The southernmost island in the Mariana island chain, Guam is an aggregation of cultural heritage steeped in rich history and island adventures. An unincorporated territory of the United States, it is the largest of the Micronesian islands and offers opportunities for exploration that go beyond enjoying its azure waters and white sandy beaches. Here are our top seven things to do in Guam.
1. Find adventure on (or under) the high seas
From snorkeling and scuba diving to parasailing, boat rides and dolphin watching, hitting the water in Guam is a must. Take in the captivating view of the island’s lush vegetation from offshore on a paddleboard. Or, head underwater — coral reefs are prevalent along much of the coastline, making it both a snorkeler and diver’s paradise.
For an unique dive, head to the Tokai Maru and SMS Cormoran ship wrecks. Here, a Japanese ship and an American ship sunk in the same location — but across the span of two World Wars — making the site unlike any other shipwreck dive in the world. The more adventurous and experienced diver should head offshore to 11-Mile Reef, located 11 miles off the coast of Guam, where reef sharks can be spotted among a vibrant backdrop. Other notable dive sites include Pete’s Reef, Gun Beach, Coral Gardens and the Blue Hole.
2. Go Boonie Stomping
Head for the hills and explore Guam’s preserved wilderness on foot. Spend an afternoon hiking, or what the locals call “Boonie Stomping.” In an effort to protect the island’s heritage and wildlife, the majority of trails are undeveloped. Different organizations, such as the Guam Boonie Stompers (a non-profit), lead groups across the island’s various terrains to see waterfalls, mountains, caves and World War II sites.
Keep your eyes open for native plants and species along the way — wild pigs dwell in jungle habitats while geckos and chameleons can be spotted even in urban areas. The island is also home to several endangered species, including the fanihi, a fruit bat that can be found in Guam’s northernmost caves.
3. See the island from above
To truly experience the raw beauty of Guam, sky dive over the island. Consistently ranked as one of the top 10 destinations for sky diving around the world, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the island’s dense jungle juxtaposed Pacific blue waters.
SkyDive Guam, a certified diving company, offers tandem dives from 8,000 feet to 14,000 feet. Upgraded heights feature longer free-falls, with 14,000 feet allowing up to a one-minute free-fall over the island. Caught up in the view, it’s unlikely you’ll notice you’ve hit terminal velocity!
4. Eat island fresh
Guam is a hub of cultural flavors. You’ll find Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Korean, Chinese, Mexican and American cuisine. But if you’re looking for an authentic taste of the Pacific, search for fresh flavors — many restaurants partner with local fisherman who deliver the morning’s catch directly to the kitchen door.
For a taste of hyper-local cuisine, Chamorro barbecue is a must. The local grilling technique can be used for meat, poultry or fish, and incorporates a special marinade. Modern marinades include a base of coconut cream, soy sauce, yellow ginger, lemon, vinegar and black pepper — a testament to Guam’s history and the flavors introduced to the island over the course of centuries.
5. Veer off the beaten path
Tumon Bay and Agana Bay offer luxury shopping and a stimulating nightlife scene. But if you’re looking for cultural exploration, leave the resort areas behind. Rent a scooter and circumnavigate Guam (it only takes a day!) and you’ll discover a more authentic side of island life that the tourist brochures don’t tout about.
Head to the southeastern tip of the island and visit Inarajan (or, Inalåhan in Chamorro). The village predates 1521, when the Spanish discovered Guam. It remains the most intact collection of Guam’s old villages, and measures have been taken in recent years to further preserve the heritage and historic architecture found there.
Or, head a little further inland to visit Talofofo Falls, the site where Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi hid for more than a quarter century after WWII. Tour the historical museum and learn more about Shoichi’s Cave, where the Japanese soldier lived until he was discovered by local hunters in 1972.
6. Shop local
Spend an afternoon at Chamorro Village and peruse local crafts and island souvenirs. Vendors offer a variety of unique goods and you’re sure to find the perfect memento to remember island life by. On Wednesday evenings, stick around for the Night Market at the village. Sample local flavors and Chamorro dishes while browsing. If you manage to tear yourself away from the food and shopping long enough, you can also catch a musical performance or a traditional dance.
Note: Chamorro dishes typically incorporate an element of meat (usually barbecued). If you have dietary restrictions and avoid consuming meat, avoid planning a full meal at the Night Market. While there are plenty of choices for the carnivorous, this place is not a vegetarian-friendly buffet of options.
7. Explore beautiful beaches
The largest island in the Mariana island chain, Guam boasts over 77 miles of alluring coastline. Volcanic in origin, the island’s perimeter ranges from steep, rocky cliffs to white sandy beaches. At the north end, you’ll find Ritidian Point. Near Anderson Air Base, this beach line is more isolated and scattered with fewer tourists. A 30 minute drive south will land you at Tanguisson Beach, near Harmon Village. Although it is more rugged than most of Guam's accessible beaches, it features large shade trees and grassy areas, making it the perfect destination for games, a family beach picnic or a gathering with friends. For calmer waters, head to Gun Beach on Tumon Bay. During the day, it’s the perfect location to sunbathe or take a dip in pristine waters. Towards evening, it also offers romantic views of the sun setting over the Pacific.