Guam is the travel destination where you can find a real paradise—a place far away from all reality, where you will be so blissfully bored you’ll have nothing else to do but lie on a beach, have a cocktail, enjoy a good book, and take a nap (perhaps consecutively or at the same time).
Hafa adai (pronounced “half-a-day”— really, I’m not kidding) is Guam’s version of “Aloha.” It means “hello” in Chamorro, the language of the native people of Guam. It is also humorously referred to as the way Guamanians work and play—very laid back and casual.
And for any frazzled American—laid back and casual is how we want to spend any vacation or holiday—right? Yet, it always amazes me that when I go on a trip or vacation, all I seem to do is create a schedule of events and plan my days “off” with everything but relaxing moments. Sometimes I feel like planning for a vacation is more like planning a strategic military offensive. Sometimes I just really want to get a tan, read a trashy magazine, and drink until I am blind.
And believe me, Guam is the place where you can do just that. Sure, there’s a lot of history on the island, and a number of World War II monuments, as well as rich Chamorro history and culture, but after you see all of that, there is little else to do but to relax and unwind. I was forced not to check my e-mail every five minutes (no cell phone use in Guam, unless you want to pay international phone rates), so my social media demands were killed. I didn’t have to plan for hours of driving, sell an organ to buy amusement park tickets, or have any kind of schedule. I woke up when I woke up, drove to a beach, parked my butt, read a book, swam, snorkeled, took some pictures, took a nap, met friends for drinks, had more drinks, and then went to bed to do this all again the next day. Not a hard days vacation, right?
Now I know Guam is usually not on the top of a “Dream Getaway” or a “Win a Trip for Two to Sunny Guam” listing in any travel magazine—but it really should be. Guam is where you can completely relax, and get away from it all. So when my husband suggested it, I agreed we should spend our winter break there– it seemed ideal– warm, sunny, a chance to visit with dear friends we hadn’t seen in years, good food, and lots of beach time. It was a no brainer.
Guam is basically a small island in the Pacific Ocean and the Philippine Sea. It played a large part in World War II and is still a major strategic base for the U.S. military. I want to say it’s like Hawaiʻi, but it’s really not—there’s a lot less traffic, less people, and less tourists. It’s more humid and everyone moves and lives at a much slower pace. It is one flight away from Honolulu, no layovers, no transfers, no real problems for anyone to get there. It’s technically a foreign country, even though it is a U.S. territory, and you will need a passport to enter and exit the country.
The island is beautiful, green and lush, where caribous often roam freely, and the beaches for the most part are undeveloped, complete with remnants of the Japanese pill boxes from World War II. The people are incredibly friendly—in two weeks I did not meet a rude server, shopkeeper, or salesclerk on the island. Even when I was being a pushy customer, or demanded some sort of special accommodation, they were willing to do what they needed to make me happy. How many of your local businesses can you say that about?
The food is amazing—eat chicken kelaguen, beef tinaktak, fried pita bread, and red rice until you are stuffed. Forget carbs, counting points, and calories, and just eat it all. If you need nightlife there are a few things to do– nightclubs and karaoke bars if you want to dance and have fun that way. Visiting Guam is Japan’s alternative to the Hawaiian vacation, so they have a small strip of high-end shops and hotels in Tumon Bay called Japantown, but if you want more local flavor, visit Chamorran Village for authentic Chamorro dancing, food, and culture. Visit the National Park’s “War in the Pacific” sites, the Governor’s Mansion, The Plaza de Espana, Latte Stone Park, Talafofo Falls, the Spanish Fort, Magellan’s Landing, and Two Lover’s Point.
That seems like a lot to see and do– but you can basically do it all in a day or two if depending on how much time you want to spend at each spot. Once we drove around the island and visited the historic spots– there wasn’t a lot left to do except relax. But perhaps that’s what we all need– a deserted island with beautiful beaches and even better restaurants. Perhaps getting stranded on Guam is the best way to really vacation, because all I know is, after two weeks on Guam, I was rested. I spent time, real time, talking with my family, and with the dear friends who were wonderful enough to welcome us into their homes. People looked at our faces, and said “Hafa adai” with complete sincerity, and even though we were just guests– they made us feel at home.
My advice to you when you’re picking your next island get away? Strand yourself on Guam. Your stress level and your busy hectic crazy life won’t ever regret it.