Tumon Bay: Time to explore Guam on foot
Although residents of Guam know Tumon as the tourism sector, filled with luxury shopping, dining, and hotels piercing the sky, it’s also home to sites that hold rich and impactful histories like many other villages on Guam. A few of these sites can be found by deviating from the asphalt, removing your shoes and taking some sandy footsteps down Tumon Bay, a roughly two mile stretch of white, powdery shores.
On the southernmost point of the bay, Ypao Beach Park is the first stop on the walk through history. The large property, scattered about with pavilions and playgrounds, is perfect for a weekend barbecue and holds the occasional concert on its sloping lawns. But the park’s history is that of a more somber nature: it sits on the site of an ancient Chamorro burial ground, which are common in the Tumon area. Additionally, the U.S. Navy established the area as a leper colony in the early 1900’s until the lepers were banished off the island shortly after. Today, the park is full of life and plays host to some of Guam’s largest annual events including the Guam Micronesia Island Fair, the Japan Autumn Festival, and the Ko’Ko’ Road Race. Ypao Beach Park is also home to the weekly Tumon Night Market.
Take to the sand and a few hundred footsteps will have you stumbling upon World War II-era pillboxes. The defensive outposts were set up as sentry posts to protect the shores against would-be American invaders. In these pillboxes, a bend at the knee takes you back nearly 80 years, and a look through the gunnery embrasures conjures images of American colors on the horizon, embodying the Chamorro people’s hope for liberation. Travel back to today and the pillboxes become a young one’s hideaway or a photo shoot waiting to happen.
Continue strolling and you’ll find yourself at the northernmost tip of Tumon Bay at Gun Beach, so named for the 20-centimeter Japanese defense gun nestled in the crook of a cliff. Just a few hundred feet from a popular beach bar and sand volleyball courts, the gun now seems oddly out of place, but serves as a humbling reminder of the kind of occupation the beach once had.
A historic tour of Tumon would be incomplete without visiting a memorial to what would be one of the most defining moments in Chamorro culture. Leaving the Gun Beach area and going back to the black top for a short drive will bring you to the Padre San Vitores Shrine. The statue seizes upon a moment from the year 1672, when Padre Diego Luis de San Vitores was killed for baptizing a Chamorro chief’s daughter without his consent. The incident ignited a war with the Spanish and almost resulted in total extinction of the Chamorro people. Christianity spread regardless, and along with the architecture and inflections on language, Catholicism serves as the most apparent reminder of Spanish influence on Guam.
These sites and sights from a walk in Tumon Bay are just a few ways you can Love History on Guam.