This is the fourth post in a five part series covering the Island Hopper written by Dave Schaverien, a guest contributor to Pointsnerd. You can follow Dave on Instagram at @davidschav
The Island Hopper
Part 4 – Guam
Guam is the final stop on the Island Hopper in the westbound direction. Although I didn’t stop in Guam on this visit, I have made two separate visits to Guam in the not too recent past so I wanted to include an article on Guam in this series since it is such a unique and interesting location. Guam is sometimes described as a poor cousin to Hawaii. While Guam is certainly not as developed as Hawaii, this description is also quite unfair, as Guam has a lot to offer as a tourist destination.
Unlike the Marshall Islands and Micronesia, Guam is a US Territory, and unequivocally part of the US. In fact, a slogan you will see throughout the island is that Guam is “Where America’s Day Begins”. This is due to Guam’s position on the other side of the international date line from the US. When it is Sunday evening in Seattle, it is already Monday morning in Guam. Upon landing in Guam, you will clear US immigration the same as you would in New York or Los Angeles. Although a substantial amount of Guam’s territory is a US military base, much of the island is still free to explore.
By far the best way to get around Guam is to rent a car from the airport for the duration of your stay. Taxis are infrequent and expensive and will preclude you from seeing some of the more interesting and remote parts of the island.
A great place to begin your visit to Guam is Two Lovers Point. According to local legend, this was the place where two lovers leaped to their death after their respective parents intervened to try to quash their romance. A statue near the lookout commemorates the two lovers. The lookout itself looks all the way across Tumon Bay and out to the Pacific Ocean and is best visited around sunset when the views are spectacular.
Just down the road from Two Lovers Point is Tumon, the main tourist centre of Guam. Tumon is the one area of Guam which could be described as modern. It is reminiscent of Waikiki in Honolulu – which is both good and bad. You’ll find many upscale hotels, shops and restaurants in the area, including many chain restaurants from the US mainland. Tumon is a great place to visit in the evening for a meal, but the true treasures of Guam lie elsewhere on the island and are best explored during the day.
On one of my trips to Guam, I spent much of the day driving around the southern half of the island. The Guam Museum is found in the town and capital city of Hagatna, with giant letters spelling the word Guam right outside. Nearby, you’ll also find a highly unusual attraction called the Latte of Freedom. The centre attached to the statue was closed when I visited, but nowhere else in the world have I seen a landmark shaped like, and apparently dedicated to a coffee cup.
Just down the road from the Latte of Freedom, you’ll find the excellent Pacific War Museum. This museum is small, but it contains highly informative exhibits detailing the history of Guam, the horrors of the Japanese occupation during World War II and subsequent liberation by the US. It also details Guam’s current strategic importance to the US.
Driving south from the Pacific War Museum you will pass through cliffs, beaches, and small villages as you move around the perimeter of the island. In or near each of these villages there are lookouts to stop at, as well as local stores selling food and drinks. Many of these lookouts are relatively deserted, you might spend several hours here and only see a couple of other people.
After driving for some time, you will arrive at Inarajan Natural Pool which is easy to recognize because it is a hive of activity despite being a very small village. The word pool is usually associated with a man-made structure, but this pool is shaped from a strip of land forming a barrier between the waves and most of an inlet surrounded by both land and rocks. This makes it a fantastic area to swim, because the water is clear and clean, but protected from the ocean. There is also a park right next to the pool which is a favourite spot for locals to barbeque in the afternoon.
Back towards the main towns in Guam, there is one store certainly worth visiting: K-Mart! Normally I would never ever visit a K-Mart anywhere in the US, so why bother in Guam? For a few reasons. Firstly, K-Mart is the only major store on the island, and is the place where you will find any supplies you might need to pick up. Secondly, because there are a variety of souvenirs available which are unique to Guam, such as Guam macadamia nut chocolates, and even I love Guam K-Mart t-shirts and tote bags (I bought a tote bag, but you can’t pay me enough money to be seen in public wearing the t-shirt). Finally, there is something amazing about being on a tiny remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and seeing a giant chain store with every single product you would find at home.
I stayed at the Hilton Guam, which was a fantastic choice and was free thanks to the Iberia Avios points earned through their poorly designed promotion in the summer of 2018. The Hilton Guam is a large resort-style hotel with tennis courts, a pool, restaurants and bars. There is also an outdoor swimming area with a pontoon which reaches out into Tumon Bay. The hotel is located across the bay from most of the shops and restaurants of Tumon, which I thought was a positive because the area is a lot quieter.
Overall, I would certainly recommend a visit to Guam for the right kind of traveler. If you have an interest in adventure, but still want to visit somewhere relatively tourist-friendly then you will likely enjoy a few days in Guam. Guam is also a perfect place to spend a couple of days following a trip on the Island Hopper, or alternatively a nice getaway for several days if you happen to be in Japan. One final Guam tip is to be sure to get a window seat on the plane since you’ll see fantastic views of the island from the plane.