250px-Las_Cabezas_de_San_Juan_LighthouseTower painted light gray with white trim, lantern black. The original 1-story neoclassical stone keeper’s house is used as a nature center and marine laboratory operated by the College of Humacao of the University of Puerto Rico.  This beautiful and well-preserved Spanish lighthouse is the oldest surviving lighthouse in Puerto Rico. It was repaired after being heavily damaged by the San Ciprián hurricane in September 1932. The Puerto Rico Conservation Trust purchased the surrounding land in 1975 and restored the lighthouse in 1990. Located in the Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve on the northeastern most point of the island, northeast of Fajardo, commanding a spectacular view.

The Fajardo or Cabezas de San Juan lighthouse entered service on May 2, 1882 as the first lighthouse constructed under the island’s maritime illumination plan. Its first keepers were Ramón Dordal (who died of malaria three weeks after assuming the post), José Pérez Barrios, and José Rodríguez Parada. It was designed by Enrique Gaeda and built by Manuel Nursa on the highest point of the northeastern tip of the island. Due to the area’s elevation, the 36-foot tower attached to the rear face of the building is proportionately one of the shortest among the local lighthouses.

The building measures 98 feet long by 41 feet wide. It was painted gray and white with green windows, the same colors it has today. Three distinguishing characteristics of this lighthouse are the presence of a portico, the absence of an iron balustrade in the tower, and the elaborate design of the tower’s stairway, definitely the most beautiful among local lighthouses. The stairway lacks a central column, so as in the Cabo Rojo lighthouse, the weights that rotated the lens descended through a duct built into the tower’s wall. The fuel for the lamp was stored in a room located under the tower. The third-order lens, which projected its light eighteen miles away, was substituted in 1916 by a fourth-order one that was destroyed in 1932 by Hurricane San Ciprián. Another fourth-order lens was installed, followed by the present electric beacon originally designed for airport use. During the 1950s significant renovations were made, including the redistribution of internal spaces, the installation of an iron balustrade on the tower and the addition of a rear door, but the original marble floor and brick roof remained intact. In 1975 the surrounding land was purchased by the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust, which in 1990 meticulously restored the lighthouse.