Trek down historic Spanish steps to find the gorgeous lagoon at Orote Point
MILITARY ACCESS REQUIRED
This is a very rewarding hike on Naval Base Guam, that takes a bit of effort, but rewards you with beautiful views and amazing snorkeling. It does require military base access so you may only go if you have a military ID or a military sponsor. The kilo pier must be unoccupied to access the steps, so call 671-339-5290 or visit the Naval Base Guam Facebook page to find out if it is secured (closed).
Location: Naval Base Guam, Santa Rita
Region: West Central
Time: 30 minutes down, allow 1.5 hours + snorkel time
Length: Almost 1 mile
Elevation Gain: 160 feet down and back up
Cool Stuff: Great for snorkeling, caves, Spanish ruins, white sands beaches, swimming
Be aware of the strong current. The rock formations cause pressure from the ocean to come in from the north and the west and then pull back out. The first/main water area is semi-protected, but the part through the rocks to the right is less so. Please be very careful and only go out if you can handle the pull of the water. Be sure to use fins when snorkeling. Swim at your own risk.
This is a highly rewarding hike. It is pretty easy if you are in good physical shape. It just takes a bit of climbing down, but there are ropes there the entire way to help you. I once saw a guy hike down with an infant on his back; so hey, even babies can do it! Children can usually do this hike, just keep an eye on them during the harder parts.
There are historical remains here from the Spanish colonization of Guam between 1521 and 1898. The Spanish built steps down the mountain, which can still be seen today. The hike traces the path of the original staircase, so the deteriorating steps are actually a part of the way down. There is also a Spanish well at the bottom of those steps; possibly built to supply fresh water to Fort Santiago on top of the cliffs.
There is a cave near the shore of Orote Point. Ancient Chamorros lived near the cave, possibly some time between 200 B.C. to 500 A.D. You can pass through the cave to get to the shore on a short alternative route of this hike.
The snorkeling here is beyond incredible. My dad described it as something out of Disneyland or like being plopped into a fully-stocked aquarium. I implore you to feel how strong the current is in the shallow area first, before exploring the ocean side through the rocks to the right. Depending on the season, there could be swarms of mosquitos in the jungle section of the hike, and even on the rocky shore. The actual hike is mostly covered, but I suggest that you bring sunscreen if you plan to hang out on the shore or in the water. The shore is composed of rocks that hurt to stand on with bare feet, and the rocks in the water are no different. I suggest that you wear tennis shoes or tevas on the shore, and hard-bottomed water shoes in the water.
What To Bring: Insect repellent, sunscreen, tennis shoes, water shoes, swimsuit, snorkel gear, and sunglasses.
From North or Central Guam:
- Get yourself to the western side of the island to get on Marine Corps Drive.
- Drive south on Marine Corps drive, all the way until you run into Naval Base Guam (then follow the general directions).
From the Southwest:
- Take route 2 (the main road) north, towards Agat.
- Drive through the village of Agat and turn left at the light when you dead end onto Marine Corps drive into Naval Base Guam (then follow the general directions).
From the Southeast:
- Take Cross Island Road to the west side of the island.
- Turn right when that street dead ends onto Route 5 (the road Sumay Payless is on).
- Turn right onto Route 2a when that street dead ends at the light.
- Turn left onto Marine Corps Drive at the light when that road dead ends, into Naval Base Guam (then use the general directions).
- Enter Naval Base Guam (one person in the car must have a US military ID). Drive straight on the main road. You will pass a McDonald’s and two gas stations. You will see houses to your left. You will finally drive through some grassy areas, caves, and less houses.
- At the end of the road, you will see the marina on your right, a smaller road in front of you (to San Luis Beach), and a small Coast Guard station to your left. You will turn left here to drive up the hill.
- Take your first right. Follow this road around the curve. You will pass the Gab Gab beach entrance. You will pass a random parking lot. Then you will approach a gate guard station.
- At the station you will see a sign posted. If it says “Spanish Steps is secured” that means it is closed and you may not hike it that day. If a guard is there and it is open, show your military ID and proceed.
- Stop at the stop sign (immediately after the gate) and turn left. Take the curve around and stay on this road for a couple minutes. Soon you will see a sign to the right of the road for Fort Santiago, keep driving straight.
- Pass the paved road after the Fort Santiago sign and turn right onto the very first dirt road after this paved road. You should be on a level dirt road that soon turns towards the right where you will see the signs for the Spanish Steps.
Park anywhere in the large flat area near the signs, allowing room for others to enter the trail easily.
Start to the left of the signs.
The Trail Guide
To begin, follow the trail down the rocky hill, using the rope and ladder for support.
Keep following the trail down. Use the ropes when necessary to keep your balance. Soon you will find the Spanish steps. These are ruins from the Spanish colonization of the island, from some time after 1521.
Next is the rock climb down a slightly steep cliffside. There are ropes and a ladder here to help you down. Be very careful here and make sure children get down this safely.
Take the trail before you and walk straight until you see the Spanish Well. Take a left here to go to the Orote Point channel for snorkeling and the cave. Take a right here to go to the white sandy beach of Orote Point (more information on this later). Here we’ll assume you take a left to Orote Point.
Walk through the jungle underneath the coconut palm trees. Be careful not to step on the hermit crabs on the way. Any large shells you see on the way are probably occupied. Stay on the most clear trail, possibly marked by plastic markers on the trees.
Soon you will be reunited with the cliff face. As soon as you see this, you know you are very close to the cave. [If you do not want to see the cave or walk through the cave, stay on the main trail instead of walking over to the rock wall. Keep going straight on the trail and you will reach the water]. To see the caves, keep an eye out for an opening in the trees that leads to the rock face. It may not look like it at first, but you will find the cave here if you follow the base of the cliff.
Crawl into the left hole of the cave. The floor is 3 to 4 feet down so be aware of that when you climb in. Please respect the land and keep the cave in good condition (i.e. do not leave trash, do not write on the walls, etc.). Walk through to the other side to continue the hike.
Once you leave through the back of the cave, walk straight on the trail. You will end up on the rocky beach of Orote Point.
You may notice a hole in the rocks on the right side of the channel from the rocky beach. If you position yourself correctly, you can swim through the hole in the rock when there is no pressure coming towards you. Once on the other side, turn around to face the hole and get pushed through the hole at a fast speed as the water is squeezed through the tiny opening.
To go to the white sandy beach on the other side of the channel. You can return on the trail (taking the trail to the left if you’d like to skip the cave part). Walk through the jungle, staying on the trail. Pass straight by the Spanish well. Stay on the trail and it will soon open up to a beach and the ocean.
To return, go back the way you came. The Spanish well is a valuable landmark to remember. You know to not cut in towards the cliff until you see the well. Pay attention to markers if the trail is unkempt.