Editor's Note: This is the first in a Spots on The Rock series exploring Guam's southwest, southeast, northwest and northeast coastlines.
If you're looking for life's reset button, and something shorter and closer to home than an "Eat Pray Love" soul-searching quest, then a coastal cruise down 9 miles of Guam's most beautiful, unblemished and sunbaked beaches for several hours should do the trick.
The hike along Guam's southwest coast is mostly level and travels across stretches of sandy beaches, but earns its difficulty rating for the six to eight hours of seaside strolling – sometimes across rocky slopes and through shallow water.
The trek in its entirety can be finished in six hours or less if hikers choose not to stop by certain destinations, not counting brief water breaks. If you do plan to stop by any one destination for a half hour or more, the hike can take at least eight hours.
In any case, start early in the day and keep track of time as you cruise the coast, checking off each destination as you pass.
For this particular series of hikes – four in one to be precise – there are six sights to see and many more in between as the adventure crosses across the entire coast of Umatac. The six stops include Facpi Point, Sella Bay, Cetti Bay, Fouha Bay, Umatac Bay and Toguan Bay. The first three destinations are quite a distance from any development, while the last three are located closer to the vicinity of main Umatac village.
A few safety notes:
• Remember, the hike is 9 miles long and takes nearly eight hours. Pack enough snacks and water to keep healthy and hydrated.
• Internet and phone service is scarce and spotty in this area. Make preparations and keep in mind options available in the event of emergencies.
• Check the National Weather Service website at www.prh.noaa.gov/guam and follow them on Facebook at @NWSGuam for weather updates and advisories. For up-to-date tide charts, visit www.tide-forecast.com/locations/Guam-Marianas/tides/latest.
• The weather and tide can change dramatically at any given time. Take shelter in inclement weather and avoid swimming or walking through water at high tide.
• This coastal trek is straightforward from start to finish. Stick to the shore and you're not likely to get lost. For more detailed directions and more information on each destination, search the hike name on PostGuam.com.
To start, begin walking south from Nimitz Beach Park en route to Facpi Point, where a large rock island lies a few minutes off the coast of a jutting headland. This destination was designated a national natural landmark in 1972.
The first leg of the hike requires walking through water, passing nearby residences. It's lawful to pass through the waters and shoreline near these homes, but refrain from entering or otherwise trespassing onto their property.
For the next few miles, it's a long walk on the beach, passing phenomenal volcanic rock formations and tons of marine life, including schools of fish, octopuses, starfish, clams and crabs. In the distance, Facpi Island serves as your compass.
Two headlands will require walking through shallow water to get around, possibly over slippery rock surfaces or sloshy sand beds. Crustaceans creep about these volcanic headlands, like a picture pulled out of National Geographic.
In about an hour, Facpi Point is but a hop, skip and a jump away. Judge the tide, and decide whether it is safe to make the 10-minute trek out to the limestone island. Even at low tide, note that there are pools and dips a few feet deep.
While at the offshore island, practice caution and care as you explore. The western side of the island offers sweeping views further south. The eastern side offers space to safely dive and snorkel in refreshing waters by the reef.
Sella and Cetti bays
Continue south to stunning Sella and Cetti bays by trudging back to shore after a dip in the sun and saltwater.
The next few miles are much like the last few, a mix of rocky headlands that will require wading through shallow water and long stretches of untouched beach beauty.
After two roundabouts, the next steps lead to Sella Bay, marked by its signature Spanish bridge, which is more than 300 years old. The bridge was constructed as part of a coastal highway commissioned by the island's Spanish government in the early 1800s, which intended to connect the port settlement of Umatac to the capital of Hagåtña – but was never finished.
Bask in this beautiful piece of Spanish past and soak in the shoreline before heading farther south.
Passing towering coconut trees standing at attention, around the corner is scenic Cetti Bay, with views of the vibrant southern mountains in the distance.
The blissful bay offers the best of the ocean from only a few feet into its cool waters. Colorful coral and fascinating fish create a fully stocked aquarium within the bay.
About midway through the hike, continue on to Fouha Bay, where local legend says human life began. Cruise south along the shore and round the northern end of the bay, which leads to more rocky headlands.
More crawling crustaceans call this wetland home and greet hikers on their way. Beware the potentially hazardous surf nearby and watch your step, avoiding a slip onto sharp rocks.
In about a mile from Cetti Bay, one final turn leads to the mouth of Fouha Bay, near Fouha Rock, which is sometimes referred to as the "cradle of civilization."
The area is abundant with archaeological artifacts from an ancient CHamoru settlement, whose inhabitants are thought to have been the first to make contact with Spanish navigators. In addition to Umatac Bay, Fouha was a prime port for the Spanish in the early 19th century.
Today, the bay is undeveloped and remains a historic, spiritual place where some island residents make pilgrimages in honor of their CHamoru ancestors. The bay is also supposed to be great for snorkeling and diving.
For the next leg of the hike, which will lead to Umatac Bay, hikers have two options:
• Head inland at Fouha Bay and look out for a jungle path that heads south. Follow the path uphill and through a short spot of jungle, and then out to Route 2, near a Guam Power Authority substation. Afterward, follow the road downhill to main Umatac village, near Fort Santo Angelo.
• Continue to follow the coast south of Fouha Bay to reach Umatac Bay. Note, this route crosses more rocky headlands, albeit closer to hazardous waters. If waters are too rough, turn around and use the first route.
Umatac and Toguan Bay
Stroll across the cobblestone shores of Umatac Bay and head south, passing the Umatac Cemetery. At the mouth of Umatac Bay, look over Guam's least populous village, which was once the island's most busy and bustling during Spanish times.
This last leg of the southwestern hike travels across another mile of sandy beach. There are common sightings of seabirds soaring in the air, crabs scurrying into dozens of sand holes and other rocky features.
Stroll through a brief ironwood jungle and hop across beds of soft sand, with views of the pristine Philippine Sea nearby.
Stumbling through the sand, take note of the volcanic rock formations rising from the shore. These are igneous rocks, essentially cooled-off lava plumes.
Near the end of this beach bonanza, you'll begin to hear the serene sound of waves crashing not too far from the shore! The reef is rather close here, and the waves roll in pretty impressive proportions.
After curving the corner of the beach, you'll reach the mouth of Toguan Bay. Continue down the coastline to reach the sandy shoreline, near the highway.
Settle down near rumbling Route 4, grab your snorkel mask and fins, and head into the deep blue yonder for more snorkeling and diving fun.