The island of Guam is part of Micronesia, located in the southwest portion of the Pacific location. The largest among the Mariana Group of Island, Guam sits between Hawaii and the Philippines. It is considered to be the westernmost territory of the United States.
At only thirty miles long and less than ten miles wide, Guam is a relatively small island. It features a variety of terrain, from the white beaches of Tumon, the tall cliffs rising above sea level to the mountains and waterfalls that can be found in the central region. With its rich marine life, Guam has become a popular diving destination for enthusiasts from around the world. Guam has a rich history dating back to prehistoric times. The island’s original Chamorro people, are of Indo-Malayan descent and exhibits cultural similarities with several Southeast Asian nations such as the Philippines and Indonesia. The western world was introduced to the island when Ferdinald Magellan landed in 1521. For than 300 hundred years, Guam was under Spanish influence. It was in the late 19th century when the Americans took over.
Guam’s location is known to be of strategic military and commercial importance. It was a significant battleground between the Americans and the Japanese during World War II.
Today, Guam is known as cosmopolitan island that makes tourism its main source of income. The diverse population is a melting pot f Polynesian, Asian, and Western cultures. Travellers will enjoy the many water parks, beach clubs and golf courses that the island has to offer. With its laid back atmosphere, Guam is one of the best places for leisure.
Guam has a rich culture and heritage, from the ancient culture of the Chamorros to the legacy of Spanish colonization and later, American occupation. There are more than 150 listed with the Guam Registers of Historical Sites. There are also many national parks that offering spectacular scenery and an abundance of wildlife.
Established in 1978, the War in the Pacific National Historic Park commemorates all the brave people who valiantly fought during World War II. Visitors can step foot on former battlefields, see Japanese coastal guns and other armaments. One of the corners of the park is Asan Beach, easily one of the most beautiful beaches on the island.
A miniature replica of the Statue of Liberty can be found in the Paseo de Susana, welcoming people at the entrance of Hagatna Harbour. The statue was constructed in 1950 by the Boy Scouts of America.
Latte Stone Park is of cultural significance to the Chamorro people. The park is the site of Latte Stone pillars, which are the foundation upon which the ancient Chamorro houses are built done. Made from coral limestone, a Latte Stone is a supporting column topped by capstone. Latte Stones can’t be found anywhere else and have long been used as the symbol of Guam.
Two Lovers Point Park is an observation platform located high up a cliff. Visitors will be treated to stunning vistas of the sea and the waves crashing along the rocks below. Legend has it that that two star crossed lovers jumped from the cliff and to their deaths on this very spot.
- Getting around
Guam is considered to be a relatively small island. Most of the hotels and shopping areas are concentrated in the Tumon district. That area is very small and everything is within walking distance. However, many historical and cultural landmarks are located in remote areas around the island, making land travel necessary to reach them.
The Guam Mass Transit Authority has a public bus service that would connect to the different villages around this island. However these are mainly for the locals and operate on a limited frequency. A better alternative is to book a bus tour ticket with the many private companies on the island. Most of these are shopping tours that pass by most of the malls. However, one or two companies also provide a tour of the entire island. Single ride tickets can be bought but the single day unlimited ride ticket has the best value.
There are taxi services around Guam but they are generally the most expensive option. They are good for making a single trip, such as from the hotel to the cruise port, but are not recommended for touring around the island.
Driving around the island is the best and most convenient way to get around. Guam has the same driving system as the United States. Many American rental car agencies have office in Hagatna or in Tumon and it can be fairly easy to rent a vehicle. Beware though, that not all of the roads in Guam are in good condition, so exercise caution when driving.
- Beyond Guam
Guam is a small island that can be toured easily. Those wanting to get out of Guam will either have to fly to sail to the nearest harbour. Majority of the other nearby destinations are also island themselves.
Guam is part of a cluster of islands known as the Mariana Group of Islands. The Northern Marianas is a commonwealth made up of the Northern Islands, Rota, Tinian and Saipan. The area is popular as a scuba diving destination.
Guam is also the most direct gateway to the Federated States of Micronesia, which is composed of four major island groups. These islands are fairly remote and offer the some of the best natural habitats on earth. Palau is the most popular destination.
With its strategic location, Guam connects the east with the west. There are many flights to Hawaii as well as the major Asian cities such as Manila, Hong Kong, and Tokyo.
- Local activities
Shop until you drop!
Guam is a mecca for those who love to shop. Many tour companies offer shopping tours that would take visitors around some of the most popular stores in the island. The island holds a duty free status, which means that most high-end brands are cheaper here than in the United States or other Asian countries.
Guam has many large outlet stores. Some of them include the Micronesia Mall, Agana Shopping Centre and Guam Premier Outlet Stores. There is also a very large K-Mart that is very popular. Those who want to find some local handicrafts and island inspired clothing should head out to the specialty shops along Pale San Vitores Road.
Wreck Diving in Apra Harbour
Guam has many great spots for SCUBA diving, whether you are a beginner or an expert diver. Wreck diving is very popular on the island. Apra Harbour boasts two very notable wrecks, the Kitzagawa Maru and Tokei Maru. These Japanese warships sank during World War II.
Go Boonie Stomping!
Every Saturday, Guam’s Boonie Stompers offers guides hikes to various destinations around the island. Locations may range from hiking up waterfalls, trekking up mountians to visiting some caves. It’s best to take a guided tour because Guam’s trails are not developed. The joining fee is very cheap although you have to arrange for your own transportation. (“Boonie” is a term used to describe open-wilderness.
- Local cuisine and drinks
Being an island, Guam has a bounty of seafood and it very evident in the cuisine. The preparation is often simple, focusing on highlight the fresh taste of the seafood. Fish, octopus and lobster are often grilled over live coals or baked with some vegetables. Raw preparation like sashimi is also popular.
With it strategic location in the Pacific, Guam embraces both the east and the west. The cuisine reflects the melting pot of culture that is prevalent in the island. Diners will be surprised to find out that Japanese, Chinese and Filipino restaurants are as well represented as Mexican and western cuisine. American fast food chains are also commonplace. To get a taste of local Chamorro food, visitors can head to Chamorro Village.
Some of the more popular restaurants include Jeff’s Pirate Cove, which serves homemade cheeseburgers right by the beach, and Jamaican Grill, known for its jerk chicken and barbecued ribs. Those craving for some great Thai food can try the Marianas Trench.
- Where you are docked
Apra Harbour is a deep water port, 2 miles to Guam’s capital, Hagatna. It takes its name from the Chamorro word “apapa”, which translates to “low”. It is the main sea port for Guam. The harbour is bordered by the Orote Peninsula and Cabras Island. The narrower inner harbour is where the Naval Base Guam is located. The commercial port of Guam is based in the northern side of Apra Harbour. Cruise ships arrive at the Port Authority of Guam.
While most of the area of Apra Harbour is under the control of the US Navy, the Port Authority, as well as some other areas, is accessible to the public. The area is a tourist destination in itself. Upon disembarking from the cruise ship, passengers can enjoy spending time in Sasa Bay, the Piti Channel and Glass Breakwater. These recreational areas around Apra Bay offer a variety of water sports. Apra Harbour has several shipwrecks that SCUBA divers might find interesting.
Port Authority is just a little over a mile away from the main tourist hub of Tumon. If overnighting in Guam, most hotels will provide pick up services.
- Regional weather
Guam experiences a tropical climate, the temperature almost don’t fluctuate between months throughout the year. Guam does have two distinct seasons, the dry season lasting from December to April is buffeted by North East trade winds which can bring some respite against the heat of the day. The wet season which lasts from June to November can bring sharp heavy rainfall, which then gives way to clear skies.