What Should I Know About Guam?

N. Madison
N. Madison

The United States (US) Territory of Guam is an unincorporated US territory; it has limited self-governing authority. Located in the Western Pacific Ocean, Guam is the largest of all the Mariana Islands. It is positioned about 3,300 (5311 km) miles to the west of the Hawaiian Islands. The island’s climate is tropical marine with warm and humid conditions. Guam experiences tropical storms, usually about three per year; typhoons are also possible, on a less frequent basis.

Guam is a tropical country with rivers and waterfalls.
Guam is a tropical country with rivers and waterfalls.

Guam is a leading Western Pacific tourist destination. The tropical island is approximately 46 miles (74 km) long and its width spans about four to eight miles (6.5 to 13 km). It boasts rolling hills, rivers, and waterfalls. It is also home to bays and cliffs that reach hundreds of feet above sea level. As it is a popular tourist destination, Guam features a variety of hotels and attracts visitors with its duty-free status.

The U.S. commonwealth of Guam is considered a territory.
The U.S. commonwealth of Guam is considered a territory.

Guam has a rich historical and cultural heritage. Ferdinand Magellan first reached Guam in 1521 while circumnavigating the globe for Spain. The island was claimed for Spain in 1565 by General Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. Spain began colonizing the island in 1668. From the late 1600s to the early 1800s, Guam was considered a stopover point along the trade route that existed between Mexico and the Philippines

In 1898, control of Spain fell to the United States during the Spanish American War. The US Navy took over administrative jurisdiction of the island. During this time, many forms of modernization occurred on the island, including those related to agriculture, education, and public works. The US Navy used Guam as a base for refueling and certain communication matters until 1941.

World War II brought attacks on Guam by Japan; early in December of 1941, Japanese armed forces invaded the island. In response, the United States transported its military dependents off the island. For nearly three years, Guam was occupied by the Japanese, suffering the loss of an estimated 1,000 people during this time. On 21 July 1944, the United States returned to begin Battle of Guam. The U.S. was successful and managed to recapture the island, establishing it as an unincorporated, unorganized territory in 1950.

Today, Guam is sophisticated, featuring the typical amenities of modern life, including such things as high-speed Internet and cell-phone technology. Guamanian culture shows a combination of influences, including Spanish, American, Japanese, and Filipino contributions. Despites these influences, however, Guam’s most prevalent culture is that of the Chamorros, the island’s native people. Their influence is particularly evident in dances, cuisine, and games.

N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


Drink bottled water from the States. Agent Orange was used on Guam, it's in the water. Don't drink the milk that reconstituted there, it uses the water. Look up the contamination of Guam and you'll understand.


Guam might be a great place to visit but not live. Doctors who lose their licenses in the states can practice here. Everything is expensive because it is shipped in. Guam does not produce anything. Yes it does have beautiful sunsets and great scuba diving. That is why you should visit and not live here.


@Azuza - I'm glad your sister likes living in Guam. I was actually reading an article about the military bases there awhile back. There are several! The Department of Defense is one of the main employers of people who live in Guam. Also, the US is considering adding more personnel and bases to Guam sometime soon.

Anyway, I think a lot of people in the United States don't even know about Guam. Which is crazy because it's a US territory! The only reason I'm a little bit familiar with Guam is because I had a friend in high school who was from Guam.


My sister lives in Guam with her husband. He's in the Air Force, and he's stationed out there for the time being. They really like living there! I mean, it's a beautiful tropical island. Who wouldn't?

However, there are a few downsides to the living in Guam. As someone else mentioned, Guam travel is expensive. No one in the family can really afford to go visit them. I know I can't! I'm probably not going to see her again until they are stationed somewhere else, unless they decide to come home for a visit.

Also, Guam sometimes gets typhoons, tropical storms and other scary weather.


@Izzy78 - I agree, a lot of history classes don't even really cover the Spanish-American War and the Treaty of Paris except enough to talk about Teddy Roosevelt. We actually ended up with Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines after that war.

As for what Guam is like, my aunt and uncle went there a couple of years ago and told me about it. Like the article mentions, it is very civilized. They said it reminded them of a cross between the US Southwest and Miami. I guess because of the tropical setting but Spanish influence.

They said one of the funnest things to do was scuba diving. Guam has a lot of areas where you can swim with different tropical fishes. They really like the outdoors, too, so they took a couple of hikes through some of the tropical forests.


I didn't realize Guam had such an interesting history. I definitely didn't know that we won it in the Spanish American War and that it had been occupied by the Japanese during World War II.

I think that is something our school systems should spend more time teaching. In all my years of school, I don't think I ever learned anything about Guam or Puerto Rico and how they ended up as US territories and what their real function is. I know some people that even think Guam is in the Caribbean.

The article says that a lot of the culture of Guam is derived from the native people. Do they have any special cuisine or anything that would be new to most people? Does anyone know anything else interesting about Guam either in terms of history or culture or anything?


I always assumed Guam was bigger than what it really is. Since it is only about 46 miles long, do they have any coast to coast trails built that you can hike? It seems like that would be a really good attraction for people who are into long distance hiking. I'm sure the views would be great as well.

I don't know much about geography, but what is the closest major country to Guam? It sounds like it would probably be closer to Japan or the Philippines than Hawaii. Is that right? What is the country like in general? Is it sort of mountainous and tropical like Hawaii or more temperate?


@nextcorrea - We looked into traveling to Guam for a vacation a few years ago. I guess a lot of the cost would really depend on where you live. We live on the east coast, and it would cost about $1500 to travel to Guam, but only about $700 to go to the Bahamas, so that's what we did. Part of the problem is that flights to Guam only leave from the major Pacific airports like LAX. The ones we looked at also had a stopover in Hawaii. If you were already on the west coast, it might be a little more feasible, since you would be cutting down the distance by about 3000 miles.

One of these days I still hope we get a chance to go. From what I have read, it is a wonderful place to go. For anyone who has been there, what are some of the best destinations and attractions that you would suggest?


How expensive is it to travel to Guam? I have heard in a few places that Guam is a great place to go for the budget traveler but so far I have not been able to find any great deals.

It seems like going to Guam is just about as expensive as going to any of the islands in the Caribbean. Does anyone know where I can find cheap flights and cheap places to stay? I do not need to stay in the nicest places, I just want to experience the island.


People hear of Guam and they think that it must be really far away and very under developed. But the truth is that Guam is a beautiful country with a wonderful native population and one of the nicest places you can vacation.

I have been there with my wife twice. We first went on our honeymoon and recently went again. There are beautiful beaches, delicious food, incredible sights and lots of modern amenities. Going to Guam is like going to any other island paradise but it is less crowded and not as over developed. People should really consider it if they are looking for a unique trip.

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