I've spent a month of my life visiting my family on Guam, and I think it's one of the most underrated tourist destinations in the US. These photos will show you why.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThat’s me posing with a shell on one of Guam’s pristine beaches in 2001. Hardly any Americans visit Guam, and I think they’re missing out.


Guam’s slogan is “Where America’s day begins” because it is — literally. Guam is an American territory west of the International Date Line. So it’s the first place in America that experiences a new day each day.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA cliff on the western shoreline of Guam.

Source: Guampedia


Guam is in the North Pacific Ocean. It’s the largest and southern-most island in the Mariana Islands archipelago.

Google MapsGuam is an island in the Pacific.

Source: CIA World Fact Book


When I visited my family on Guam, I flew from the contiguous US by connecting through either Honolulu, Hawaii, or Tokyo, Japan.

Eric Broder Van Dyke/Getty ImagesThe airport in Honolulu is called Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

Guam is actually much closer to Japan than any US state. It takes less than four hours to fly there nonstop from Tokyo, but almost eight hours nonstop from Honolulu.

Google MapsYou can travel to Guam by plane.

Guam only has two seasons — wet and dry — and it’s a tropical marine climate. The dry season is from January to June, and the rainy season is from July to December. The temperature stays around 80 degrees all the time.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderGuam is full of jungle terrain.

Source: CIA World Fact Book


The warm weather is perfect for swimming. Guam is surrounded by coral reefs and has five protected marine preserves.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA cove on the western shore of Guam.

Source: CIA World Fact Book


On the western shore of Guam in a village called Piti, the Guam Seawalker Tours offer a unique underwater adventure in a marine preserve called Piti Bomb Holes.

Google MapsThe Guam Seawalker Tours are in Piti.

Source: Guam Seawalker


This tour takes people to the seafloor to see schools of fish, complete with a Sandy-Cheeks-like helmet straight out of “Spongebob Squarepants.”

Cherry O./YelpThe Seawalker Tour takes people down to the seafloor.

Source: Guam Seawalker


Professional divers take each patron down to the seafloor using a ladder that is attached to a small boat.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderSeawalker Tour employees help a child get down to the seafloor.

Source: Guam Seawalker


For 25 minutes, divers guide patrons around the seafloor using an installed railing for balance.

Cherry O./YelpPeople must hold onto the railing in order to stand upright.

Source: Guam Seawalker


The air pressure underwater makes it feel like you’re on an aeroplane. It’s slightly uncomfortable, but breathing underwater makes the experience feel like a reverse aquarium.

Cherry O./YelpA tourist makes faces at the fish.

Source: Guam Seawalker


After 25 minutes is up, the group goes back up to the boat, and the next group begins their descent.

Cherry O./YelpSchools of fish roam the sea floor.

Source: Guam Seawalker


While waiting for other groups to do their tours, visitors can snorkel in a designated area on the side of the boat …

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderAfter helmet diving, my brother watches my cousin snorkel on the other side of the boat.

Source: Guam Seawalker


… and the Seawalker Tour provides life jackets, snorkels, and goggles to do so. I think this tour is one of the most unique things I’ve ever done, and other visitors agree.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderAfter helmet diving, my cousins snorkel on the other side of the boat.

Source: Guam Seawalker


“We were surrounded by so many different kinds of beautiful fish and corals,” one Trip Advisor review said. “I’ve lived on the island all my life and visit the beach often, but this was a completely new experience that was great to share with family …

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderAfter helmet diving, my cousins snorkel on the other side of the boat.

Source: Trip Advisor


“… It is a great activity for both tourists and locals,” the review continued.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderAfter helmet diving, my brother poses with my cousin for a quick snapshot in between dips underwater.

Source: Trip Advisor


But if hanging out underwater isn’t really your thing, there’s still plenty to do on Guam, like a hike through Guam’s tropical jungles. I recommend Ritidian Point, which is on the northern tip of Guam in a village called Yigo.

Google MapsRitidian Point is in Yigo.

Source: Guampedia


It used to be an ancient CHamoru village, but now Ritidian is a wildlife refuge. The refuge includes 832 acres of land and 371 acres of coral reefs.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderRitidian supports a variety of plant life and wildlife.

Source: Guampedia


Aside from wildlife, like snails, lizards, and fruit bats, Ritidian is known for its archaeological significance.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderRitidian is known for its caves.

Source: Guampedia


The caves in Ritidian have some ancient rock art, or pictographs, in them. The art is very difficult to preserve because of high humidity and mould growth.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderRock art not pictured here.

Source: Guampedia


Archaeological studies suggest that the first CHamoru people settled on Guam about 4,000 years ago.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderRitidian is known for its caves.

Source: National Wildlife Refuge
,

Guampedia


I went to Ritidian on the first day of my summer 2018 trip to Guam. I was still feeling sick from the plane journey, but my mother told me I couldn’t vomit on these lands because they’re sacred.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderAfter I took this photo, I began to feel ill.

Source: Guampedia


Ritidian is untouched land. Many CHamoru people believe that Taotaomo’na — the spirits of the “people before” — reside in Ritidian. It is widely believed that if you don’t respect the land, Taotaomo’na can pinch and scratch people in their sleep and make them physically ill. Needless to say, I kept my mouth closed until we left Ritidian.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThe jungle is so overgrown that in some areas, all you see is vines when you look up.

Source: Guampedia


For another historically informative adventure, you can also visit the Valley of the Latte Adventure Park, which is on the south side of Guam in a village called Talofofo.

Google MapsThe Valley of the Latte Adventure Park is in Talofofo.

Source: Valley of the Latte


Tour guides take visitors to the valley by boat, but you can take a kayak or a paddleboat if you are feeling more adventurous.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA riverboat takes patrons to the valley.

Source: Valley of the Latte


When travelling through the Talofofo and Ugum Rivers, patrons can see wildlife in and around the river.

Valley of the LatteThe river is 15-25 feet deep.

Source: Valley of the Latte


The river supports wildlife in the area, including mangrove crabs, tilapia, catfish, mangrove snappers, trout, perch, shrimp, and halfbeaks.

Valley of the LatteThe river is full of wildlife.

Source: Valley of the Latte


Once at the site, patrons can see how ancient CHamoru people lived in the Talofofo River Valley over 3,000 years ago.

Valley of the LatteThe Talofofo River Valley.

Source: Valley of the Latte


This is a traditional CHamoru home. It’s supported by latte stones, which are a type of pillar used by the ancient CHamoru people that features a tall column and a hemispherical stone on top.

Valley of the LatteThe latte stones are the pillars that the hut is standing on.

Visitors can walk through the home and picture what it would be like to live inside one of these huts.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA traditional Chamoru home.

Source: Guam Museum


“The presence of our ancestors can be seen and felt as people tour the river and grounds,” Valley of the Latte CEO Daniel Tydingco told Insider.

Valley of the LatteA Chamoru woman paddles a canoe.

The rest of the tour is a combination of exploration and demonstrations.

Valley of the LatteA fire demonstration.

Source: Valley of the Latte


Visitors can gather and watch as a tour guide shows them how ancient CHamoru people wove baskets and made fire.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThe Valley of the Latte does many demonstrations here.

The tour is also interactive. Visitors get the chance to make fire themselves.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA tour guide shows patrons how ancient CHamorus made fire.

Then, the tour guide gives everyone some time to explore the lands. The valley is home to chickens, caribou, lizards, and wild dogs. My family explored the village with me even though they had been there before.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderChickens live in the Valley of the Latte.

“For our locals, many of them take great pride in being able to visit a place that celebrates our history and culture and are proud to share it with guests that they bring with them,” Tydingco told Insider.

Valley of the LatteA man at the Valley of the Latte makes fire.

My family also took me to the Senator Antonio M. Palomo Guam Museum and CHamoru Educational Facility. This is a history, culture, and natural science museum located in the island’s capital — Hagåtña …

Google MapsThe Guam Museum is in Hagåtña.

Source: Guam Museum


… but the museum wasn’t always here. War and natural disasters have shifted the museum’s location multiple times over the last century.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderView of Hagåtña.

Source: Guam Museum


The Guam Museum has a history of destruction and rebuilding, just like the island of Guam itself.

Yutong Yuan/Business Insider

The first thing that stands out about the museum is the building’s exterior. The 65-foot-high arch and other unique characteristics have made the building an icon in Hagåtña.

Guam MuseumThe building was designed to inspire a sense of community.

Source: Guam Museum


Museum director Dominica Tolentino told Insider that the building’s architect was inspired by memories of growing up on Guam, such as the woven patterns, sling stones, and latte stone elements included in the design.

Guam MuseumThe building was designed to inspire a sense of community.

Source: Guam Museum


This slab of cement on the front of the building resembles a book page, and the words come from an ancient CHamoru chief’s speech and lyrics from the Guam Hymn, which is the official territorial anthem of Guam.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThe building was designed to inspire a sense of community.

Source: Guam Museum


But the inside of the museum is even more impressive. It’s complete with a permanent exhibition called “I Hinanao-ta Nu I Manaotao Tåno Siha: The Journey of the CHamoru People.”

Guam MuseumThe museum’s lobby.

Source: Guam Museum


The exhibition is 6,200-square feet in total, and it uses technology to make it an interactive and unique experience. “It is an exciting story about humanity and homeland, our relationship with the land and sea, and it provides a frame of reference for beginning to understand the human interactions which have brought us to where we are today,” Tolentino told Insider.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA hologram provides historical information.

Source: Guam Museum


The exhibition is divided into several sections and presents the history of Guam chronologically.

Guam MuseumAn image from the section of the permanent exhibition entitled, ‘I Tasiyan I Tåno’ which means ‘The Sea and Land.’

Source: Guam Museum


The first gallery focuses on the diverse ecology of Guam. Stone, ceramic, and shell artifacts are presented here.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderArtifacts from ‘The Sea and Land.’

Source: Guam Museum


The next section of the exhibition focuses on the ancient CHamoru culture and ways of life before colonisation …

Guam MuseumThe ‘Our Ancient Heritage’ exhibition.

Source: Guam Museum


… which leads us to the next section — early colonisation. This part begins with Spanish contact and ends with the first American naval administration.

Guam MuseumColonisation brought up a diverse range of traditions and cultural influences that made their ways into CHamoru people’s lives.

Source: Guam Museum


The exhibition then goes into World War II and post-war reconstruction. This display is accompanied by sound bites that feature stories by war survivors.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThe World War II section of the exhibit.

Source: Guam Museum


A wall of this exhibit is dedicated to those who were affected by the war. My cousins and I ran our fingers down the wall and found “Chaco,” one of our family’s names, on it several times. When I found great-grandpa Manuel Chaco’s name on the wall, I immediately pictured his ageing face as I remembered the story he told me of how he and my great-grandma Josefina Chaco had a baby — Norman — in a concentration camp. Norman Duenas Chaco died in the camp before the war ended.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderChaco is my mother’s maiden name.

Finally, the exhibition ends with CHamoru’s perspectives on Guam’s political status and cultural revitalization. This covers the growth of tourism and the continued militarization of Guam. Most of Guam’s tourists come from Asian countries, including Japan, South Korea, China, and Taiwan.

Guam MuseumAn image from ‘I Finaloffan Yan I Ma’mai’la : Our Past and Our Future’which is the section about contemporary Guam.

Source: Guam Museum
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Guam Daily Post


Tolentino told Insider that Guam’s economy relies on foreign tourism. Tourism employs thousands of people and provides growth opportunities for local businesses.

Guam MuseumThe museum has a cafe and a gift shop.

At the same time, tourism commercializes Guam, introduces foreign illnesses and diseases, and it’s Guam’s only driving economic force, according to Tolentino.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderOpened coconuts at the Valley of the Latte.

Ultimately, Tolentino believes that the people of Guam will support tourism as long as it does not challenge the community’s core family values. In my experience as a CHamoru, this includes respect, collectivism, and courage. Coming to Guam might give you a sense of these values, too, and that’s part of what makes this tourist destination so underrated.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderA cliff in Tumon, Guam.

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