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Three Perfect Days: Guam

With its pristine waters, diverse landscape, rich cultural heritage and burgeoning hospitality industry, this tiny tropical island is set to be the next big thing

Author Jessica Peterson Photography Jessica Peterson

Tanguisson Beach Rock Curve

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DAY TWO | You start the day with a quick splash. Drifting among the flickering fish, you spot a Picasso triggerfish, a wedge-shaped critter that looks as if it’s been rolling around on an artist’s palette. The fish returns your gaze, initiating a staring competition that ends with the arrival of a blacktip reef shark. You’ve read that these things are “a hazard, rather than a danger,” which isn’t all that encouraging. But maybe the shark read something similar—it hightails it away before you do.

Breakfast today is a few miles away at Pika’s Cafe, a low-key Chamorro eatery that brims with chatty locals. You order the O.O.G. (“Only on Guam”), a heaping plate of tinalan katne (smoked meat), eggs, steamed rice and spicy-tangy finadene. “Mangge!” says the woman who served you. “Delicious, yes?” Yes.

Fortified, you meet up with Tony, a guide with Jungle Rules Adventure Tours. Your destination is the red-dirt hills of southwestern Guam, a swath of mostly uninhabited land. Your fellow passengers are a beef-fed Russian family. The only Russian words you know are “vodka” and “Putin”—so you decide to shut up and watch the countryside flash by.

Ill-advisedly, perhaps, Tony has agreed to let you have a go at driving. You wrestle with the steering wheel for an hour or so, juddering over undulating, otherworldly red hills. Perched on a hump in the shade of a single tree, you look out over the sea to the green splodge of Anae Island. Small boats bob about in the water. It’s lovely, but you’re itching to get back behind the wheel.

You head for even more rugged terrain, possibly going a little faster than you should. Tony promised you couldn’t flip this vehicle, but you momentarily doubt his words as you soar over the rim of a massive red dune. One of your Russian passengers emits a flurry of what you assume are expletives.

As the white-knuckle tour reaches its conclusion, your passengers are visibly relieved. “USA amazing!” says the rotund guy who seemed to be swearing at you earlier, two thumbs up. Everyone is covered in a layer of red dirt, so you switch cars and head for Tanguisson Beach for a dip. The drive takes you along a precipitous and potholed road, which makes you pine for your SUV, or possibly a pair of sturdy hiking boots.

The beach more than makes up for whatever discomfort you endured along the way: Mushrooming coral plumes emerge from water the color of sea glass; huge cliffs rise at your back. It’s also deserted, apart from a Micronesian woman in a floral skirt and a few kids splashing in the waves. You peel off your dirt-caked clothes and wade past the rocks into the surf.

Having cleaned up, you stroll the beach, wading into the water when the path disappears, to the even more picturesque Shark’s Cove. You plop down on a lonely patch of sand and, despite the cove’s name, slip on your snorkel and mask and reacquaint yourself with the island’s psychedelic sea life.

Just before the sun sets, you drive to Two Lovers Point, a cantilevered platform atop a 400-foot cliff. Here, “long ago,” two young Romeo-and-Juliet types are said to have tied their hair together and jumped to their deaths. It’s not the most edifying story you’ve ever heard, but the views of the sea and the sharp cliffs are spectacular.

Your next stop is Tumon’s tourist strip, home to the small but wildly popular Japanese restaurant Kai. Patrons are greeted loudly and served liberally from personalized shōchū bottles. Polaroid pictures of regulars adorn the walls. After some fried ginkgo nuts, you have a pink dragon roll, which is crunchy, salty and spicy, with sweet battered shrimp and tangy mayo drizzled on top. Yum. You autograph your shōchū bottle while the owner’s wife snaps a photo and hangs it behind the bar.

Happily pooped, you head to the second hotel of your stay, the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa, a modish Mediterranean resort at the opposite end of Tumon Bay. Tiki torches line the outdoor bar and surrounding pools. You can see Two Lovers Point from the infinity pool, where you sip a strawberry mojito. A cool breeze takes the edge off the humidity, so much so that your perma-frizz starts to unwind.

As relaxing as all this is, there’s a fire dance show at the hotel’s outdoor Tree Bar, which you feel you have to see. Nimble and deeply tanned youths swing flaming batons over their heads. The swirling fire, tropical heat and a cocktail or two have left you a bit woozy. You head upstairs and climb into bed, a steady drumbeat lulling you into a sleep that flickers with plunging lovers, Martian landscapes and grumpy little fish.

3 Responses to “Three Perfect Days: Guam”

  1. Don Weakley (Inarajan resident) Says:
    February 26th, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    A beautiful article, well written. reflects my experiences as a former New Yorker who has resided on Guam for over 55 yrs. Many folks who come here to visit end up staying. The local people are one of Guams largest attractions known for their friendlyness and hospitality.

  2. Lance Wolfson Says:
    March 1st, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Someone turned me on to the article in “Hemispheres” a few weeks ago. It has always been that paradise in my mind.
    I was born in Agana in 1952 at the US Naval hospital. It is definitely on my bucket list.
    Is there a way whereby Jessica Peterson (author and photographer) might be able to contact me through e-mail. I have so many questions I would love to ask and, in all my years, have never met anybody who has actually been to Guam.
    It would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks in advance

  3. Janis Jackson Says:
    April 2nd, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    I enjoyed seeing Guam featured in your magazine Hemispheres. Originally from Guam I can attest to it natural, raw beauty. I’ve been around the world and there’s nothing like it.
    Guamanians like myself, don’t usually share our Island with Tourists, except for the occasional Japanese tourist, mostly honeymooners since after the last work word. Kind of our offer at peace. It is their history too after all.
    Its taken many years for Chamorros to realize that for an island that export nothing and imports everything that we have to fund our beautiful island somehow and what Guam has to offer was a well kept secret! Not anymore thanks to articles like your highlighting its natural beauty. Another interesting fact for you is the friendliness of the indigenous people of Guam, it is genuine and part of their Chamorro tradition to visitors.

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