Guam: Something for Everyone
Long thought of as a “poor man’s Hawaii,” the beautiful island of Guam is a hidden gem in the Pacific waiting for you to discover. Just over three hours flying time from Tokyo, Guam is an incorporated territory of the United States. As such, non-citizens will need an immigration ESTA visa to travel there. Obtained online, an ESTA will ease and expedite your transit through the airport.
Guam is a relatively small place, with a string of international hotels hugging the beach in the main town of Hagatna. A fleet of wiki wiki buses plies the town, making getting around very easy. There are several shopping areas, the most popular being the duty free strip and the Micronesia Mall. At the latter you will find department stores, pharmacies, nail salons, and quality boutiques. The largest Kmart in the Pacific also offers the tourist a convenient one-stop-shop for necessities that are difficult to find in Japan.
But there is so much more to Guam than shopping. The beautiful beaches are predominately crushed white coral and are protected on the Hagatna side of the island by reefs that make them safe and family friendly. When the tide is out you can walk out to the reef and snorkel. Water sports and boat hire are available from local operators and hotels, as are submarine tours and boonie stomping, which involves hiking in the hinterland.
At the end of a long tropical day the various hotels have sundowner bars over looking Tumon Bay. These make for wonderful places to spend a pleasant few hours unwinding. There are many restaurants and eating establishments, most of which can be called “good” but would probably not please the gourmands amongst us. The notable exception is the award-winning Proa, a locally run restaurant that offers world-class cuisine. Bookings several weeks in advance are recommended.
A wonderful way to see the rest of the island is to hire a car and drive counter-clockwise around the coastal road. Small villages and dramatic scenery appear every few kilometers. Wild surf and tranquil rock pools are connected by beachside parks and rocky outcrops. At the peaceful hamlet of Umatec there is a small obelisk commemorating the arrival on the island of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. It is because of the Spanish invaders that Hagatna can claim to be the first European city in the Pacific.
Further along the coast, the remains of Spanish forts can be explored. Large stone latte can be found in the north, as well as in Latte Park in Hagatna. These unusual stone shapes are found nowhere else in the world and are believed to be the supports for the original Chamorro people’s structures. They still stand as silent reminders of the island’s mysterious past.
The culture and history of the Chamorro people is one of Guam’s most valuable assets. A local cultural village at Agana highlights Chamorro crafts and food. It holds night markets and events, at which tourists and visitors are welcome. It is surprising that such a small place as Guam has such a diversity in both its indigenous and imported cultures. The local homelands are the small hamlets that are scattered across the mountains and coastal fringes of the island.
The interior of the island looms behind the main road, densely forested and ruggedly mountainous. It is not hard to imagine the life of the Japanese soldier Shoichi Yokoi who hid here in the tropical jungle for almost 30 years. Indeed, you can visit his cave just off the road at Talafofo Falls. Guam played a crucial part in WWII, and battlefields, the remnants of tunnels, and gun emplacements litter the island. Further along the eastern side of the island are luxury golf courses and a large tropical fruit plantation, which is worth a visit.
Most importantly, though, Guam is a destination for lovers. Popular with Japanese wedding parties, the larger hotels have wedding chapels with magnificent views over the bay. Equally popular is Two Lovers Point. It was from here, high over the rocky point north of the town, that two Chamorro teens fled from an angry father and an overzealous Spanish commander who believed the girl was being kidnapped. Unable to escape, the two tied their long hair together and jumped to their deaths. Today, lovers young and old tie colorful foam hearts inscribed with their names or, oddly, baggage labels, to the lookout fence in solidarity with the lovers.
Guam really does hold something for everyone, whether it be culture, history, relaxation or romance. And with a balmy average temperature of 26 degrees Celsius, it is a welcome getaway at any time of the year.
Attractions and activities: Proa Restaurant is located at Ypao Beach, Pale San Vitores, and reservations can be made by calling +1-671-646-7762. Click here for information on the Micronesia Mall, and here for details on boonie stomping tours. The Latte Park is located on West O’Brien Drive, Hagatna. Hamamoto Tropical Fruit World is at Windward Hills, Yona (open daily, 9 a.m.–3 p.m.).