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Places In Guam: Talofofo Falls

Basic Information

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

Narrative

One of the biggest tourist attractions on Guam is Talofofo Falls.  Just about every brochure on Guam mentions the falls and even inside the airport one of the first advertising signs that can be seen features Talofofo Falls.  All the pictures that advertised the falls made it seem like quite a beautiful place and worth checking out.  So I eventually got around to making the drive down to southern Guam to see the falls.  The Talofofo Falls are located deep in the jungle interior of southern Guam:


It was actually quite a nice drive to reach the falls because of how scenic the southern part of the island is.  The route to Talofofo Falls is well marked and easy to find.  When I reached the falls I found a large tacky Spanish like fortress as the entrance to the park:

Pictrure from Talofofo Falls, Guam

Outside of entrance the park has a few pigs that come up and beg for food from tourists:

Pictrure from Talofofo Falls, Guam

The park wisely sells little bags of feed that tourists can give to the pigs.  I was not interested in feeding pigs and instead went to the ticket booth and paid to enter the park.  The fee was $20 to enter the park which seems a bit steep considering what is offered inside.  Just inside the tacky entrance there is a large signboard describing the cave that the Japanese soldier Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi hid himself in for 28 years after the liberation of Guam by US forces during World War II:

Pictrure from Talofofo Falls, Guam

Yokoi must be a very popular figure in Japan because the signboard had plenty of Japanese tourists taking pictures of themselves with the signboard.   Once inside the park I noticed a pen where some of the deer commonly found on Guam could be seen:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

What is unusual about the deer on Guam is that at night they make strange noises which causes them to be commonly known on the island as “barking deer”.  Also outside of the entrance is an amusement park where none of the rides were operating which just added to the tacky feel of this place.  To make the tackiness even worse is that there is a “Loveland” you can walk through if you have the need to look at penises and boobs before checking out the waterfall.  Nothing like an erotic sculpture park next to kiddie rides!

I avoided all of this nonsense and walked over to the gondola.  As I walked to the gondola that was when the gunfire started.  Yes, gunfire!  For anyone thinking that a visit to Talofofo Falls will be a nice serene walk to a beautiful waterfall in the jungle; get that thought out of your mind right now.  To get every last dollar from the Japanese tourists that mostly visit the falls, the park’s owner have a gun range on the park.  So if you are the type of person who likes to visit scenic outdoor locations and then fire weapons at inanimate objects afterwards, this is the place for you!

After the gunfire started I quickly made my way over to the gondola to hopefully get away from the noise.  The gondola looks not in the best shape, but to get down to the falls there is no other choice but to take it down into the valley where the Ugum River flows:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

As the rickety gondola made its way down into the valley I understood why there is a Loveland on the park, because it may be your last opportunity to see some boobs or penises if the gondola collapses and kills you.  Fortunately the cable car did not collapse and I was able to get my first glimpse of Talofofo Falls:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

At the bottom of the valley I thankfully was no longer subjected to gunfire, but I still found myself surrounded by tackiness:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

There are actually two main waterfalls that compose Talofofo Falls with the largest one completely surrounded by tacky buildings:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

Talofofo Falls may be a let down for some people because it is not a large waterfall like Niagara Falls, but for Guam it is the island’s biggest waterfall:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

Here is an even wider angle view of the lower falls:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

I followed the trail to the front of the falls and took this picture:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

The pool in front of falls is filled with dirty water which is not unusual for fresh water streams in Guam due to the muddy soil.  From the front of the falls there is a swing bridge I took to cross over the river:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

On the other side of the bridge there is a museum:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

The museum ended up being a major let down.  The museum has a number displays showing how life has changed over the centuries in Guam beginning with the simple lives the Chamorro people lived before Europeans arrived:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

However, many of the displays had no explanation of what they are depicting.  Someone who is not familiar with the history of Guam would not understand what is depicted.   Here is a mural that shows when the Americans came to Guam:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

Probably the oddest thing about the museum was the Native-American Indian chief statue they have displayed with no explanation why it is in the museum.  After walking out of the museum I next headed down a trail to the Yokoi Cave.  After being thoroughly disappointed with the museum I did not have high hopes for the Yokoi Cave.  I was actually enjoying this part of the park since it was a nice quiet quarter mile hike through the jungle to the cave.  My enjoyment did not last long because that was when the loud lawnmower noise began.  In a further effort to drain Japanese tourists of every last dollar they have, the park has set up the junkiest “monorail” I have ever seen.  It is basically a lawn mower engine pulling a few rickety cars with park benches on them on top of a monorail track that amazingly hasn’t collapsed yet.  As I saw this contraption pass me I thought to myself I don’t know what is worse the noise caused by this contraption or the fact that people were actually riding this contraption because they could not walk a quarter mile to a cave?

At the cave site the park owners built a model of what the inside of Yokoi’s Cave looked like:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

The cave Yokio used was made of bamboo, had a single entrance and was very small.  It looked like it was about three to four feet in height:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

The park also has a little gazebo set up with pictures of Yokoi:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

Once again there was very little that explained the full story of Yokoi:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

Here is what Yokoi’s Wikipedia entry says about his life on Guam:

Initially, Yokoi served with the 29th Infantry Division in Manchukuo. In 1943, he was transferred to the 38th Regiment in the Mariana Islands and arrived on Guam in February 1943. When American forces captured the island in the 1944 Battle of Guam, Yokoi went into hiding with ten other Japanese soldiers.  Seven of the original ten eventually moved away and only three remained in the region. These men separated but visited each other until about 1964, when the other two died in a flood.  The last eight years Yokoi lived alone. Yokoi survived by hunting, primarily at night. He used native plants to make clothes, bedding, and storage implements, which he carefully hid in his cave.

On the evening of 24 January 1972, Yokoi was discovered in the jungle by Jesus Dueñas and Manuel De Gracia, two local men checking their shrimp traps along a small river on Talofofo. They had assumed Yokoi was a villager from Talofofo, but he thought his life was in danger and attacked them. They managed to subdue him and carried him out of the jungle with minor bruising

“It is with much embarrassment, but I have returned”, he said upon his return to Japan. The remark would become a popular saying in Japanese.

Despite hiding for twenty-eight years in an underground jungle cave, he had known since 1952 that World War II had ended.  He feared to come out of hiding, explaining, “We Japanese soldiers were told to prefer death to the disgrace of getting captured alive.”

Yokoi went on to become a popular media figure in Japan before passing away at the age of 82 in 1997. I tend to think instead of him feeling he was doing his duty by not being captured, he was instead more concerned of being tried for war crimes considering the brutality of the Japanese occupation of Guam.  How many native Chamorros did Yokoi torture or kill?  He is no hero.

After checking out the few pictures in the gazebo I then walked over to the recreation of what the entrance to his cave would have looked like:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

With the lid closed it would have been nearly impossible to spot it which helps explain how he want undetected for so long.  The cave was located near the river which made me wonder if this was really location of the cave since the river would assuredly flood periodically:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

So I did some research and found that Talofofo Falls is actually far from the actually cave site.  Yokoi’s Cave was actually located 2-miles away from the falls:

A Caveat: this is not the real location of the cave, it is located 2 miles (3.3 kilometers) east of the replica cave here (was destroyed by a typhoon in the 1970’s). they just redid the cave for tourism purposes. This replica cave is a 400 meter (1/4 mile) walk from on a trail from the talafofo falls area. If you don’t want to walk to and from, they have an improvised noisy monorail available and a round trip ride is $ 4 for a group of 5.  [Virtual Tourist]

Finally at the cave site there is a little Buddhist shrine for people I guess to pray at.  After a riding on the rickety gondola and monorail the Japanese tourists that frequent this park may feel the need for prayer to return to their tour bus alive:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

I began to walk back up the trail to the falls just in time for the lawnmower noise of the monorail to follow me down the trail.  By the time I got back to the falls I was definitely ready to get out of this park.  So I made a quick walk to the upper falls to take this picture:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

I then walked across another bridge that leads back to the gondola.  As I walked across the bridge I took another picture of the upper waterfall:

Picture from Talofofo Falls, Guam

The upper waterfall is definitely the most beautiful area of the park.  After a major rainstorm I would think this waterfall would look pretty impressive.  After crossing the bridge I got on the gondola and thankfully made it back to the park’s entrance where I was once again greeted by the sounds of gunfire.  I was never so happy to be surrounded by gunfire because it meant I was done with my visit to Talofofo Falls.

Conclusion

Overall this park is highly disappointing and an absolute mess.  Who do we have to thank for this mess?  The park owners have a memorial to the developer of the park Mr. Chul Soo Lee near the park’s entrance who passed away in 2014:

Pictrure from Talofofo Falls, Guam

Considering the amount of work that went into making this place as expansively tacky as it is I do have to respect Mr. Lee for his efforts.  The park must have been a labor of love for him.  His efforts have apparently worked well enough to attract hordes of Japanese tourists if that was what his goal was.  For me however, the park was disappointing especially since the potential is there to make the experience here so much better.

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