Micronesia — Overview
Few countries on Earth suit their name as well as the 607 Pacific Islands of Micronesia, named after the Greek words for “small” and “island.” Slightly more than 111,500 people live in the Federated States of Micronesia, whose land area spans two separate time zones over a distance of more than 1,600 miles merely a few degrees north of the equator. The combined land mass of all of these islands remains smaller than the state of Rhode Island or the tiny European nation of Luxembourg.
Only a handful of the Pacific Islands of Micronesia are inhabited, and the vast majority of the population lives on the four Federated States of Micronesia called Chuuk, Kosrae, Yap, and Pohnpei. Palikir may be Micronesia’s official capital, but the former capital of Kolonia remains the most populous city on any of the islands. Both communities are situated on the island of Pohnpei, but most tourism attractions lie within the islands’ vast tropical rural landscapes.
One of the world’s most legendary underwater shipwrecks, the Fujikawa Maru, lies beneath the waters of Chuuk’s Truk Lagoon. However, this submerged Japanese WWII warship is merely the most famous of the many spectacular sites beneath the surfaces of all four Federated States of Micronesia. Pohnpei is best known for its world-class surfing and Nan Madol, a 1,000-year old city whose 100 artificial islets were linked by an intricate canal network. Kosrae may boast the most impressive dry land scenery of any of the islands, especially its two breathtaking marine parks and challenging Mount Finkol hiking trail. Kayaking down the mangrove channels on the island of Yap will take visitors past perhaps the best preserved of all of the islands’ unique cultures.
Pacific Islands of Micronesia hotels range from luxury beach resorts catering to scuba diving tourists to far more rustic thatched cottages whose guests must use outdoor garden showers and share with strangers when rooms are scarce. Camping is only permitted with advance permission from local landowners. However, no matter what type of accommodation visitors choose, they can expect higher-than-average costs and warmer-than-average hospitality. A raw fish dish served with peppery sauce is among the most frequently served Micronesian dishes in the islands’ restaurants, where American and Asian are the most common cuisines.
Passengers can spend up to 36 hours in the air while flying to the Pacific Islands of Micronesia, roughly 2,800 miles from both Honolulu and Sydney. Chuuk, Yap, and Pohnpei all contain international ports, but air travel remains the easiest way for most passengers to reach these isolated islands. None of the islands’ airports are especially large, but United Airlines ‘Island Hopper’ flights frequently travel between Chuuk, Pohnpei, Guam, and Honolulu. The island of Yap can only be reached directly from Guam International Airport.
Apart from taxis and hotel charter buses, the only notable public transportation on any of the Pacific Islands of Micronesia is a fleet of school buses driving between Colonia, Yap’s capital, and the island’s smaller villages. Two ships sail regularly between the Federated States of Micronesia, but air travel still forms the majority of most island-hopping excursions. None of these islands have rail service, but there is no shortage of car rental companies on any of the islands. Road quality is far better in larger communities than rural regions.
- Explore the nearly 70 Japanese WWII relics beneath Truk Lagoon, including the gigantic Fujikawa Maru
- Surf the waves of Pohnpei
- Kayak along Yap’s mangrove channels and between several smaller islets
- Reel in an appropriately named giant trevally fish from 100 feet beneath the water
- Soak in the view of Pohnpei from the summit of Mount Sokehs
- Admire the ancient civilizations of Lelu Island and Nan Madol
- Be among the few people on Earth to witness the annual dances performed at the Yap Day Festival