It’s a place many have heard about, but few actually know all that much about. Where is Guam? What is Guam? And how does Guam relate to the United States? We’ll dive into these questions and more in this post.
Where Is Guam?
Guam is a remote American island territory located in the Western Pacific Ocean. It is east of the Philippines, north of Papua New Guinea, and south of Japan. It is one of the Mariana Islands, a chain of mainly dormant volcanoes. Consistent with its volcanic origins, Guam is quite mountainous with a coastline of both steep cliffs and white sand beaches, and it is surrounded by deep channels and coral reefs.
The majority of Guam’s other neighbors are small Pacific islands. Tiny Guam itself has just over 160,000 permanent residents, yet boasts 77 miles of coastline. It is hot and humid throughout the year, with temperatures hovering between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit most of the time, and humidity rarely dropping below 60%.
Because of Guam’s proximity to the international date line, the territory has the unofficial, but frequently used motto – “Where America’s Day Begins.”
What Is Guam?
Because of its remote location and checkered history, many people are not even aware that Guam is a U.S. territory.
Originally the home of the indigenous Chamorro people, the first global power to colonize Guam was Spain, way back in the 17th century (officially, though they started landing there and using it as their own personal rest area at least a century earlier). Then in 1898, the United States was granted control of the island as part of peace terms in the Spanish-American War (along with the Philippines and Puerto Rico).
The United States lost Guam briefly during World War II when Japan occupied it for over two years, but gratefully added it back to their international shopping cart when the war ended.
Tourism on Guam
These days Guam is a peaceful place, even though it is still a major U.S. military base. This military presence, incidentally, is the island’s second largest source of income behind only tourism.
Surrounded by beautiful, tropical beaches and clear, blue ocean, Guam is in many ways the cliché of the idyllic Pacific island. Even the island’s northern tourist hub, Tumon, can seem like a familiar sight for tourists. It’s a busy, crowded place, full of hotels, bars, shopping malls, golf courses, and everybody’s favorite – novelty t-shirts!
Those who love Guam, however, are quick to point out that the rest of the island is nothing like Tumon. The southern part of the island, in particular, is quieter and known for its stunning beaches, cascading waterfalls, and traditional Chamorro villages. But Guam has plenty more to offer those tourists willing to make their way out to this remote corner of the Pacific.
- There is an impressive mix of food on Guam, with cuisine from all over the world as well as delicious local Chamorro barbecue and chicken kelaguen.
- Much like many Pacific islands, the people of Guam have a reputation for warmth, friendliness, and hospitality.
- Guam offers a vast array of incredible scuba diving sites, with rich marine life and a fascinating selection of WWII wrecks.
- If lying on the beach isn’t your thing, Guam is also an adrenalin hotspot, offering skydiving, parasailing, sport-fishing, off-roading, and windsurfing.
Ever since the 1980s, Guam has been pushing for increased independence, hoping to become a United States commonwealth similar to Puerto Rico. Failing that, however, another proposed alternative is to have Guam become an official state. Although neither has gotten all that close to happening, the issues are far from being dropped.
The United Nations has been actively promoting increased autonomy for territories like Guam, and developments in recent years suggest that the United States may be open to future changes. Another reason Guam is politically relevant at the moment, rather unfortunately, is that it has become one of the focal points for tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. As the two nations boast about their military strength, the island of Guam, which is within missile range of North Korea, finds itself caught in the middle. Thus far, there have yet to be any overt confrontations, and the U.S. and North Korea have been working on better relations.
Hopefully, for the sake of the Chamorro peoples, this will eventually blow over so the tiny island territory can get back to doing what it does best – food, culture, and relaxation.