Copyright 2008-2012 Alex Sheshunoff
About this information: I'm an American who lived in Palau for about a year and a half and wrote an occasionally funny book about it. I get a fair number of folks looking for travel advice for Palau (when to visit Palau, where to stay in Palau, etc.) so I just decided to post it online here. All of the below is just my opinion. For more of the party line, visit the Palau Visitors Authority's website.
Where is Palau?
Palau is an archipelago of about 300 islands of which only 9 are inhabited. The total population is about 25,000 people. The island group is located about 1,000 miles southwest of Guam and 600 miles east of the Phillipines. Though it gained some recognition as the latest set for Survivor, Palau is most well known among marine biologists and avid scuba divers.
What are the Rock Islands?
This refers to the chain of 300 or so islands stretching south of the capital, Koror. They're mushroom shaped and occasionally have white sand or white mud beaches. The whole area is spectacular - thank god, they're protected. Two large islands at the end of the chain, Pelelu and Angaur, have a few small villages.
How long should I go for?
When people go on vacation in Palau they usually take a week off from work and spend both weekends. In other words, ten days to two weeks. Plan on spending two days to get there (because of an overnight in Koror) and two days to get back (because of the international date line.)
What is the best time of year to visit Palau?
The only bad month is August when the the water can get pretty rough, making transportation and diving difficult. As such, late July and early September can also be tricky. Once, when the ferry couldn't come to Angaur for a few weeks, we asked the locals what they eat when supplies run low? "Bananas," we were told. "We eat bananas."
Palau has 1,300 species of fish (compared to Hawaii with 700 and the Carribbean with 350). The diving is most famous for its big sea life - schools of fish, sharks, turles, and manta rays.
How about some background on Palau?
One of the world's newest countries, Palau got its indendence from the U.S. in 1994. They use they dollar, everyone speaks English and Palaun. They keep getting tossed around a bit - first they were a colony of Spain, then Germany, then Japan, then the United States, and now they are independent, though the U.S. still controls their foreign policy. (They even got a brief mention in Michael Moore's Farahenhieit 9/11 for being such a staunch supporter of U.S. foreign policy.)
There are about 25,000 Palauns and almost all are concentrated in Koror. There are a lot of community events - for example, every Tuesday and Wednesdays there is ultimate frisbee, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, outrigger canoeing, every other Saturday, a HASH race through the jungle ending at a bonfire with plenty of beer.
After having lived in or visited a lot of the Pacific, Palau is still by far our one of the most beautiful places we've been. t's also funky and confusing in ways you'd never expect...
What are the best places to eat in Palau?
There is excellent sushi at Pirate's Cove, terrific Indian at The Taj and good, if expensive, Japanese at Dragon Tai and great fried chicken to go at King's Mart (lunch only).
Where is the best place to stay in Palau?
We think the best place is Caroline's Resort - they have small bungalows with great views. If you stay there, you can also access the beach of the Palau Pacific Resort - which is nice in it's own, mid-80's kind of way, though the beach is man made and you can expect to be with a lot of Japanese tourists on package tours.
What should I bring?
You can buy anything you need but generally at higher prices than in the States. And who wants to spend their vacation in a department store? Here's what you need to bring:
-Mask, snorkel, and fins.
-Tivas or flip flops
-Shorts and such - it never gets cool enough for jeans.
-Light rain coat.
When is the Palauan rainy season?
Palau has some of the most consistent weather in the world - not only from day to night but also month to month. In the dry season it rains once a day; in the rainy season (July-August); it rains twice a day - though almost all the rain tends to come in short, afternoon bursts.
What is Koror, the capital like?
Though not the most beautiful city in the world, Koror is safe and a good place to get groceries and go to restaurants and bars. The downtown area, which wasn’t more than a mile long and a few streets wide, has a scruffy, frontier feel - I imagine similar to that of towns tossed up on the edge of the Brazilian Amazon. Lumber trucks splash through potholes, dump trucks trundle by with loads of men holding shovels and wearing bandanas around their necks, doors of unmarked warehouses slide open and closed, revealing little of their darkened interiors. Best of all, though, you see people from everywhere: Palauans, of course, but also Filipino shop attendants, Bangladeshi construction workers, Taiwanese tourists, and, of course, American lawyers. (Palau bases its legal code on the state of Oregon.)
How do I get there?
There are direct flights to Palau from Guam, Taipei, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. Specifically...
- Continental via Honolulu and Guam or via Manilla.
- China Airlines via Taipai, Taiwan.
- Delta/Northwest and Japan Airlines via Tokyo and other Japanese cities.- Asiana Airlines via Incheon, South Korea.
Once in Palau, how do I get to Angaur, the island where your house is?
Twice a week there is ferry service (4 hours) for $5 each way. Chartered speedboats (about an hour and a half) can be arranged for $300. Check with the Angaur State Office in Koror for times.
Still have questions?
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Even better, register to get a note when my book about building a house on an outer island of Palau comes out. It's not too long and it has a lot of jokes, several of which are funny. NEW! Provide your email address below and also enter a chance to win a two-week stay at our little house.
Click here to read about the PBS special on Palau called Living Edens.
(Note: I will never ever give or trade your email address. That would be shitty.)