Guam is a nice little island located south of Japan and east of the Philippines. If you drew a line south from Tokyo and a line east from Manila, the lines would intersect near Guam. It is a short 3.5-4 hour flight from Tokyo with flights from Japan, Korea, and the Philippines being the most common. The small island is in the tropical band and it is a fairly small island. You can visit the entire island within a single day trip if you wanted and it is easy to visit the outlying areas within a day’s drive. For this snowbird, a Canadian who travels to warmer places in the winter, Guam is a nice cheap place to visit and thaw from the frigid cold of Tokyo apartments. While I wouldn’t recommend visiting Guam on a normal basis, it is a good place to visit after you have exhausted many of your other options and you are looking for a tropical Japanese resort.
The first thing that you will notice on Guam is the fact that it is like a Japanese resort town. I was told by the Saviour that Guam was very similar to Okinawa. I have yet to visit Okinawa but she has, so I have to take her word for it. I was taken by how common Japanese was spoken. Japanese is quickly being followed by Korean as evident in the immigration hall where Japanese was used and once the Korean flights arrived, Korean was used. English is a second language when it comes to tourist spots, but for other areas English is still the first language. You can also hear Chamorro, the local indigenous language but it sounds very similar to Tagalog to me. The indigenous Chamorro people actually look and act more Filipino to me, but I am a little biased by having many Filipino friends back home. The people on Guam come from all walks of life. A lot of people are originally from the US, specifically California, but a lot of people are from Guam itself. I found them to be a little naive about the world at times but they were all very friendly and welcoming.
There isn’t much to the entire island. The island is about 50km long and about 10-20km wide. You can easily have a day trip driving around the island but that wasn’t in the cards for me. There are only 2 places for most tourists to visit if you are too lazy to venture to the more remote areas of the island. The main tourist area is Tamuning, an area that includes the airport and all areas north of the airport to the ocean. It includes Tumon Bay, the main tourist area which is a sub area of Tamuning. Most of the hotels are located in this area and there is no real need to drive around here. It is a little slow going during the peak times as there are a lot of cars getting around and a lot of people use this area as a place to be seen. Think of it like Rodeo Drive or some other popular strip where you drive up and down to be “cool” in your expensive car or motorcycle. For me, I never left this area as my main purpose was to relax and just do nothing. I was easily able to achieve this.
The other main area for tourists is to visit Hagatna. Hagatna is, from what I understand, the main city of Guam. While Tamuning is where the tourists go and a lot of people work, Hagatna is where a lot of the residents relax and home of the Chamorro Village. I never visited this area so please take my information with a large grain of salt. I did want to visit Hagatna as it looked interesting, but the transportation around the island is not very convenient. Renting a car is not too expensive but insurance was expensive. The buses also didn’t run very often to Hagatna and I wanted to be able to go for dinner and enjoy a couple pints. I wasn’t angry at the lack of transportation for this resort town as it is not very economical for buses to run late at night. I just wish they had better transportation at night so that I could have gone to Hagatna and still be able to return to my hotel by 11pm, or at least soon after dinner. If you have a late dinner on Guam, finishing after 9pm, you will be out of luck when it comes to getting back to your hotel unless you pay for a taxi.
Guam is a typical tropical island. There are a lot of beaches and a lot of water sports as well. The most typical things to do, at least from the Japanese side of things, are to ride on a banana boat or something similar. You can rent these almost anywhere and a guide will take you out onto the water where they’ll pull you as fast as their jet skis will go. You can also rent jet skis, paddle boats, kayaks, and inner tubes. You don’t have to but it is a nice option. There are a lot of scuba diving adventures and snorkeling adventures as well but I’m not really into that. When you are on land, there are several clubs in the tourist district and more gun ranges than I could count. You can easily call and get picked up to head to any of the gun ranges. I don’t think I would go to any of them as they looked like a tourist trap rather than something cool; the prices seemed a little high as well. Having had experience shooting hand guns and rifles, even a shotgun, I am not so interested in shooting regular guns. Guam seems to cater towards the Japanese who don’t have an opportunity to shoot any guns. They even have very cheesy western costumes you can wear if you want, but honestly, that is not what I would want to do. I’d be happy to go to Las Vegas where I can fire a Desert Eagle or an assault rifle instead of shooting guns on Guam.
Guam is a nice island to visit but there isn’t too much to do. If you are looking for a place to just relax and enjoy the sun, Guam is the place to go. If you want more than that, I would recommend Hawaii. I do think that Guam is a lot easier to visit from Tokyo than Hawaii as it is only 3.5-4 hours from Tokyo, rather than the 7 hours to get to Hawaii. It is also easier to get around as the main tourist centre is pretty compact. The only down side I can see is that it doesn’t feel like a US territory as much as it feels like a Japanese territory with a lot of tourist information. For Japanese nationals, it is the ideal place to visit as Guam is more geared towards Japan and lots of people can speak enough Japanese to do business compared to Hawaii. I don’t know if I’ll ever be back in Guam again, but if I do, it will be for the exact same reason; to escape the cold in Japan.