Capital | Hagatna (Agana)
Population | 183,286 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 549 SQ KM
Official Language | English
Holidays | Discovery Day, first Monday in March (1521)
Currency | Dollar (USD)
Time Zone | UTC +10
Best Time to Visit | December to March (the dry season)
Connecting with the Culture | Dodging Saipan’s golf courses to find that rare secluded beach. Slowing down to the village pace of Rota. Communing with monolithic latte stones or bodysurfing the beaches on Tinian. Whooping it up at a fiesta in Agana’s Chamorro Village. Getting romantic at Guam’s Two Lovers Point where two legendary lovers plunged to a precipitous death.
Read | Micronesia: Winds of Change, spanning the history from 1521 to 1951 with accounts of early explorers, missionaries and locals.
Listen | to It’s Party Time in the Marianas by the Castro Boyz for a funky mix of English and Chamorro tunes.
Watch | George Tweed’s short film Return to Guam, which traces the journey back to the island by a former US serviceman.
Eat | anything with finadene, a hot sauce zinging with red peppers, soy sauce, lemon juice and onions that turns dishes into a real Chamorro meal.
Drink | a major American cola—they’re all here.
In a Word | Hafa adai (a catch-all greeting encompassing Hello, What’s up and How are you?)
Characteristics | Crystal-clear blue waters and white-sand beaches; crusty American GIs comparing war wounds; package tourists ambling past centuries-old latte stones; beach bars pouring all day and night; spicy Spanish-inspired food.
Surprises | The Marianas are at the edge of the deep-sea Mariana Trench, so if measured from their bases the islands are actually the world’s highest mountains, dwarfing Mt Everest by 10,000 feet.