Wednesday, October 9, 2019

When in Guam: A Guide on Airport Transfer, Outlet Shopping and More (Part 1)

With Guam, being just 4 hours away from Manila, the westernmost point of US territory grew as a popular destination for Filipinos itching to travel to America. And with Cebu Pacific's enticing promos, R and I spontaneously booked for a week long vacation in this small island.  

Hello, Guam
Guam is a small island that can be easily toured in less than half a day. But before any sightseeing or shopping, one must know how to get to your hotel from the airport. 
We landed around 10am at Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport and the place was like an abandoned building. There were no restaurants around and only a handful of rent-a-car counters open. We also didn't see any tourist center to help us find a bus stop to bring us to Tumon Bay. 
Turns out that there's no airport bus in Guam, or at least at the airport's arrival area. That leaves travelers three options: hail a cab, avail of your resort's overpriced transfers or rent a car. 

We opted to go with the first option which we found relatively easy as there was an airport taxi right outside the arrival gate. Note that there is no airport taxi lane and the cabs coordinate with each other when it's time for the next one to head down from the parking lot and wait for passengers. 
Standard taxi fare costs $2.40 plus $4.00 for the first mile and $0.80 for every succeeding 1/4 mile. There is also an extra charge of $1.00 per luggage based on the taxi sign by the airport but it seems that this is not really observed by cab drivers. With our first resort Hilton at the other end of Tumon Bay, our fare amounted to $24.00. It somehow felt like it should have been less based on Google Map's computed route but we barely had energy to do the math and ruin our first day of vacation. After all, it was a smooth ride and still came out cheaper than booking a hotel transfer which costs $15.00 per person. (It seems that there is no hotel that offers free airport transfers and usual one way transfer rate is $15.00 while some go as high as $25.00.)
Most, if not all, hotels are very strict with check-in. Even though we felt that there weren't a lot of guests around, check-in starts at 3 p.m. unless if you are willing to splurge a half day room rate to get to your room a few hours earlier. We also cannot use any of the hotel facilities until we get checked in. So we were left with the option to just lounge around the lobby or the cafe adjacent to the reception. Well, we could also go to Duty Free Store (DFS) and board the free shuttle but we wanted to take a nap as soon as we get checked in.
Instead, we decided to kill some time by the beach. There are several lounge chairs around and even a handful of day beds. Do note that the day beds are subject to reservation. I'm just not sure if there's a fee to use it though I do not recommend using it as it doesn't look clean at all.
We also dropped by the 24 hour cafe of Hilton to grab a sandwich. Quite steep at $8 but it was filling. 
After accomplishing some forms and settling our security deposit of $100, we were finally checked-in.
Our Deluxe Twin Room (PHP7,500/night) is equipped with two comfortable twin beds, coffee and tea nook, work desk, mini fridge and small bathroom with bathtub. 
Our room also has television but we can't seem to change the channel no matter what button we press. We were stuck watching the Hilton commercial. 
Wi-Fi, though mentioned in Agoda to be included, is not free in the room. You have to pay $15.00 a night for standard connection. But this fee is waived if you are a Hilton member. This was also confirmed by the front desk staff.
With our first resort turning out to be far from everything else, we had less dining options. Thankfully, Hilton's four restaurants seem to be good based on relatively high ratings on Tripadvisor. We were too tired though on our first day and ended up just sleeping in before 9 p.m..
The early bird indeed gets the worm as we got to enjoy the pool without a lot of people on our first morning. 
We tried to get a glimpse of the sunrise but it was too cloudy that day. (Note: You can only enjoy the sunset from resorts heading towards Ypao Beach.)
But we were rewarded by an amazing performance of what we think is a Kingfisher that caught its breakfast right before us.

The water too was too low to snorkel in the morning so we decided to use the pool instead. 
The counter for towels doesn't open till 8 a.m. though and there were no towels available till around 8:30 a.m.. In order not to feel cold while waiting for towels, we swam around for 2 hours. 
Since Hilton's beach front can be easily accessed from the public Ypao beach, pool attendants issue wrist tags for us to wear. Colors also change depending on the day of the week. 
I love that Hilton has a lot of lounge chairs for its guests. There are also four swimming pools with the one nearest the beach path with depth of 6 feet. 
The infinity pool has the best view but it gets easily crowded come 9 a.m..
The highlight of our stay though was the pool slide beside the kiddie pool. It's just a short slide but added a bit of fun to our lazy day.
The best time to snorkel is around 11 am when the tide's at its peak. 
However, most of the corals are dead and we only spotted a few fish nearby. Perhaps it would be better to book a snorkeling tour if you want to see more corals and fish. 
For lunch, we opted to go to Guam Premier Outlets (GPO) which is on Hilton's side of the road. We took the free shuttle from Pacific Island Club (PIC) which is about 750 meters from Hilton. It looked really close on the map but was a bit tiring too!
GPO has this 80's or 90's vibe with the mall layout and music that plays. 
There are several restaurants surrounding the mall but it also has a food court on the lower ground. We opted to go with food court as it was just too hot to walk outside.
Since Guam attracts a lot of Japanese, Korean and Filipino tourists, the food court has a lot of Asian options. But we decided to go with Charley's Philly Steaks and got one of its massive philly cheesesteaks with ultimate fries on the side and fruit soda. 
At $17, it seemed a bit steep but its size was great for sharing and we couldn't even finish one order.
GPO is far from the other outlets I've been to. There are only a few options around and the deals aren't that great too. Perhaps because Guam's still a bit too far from United States?
I did get some nice shoes at Ross though and I'm sure you'll get some too if you don't mind the long line to the payment counters. 
Tired from all the walking and intense heat, we were knocked out as soon as we got back to our room. 
I have to admit, its beds are really comfortable. And the whole stay was a lot better than what we've read online. 

However, when things seemed to be going smoothly, our check out had a small hiccup. We were charged for using Wi-Fi and the front desk staff wanted to deduct $30 from our security deposit. I explained that one of the receptionists mentioned that it will be waived for us. And she began to question why it should be waived. Thankfully, I'm a Hilton member and things were straightened out before heading to our next hotel. 

For those planning to stay in Hilton, best to register online as a Hilton member. Also, better to stock up on snacks as there aren't a lot of stores in the area. There is a Bon Voyage store though which offers reasonably priced liquor and beach essentials. Snacks though are overpriced. 
If you can't resist, best to snack on Fisherman's Cove's Lobster Roll ($16) instead. I loved this with its homemade chili aioli. You might also want to check out its full scale restaurant which is open for dinner.

... to be continued.

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