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A Travel Primer For Guam’s Culture, Food, And Beaches


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There’s a good chance you’ve seen Guam come up a lot on your social feeds lately. Sadly, it probably hasn’t been connected to travel. As a far-flung vacation destination, the island nation isn’t getting too much buzz. First off, it’s tiny; second, it’s been occupied by the US off-and-on since 1898. Instead, Guam is in the news because North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is planning a military show of force near the island this month in response to Donald Trump’s bloviating. Which doesn’t exactly put the island on the Uproxx Travel Hot List.

But before everyone runs for the hills in terror of nuclear war breaking out, it’s important to remember that Kim made the same threats in 2013. In response, President Obama installed THAAD missile defense systems on the island, in case of this very scenario playing out. On top of which, the Japanese military is prepared and equipped to shoot down any missiles that pass through their airspace. So, at the end of the day, the whole affair might just be about two lunatics measuring their dicks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

At Uproxx, we’re all for the road less taken — so we thought we’d offer a closer look at one of America’s more beautiful Pacific colonies. Guam is the southernmost island of the Mariana Islands archipelago. It’s roughly the size of the city of Chicago with a population hovering around 170,000 — an island paradise with high-end resorts, volcanic beaches, and azure seas. As soon as the bomb threat passes, it might be your perfect getaway.

Here are some of our favorite reasons to visit.

FOOD

Being an American territory means you’ll find pretty much every chain you’re familiar from home over in Guam. You’ll definitely get a middle-America-by-way-of-Hawaii vibe too — Guam is the biggest consumer of SPAM after Hawaii, thanks to post-WWII rations and a deep-seated love of the processed meat.

Going beyond the colonial food of the Americans, you’ll find the indigenous Chamorro cuisine. It’s a pan-Polynesian blend that incorporates east Asian and Spanish influences. Dishes like kelaguen (a citric-acid-cooked shredded meat dish) and tinaktak (coconut braised minced meat) are stars of the local scene. You’ll also find a lot of pork and beef barbecue, served with the local red rice and kelaguen (best described as chicken ceviche).

And, of course, there’s plenty of seafood pulled directly from the warm Pacific waters. You’ll also find plenty of tropical fruits pretty much everywhere you go. There’s even a mango festival every May that celebrates mango in all its fabulous forms.

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STAY

Guam is only 12 miles across. So you’ll have a lot of options close at hand when exploring the island. The northern reaches are mostly populated by an American military base and the island’s largest city, Dededo.

The central part of the island is chalked full of nature parks and beaches, alongside the bigger towns and commerce (this is also where the airport is). Tumon Bay is a major resort spot that’s not unlike Honolulu. Expect big hotels, packed beaches, and lots of tourism related businesses.

The southern reaches of the island are more rural. There are nature reserves, wildlife parks, plenty of hiking, idyllic black-volcanic beaches, and smaller villages all worth exploring around places like Inarajan, Merizo, and Talafofo Bay. If the hustle and bustle resort scene isn’t you, this is a perfect part of the island to get closer to nature and unplug for a spell.

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vacation mode

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CAN’T MISS

The night markets are a must stop in Guam. The stalls generally start during the day in most spots and run well into the evening (generally until ten PM). Expect to find tons of local foods, drinks, and consumer products brought in from China, Japan, and America.

Every Wednesday and Friday you can hit the Chamorro Night Market in Guam’s defacto capital city, Hagatna. On Thursday nights you can head over to Mangilao for the Mangilao Night Market. Make sure to hit up Songge for their delicious wood-fired pizzas, fired in a portable wood oven that’s pulled behind their blue van. It’s worth every minute waiting in line.

If night markets aren’t your thing after a day in the sun on the beach or hiking some backcountry trails, hit the morning Dededo Flea Market. Every Saturday and Sunday this bustling market comes to life from five to ten AM. Hunt down some fruit for the day and make sure to find some spicy chicken empanadas and SPAM quiche for breakfast. Don’t forget to wash it all down with a mango smoothie or fresh coconut or two.

More photos from Guam:

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sunshine finds

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hiking szn

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