Guam Primer: 4 Things to Know About the Tiny, Beautiful Island Dominating the News

Guam Primer: 4 Things to Know About the Tiny, Beautiful Island Dominating the News

Tourists are still welcome — and appear undaunted.

By Ko Im

Unlike these islands you've likely never heard of, you are probably familiar with the island called Guam. That is to say, you've probably heard the name. But how much do you really know about it? Likely not so much.

Now that it's making huge headlines on the geopolitical stage — with a ripple effect on tourism — it's a good time to learn the basics about this remote Pacific island. (And this author is rather familiar with the specifics — I grew up on Guam, and it's where my family lives!) Consider these nonpolitical reasons to visit Guam — like the more than 1 million visitors who did last year.

1. Guam is America.

Yes, Guam is a U.S. territory, with a strategic a military base. (Alas, its citizens cannot vote, but they can serve in the military.) Everyone speaks English, and Guam uses U.S. dollars. (Think Hawaii-style expensive, not southeast Asia-style cheap). If you fly to Guam through Hawaii, you only need a government-issued piece of identification (not necessarily a passport).

2. Guam is beyond gorgeous.

You know those dreamy island photos that come with your computer's screensaver? Yes, Guam is like that. Let me tell you first hand that the waters are warm and clear — whether you care to sunbathe near the equator (wear sunscreen), paddle board, jet ski, snorkel, or scuba. But beware of the humidity — it's hot, hot, hot, and typhoons happen.

3. Guam is a melting pot.

On Guam, residents are the native people (known as Chamorros) with a mix of ethnic backgrounds, as well military folks. An immigrant myself, I grew up in a very diverse environment, and was exposed to lots of cultures. You'll find Japanese as well as Korean tourists here.

4. Guam is ready for tourists.

Despite the news suggesting Guam could be a military target, the island's tourism is not hurting. Indeed, it's still welcoming tourists with open access to golf, waterfalls, and caves. If you're a historical buff rather than a current-affairs type, there are lots of World War II stories and memorials to check out. The visitors bureau also promotes preserving and showcasing local traditions and markets, so stay open minded... and be sure to check out barbecue and Chamorro food (plus regular American fast food, if you're into that).
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