By Sarah Boucher
Picture it: One minute you are walking out of your swank hotel, and the next you are traveling south, passing by the Southern Mountain Range to go for a hike. Or, maybe you’d prefer learning how to weave coconut tree leaves to make a basket, or swimming in turquoise waters of the Philippine Sea, snorkeling to see the tropical fish, or diving to see old sunken ship remains. You can do all of these and more on the beautiful island of Guam.
I’ve lived here since 2015 after moving from Connecticut (I’m originally from Massachusetts), and it’s definitely a change from the East Coast that takes some getting used to. I can’t define the best thing about this island, because there are so many amazing opportunities. The fact that there’s so much to do is the reason I love it.
Guam is the westernmost point of the United States. It is the largest of the Mariana Islands and the largest island in Micronesia overall. The territory is about 30 miles in length and 11 miles at the widest part, and is home to about 170,000 people. It has two main U.S. military bases, the Naval Base Guam and Andersen Air Force Base, in addition to 19 villages. It is also home to the world’s tallest mountain: Mount Lamlam is technically only 1,332 feet above sea level, but actually rises 37,820 feet from the floor of the Marianas Trench, over 8,000 feet taller than Mount Everest.
Jimmy Dee’s Paradise Beach Resort-Bar ocean swing, Two Lovers Point, Fish Eye Marine Park, and waterfall in Umatac.
The best time to visit the island of Guam is the beginning of dry season, from January to March. This is when the humidity is low and the air feels cooler. Be sure to bring lots of sunscreen, and prepare for a long flight: Guam is so far away from the U.S. mainland that it’s only a three-hour flight from Japan. Once you arrive, I suggest renting a car, especially if you plan to do many things around the island. There is a service similar to Uber called Stroll, and taxis, busses, shuttles, and even scooters for rent are also available. You don’t need to worry about money exchange here as it is the same currency as stateside.
Many visitors stay in Tumon, or as I call it, “Little Rodeo Drive,” because there’s lots to see and do. This area is full of hotels, night life, restaurants, high-end shopping, waterparks, skydiving, parasailing, dolphin watching, and a slew of other water activities. They also have an aquarium called UnderWater World. The Beach Bar is a fun hang out with a beach volleyball court, big round lounge chairs, and great food and drink. Another hot spot is Jimmy Dee’s Paradise Beach Resort-Bar, which is has an ocean swing that’s perfect for your Instagram stories.
Further out from Tumon are some of the historic war sites and cultural sites. Two Lover’s Point is a popular destination where you can learn about the tragic story that gives the point its name, take in wonderful full-cliff views, and grab a bite to eat. Fish Eye Marine Park is a breathtaking destination that takes you under the ocean without getting wet, submerging you 30 feet under the water to a 360-degree viewing observatory where you can see fish and other sea life. You may also see people snorkeling around the attraction. In the village of Umatac there are amazing hikes through the jungle to see hidden waterfalls and ancient ruins. You can also go see where Magellan landed in Guam in the 1500s as there is a monument there.
For those interested in history, check out the War in the Pacific National Historic Park and the Pacific War Museum. There is also a newly built Guam Museum in Hagåtña, the capital of Guam. Just behind the museum, you will find Paza de España, site of the Governor’s Palace during Spain’s occupation of the island, which lasted over 200 years.
Of course, what makes the island most interesting is the people that live there and their rich culture. The Chamoru, the indigenous population of Guam, are known for their hospitality and for making the best BBQ. You will hear about the fiesta plates, which include BBQ chicken on a stick, red rice, pancit, kelaguen, and other local dishes. I also suggest going to Chamoru Village for the Wednesday night market. There you will find amazing food, cultural shows, and local shops like my store. If you need a sweet treat after the yummy BBQ, I suggest Hafaaloha for shaved ice, Mighty Purple Cafe for an açai bowl, or SnowMonster for dragon’s breath ice cream.
The beaches in Guam are just as diverse and colorful as its culture: there are beaches with beautiful white sand, magnetic black sand, and even green sand. If you travel to the north side of the island, you can find star sand as well. I’ve been collecting sea glass from these beaches since we first arrived here. I was bored and missing my family and friends stateside, so I took to the beaches and started to pick up the pretty teal pieces. I used to go out almost every day, but now I usually get out two times a week in the morning before it gets too hot. Sometimes I bring my three kids and husband on the weekends, but I enjoy the peacefulness of the time alone during the weekdays. When I’m not beachcombing, I’m making sea glass jewelry and art in my store.
I have probably found more than 500 pounds of glass since that first day. I have noticed a difference in the frostiness of the sea glass depending on what beach I find them. Some are the rough-looking frost and some are incredibly smooth, almost fake-looking. I feel like it may have to do with the type of sand or coral that a particular area contains.
I find more of my sea glass at the southern end of Guam. I frequent the beaches on the Navy base (I’m a submariner’s spouse). I also enjoy going way south to the villages of Umatac and Merizo. We live in the village of Talofofo, and when I go to the beach at low tide, it’s amazing how much sea glass I find. There’s also a great place down the street called Jeff’s Pirates Cove. He has a bow of a ship for the bar, and the owner collects glass floats, which he proudly hangs all over the establishment. I have found many intact Coca Cola bottles from the 40s and 50s at beach in the village of Agat. Besides sea glass, I also collect many other things, including bottles, tiles, game pieces, sea glass, and shells.
Most the beaches here have soft sand, but some do have more rocky/coral parts. I always wear my water shoes just in case. Often times I take my paddle board out and stop at the little hidden beaches along the coast. I have found many amazing reds, blues, and marbles. I never look forward to typhoon season, but sometimes the storms bring in some really awesome pieces of sea glass. My top three favorite finds are a chunk of gray glass, a red marble, and an odd dark blueish/purple piece. Even though I have found some great rare colors of sea glass, I think my favorite is the ultraviolet. It looks like an ordinary piece of sea glass until you shine a blacklight on it.
When I want to relax after finding my beach treasures, I head to TuRé Café. They serve great food and drinks, and they have a covered deck right in the sand overlooking the ocean. Or sometimes I just need a nitrocoffee to perk up, so I’ll head to Coffee Slut and chill there (they have an ocean view as well). If I’m really tired, I will find two palm trees and set up a hammock to enjoy the sounds of the ocean, and once again be reminded of how lucky I am to live in a real tropical paradise.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine March/April 2020 issue.
We were there in the mid 60s. Saundra was an avid beach comer with shoes on to protect her feet. We have lots of sea glass. She would pick it up with a pair of ice tongs and place it in a bucket that she carried. I scuba dived and to look down over the reef into the Marianias Trench was a bit spooky. We loved the little isolated beach on Citi Bay(Sp).We were friends with the Ada family. We felt that Guam was an undiscovered secret. Guam was Good! telefofo falls, the tank farm,festivals and the people.