Valley of the Latte Adventure Park
By: Mike Banos
September 17th, 2017
Most of the visitors to Guam come to shop at its wide range of shops, boutiques and malls offering prices.
You would be hard pressed to find elsewhere but there’s definitely more to Guam than shops and the military bases that made it headline news a few weeks back.
One of those is the Valley of the Latte Adventure Park at Talafofo which celebrates Guam’s rich heritage for visitors of all ages.
“We showcase our island at the Valley of the Latte Adventure Park every day, but some days we are lucky to be able to reach out to all at different locations around the island.”
We were lucky to be part of a recent famtour of the island organized by Cebu Pacific with the Guam Visitors Bureau of which the Valley of the Latte Adventure River Cruise was one of the highlights.
“The Adventure River Cruise is a component part of the larger experience we brand as the “Valley of the Latte Adventure Park,” said Managing Director David Tydingco during a briefing he conducted for our group prior to our cruise and introduced us the crew who would accompany us on this adventure.
“The Valley of the Latte offers a number of ways to enjoy the area, including Adventure Kayaking and Stand Up Paddle Boarding in addition to the Adventure River Cruise. We also have a mini hiking tour through the Latte site that will take you to our pineapple and banana plantation.”
Not to mention fire starting, basket weaving, and the mouth-watering fiesta plate of barbecue spareribs, chicken, potatoes, Daigo Salad, and Rice!
Riverboat captain and guide Keith Duenas is Coast Guard certified as well as his crew. He does not only have an intimate knowledge of the topography, history and environment of the Valley of the Latte but also has his humorous spiels pat down to perfection, and should give stand up comics at Downtown Tumon a run for their money!
After the safety briefing where we were taught how to find and use the life jackets, paddles, and kayaks in the boat in case of emergency, we were off! The river was chocolate brown as a result of the previous days rains but Keith told us it is usually clearer and offers a clearer view of the cat fish as they swam alongside while the crew threw them bread crumbs.
The River Cruise brought us past fruit plantations, where we saw land crabs come out of their holes in the mud to feed on bread crumbs scattered by the crew, baby deer, monitor lizards, coconut crabs, friendly water buffalo, and more of the island’s indigenous flora and fauna not accessible elsewhere.
We were also accompanied on the tour by Brazilian guide Rose Busbee who startled me by giving three Japanese tourists touring with us a running interpretation of Keith’s spiels in impeccable Nihoggo, until she told me later her mother was Japanese. Ah, so desu!
“We are constantly looking at ways to improve the visitor experience by creating a variety of options for people to choose from in order to enjoy the natural beauty of this part of our island,” David added.
Our group of travel photographers, writers and bloggers from the Visayas and Mindanao in the Philippines thoroughly enjoyed the tour which wound through the Talafofo and Ugum Rivers, with a stopover at the home of the Ulitao, the seafaring group of Chamoru (or Chamorros, Guam’s indigenous people) which seeks to restore the seafaring ways and culture of their ancestors.
This village is over 3,000-years-old and surrounded by botanical gardens, an ancient latte site, and fresh water springs.
At the center of the village is the traditional Chamoru hut built years ago by Ulitao founder Ron Acfalle, and restored when the Ulitao moved in to make the Valley of the Latter their permanent home just last July. Visitors can observe how the house sits on the latte stones which have become an icon of the Chamoru and Guam.
“Here you can experience storytelling, fire-making demonstrations, coconut leaf/basket weaving exhibitions, and canoe building sessions,” explained Miguet Maguadog, a mestisu from Long Beach, California, who with Jordan, welcomed us at the village dock with the traditional kulu shell horn. “You can also visit the surrounding caves, where you'll learn about and latte stones.”
Besides the adventure tours, Valley of the Latte Adventure Park has also positioned itself as the ‘Perfect Destination’ for weddings, birthdays, retreats, getaways, and other special occasions and events.
“The Valley provides a backdrop that is filled with beauty, culture, and an air of magic that cannot be found anywhere else on Guam.”
And that’s not all: with its Back-to-School Summer Program, the company has given back to the community by bringing kids from elementary schools all over Guam to the Valley of the Latte Adventure Park.
“Nature hikes, adventure fishing, pineapple tasting, walks through farm fields, learning about the culture and history of Guam, and experiencing first-hand what it was like to live as an Ancient Chamorro were some of the great experiences shared by the participants.”
Visitors wanting to visit the Valley of the Latte have the option of either being picked up at their accommodation or drive to the venue which is about a 30 minute scenic drive through the Guam countryside from downtown Tumon. After lunch, you will be dropped back at your hotel, or can spend time at your leisure if you chose the self-drive option.
A good time to come visit would be during the annual Valley of the Latte River Festival usually held during the first week of April.
The second edition of the festival held last April 1 and 2 featured a culinary competition with the Guam Community College’s ProStart culinary students from various high schools called the Cha’chak Culinary Championship where students used local ingredients, local entertainers performing at the latte site, and food trucks from all over the valley.
David said the event gives the island community an opportunity to come down and experience the area, visit the ancient Chamorro latte site, and take a cruise on the Talofofo River. “It has to be good enough for our people, for us to be able to share it with the rest of the world,” he said.
If local residents can appreciate it, then it’s something the island can be proud to show to tourists, he added.
There also will be local Guam products sold at the site, as well as farmers and artists showcasing their goods.
The price of admission gets residents a boat ride through the river, a visit to the ancient Chamorro latte site, animal sanctuary, botanical garden and weaving class. For a nominal fee, residents can try stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, buy food and beverages, ride a carabao or go fishing.