Steps Beach offers different activities for every kind of beach lover to enjoy.
This marine reserve offers protection for endangered coral species and has world-class surf breaks.
I have been visiting Steps Beach for over 40 years and volunteer at the Surfrider Foundation Rincón, an organization that works to preserve the area.
In this article, I will tell you all you need to know about Steps Beach in Puerto Rico:
– What is Steps Beach?
– Why is it called Steps Beach?
– Where is Steps Beach located?
– How do you get to Steps Beach from San Juan?
– How much time do you need to spend at Steps Beach?
– Do you have to pay to park at Steps Beach?
– Can you surf at Steps Beach?
– Can you visit Steps Beach without a tour?
– Is Steps Beach open to the public?
– Is Steps Beach worth visiting?
It depends on who you ask.
Big waves surfers will tell you that Steps Beach is the best big wave beach in Puerto Rico.
Snorkeling enthusiasts will say Steps Beach is one of the best places to enjoy underwater marine life.
Conservationists will refer to Steps Beach using the word sanctuary.
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Photo credit: @lyndarrivera
Steps Beach, or Tres Palmas Marine Reserve, offers many things to enjoy for people who love nature, water sports, and ocean-related activities.
In the spring and summer, you can snorkel or scuba dive in Steps.
In the fall and winter, Steps Beach becomes the beach with the biggest waves in Puerto Rico.
And year-round, you can walk on Steps Beach’s golden sand.
You can also hike or mountain bike on the trails of the natural reserve.
When there are no waves, you can see people Kayaking, paddle boarding, and swimming.
Check out the video below of snorkeling at Steps Beach:
Although the official name is Tres Palmas Marine Reserve, surfers from the United States mainland named this place “Steps” because there is a concrete set of stairs on the beach.
Those stairs are the only thing that remains of an old house.
Trivia: Locals call Steps Beach “Tres Palmas” which means Spanish for three palm trees.
You will find Steps Beach on Road 413, kilometer 1.7, in the town of Rincon.
This beach is about 95 miles west of San Juan.
You have to be paying attention to the road, or you will miss the little entrance that leads to the beach.
Below is a Google Map that shows the location of Steps Beach:
From San Juan, follow Highway 2 until you reach the town of Aguada. Turn right to Road 417, stay on it for 1.7 miles.
At the traffic light with a cemetery at your right, slightly turn left to Avenida Nativo Alers. After the children’s park, turn right and left onto Road 115. You will see a sign with a person swimming; turn left onto 115.
At kilometer 20.9, you will see a sign that reads Oeste 115 and Hacia 441; turn left to keep on Road 115.
Keep on Road 115 for four miles. You will see a sign crossing the street that reads “Welcome to Rincón”
After a couple of minutes, turn right onto Road 413. After passing a gas station on kilometer 4.7, slightly turn left to stay on Road 413.
Stay on Road 413 for two miles and pass The Beach House. Descend and then turn left. Keep going on Road 413, kilometer 1.7, and turn right at the sign that reads “Playa Escaleras” Reserva Marina Tres Palmas.
Steps Beach is more than just a beach. It is also a marine reserve.
In the summer, you can snorkel and see the biggest and healthiest Elkhorn Coral (acropora palmata) in the Caribbean.
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Photo credit: @fjaviergilphoto
You can also spot bottlenose dolphins and a wide array of tropical fish.
There are also hawksbill turtles and spiny lobsters.
There are trails in which you can hike or ride mountain bikes. Just be careful with the falling coconuts.
In the winter, waves over 25 feet high break almost a mile from the shore. Big wave surfers from all over the world come to Steps. Even if you are not an expert surfer, you can still enjoy watching those who are.
You can also take a walk on the golden sands of Steps Beach.
You can kayak or paddleboard if the waves are not high.
So having the potential to enjoy so many different activities, I would say you can spend the whole day at Steps Beach.
You don’t have to pay to park at Steps Beach, but the parking space is minimal, and people park along the road to the beach.
My advice, try to go on weekdays and arrive early.
The short answer is yes; you can surf at Steps Beach, provided that you are an expert surfer and can handle 20-plus feet high waves.
The paddle out is challenging. Sometimes jet skis are needed to take the surfers to the lineup.
The waves break almost a mile away from the shore.
Below is a video that shows surfing at Steps Beach:
If you want to surf, then check out my other article about the 10 best surf spots in Puerto Rico.
You don’t need a tour to visit Steps Beach, but I will share some safety advice.
Be careful with the reef; it is both slippery and sharp.
Do not swim if there are significant waves. The rip current is powerful at Steps Beach, and can push you against the reef resulting in injury.
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Photo Credit: @rinconsurfphotography
Observe the universal water sports safety rule, whether snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, or scuba diving: never go alone.
Be aware that the depth of the water drops quickly. The water can be 4 feet deep, and it could drop to more than 10 feet after you take a couple of steps.
There are no lifeguards on duty on Steps Beach.
When snorkeling, get in the water by the sand path at the left of the steps.
Don’t forget that you are on a Marine Reserve. Please leave only your footprints, and take many photos and great memories.
There are several dive shops where you can rent scuba diving gear and get a diving tour.
Steps Beach is open to the public. You don’t have to pay to access the beach.
The parking is also free. Try to get to the beach early to pick a good spot.
Step Beach is worth visiting. You can be a swimmer, a scuba diver, a snorkeler, a big wave surfer, a kayaker, a paddleboarder, or just a person who likes to walk on the beach.
You will have an unforgettable time at Steps Beach.
And From February to August, Hawksbill, Leatherback, and Green Sea Turtles are nesting on the beaches of mainland Puerto Rico and its outlying islands. You will have the chance to see whales and watch turtles.
From January to Late March, humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) come to the west coast of Puerto Rico to mate.
Yes, you can swim in Steps Beach. But only when the waves are not high.
Yes, the water is so clear at Steps Beach that you can see the bottom even when it's more than 10 feet deep. You can also see the fish swimming close to you.
Steps Beach is one of the most versatile beaches in Puerto Rico. It offers activities for every beach enthusiast.
If you love nature, you must schedule a visit to Steps Beach during your trip to Puerto Rico.
The nearby Maria’s Beach offers another opportunity to enjoy the west coast of PR’s surf culture. If you are looking for a nice hike in the area, less than an hour south you can find the beautiful Cabo Rojo Lighthouse.
The only thing you can’t see in Steps Beach is a bioluminescence bay. But don’t worry; our expert on the subject, Brittany, will tell you all you need to know about the Bioluminescent Bays of Puerto Rico.
Writer at PuertoRico.com. I was born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. I’m passionate about Puerto Rican history and culture. I live on the west coast of Puerto Rico, and host an Airbnb for tourists. I also coordinate tours and concierge services for tourists. I authored “Eat Like A Local, Puerto Rico”, and have contributed to blogs and magazines with articles about discovering and enjoying what Puerto Rico has to offer.