Below the splendid Spanish Steps is a pristine beach and lagoon with Spanish-era architecture, towering cliffs, mushroom rock formations, and arguably one of the island’s best snorkeling spots.
The hike gets its name from remnants of a Spanish-era staircase that hug the cliff face. The steps were built by the colonial Spanish between the 16th and 19th centuries as part of a pathway from the small lagoons below the Orote cliff line to Fort Santiago above.
Because the hike is on Naval Base in Santa Rita, you'll need base access or have someone to sponsor you in.
The hike is also periodically off limits altogether because of Navy activity at the nearby pier.
According to Naval Base Guam’s Facebook page, Spanish Steps has just reopened. However, call the base at 671-339-5290 or visit the Naval Base Guam Facebook page to confirm it remains so. If it is, keep in mind that the area closes at 5 p.m. and you'll be asked to leave before then.
To get to the parking space, coming from either the South or North, travel to the Naval Base Guam in Santa Rita. To enter, the driver must have a U.S. military ID, and all other passengers must provide a U.S. or Guam driver’s license, or U.S. passport.
Once you're in, continue along the road past McDonald’s, two gas stations, a few homes and the Sumay Cemetery.
At the end of the road, you'll come to an intersection with three different roads in front of you. To the right is a little marina, straight ahead is San Luis Beach, and to the left, just up a small hill, is the Spanish Steps parking.
Once you're on the road to Spanish Steps, take the first right turn, around a sharp curve, passing the entrance to Gab Gab Beach. You'll soon run into another check-in station where there will be sign indicating if the hiking area is closed off.
There should be another guard here who'll want to see your IDs again before you proceed.
At the stop sign immediately after the check-in station turn left around a curve, ignoring roadway signs to other base destinations. Continue driving straight along the road, past the turnoff to Fort Santiago.
After you pass a paved road on the right-hand side of the road, take the next right turn onto a dirt road and travel easterly to get to the Spanish Steps trailhead sign and parking. Park here and take some time to view the informative signs about Spanish Steps before your start your hike.
Descending the Orote cliff line
To start, follow the visible trail through the jungle, and enjoy the ocean views throughout your descent.
Most of this short hike takes you down a relatively steep cliff. Use the sturdy ropes and ladders to help you descend.
Proceed along the clear-cut path through the jungle, and over flat and sloping trails for a while. Soon, you will find what might seem like ordinary stairs. This short set of stairs, however, is from Spanish era, dating back to the early 16th century.
After this point, you'll soon come to the steepest and final climb down (again featuring rope and ladder), just minutes away from the Spanish Steps lagoon.
Diverging path at the Spanish Well
From here, the path through the jungle is completely flat.
Walking straight along the jungle trail, you will soon come to the Spanish well, thought to have been used by the Spanish to resupply their galleons in the nearby waters and to supply Fort Santiago at the top of the Orote cliffs.
At the well, the path splits in two: Take a left, and you'll go to the Spanish Steps and snorkeling site, featuring a small green lagoon, mushroom rock formations, and the Orote Point peninsula before you. Take a right, and you'll reach a white sandy beach, but also connect to the Spanish Steps.
The sandy beach is great for lounging and offers views of Apra Harbor and some interesting rock piles.
From here, you can either retrace your steps back to the Spanish well where you will continue straight past the well to get to the Spanish Steps, or if the sea is calm enough, you can travel toward the western end of the beach along the coral rock outcroppings and through the water to reach the other end of the beach.
Snorkeling in a real life underwater world
Settling down somewhere along the rocky shoreline, take some time to swim in the shallow lagoon before venturing outside. The beach area and shallow waters here are perfect for pictures and safe for kids.
The water outside this small lagoon holds even greater treasures. Still within the Spanish Steps lagoon and beneath the towering Orote Point peninsula, swim past the initial rock formations and to the left of the lagoon for some great snorkeling. The plentiful sea anemones and varieties of coral might make you feel like you’ve been dumped into a fully stocked aquarium.
After exploring the beach and snorkeling through the lagoons, retrace your steps back into the jungle and up the cliff to get back to your cars and off the base before 5 p.m. Happy hiking!