Monthly Archives: January 2012

Hike to Pagat Cave and Pagat Point

We paid for a boonie stomp with Guam Guided Adventures because we wanted someone who could give us history and talk about the vegetation we were passing as we went. Rob, our guide, took us to Pagat Cave and Pagat Point (and Gun Beach after) when we told him we wanted a medium-difficulty hike with great scenery. That was basically the only criteria we gave him and he picked out the perfect trail for us.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures in the cave because there was a family having a birthday celebration inside when we got there and I wanted to respect their privacy. If you have some, I recommend bringing waterproof flashlights so you can find your way around in the water. It’s so cool and refreshing in the water there, but try to not shine the light on the walls if you can avoid it. (I won’t say what was crawling all over some of them but it rhymes with “wockwoaches.”)

Along this trail, you’ll also pass through an ancient Chamorro site with a few artifacts still remaining for you to see.

You might be tired from trying to keep from slipping on the limestone by the time you hit the caves, but it’s worth it to forge ahead to the coast. The trail will lead you to a beautiful lava formation over the water, with a natural bridge crossing over the crashing waves below you. It’s absolutely breathtaking. This is the view from the middle of the natural bridge.

We weren’t able to do it when we did the hike because the tide was going crazy strong, but this spot is also great for cliff diving. From what I’ve read, you can dive off the edge and let a wave lift you onto a rock to climb back out. I’m hoping we’ll be able to do this on our next trip! Use your best judgment when deciding whether or not to jump, but don’t do it if the water is as rough as this:

It’s beautiful, right? I’m still kind of in awe over what we saw when we reached the end. The hike back is uphill, so spend plenty of time relaxing and having fun before you heading back to the car!

The trailhead for this hike is on 15, about halfway between Adacao and Yigo. You’ll see a parking area on the left (if you’re heading north) with the entrance directly to the right. Like any other hike where you leave your car behind unattended, keep no valuables inside, or anything that even looks like it might be a valuable, and leave the doors unlocked so the windows don’t get busted when someone decides they want in even though you have no valuables inside.

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Talofofo Falls Resort Park

If I could insist upon one single place where all visitors to Guam should visit, it would without a doubt be Talofofo Falls. Not only is the drive to the park from Tumon absolutely gorgeous, going through the rolling hills of  Santa Rita, but the destination is the most unique place we found on the island.

We had no idea what to expect when we got there. We knew there were waterfalls, and we knew Shoichi Yokoi’s hole was somewhere on the grounds, but what we found was more than we ever could’ve imagined. It all started with an unexpected military discount based entirely on the Navy anchor tattoo on my wrist. “Nice anchor. Military? Cool, you got the discount.” I get the feeling they aren’t sticklers for checking military IDs.

When we walked in, we were greeted by the above, which they called a “trolley.” Ha! From what I could tell, the park benches were only kind of latched down but when I asked an employee, he said no one had ever fallen off. Knock on wood!

After walking around the grounds for a few minutes, we ended up at a gate with a sign warning of adult content lurking past the fence. Sign us up! Turns out Loveland is a garden of erotic statues. I still can’t believe we almost didn’t go because if I’d found out after we left that I missed out on something like that, I’d be so upset.

There’s also a “haunted house” on the way to the cable cars, with hydraulic-powered frights that look frighteningly like Elvis lurking around every corner.

The actual falls are gorgeous, of course. There are two falls, with swimming available in the upper falls. We were able to splash around with a local family, climbing up on the slippery rocks with each others’ help and diving into the deep pools. Yokoi’s Cave is a short walk from the falls, so I’d recommend swimming after your trip to the cave instead of having to walk the slippery rocks with water from your swimsuit dripping down your legs. Bring some snacks and spend the afternoon because the falls are super refreshing!

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Ritidian Point

Talk about paradise! It took us two hours to get there from Tumon (on scooters that wouldn’t go over 35 mph and a decent hike through private property) but it was entirely worth the trip.

The hike down remind me a bit of the steps to and from Coit Tower in San Francisco, except somehow even more lush and tropical.

When we got there, we were completely awe-struck by how beautiful the beach was. There was not a single soul in any direction (something we saw more often than not on the island) and it was like stepping into a postcard.

The only downside of the beach is the current. Thanks to its location on the island, the tides are incredibly strong and have a tendency to suck people right out into the Philippine Sea. Yikes, right? Total yikes. And perhaps it’s different in the refuge area, but the water doesn’t go more than a couple feet deep all the way out to the coral shelf. Because of the tide and the shallow water, snorkeling ain’t easy out there, but what you can find is still beautiful. Even if you don’t snorkel, there’s plenty of beach to be combed and napping under a palm tree to be done.

We tried to visit on New Year’s Eve, which is apparently some form of a government holiday. I don’t know where you can find a list, but make sure you don’t visit on a government holiday because the public part of the beach is a National Wildlife Refuge and it won’t be open to the public.

When we realized the public beach was closed, we tried our best to find some sort of access to it from the private side of the road. The beach is at the bottom of a steep drop-off, so you can’t just sneak through the woods and find your way there like you could on the south side of the island where there are fewer cliffs. All of the private beach access points are part of resorts that require AT LEAST $20 per person to get in, and from what I’ve read, few of them are worth the high cost of admission. A camp let us park our scooters behind a tree and use their stairs to get to the beach, but we were very lucky they were so kind and I honestly wouldn’t count on that for a return visit.

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Pago Bay and the Much Nicer Beach Down the Road

I can summarize Pago Bay in three words: Don’t go there. To expand on that, the trail to the beach is hard to find, there is no parking except in a private neighborhood, and once you finally do get parked and find the trail, the beach and the water are nasty to the max. The only reason that first picture of Pago Beach looks semi-decent is because it’s washed out by the blazing Guam sun. This one’s a little more true-to-life:

Truly remarkable, though, is Taga’chang Beach, just down Rt. 4. I believe there’s a sign for it, right past the sharp bend beyond the neighborhood at Pago Bay (if you’re going south). There’s a long road that’ll be absolutely beautiful to gawk at with a beach at the end even more remarkable.

Marshall certainly enjoyed his time snorkeling in this remote, completely private bay and seemed to find some wonderful wildlife under the waters. My time was spent exploring the giant lava rocks, little lagoons, and caves all along the shoreline. There are little covered gazebo/picnic spots near the parking area, which would be perfect for a nice big lunch of tinala katne and red rice.

Yona just took over management of the beach and the article I read said something about a fee structure to help with maintenance, but I’m not sure if that means a fee just to access it or a fee to rent out the covered areas. Might want to make sure you have a couple of bucks on you when you show up just in case, but I promise you it’s worth it.

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Dededo Flea Market

One of my favorite things we did on the island was a trip to the Dededo Flea Market, only I wish we’d done it the first morning we were there so we could get a machete and load up on local produce for mid-day snacking.

I have three suggestions for visitors to the market:

  • Try every kind of food you possibly can. If you see a fruit you don’t recognize, buy one and try it. If a kind woman, proud of her son for becoming a doctor and talking about it constantly (pictured above), offers you banana cinnamon lumpia, try it. If there’s some sort of baked good on a table and you’re not sure what it is, try it. We discovered so many amazing things at that market.
  • Talk to every vendor who will talk back. This applies everywhere you go, whether on the island or not, but always take the opportunity to hear their story.
  • Bring lots of $1 bills. Lots of cash in general, but don’t expect everyone to have change for the $20 you got at the ATM.

If I could do it all over again (I can in March!), I’d go to the flea market on the first morning and get a machete for hikes. Those coconuts don’t just fall open on their own but they sure are refreshing.

The Dededo Flea Market is on Marine Corps Dr. (1), just past where it meets with 27/Harmon Loop Rd. You’ll see it with no trouble. Bring cash to park because we couldn’t find free parking, although we were able to get a discount because we were on scooters.

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Snorkeling at Gun Beach (And A Little Tanguisson Beach, Too)

Pale San Vitores Road will turn into Tumon Strip will turn into Gun Beach Road will turn into the best damn snorkeling on the island. The road gets a little intense, so I hope you can either dodge some potholes orpaid for insurance on your rental to cover that flat you’ll get, but it is entirely worth it.

We went out there for swimming on our first day. We set out down the strip to see what we could see, and after a quick pit stop at Hotel Nikko to take some pictures from their balcony, we decided to continue down that kind of sketchy looking road to see where it ended. What luck! The beach is beautiful and great for swimming, but it wasn’t until our boonie stomp and snorkel tour with Guam Guided Adventures that we found out what waited for us beyond the coral shelf.

When you get to the main entrance of the beach (at the parking area), walk to the left towards Tumon until you see a pipe heading from the sand back into the water. That’s an old, old communications cable pipeline and it’ll take you to the promised land. Our best luck came from putting on our fins and masks and just swimming, even in the shallow part, the whole way out past the shelf by following the line. Make sure you hold your breath when you get to where the waves are breaking at the reef shelf, but one or two strong kicks will push you past that line into calm seas that are salty enough to float in without any assistance.

At that shelf, the sea bed drops about 20-30 feet. You’ll find a ton of coral, fish, starfish, crown of thorns, and even little squid everywhere. It’s truly incredible. Make sure you bring some vienna sausage for a snack (for the fish), but bring the can back with you because littering is already bad enough on the island without you adding to it.

Best way to follow such a great snorkel trip? A short, easy hike past the eponymous gun (there’s some history there but it mostly just looks like a rundown canon and I don’t remember the story) to Tanguisson Beach. The hike is so damn picturesque it’ll run down the battery of your camera, with paths cut into the cliff, winding stairs, and a wooden bridge crossing over the waves.

Tanguisson Beach is well stocked in beach chairs and not well stocked in fellow human beings, so it’s the best of both worlds. We went there on New Year’s Eve to watch the fireworks over Tumon Bay. We were joined by maybe five other people and had a great view of all the action. If you’re on the island during fireworks season, make sure you watch them there. And make sure you bring flashlights.

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Ramada Inn – Guam

You’ll hear a lot of folks suggesting you stay on the Tumon Strip when you visit the island, but our hotel was just slightly off the strip and we loved it. It was significantly less per night than the others, but still had clean sheets, air conditioning, and wifi, which is really all we require from a hotel. If your goal for the trip is to go shopping and that magic show by Hard Rock Cafe, then the strip is for you. Otherwise, those cheaper hotels on Ypao Road (like Days Inn, where we’re staying in March, and Ramada) make it a lot easier to get out of Tumon and onto exploring the rest of the island.

Our room was split into two parts, with a big comfortable couch in the front room with the bed and a closet in the other room. And a mini fridge for all the Mr. Brown’s Coffee we could accumulate!

The best part of the Ramada’s location was that there was a convenience store just outside, a little gift shop for the basics downstairs, another little convenience store just down the street, and a gas station less than a block away. Not only that, but our favorite beach for swimming, Gov. Flores Beach Park, was just at the end of Ypao Rd. Can’t wait to go back!

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Getting Around Guam

The hardest thing to do on Guam is find your way around. Our first day there, we went to what felt like a million gas stations, convenience stores, and grocery stores looking for a detailed map with street names and numbers. You know what doesn’t exist there? A detailed map with street names and numbers.

The best one we found, and the one we ended up using so much it nearly fell apart, was in the centerfold of the free Island Time Magazine, which can be found in most any hotel on the island. Between that and google maps when we were in the hotel, we were able to cover every major road, see over a dozen unique beaches, and find some pretty amazing views. The map is posted on their Japanese language website here, but the magazine version has a little more detail in it from what I remember.

I’m a born-and-raised Houston girl who has seen more than her share of hot and oppressively humid days. I can work outside in July and only just barely break a sweat. I worked on a farm in one of the hottest summers I can remember. Heat is nothing to me. (Don’t bring up cold, though. I hate cold.) See that delightful back sweat? I acquired that after less than 10 minutes of walking on almost entirely shaded sidewalks at 8:30 in the morning. Seriously. The humidity on the island is somewhere in the neighborhood of 300% at all times and it’s a killer. We had big plans to spend most of our time in the Tumon area on foot until we actually got there and started breathing like an invisible hand was holding a steaming hot, wet washcloth over our mouths. The bus system there isn’t great either from what I’ve read. Perhaps we weren’t in the right places at the right times for it, but I don’t recall ever actually seeing a bus that wasn’t a Japanese tourist shuttle from the hotel strip to the duty free shopping strip.

We traveled the island on scooters from Scooter World (I linked to their facebook because their website is under construction and has no information), and I can’t think of a better way for us to see everything. In fact, we loved it so much we’ve had reservations for March’s trip since the minute I found out we were going. They never really got above 40 mph unless we were going down a hill, but that gave us a chance to take in everything around us. With a full 360° viewing area everywhere we went, I feel like I was able to see much more of the island as well.

It was only $175 per scooter for a week, which sounds comparable to a car until we get some real talk about gas. A scooter tank can be filled for less than $5 and will go just as far as a car. Can you fill your car’s tank for $5? The only challenge with the scooter was getting our fins, masks, snorkels, towels, sunscreen, and snacks in the little seat compartment. Marshall ended up having to ride with fins strapped to his backpack, which wasn’t fun but totally worth it.

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About Us

(On our way to the island in 2010.)

We’re two American tourists from Texas who spent ten days in Guam in December 2010 for our honeymoon. We fell in love with the island and are doing what we can to make everyone else fall in love with it too.

When planning our first trip, we found a wealth of information for Japanese tourists, but it was mostly focused on resorts and duty free shopping. That’s not our bag. We rented a couple of scooters and drove our way around the island every day, forging our own path, covering every major road, and experiencing as much of the Chamorro culture as we could on every part of the island.

A return trip has been scheduled for March 2012. If we love it as much the second time, we may just move there for good.

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