The lighthouse was renovated in 1986, but thereafter it was not maintained and rapidly deteriorated through neglect and vandalism. In early 2001 the lighthouse was in very poor condition. In June 2002 the city government announced it would spend $4.5 million to restore the lighthouse, construct a visitor center, and establish a nature preserve in the surrounding area. Restoration of the light station began later in 2002 and was completed in October 2004. A second phase of this project will develop the grounds with walkways and wildlife viewing platforms. The light station is located within the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge.
The Cabo Rojo, or Morrillos de Cabo Rojo lighthouse entered service on August 20, 1882. Its first keepers were José Pérez Barrios and Eugenio Fiol. It was designed by Enrique Gadea and built by the government itself on the western cape (morrillo) that forms the southwest tip of the island. The project was difficult due to the site’s isolation and took five years to complete, for his accomplishment Eng. Gadea received the King Charles III knight cross. The building measures 90 feet long by 38 feet wide.
It was painted gray with white details and green windows, the same colors it has today. The 41-foot tower is hexagonal and connects to the rear or south face of the building, a room under the tower stored the fuel for the lamp. The tower’s stairway lacks a central column, so as in the Fajardo lighthouse, the weights that rotated the lens descended through a duct built into the tower’s wall; the two pulleys that guided the weight’s cable are still in the tower. The third-order lens projected its light eighteen miles away, the present light is an electrical beacon originally designed for airport use. In 1959 the building’s spaces were redistributed, a vestibule was constructed at the entrance, and a rear door was added, but the original brick roof remained intact. In 1960 the clock mechanism was substituted by an electrical motor. The lighthouse was automated and boarded in 1967 but the original lens was used at least until 1978. The Cabo Rojo municipality started the latest restoration of the lighthouse in 2002 and the structure currently opens to the public.