Officially considered the largest island geographically in Micronesia, Guam is the southern most island in the Mariana Islands archipelago. The island is between the Philippines and Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. As remote as it may be, Guam is an American territory due to its strategic military importance.
Guam’s history began about 4,000 years ago when the Chamorros moved onto the island. In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan landed here while on expedition for Spain, and a Spanish colony was subsequently established in 1668. At this time, Catholic missionaries also landed on the island which is today approximately 85% Roman Catholic. For the next 200 years, Guam was a strategic stopping-off point for Spanish galleons crossing the Pacific. However, in 1898, Spain ceded the island of Guam to the United States as a result of the Spanish-American War. In 1941, Japan captured the island hours after the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Two and a half years later, the United States recaptured the island following intense fighting. Guam has remained an American territory since. Today, tourism makes up the majority of the economy followed closely by military operations.
While most of Guam is a veritable wonderland of lush nature, its position as a stop-over for trans-Pacific journeys hasn’t left the island without environmental troubles. Devastatingly, the mildly venomous brown tree snake was introduced to the island shortly after World War II. It is thought that the snake was a stowaway on a US military transport. Previous to the introduction of the brown tree snake, Guam was an island without snakes. Unfortunately, this single species has caused the total elimination of some endemic bird species including the Guam flycatcher and has created an island with a very low population of aviary species. With nothing to eat them, Guam, in turn, has 40 times more spiders than neighboring islands. With that said, the snakes are rarely seen during the day time and marine species have thrived under the protection of the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Guam is a great destination for the whole family. When you aren’t diving, you can expect a unique combination of beach and city atmosphere. The local markets are sure to be a delight for any visitor. The Chamorro Night Market is held every Wednesday night at the Chamorro Village in Agana. The Mangilao Night Market is held every Thursday night in front of the Santa Teresita Church in Mangilao. Divers traveling with non-diving family members should also check out the Fish Eye Marine Observatory in the Piti Bomb Holes Preserve. Guests can snorkel or look through underwater windows while scuba divers feed the fish below. Finally, a holiday to Micronesia isn’t complete without a day at the beach. Check out Gun Beach in the north of the island for the best atmosphere. You are sure to make memories that last a lifetime during your stay in Guam.
Won Pat Guam International Airport (GUM) welcomes flights from Hawaii, Australia, Micronesia and much of Eastern Asia. Occasionally, cruise ships also arrive at the island during trans-Pacific cruises.
Once on the island, it is possible to get around by car, bus or your own two feet.