation, but the marker is historic for this revelation alone.
The Museo Ruinas de Caparra is a free museum, and admission to the grounds are open every Monday through Friday from 8am to noon, and then again from 1pm to 4pm. For visitors that have an hour to set aside for a short day trip, the museum is estimated to take about half an hour to cover the grounds and take in the rich history of this special designated spot in San Juan.The Museo is just a short distance from the Sinsemilla San Juan Branch.