Palau — Overview
Palau is one of the Northern Pacific’s hidden marvels. Nestled between Irian Jaya, the Philippines, and Indonesia, Palau is a tropical archipelago with dozens of reef-fringed islands to explore. The country is a popular residence among US expatriates, not to mention scuba divers in search of unique and challenging dives. During the 1970s and ‘80s, Palau experienced civil unrest as a result of its Compact of Free Association political status. Today, visitors primarily come to this peaceful nation for its beautiful natural attractions, friendly locals, and WWII intrigue.
Many tourists flock to the islands of Palau for one reason; scuba diving. The country withholds some of the most beautiful scuba diving scenery in the world. Many of the primary dive sites across Palau would make any seasoned diver’s top 10 scuba spots. German Channel, Blue Corner, and Ulong Channel are just some of the main areas worth exploring via underwater tours. Of course, there is more to Palau than just scuba diving. Kayaking, swimming, sun-baking, and snorkeling are also popular activities on the archipelago. Away from the coastline, Palau boasts intriguing WWII sites and relics, including tanks, shells, and hideouts. Tours via four-wheel drive vehicles are the best option for sightseeing the interior of islands like Babeldaob and Peleliu.
Being a Pacific Island that is reliant on tourism, Palau offers relatively pricey accommodation, with prices for even the more basic guesthouses in and around Koror quite high. Many of the hotels, hostels, and resorts are found in the commercial center of Palau, Koror. There are several high-end tropical retreats in Palau and plenty of mid-range options to keep tourists comfortable. For those tourists looking for simple accommodation, Koror has a number of guesthouses, too. Like the culture of the Palauan people, nightlife in the archipelago is relaxed. Koror is sprinkled with bars, not to mention plenty of internationally-inspired restaurants, including those serving Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and American cuisine.
The only international airport operating in Palau is located a few miles north of Koror. Named Roman Tmetuchl Airport, the facility welcomes flights from all over Asia, including from Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines. It is possible to sail to Palau or take a boat from the Philippines. However, private vessels need to have clearance before they reach the shores of Palau. One of the major issues with Palau’s development, both socially and economically, is its remoteness compared to other nations of the North Pacific Ocean.
Unfortunately, the roads around Palau are not well maintained. Nevertheless, there are some spectacularly scenic routes located around the islands of Koror and Babeldoab. Car rental is the best option for getting around the islands. Alternatively, tour operators provide van or four-wheel drive transportation to get visitors where they need to go.
- Scuba dive the untouched natural paradise of Palau’s underwater region
- Swim with thousands of stingless jellyfish at Jellyfish Lake
- Kayak the beautiful Rock Islands
- Shop at Koror Jail for intricately handcrafted storyboards
- Explore Babeldaob and Peleliu islands for their litter of Pacific War equipment