The tiny Pacific island with an important history

Known as the island ‘where America’s day begins’, this US territory combines white-sand beaches with high-rise resorts and Vegas-style entertainment; an indigenous Chamorros population with a significant WWII history; and excellent dive sites with a handful of world-class golf courses.

Guam is just over 30 miles long, and has one main road that rings the island – meaning it is easy to explore and virtually impossible to get lost. Most visitors (it is a short hop from Japan, Taiwan and Manila) head straight for Tamuning, the town that runs along Tumon Bay, but the island – which was ceded by the Spanish after the Spanish-American war and is home to two military bases – has so much more to offer than that.

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What to see and do in Guam

One of the quickest ways to get under the skin of the place is on a 2.5 mile guided heritage walking trail in Hagatna, the island’s capital. You will visit 17 historical sites dating from the ancient Chamorro people to the Spanish era and WWII, including the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica; the US Naval Cemetery; Plaza de Espana, which once housed the Spanish palace and served as the seat of the Spanish government; and the Angel Santos Memorial Park.

The big draw here is the eight latte stones – the symbol of Guam – which were once used by the Chamorros to support their wood and thatch homes. There is also the Latte of Freedom, a concrete monument with an observation level that was built as an expression of the island’s culture and heritage. Other historic sites worth seeing are the Pacific War Museum and Asan Bay, a landing beach used by the American marines when they re-took the island from the Japanese in 1944 (there are several commemorative bronze statues and a memorial wall with the names of the US servicemen who died).

For sensational views of Tumon Bay and beyond, Two Lover’s Point is a cliff-top lookout in the north named after the legend of two young star-crossed lovers, reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, who tied their hair together and leapt from the cliff. Not far from here is Chamorro Village: time your visit to coincide with the lively Wednesday night market where locals gather to sell arts and crafts, and most important of all, eat. Barbeque meats are a staple part of the Guamanian diet (usually served with Spanish rice and coleslaw) and the smell as you wander through the market is guaranteed to get your stomach rumbling (try Asu Smokehouse for slow roasted beef brisket).

Of course wherever you are on the island, it is never far from the ocean. Top dive sites include The Blue Hole, a crevice that opens onto the ocean floor off the Orote Peninsula, and Cocos Island where you can often spot eagle rays, turtles and white tip reef sharks. Keen golfers will not be disappointed either with courses such as the 36-hole Leo Palace which was designed by pro-golfers Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer and comes with more views of the Pacific.

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