Surprise! We have a hike this week. ... Only, it's not a hike, but it's something!
This weekend we trek to Mangilao's marvelous Marbo Cave and Cliffs, a refreshing freshwater dwelling perfect for cooling off on a hot day or for a short, exciting excursion. We'll also check out some cool cliffs showcasing the dangerous beauty of the island's northeastern coast.
Although many resources refer to Marbo Cave as a hike, it really isn't. At best, it's a short, easy five- to 10-minute walk down a modestly steep slope and slippery staircase. Let's call it a "brief nature walk."
Marbo Cave is a coastal cave, just minutes away from the island's breathtaking northeastern coast.
The freshwater found in the cave supplied Japanese forces during their occupation of Guam in the early 1940s, according to Guampedia. After World War II, the U.S. Army used the water source for its military camps until 1950.
The concrete staircase leading into the cave, as well as the inner cave platform, were constructed courtesy of both armed forces.
Today, the cave is primarily a recreational site usually packed with people on the weekends. So, if you're not energetic enough for a "real" hike, but would enjoy a short walk to therapeutic waters, Marbo Cave is for you!
Unbelievably blue and crystal clear
I like to say that the drive to Marbo Cave is more than half the journey. It's longer and can be even more thrilling than the actual walk!
Refer to the driving directions provided to get there. After parking, be sure to lock your car and do not leave behind any valuables. This area is known for vandalism.
Find the beaten path beyond the parking lot that continues downhill. Carefully watch your footing as you make your way down the straightforward path. Note that the ground is loose and possibly slippery when wet.
After a couple of minutes or so, you should have reached the base of the hill with a grassy clearing before you, and the manmade staircase to Marbo Cave immediately to your left.
Make your way down into the cave with caution, noting the moist and grimy ground. At the bottom of the artificial stairs, you've made it!
Settle your belongings down somewhere dry along the platform before exploring and noting some interesting aspects of the coastal cave.
The first thing you'll notice is the unbelievably blue waters in the cave. The turquoise shade is almost unbelievable to the naked eye! The clarity of the water, as well, is mind-blowing.
However mirage-like the water is, don't be fooled. The waters here are very deep at certain points and very shallow at others.
Additionally, the Marbo Cave system is much larger and more complex underwater than it appears above the surface. Dozens of lives have been lost in this cave due to drowning, which is very possible in certain circumstances, but also very avoidable with some common sense and caution.
Explore the cave with caution
Not to scare anyone, but for your awareness, this beautiful pool has taken too many lives to not be mentioned.
The front area of the cave – lit by the natural light pouring in – is the safest area to swim in. There are large, submerged boulders all around to cling onto if needed. The waters around are anywhere from 2 to 8 feet deep.
If we head back to the bottom of the cave staircase at the entrance, taking a left onto a rocky platform will lead to the back half of the cave.
The back part is much dimmer, and on an especially overcast day, will require flashlights or candles if you want to see where you're swimming.
The pool here at the back of the cave is much, much deeper – probably between 20 and 30 feet, but that's just my estimate.
There's also no large boulders near the surface of the water, which makes this pool great for swimming, but not if you're uncomfortable in dim lighting and going without handholds.
There is a small, not-so-hidden pathway that leads from the main cave pool to the back pool and vice versa. Find this tunnel by swimming toward the boulder wall near in between the pools.
While completely dark for the first few feet and without any footing below, you'll have to wade your way blindly for only a few seconds before seeing the literal light at the end of the tunnel.
It's a quick and adventurous shortcut to explore either side, but definitely a frightening experience the first time.
Other than these two pools, there are several underwater caverns deep below that scuba divers often explore. However, these submerged caves are NOT for free divers, snorkelers or any amateur for that matter.
Do not attempt to explore underwater without scuba experience or supervision. These wandering excursions account for the majority of drownings at Marbo Cave, so just don't do it.
Catch some sun at the cliffs
After exploring the shallow cave system and swimming in the refreshing pools, make your way back out to the main clearing just above the staircase.
From here, you can turn right and head back up to your car, but to add more worthwhile adventure to your short trip, head left for the Marbo Cliffs!
To the left you'll find the recognizable trail that leads to a dirt road. Turn left again at the dirt road and head toward the ocean. The cliffs are about five minutes from here.
At the next fork, turn left again and you should arrive at the northeastern coastline in about a minute.
Take some time here to enjoy the cool breeze and the magnificent marine colors of the Pacific! Venture along the limestone cliffs as far and wide as you want, but avoid the water.
While cliff diving is possible and an enjoyable activity a few miles north at Pågat, jumping here is simply too dangerous and has also resulted in deaths.
After soaking up some sun, take your last glimpses of the area's isolated, natural beauty before tracing your steps back to the first clearing and up the hill to your car.