The main thing to do in Kiribati is enjoy the beaches and water, with lots of options for swimming, scuba diving and snorkeling. Fishing is also a big deal, with world class bone fishing from the main center of Tarawa. Christmas Island has the best of the diving and fishing, along with great bird watching.
The primary time to enjoy the sea is May through October, when it is calmest and driest. The islands are well equipped for tours, with hotels and independent operators offering trips to dive sites, fishing spots and protected areas for bird watching. For a quintessential Kiribati activity, attend a meeting house (maneaba) sit-in to witness stories and dance.
Scuba diving is one of the main attractions of Kiribati and, owing to the remoteness and lack of industrial fishing, the variety of marine life you'll see is staggering. Christmas Island has the best diving on the archipelago, with the Christmas Island Diver’s Association offering tours to the top sites. Phoenix Island also has good diving, though is restricted. In Tarawa, Kukurei Dive, also organizes trips to Ouba. Snorkeling can be arranged from most guesthouses, but avoid the main lagoon at South Tarawa.
The swimming is also pleasant wherever you go. The Dai Nippon Causeway at Tarawa is nice on either side, while North Tarawa and the Outer Islands (to the south) are also good for those staying in the Gilbert Islands. Just avoid swimming in South Tarawa’s lagoon.
Bird watching is best on Christmas Island, where hundreds of species nest, including migratory seabirds in June and December. There are several nature reserves here—namely the Phoenix Island Protected Area—where visitors can get up close and personal with a guide. Popular varieties found on Kiribati include the great frigate birds, masked boobies, black noddies, and several types of tern (including fairies). Boats take in the various islets or you can access the secluded sites by truck. All hotels on Christmas Island can arrange tours, including the Captain Cook Hotel.
Fishing is a major pastime, which is how the locals survive, living off food from the sea and coconuts mainly. Kiribati Horizons can organize tours out to many of the islands, offering lagoon or open-water game fishing. Ambo Island lagoon and Ouba, as well as the Dai Nippon Causeway, are all good areas where tuna and marlin can be snagged, along with amazing bonefish. The best angling, however, is off Christmas Island or Phoenix Island. Dive & Fishing Adventure Lodge can also help you arrange charters.
Whale watching is popular December through April with South Pacific Tour, where minks, killer whales and dolphins are routinely spotted. Boats can also be rented "with a skipper" for multiday cruises.
Other popular activities in Kiribati include golf on Ambo Island, a links course, and visiting the traditional maneaba meeting houses to partake in singing and dancing with the locals.