Palau is one of those “once in a lifetime” destinations for all scuba divers. Or at least it should be. Palau is a tiny country in the middle of the Pacific surrounded by not just coral reefs but an barrier reef too. All the 250 islands are pretty much made of coral. The reef is everywhere you look. And it is full of fish. Read more about diving and watch a video here.
Palau is the first and so far only shark sanctuary in the world. It protects all shark species and has already shown that it works: not just the amount of sharks has increased but the marine life in total, schools are bigger and species though were lost are back. This is something other countries should learn from before it’s too late!
So Palau is definitely for divers. But is there something for the non-divers? Not much, I have to say. Palau is very expensive country and if you just want to relax by the pool, eat in the good restaurants, have a dip in the ocean…. Go somewhere else. Palau is full of ugly expensive motels and the only really nice resorts cost a lot of money, if you’re lucky you can get room for $250 per night. Cheapest motel is probably L.e.h.m.s. around $50 per night and the most luxurious place is Palau Pacific Resort where bungalow on the beach costs $1600 per night.
Palau’s main hotel and restaurant area is Koror. Plenty of restaurants, lots of Japanese, Korean and Chinese food available. Sea food of course. Some excellent Thai and Indian as well as American diners. Food is delicious and sashimi is ridiculously cheap for those who eat sea food. For vegetarians and vegans very few options but there is some, more details coming later.
If you’re not diving, kayaking is amazing around the islands and day trips to Rock islands are highly recommended too. Landscape is phenomenal. You are surrounded with beauty. You can either rent the kayaks and go on your own or take a day tour with guide or even luxurious 7-day trip to Rock islands. But be ready to pay a lot for the transports: pick up with the kayaks can cost up to $300 per person one way!
Also don’t forget famous Peleliu island which is a WW2 museum on it’s own.
Important: Koror has NO beaches, except Palau Royal Resort and Pacific Resort which have build their own artificial beaches. Those are just for their guests and outsiders have to pay minimum $25 to use the beach.
Diving is expensive but worth every penny. The amount of sea life is staggering. Grey, black, white and silver tip sharks are seen on regular basis but also tigers and hammerheads are around. Massive tunas are bigger than the sharks. Manta, weather and eagle rays get cleaned all the time. Napoleon fish, jacks, barracudas, turtles, all the usual suspects are everywhere. Macro stuff we did not see – not because it doesn’t exist in Palau – but because all the dive boats take you to the shark and manta sites rather than muck sites. Several WW2 wrecks.
We dived with Palau Dive Adventures, highly recommended! Also take a look liveaboard options, you can see more and be at the dive sites before daily dive boats come in. Check Palau Siren Fleet, Ocean Hunter or Aggressor. More details about diving in Palau coming soon.
So Palau in a nutshell: probably the best diving in the world with overpriced accommodation. Sustainable seafood and stunning scenery. Maybe the most awesome kayaking destination if you can afford it. Interesting WW2 history everywhere around you.
Facts of Palau
Population: 21 000, everyone speaks English
Money: USD, a lot of ATMs around Koror
Visa: Americans 1 year, EU citizens on arrival 30 days, can be extended twice, all travellers have to have return ticket out from Palau
National Park fees: Rock islands 10 days $50, Jellyfish lake $75 (bought together $100), Peleliu land permit $15, diving permit $30 /10 days, at the airport when leaving the country additional $50 embarkation tax per person
Funny fact: Ngerulmud is world’s smallest capital with 400 residents 😀