During the late 19th century, the Spanish government in Puerto Rico built about 15 lighthouses to strategically protect the island’s surrounding waters and the ships sailing in them. In 1898, one of these lighthouses, the Guánica, spotted American vessels heading towards the coast of Rincón.
Guánica Lighthouse was located at Punta Meseta, the entrance to Guánica Bay, between the lighthouses at Cabo Rojo and Isla Caja de Muertos (Coffin Island). Standing 177 feet tall, the lighted tower could be seen from up to 8 miles away.
The one-story lighthouse was built in the neo-classical style, with a red brick octagonal tower in the center for its lone keeper, and a spiral staircase leading down to the lantern room. At the north side of the building was the main entrance, while the storage room was located at the south. The west side held two bedrooms and a bathroom, while the east side held a living room, an engineer’s room, and the kitchen/dining room.
About five years after its activation, the lighthouse would truly shine. Robustiano Rivera, the keeper at the time, spotted vessels from the American troops on July 25, 1898. Immediately, he alerted the town of Guánica which allowed most of the citizens to flee before the beginning of the Spanish-American War. The assault ceased by August when Spain sued for peace, the war officially ended by December with the signing of the Treaty of Paris of 1898.
The U.S. Lighthouse Service was left in charge of all the lighthouses on the island, planning to make repairs on the structures that needed it, including the Guánica light. In 1937, the structure began experiencing a decline, starting with an earthquake that damaged the lantern room floor, rendering it unsafe. The lights went out for good in 1950.
Today, the Guánica Lighthouse remains abandoned and in ruins. However, some of its original features can still be appreciated, including a cistern and a well behind the structure. Like other abandoned places on the island, plans to restore the structure have been brought up, but so far nothing has come out of it. Two of Puerto Rico’s lighthouses have been lost and unless action is taken, the Guánica Lighthouse could be next.
Update as of January 2020: Increased seismic activity along the southwestern coast of Puerto Rico has greatly damaged the ruins further.
Know Before You Go
The lighthouse can be easily found on the side of the road while driving through the PR-333 road. There's a small area across the street for parking. Be careful and use common sense while exploring the ruins.