Last updated on November 17, 2022 by Wandering our World
The vast Pacific Ocean is both the largest and deepest body of water on our blue planet. So, what better way to unwind from the stresses of modern life than to spend a few weeks sunbathing on a tiny speck in the middle of this vast ocean?
And for many, that choice comes down to the difficult decision of working out which one is better – Guam or Hawaii.
These remote islands of the Pacific Ocean have been welcoming serenity-seeking tourists for many a year, and with their promise of white-sand beaches, a tropical climate, a unique culture, and a laid-back attitude, it’s easy to see why the islands are so popular. However there are important differences.
Guam is a beautiful little island that is perfect if you’re looking for somewhere away from tourist hotpots, with an excellent climate and plenty to keep you occupied.
But Hawaii has much more choice for accommodation, activities, restaurants, and is full of diverse landscapes with the opportunity to surf the world’s best waves and climb active volcanoes.
However that’s just scratching the surface when it comes to the similarities and important differences between these once in a lifetime destinations.
So if spending time on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean sounds appealing, then read on as we are going to compare two of the Pacific’s island gems – Guam and Hawaii – to help you choose your perfect Pacific vacation.
Below we show you which is better for families, beaches, hotels, which is cheaper and far more. All so you can make the right decision.
Let’s dive in!
- Which Is Easier To Get To
- Which Is Easier To Get Around
- Which Has The Most Impressive National Parks
- Which Is Better For Beaches
- Which Is Best For Surfing
- Which Is Best For Scuba Diving
- Which Has The Best Hotels
- Where You Should Stay According To Your Budget
- Which Is Better For Food
- Which Is Best For Families
- What Time Of Year Is Best
- Which Is More Expensive
- Which Is The Better Choice
Which Is Easier To Get To?
You won’t be surprised to learn that both destinations will require a reasonably long flight out into the blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean. But, ultimately, the ease with which you can reach these destinations will depend on your starting point.
Both destinations are reachable via commercial flights from either side of the Pacific. However, due to their geographical positions, Hawaii is a little easier to reach from the US side of the Pacific, and Guam, to the west, is easier from Asia or Australia.
If you are traveling from, or through, the US, you would need to fly via Hawaii to reach Guam, with a seven-hour flight covering the expanse of ocean between the two. Check out the flights from Delta Airlines and United Airlines.
Reaching Hawaii from the US is relatively easy — there are direct flights from a slew of major US airports, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Dallas, and many more.
From the Asian side of the Pacific, you can find direct flights to both Hawaii and Guam quite easily. The major airports of the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan all have direct flights leaving for these two sets of Pacific islands.
There are also direct flights connecting Australia and New Zealand to Hawaii from Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland.
Which Is Easier To Get Around?
If you listed the island of Guam and the eight major Hawaiian Islands—Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and Hawaii—in order of size, Guam would be the sixth largest of the nine islands. And, yes, size is important – when it comes to getting around at least.
In terms of moving around your chosen destination, the small size of Guam will make it easy to explore – much more so than Hawaii. Guam is a mere thirty miles long and, at its widest point, just twelve miles wide.
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To explore Guam, you have three main options: tourist buses; public transport; and rental cars. You can rent a car from the usual major companies at Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport upon your arrival. This option gives you the most freedom to explore as and where you choose.
The organized tourist bus tours are another way to get out and about in Guam. These buses are reasonably priced and are great for exploring the major tourist attractions, but you are limited by their planned tour routes.
The cheapest option is to jump on a public bus, but again, if you want to get off the beaten track a little, these public buses will also limit your destination choices.
Exploring one island in Hawaii is also pretty straightforward, but if you want to explore other islands within the state, things get slightly more complicated.
But the good news is that inter-island flights run regularly between the main islands and they won’t bust the budget too much.
The easiest way to explore each of the individual islands is also via rental car. The islands, especially the larger ones, do also have public buses running. Depending on how far you wish to stray from the beaten path, these buses may serve your needs perfectly too.
Which Has The Most Impressive National Parks?
Guam: National Parks
With Guam being such a small territory, it’s not surprising that it doesn’t boast an array of national parks. Yet as an unincorporated territory of the United States, it does have one official US national park – the War In The Pacific National Historical Park.
This park was established to commemorate the sacrifice of US service members and civilians during the Pacific campaigns of World War II and to preserve the natural environment.
Hawaii: National Parks
Nature lovers visiting Hawaii have eight national parks to choose from! However, depending on which islands you plan to visit, it may not be practical to visit all eight parks during your vacation.
Visitors to the Big Island of Hawaii should definitely plan a trip to the aptly-named Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This impressive park is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes—Kilauea and Mauna Loa—so it is worth checking the US National Parks Service’s alerts to make sure there are no current closures in place. You can ever see lava flowing into the sea at Big Island!
Visitors to Hawaii’s Oahu Island can also pay their respects to World War II service members by visiting the Pearl Harbor National Memorial. This monument to one of the major incidents of WWII offers a glimpse back into the strategic importance of these islands.
History enthusiasts and nature lovers alike will enjoy the breathtaking scenery of Kalaupapa National Historic Park when visiting Molokai. The remote Kalaupapa Peninsula was where the first leprosy sufferers of Hawaii were sent to be isolated. Aside from the history, the rugged landscape of this coastline is simply breath-taking.
Not to be outdone by its neighbors, Maui is also home to an impressive national park—Heleakala National Park. A hike to the summit of this volcano will surely take your breath away!
So for national park lovers – and nature lovers in general – Hawaii may be the better choice than Guam simply due to the huge array of national parks, scenery and even active volcanoes!
Which Is Better For Beaches?
Both Hawaii and Guam can offer the chance to unwind and relax during your vacation. If your idea of relaxing whilst on vacation includes plenty of time lying in the sand, then both destinations can offer you soft-white-sand beaches for your sun-worshipping.
Guam: The Beaches
Beach lovers in Guam should check out Gun Beach, Matapang Beach, and Tumon Beach.
Gun Beach is a short drive north of Tumon and is perfect for catching a few rays, snorkeling, and taking in the sunset. And Gun Beach Bar can provide the drinks that may enhance the sight of the sun slipping into the sea.
Matapang Beach, to the south of Tumon, is another fine stretch of sand worth a visit. This beach is great for families too, as there is a lifeguard on duty. Its convenient location close to the town may mean that the beach can get busy at times, but the soft sand and warm ocean are a welcome setting in which to relax and chill.
Tumon Beach is the best-known of Guam’s beaches. It also boasts a convenient location, great bars and nightlife, excellent sunbathing, and a vibrant coral reef to explore by snorkel.
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Hawaii: The Beaches
Hawaii is able to boast one of the world’s most iconic beaches – Waikiki Beach. This famous beach lies next to Honolulu on Oahu Island’s south shore. It’s a great white-sand beach, perfect for sunbathing, snorkeling, and, of course, surfing.
If you plan to explore the other Hawaiian islands besides Oahu, there are plenty more pristine beaches to check out too. Poipu Beach in Kauai is one of Hawaii’s best beaches and a perfect spot to swim and snorkel in the turquoise waters, and if you are lucky, you may get to meet an endangered Hawaiian monk seal.
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And visitors to the Big Island can get their fill of superb, soft sand at Hapuna Beach, on the island’s north-west coast. Hawaii’s longest beach will not disappoint! This is another delightful spot to relax and enjoy the surrounding natural beauty of Hawaii.
Which Is Best For Surfing?
There are no prizes for guessing which of the two Pacific destinations is ideal for seasoned surfers – that’s Hawaii of course.
However if you are not an experienced surfer and would like to try, don’t be too quick to dismiss Guam as a great location to book your first surf lesson.
Head to Talofofo Beach in the south of Guam for some excellent and fun waves. Umatac Bay is another option to check out, as is Rick’s Reef, situated close to the airport.
If you have never tried surfing, Guam would be a great place to book your first lesson. Then next year, you can head to Hawaii and wow the Waikiki line-up with your newly-acquired wave-riding skills.
Surfing and Hawaii go hand-in-hand. And as the birthplace of surfing, Hawaii is at the top of most surfers’ bucket lists.
The coastlines of Hawaii offer some superb surfing spots and will keep even the most experienced surfers happy.
If you have never tried surfing before, don’t fret — Hawaii caters to beginner surfers too. However beginners should be cautious as the conditions can be hazardous to those who are unfamiliar, and you should seek professional advice and tutoring — do not expect to be surfing your first barrel wave during your first lesson.
Which Is Best For Scuba Diving & Snorkeling?
Many of the islands in the Pacific feature on the bucket lists of avid scuba divers. And for good reason too, and both Guam and Hawaii offer gin-clear water and an abundance of marine life to satisfy visiting divers.
That’s because the distances from the large continental land masses ensure less-polluted and clearer waters than in many destinations, and the high tides bring in nutrients from the deep Pacific to enable marine ecosystems to thrive.
And with the Pacific Ocean being a battleground of the Second World War, there are a few historical wrecks beneath the waves to check out too.
Guam offers the most diverse marine life in US waters, and its year-round warm water and excellent visibility make it a great place to dive. Those conditions suit beginners and the more advanced alike.
History buffs may enjoy diving Guam’s two World War II wrecks, whilst the Blue Hole is suitable for advanced divers. And the turtles and colorful fish will keep divers of all levels happy when cruising the reefs.
Visitors to the Big Island in Hawaii should not miss the chance to night dive with one of the ocean’s largest denizens—the manta ray. The Kona Manta Ray Night Dive is an iconic dive and is sure to be on every diver’s wish list.
With underwater floodlights lighting the reef, the mantas come in to feed on the plankton attracted to the lights. Having these majestic creatures swoop over your head is a truly magical experience.
Aside from the mantas, Hawaii also has a couple of wrecks at diveable depths, including a seaplane wreck. Sharks and turtles can be seen on the Hawaiian reefs too, making it a great spot to learn to dive or for certified divers to explore the reef systems.
Which Has The Best Hotels?
Both Hawaii and Guam have some excellent hotels to choose from for your vacation. The big-name hotel chains are present in both locations – Hilton, Hyatt, and Wyndham, amongst others.
However as Hawaii is a much larger destination than Guam, there will be more choices in Hawaii. But both places have some fantastic options.
On Guam, the highest concentration of resorts is around Tumon, in the center of the island. The central location is a perfect base for exploring the island, and it is convenient for shopping too. This central area is your best bet for finding a hotel to suit your budget.
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Hawaii is a hugely popular vacation destination, and as such, there is perhaps too much choice when searching for a suitable hotel!
All the major islands offer a full range of accommodation, from backpacker hostels to the plush five-star all-inclusive resorts of Honolulu and Waikiki. Choosing a hotel in Hawaii can be a daunting task, simply due to the amount of choice compared to the much smaller Guam.
However with the range of accommodation to suit all budgets in Hawaii, it will likely suit those travelers on a smaller budget.
Related: Tips For Backpacking In Hawaii
Where You Should Stay According To Your Budget
Shoestring: Set just five minutes walk from the beach, and in the heart of Tumon, Guam Plaza Resort & Spa is a fantastic option for shoestring travelers who want to be in the heart of the action but still close to the serenity of the sea. This may not be the poshest hotel on Guam, but with an on-site pool and great facilities, the price is very good. See photos and rates here!
Budget: Set on 32 acres of tropical gardens, and just a few minutes walk from an idyllic white sand beach, staying at Hilton Guam Resort feels like absolute luxury but without blowing your budget. And with five tennis courts, five swimming pools, and a waterpark, there’s plenty to keep every member of the family entertained. See photos and rates here!
Luxury: Overlooking Tumon Bay, and with the beach right on your doorstep, there’s few better views in the world than those you’ll get at Dusit Thani Guam Resort. Sip on a cocktail at the pool bar, watch the waves gently lap against the beach, then eat at one of the resort’s island famous restaurants. If you need to de-stress, this could be the perfect place for you. See photos and rates here!
Shoestring: Just one minute from the beach and with free bike rental, Hakuna Matata Hostel on Maui is fun, cheap and friendly. You’ll be making memories in no time here, and without damaging your bank account. See photos and rates here!
Budget: Located in the heart of Waikiki, 2 minutes walk to the famous Waikiki Beach and surrounded by shopping and dining is the luxury boutique Halepuna Waikiki hotel. This four-star hotel will stretch budgets, but the panoramic views of the ocean and city – alongside the gorgeous infinity pool – will be worth it. See photos and rates here!
Luxury: Montage Kapalua Bay on Maui is one of those hotels we all wish to stay in one day. It’s extravagant beachfront luxury on a 24-acre landscaped resort with unparalleled views to the sea and beach access. It’s everything you’d expect of a five-star resort and more. See photos and rates here!
Which Is Better For Food?
Food is very important on the islands of the Pacific Ocean, and Guam and Hawaii are no exceptions. Hearty chicken dishes, seafood, and rice feature on the menus, and you will not go hungry.
When in Guam, don’t pass up the opportunity to try Kadon Pika. This spicy stew is a local favorite and will satisfy the biggest of appetites.
And for local cuisine in Hawaii, you have to try the poke bowls (see photo below). Originating from Hawaii, this raw-fish dish is flavored with Hawaiian sea salt, chopped roasted candlenuts, and seaweed…
For fine-dining, both destinations have some high-end restaurants which are perfect for any special occasion. For sushi lovers, Maru Sushi on Oahu is a must-try. This restaurant is famed for being the world’s first Michelin-starred sushi bar in Honolulu, and will not disappoint.
In Guam, a steak at Alfredo’s Steakhouse inside the Dusit Thani Guam Resort is not to be missed. Enjoy the succulent cuts with an excellent ocean view…
Which Is Best For Families?
There is plenty to do in both locations for the whole family, although Hawaii – as the bigger and more popular tourist destination – tends to have more activities geared towards families and children.
Guam: Family Trips
Aside from the beaches and nature walks, Guam has some interesting parks to enjoy with the kids. The Tarza Magical Adventure Zone and Water Park in Tumon are very popular with the younger visitors. The park features water slides and a variety of playground areas to keep the children (and adults) entertained.
Also located in Tumon is the Cushing Zoo. Zoos are always a winner with kids, and this one is no exception. Highlighting the local fauna of the Marianas Islands, the zoo provides an educational and fun day out for all.
For children with an interest in marine life, Guam’s beaches are a great place for some family snorkeling. If the kids are not comfortable in the water, or perhaps a little young to swim, why not take them to the aquarium at UnderWater World Guam?
Hawaii: Family Trips
Hawaii has a few aces in its hand when it comes to keeping the little ones entertained.
One great way to entertain the kids is to visit one or more of the twelve filming locations used in Jurassic Park! Kualoa Ranch, on the island of Oahu, is one such recognisable location. If you are traveling around the archipelago, why not try to tick them all off?
Oahu is also home to the best choices for family-friendly hotels and offers many more activities for the whole family, including Wet ‘n’ Wild water park, Sea Life aquarium, and Honolulu Zoo.
Elsewhere within Hawaii, Maui also has great kid-friendly activities, including the aquarium at Maui Ocean Center, snorkel tours to Molokini, and, depending on the time of year, whale watching tours. In short, Hawaii is bursting at the seams with family friendly activities.
What Time Of Year Is Best?
Both Guam and Hawaii are located within the tropics, with the exception of one of the Hawaiian Islands—Necker Island. This means both enjoy the sun and warm temperatures throughout the year.
Guam has an average daily temperature of close to twenty-seven degrees Celsius during all months, with the driest period being between December and June.
Hawaii experiences similar weather patterns, especially with regard to temperature throughout the year. For Hawaii, the best time to travel is generally considered to be between April and October. Although, if some serious surfing is on your agenda, a little earlier in the year may afford you better surf conditions.
Which Is More Expensive?
Due to their geographical location, certain items can prove a little costly in both of these spectacular destinations. Many items need to be exported, with long distances equating to higher prices compared to similar items in most countries.
Fuel, for example, can be more expensive than in mainland America, but with journeys being short on the islands, you won’t need to buy much of it when exploring.
Overall, Hawaii is a little more expensive than Guam. It’s a little farther out to sea too, which partially explains the higher prices.
Hotels can be very expensive in Hawaii too, especially if you are looking for an all-inclusive high-rise resort in and around Honolulu and Waikiki. The luxury options in Guam will be a little friendlier to your bank balance.
However, due to the sheer volume of choices, it’s easier to pick up an accommodation bargain when looking to visit Hawaii.
So if you are backpacking or traveling on a tighter budget, maybe Hawaii will enable you to stretch your accommodation funds a little farther than a stay in a similar property on Guam would.
Hawaii vs Guam: Which Is The Better Choice
While both of these locations in the middle of the Pacific Ocean are incredible, and you will have a great time on either one, if you have never visited either before, perhaps Hawaii should be at the top of your list.
But you could make the argument that comparing the minuscule island of Guam to the much larger State of Hawaii is akin to having a featherweight boxer enter the ring with a heavyweight.
Guam is a beautiful little island, with an excellent climate and plenty to keep you occupied. But Hawaii has much more choice for accommodation, activities, restaurants, and diverse landscapes.
Do not write Guam off though. Maybe pencil it in for the next vacation after your Hawaii trip, but don’t discount it completely.
Whichever location you choose, you will have a fantastic vacation. Enjoy the idyllic beaches, the excellent snorkeling and scuba diving, the nature walks, and the peace and quiet of a remote, tropical island in the Pacific Ocean!