The pristine islands of Palau lie within the Micronesia area of Oceania and are an ideal place to visit for anyone wanting to step foot inside a hidden paradise. With a population of fewer than 20,000 people – including a capital city of roughly 380 – Palau is one of the world’s most untouched natural wonders. The small population provides a feeling of tranquil solitude, and due to hosting relatively few tourists each year – most of which being divers – you can be sure of a peaceful retreat from start to finish. For those wishing to get away from life’s hustle and bustle, this is the place.
The islands’ beauties have to be seen to be believed. Whether you’re a tropical wanderluster seeking the smoothest white sand beaches and bluest ocean life-filled water or one of the many divers Palau is famous for attracting, once you’ve experienced what true natural beauty feels like, you’ll never want to leave. And if you find yourself needing a break from seeing the stunning underwater sights then renting a bike and discovering ancient ruins and stone monoliths that lie in grassy flats along the coast is a perfect way to experience an on-land adventure.
Palau is truly one of the best-kept secrets in the Pacific. If it’s a getaway from modern day life you’re looking for, this should be at the top of the list. And to make your trip to Palau as unforgettable as possible, please take a look at our top recommendations for what to see and do while you’re there. Make sure to note down your favorite places in your BUCKiTDREAM planner.
Dive Right In As one of the most popular diving sites in the world, Palau provides everything any keen diver is looking for: beautiful ocean, over 1,500 species of fish, and 700 species of coral. This high concentration of marine life is due to the unique reefs which act as a crossroads between three of the planet’s major currents. The Blue Corner and German Channel spots are ideal places to start your underwater journey.
Pack a Snorkel If you’re a water lover but scuba diving isn’t your thing, then there’s always snorkeling tours around Jellyfish Lake that provide a window into the rich underwater life of Palau. The populous Golden Jellyfish that reside within the lake have actually evolved in a significantly different fashion compared with their close relatives living in nearby bodies of water, due to their closed ecosystem.
A Change of Scenery Still wanting to swim with the fishes but fancy a change of scenery? Then pack up the snorkel and head over to Long Island Park, just south of the bridges which connect Koror and Malakal. This is one of the most understated areas to explore a vast array of natural wonders.
Lagoons From Above Instead of getting up close and personal with the underwater tenants, how about heading over to Nikko Bay and taking part in a spot of kayaking. There’s no better place to start off than from Ngermid Boat Pier. From there, head south and you’ll eventually stumble upon a wooden dock – under which often houses huge Napoleon fish.
Relax on the Beach Of course, if the water’s got enough for one day, then there’s always the option to chill out on one of Palau’s countless white sand beaches. Lying on any one of these pristine beaches and looking out at the shimmering ocean is guaranteed to sooth the mind.
Ancient History Head to the northern-most point on Babeldaob and you’ll find a curious sight indeed. The large stone Badrulchau monoliths stand on a hillside, looking out to sea. With its gorgeous sights, this fascinating spot is perfect for a picnic. And as these stones’ origin and purpose are unknown – some of which weighing up to five tons – it’ll also provide some food for thought.
Put on Your Hiking Boots This is Babeldaob’s signature attraction: Ngardmau Waterfall. This giant waterfall cascades from the highest peak in Palau, Mt Ngerchelchuus, and is the tallest waterfall in Micronesia. To take a dip in the calm pool at the fall’s base, you can either hike a rewarding 30-minute trail…or there’s always the monorail.
On Two Wheels If you find yourself not in the mood for diving, kayaking, or hiking then renting a bike at Icebox Park is a splendid alternative. This park is located at the southern tip of Malakal and, like everywhere else in Palau, offers inimitable nature views. While it is not advised to swim here due to its proximity to a wastewater outlet, Icebox Park is a great place to take a ride on two wheels.
High-end Cove Resort, situated on the island of Malakal, offers a waterfront oasis for anyone wishing to stay in the lap of luxury. As well as boasting the largest lagoon pool in Palau, Cove Resort is also within close proximity to the marina, where some of the best diving tours and opportunities to swim with dolphins are located.
Mid-level Aliiibamou Resorts Carolines provide an intimate stay in one of eight private bungalows, which sit on a hilltop overlooking the Pacific Ocean – each with their own balcony. With its jungle location, Carolines is an ideal place to stay for those desiring true tranquility.
Budget Ms. Pinetree’s Hostel, located just a quarter-mile from Koror’s main street, is in a prime location for grocery stores, cafes, and restaurants. Not only does it supply dormitory-style lodging for those wanting to save a dollar or two, but also comes with two private rooms for those who value their privacy.
Considering its small population, Palau has surprisingly large communities from the USA, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. As such, local stores have evolved to supply the needs of their varied inhabitants. The Rock Island Café boasts authentic American-style dining, and Keanos provides an equally extensive menu of fine Italian cuisine. However, if you’re there for the real deal then head to Carp for some of the most traditional and delicious seafood available in Palau.
Drinks and Nightlife
Due to the vast majority of visitors being divers, and the relatively small number of locals, Palau isn’t exactly known for its nightlife; instead providing a peaceful experience morning, noon, and night. Palau does have its own local brewery though, and through it comes Red Rooster Beer – a quintessential way to cap off a successful day at sea. And if it’s music you’re after, head over to Anathias Café for some smooth American jazz, and large menu/bar selection to boot. Keep an eye out for a number of small karaoke establishments too!
Tips and Culture
As one might expect from residents who spend their lives surrounded by a tropical paradise, Palauans have been known for their laid-back nature and hospitality. They greatly value respect though, so make sure not to be rude or, most importantly, do anything to pollute their ocean. And speaking of the ocean, take care when on the lookout for saltwater crocodiles and bull sharks, which often roam the area.
Getting from island to island in Palau can either be done by boat, or occasionally driving across a bridge. However, most islands are either unpaved or don’t have any kind of road infrastructure at all; so if you’re renting a car, it’s advised to get one with 4-wheel drive. Another common option is to hire a personal taxi driver for the duration of your trip, which are operated with fixed rates.
None of Palau’s islands are more magnificent than the Rock Islands, and it’s here where you’ll find our must-see experience: Rock Islands Southern Lagoon. This is the most popular diving and snorkeling destination in Palau, and with good reason. Inside a 390 square mile radius, discover a complex reef system with 445 uninhabited limestone islands, 385 coral species, and the highest concentration of marine lakes anywhere in the world. With all of this aquatic beauty and distinct aesthetic of the mushroom-like islands, it is a sight to behold like no other. Get lost in awe for hours upon hours, in a lagoon which provides a unique experience each and every time.
Palau deserves the top spot in the bucket list destinations of keen divers and tropical wanderlusters alike. So, start on those plans in your BUCKiTDREAM planner, and don’t forget to share your experiences on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.