Retire Early Lifestyle
Retirement; like your parents, but way cooler


Retire Early Lifestyle Blog 

Free Newsletter Subscribe/Contact

Advertise on info here

RetireEarlyLifestyle Logo RetireEarlyLifestyle inspirational photo

In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 4th decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.


The San Juan de Ulúa Fort

Veracruz, Mexico

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

Currency Exchange

We had heard about this renowned historical fort which can be seen from the Veracruz port malecon.

Declared a National Historic Monument in 1962, this fort played major roles in both the beginning and closing stages of Spanish rule in Mexico.

Only a 100Peso taxi ride from our hotel, we looked forward to seeing this ancient fortification built by Hernan Cortez to deter pirate attacks in the 1500s.

Part of the sea coral wall of San Juan de Ulua, Veracruz, Mexico

Part of the sea coral wall of this fortification

For nearly 350 years, this fortress served as the primary military stronghold of the Spanish Empire in the Americas.

This place was once considered the most secure and technologically advanced in the New World, serving as both a port of entry for Christian missionaries and a critical piece of the Spanish West Indies defense system.

The Spanish utilized the sea coral and slave labor to make the walls of this fortress which was also at one point a palace and a prison.

Looking out from the fortress to the modern day international  port of Veracruz, Mexico

Inside the fortress looking out

Veracruz city has celebrated over 500 years of existence and this fort is in remarkable condition.

In this photo, you are in the central part of the fort, looking across the main plaza out onto the modern international shipping port of the city.

Various hallways and arches of the San Juan de Ulua fortress, Veracruz, Mexico

Cobblestone hallways and arches

This fortress has been bombarded many times by the French, by pirates, and once the Americans laid siege here during the Mexican-American War.

For much of the nineteenth century, the fort served as a prison, especially for political prisoners. Many prominent Mexican politicians such as Benito Juarez and Venustiano Carranza spent time here also in the Presidential Palace.

Inside San Juan de Ulua, Veracruz, Mexico

Plaza de Armas

Notice in the far left center of the photo is part of the Presidential Palace. We were not able to go inside on this visit since it is still being renovated after falling into great disrepair.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, this building served as Mexico’s Presidential Headquarters.

Centuries ago, a privateer fleet from England under the command of John Hawkins and his cousin, Francis Drake, took refuge in the fortress's harbor for repairs and trade. But they were set up by the Spanish who violated the temporary treaty and destroyed most of the fleet, with only two ships escaping.

Because the two ships that were left had few supplies and could not physically hold all the remaining sailors, these sailors were put out to shore to fend for themselves. Some eventually settled among the locals and integrated into the Mexican populace at large. Others were recalled by the Spanish during the time of the Inquisition, called heretics and were tortured, killed or sent to the dungeons for a decade - if they lasted that long.

We saw the prisons here and they were dark, with little moving air, damp due to the high humidity, and rock hard. Of course, there were no sanitary facilities and with people crowded inside… it must have been hell.

With the lack of light and fresh air many prisoners simply became sick and withered away.

We have seen prisons like this all over the world and they are all in the same vein of cruelty.





From the side of San Juan de Ulua looking to the port of Veracruz, Mexico

A look at the international trading port of Veracruz

Due to the expansion of the navigational canal, its settling and the wake turbulence from passing tankers, this action caused severe cracks in the foundation of the fortress and weakened the structure.

The bulwarks and ramparts facing the channel were threatened with collapse, and the loss of the protective lime covering accelerated the deterioration of the exposed coral stone walls.

In 2005, a 300-meter-long protective steel wall along the undermined foundation of the bay side walls was completed.

Hallways and arches inside San Juan de Ulua, Veracruz, Mexico

Various hallways and arches

Inside the fortress it was cool due to the thick walls.

In some ways they were set up like a labyrinth going here and there, and around again. Some led to large open spaces and others to tiny rooms.

Heavy stone walls inside San Juan de Ulua, Veracruz, Mexico

Hallway to the outside moat

As you see here, this skinny hallway leads out to the moat around the fort.

Map of the fort San Juan de Ulua, Veracruz, Mexico

Map of the fortress

Here is a map of the fortress.

If you look in the center right, there is a long arrow pointing to a vertical structure.

This is the Governor's Palace section of the fort, right next to the Plaza del Armas, or Main Plaza.

Looking towards the plaza de armas, San Juan de Ulua, Veracruz, Mexico

Looking toward the Main Plaza

This is a shot from the area of the Governor's Palace looking toward the Plaza de Armas.

Billy and Akaisha at San Juan de Ulua, Veracruz, Mexico

Billy and Akaisha

Yours truly in front of one of the ancient walls.

One of the bastions of the fort looking at Port Veracruz, Mexico

Looking towards the modern seaport





You can see how secure and bulwarked this fortress is. It is considered to be the Mexican version of our Alcatraz prison.

Four Mexican Presidents were in this jail, which, if you were to see the cells, it would give you the shivers.

 The citadel was also used as a prison, especially during the early 20th-century regime of President Porfirio Díaz.

Panoramic view from San Juan de Ulua, Veracruz, Mexico

A panoramic view of Veracruz Port

This photo gives you a good idea of what things look like today from the standing of the fortress.

Ancient hallway in San Juan de Ulua, Veracruz, Mexico

Stalactite drippings from the ceiling

I'm not sure how many more renovations will be done to this fortress. But even in this condition, the San Juan de Ulua is worth seeing.

During the time we were in Veracruz, tourist hours to visit the fortress had been cut back, and on our first trip there, it was closed and we were sent away.

Curiously, we checked their website and even phoned them before we had left our hotel. Both the website and the person on the phone said the attraction was open ... except it wasn't.

And as of this writing, the website is down, so I would simply suggest trying when you arrive in Veracruz, and go with the flow.

You can take a taxi from anywhere in town to arrive at San Juan de Ulua and I understand that there are boats from the malecon by the harbor which will also take you there.

With our INAPAM cards, we received free entrance.

Would we recommend going to this fort



For more stories and photos about Veracruz, Mexico, CLICK HERE

For more stories and photos about Mexico CLICK  HERE


Visit our book Store

About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on

Trending on Retire Early Lifestyle


contact Billy and Akaisha at

advertise contact

Your financial independence and travel starts here

Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person – the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesn’t want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

HOME   Book Store


Retire Early Lifestyle Blog      About Billy & Akaisha Kaderli      Press     Contact     20 Questions     Preferred Links    

Retirement     Country Info     Retiree Interviews      Commentary     REL Videos




Subscribe Newsletter