Discovering the local cuisine is one of the best parts of traveling. The island of Guam has a rich culinary tradition, thanks in part to its own unique position on the map.
Situated in the Pacific Ocean, it is geographically closer to Japan, the Philippines, and China than the mainland United States. The island was a Spanish colony until the end of the 19th century. During this period, it was a popular rest stop in the galleon trade between Mexico and the Philippines.
After the Spanish-American war of 1898, Guam became a territory of the United States. Due to its history and unique position as a trading outpost in the Pacific, Guam has developed a local cuisine that has taken on influences from Spanish, Filpino, Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Mexican, and American culinary traditions.
And what’s even better, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a great meal when you visit this U.S. territory. Here are some tips for foodies traveling around Guam:
Ask the Locals
Talk to waiters, bartenders, and other staff at your hotel. Ask them what their favorite local dishes are, and what local restaurants in Guam they would recommend.
Find out the price range they normally pay for food, and aim to stick within that range. Your hotel concierge may have a recommended list of places, but it’s best to cross-check this with other locals to make sure they’re not your typical tourist traps.
Dine Outdoors in Guam
Guam is a tropical island surrounded by clear blue waters. The seafood is bountiful, and the Chamorro— the native people of Guam—have a long history of preparing food outdoors using open flame. Common cooking methods include grilling, frying, and roasting.
Fresh fish, octopus, and lobster are grilled with vegetables, fruits, or spices to provide flavor. The Spanish also introduced chicken and pork to the island.
These were easily adapted to traditional Guamanian cooking and resulted in popular dishes like Kadon Pika, a creamy stew of chicken braised in soy sauce, onions, vinegar, garlic and topped with coconut cream. With the country’s long tradition of grilling food, it’s no surprise that the barbecue is very popular in Guam.
The island is dotted with barbecue joints and smokehouses that are popular with locals and tourists alike. Enjoy eating these meals al fresco for the most authentic experience.
Take a Food Tour in Guam
A number of tour operators run organized food tours of Guam. This can be a great way to experience the diverse cuisine of the island. When picking a food tour, it’s best to do a little research ahead of time.
Check out how many stops the tour offers and the number of people in the group. Going in smaller groups of 6-8 individuals allows you to move easily from stop to stop while reducing waiting times at each dining establishment. Additionally, a small group gives you the opportunity to really interact with your companions and make friends.
On the day of the tour, refrain from eating a large meal prior to the start of a jaunt. It’s also wise to let tour organizers know about any food allergies you may have ahead of time. Remember to be open to trying new flavors and local delicacies you might not have had before.
At each stop, ask questions so you can learn more about the food and culture. Also, bring your own water and take sips between stops to keep your palate cleansed. Pace yourself, and don’t feel compelled to eat your entire dish at every stop.
A food tour has multiple stops, and you don’t want to fill up at the first or second place and be unable to enjoy the succeeding stops.
Explore the Market in Guam
Wandering the local market is one of the easiest ways to engage in local culture and keep to your budget. Walk around and take in the smells and sights.
Check which food stalls enjoy long lines and be sure to sample their dishes. Another budget alternative is to visit the grocery store. Observe local food shopping habits as you pick up your own essentials.
You can even put together your own picnic meal for a day at the beach or grab some snacks to take on a hike.
Splurge on Lunch Instead of Dinner
If you have singled out a particular restaurant that you really want to try but you noticed it might stretch your budget, consider having lunch instead of dinner at the location.
Lunch menus are typically cheaper and will make less of a dent in your budget. You can also try splitting dishes with your companions in order to try multiple menu items.
Service with a Smile
To understand the culture is to understand the service. The Guamanians are friendly, hospitable people. Should you find yourself invited to dine with the locals, keep in mind that dinner is a social occasion and there may be a long wait between each thoughtfully prepared dish.
The service philosophy in many local restaurants is similar. A thoughtful and casual pace permeates life on the island, and it’s best to go with the flow. If you wish to dine in a hurry, there are a number of American chain restaurants on the island.
Pick a restaurant that’s a member of a franchise or housed in a hotel chain where an emphasis on speed is valued. With its rich culinary tradition, Guam definitely offers something for everyone. Enjoy exploring at your leisure, and savor every bite as it comes.