The Pacific paradise of Palau is part of the Micronesia island group, around 600 miles off the east coast of the Philippines.
This tiny state has a population of just 21,000 across 250 islands, with the vast majority living on Koror, the former capital. Koror is an oasis of picture-postcard beaches, laid back bars, and lush tropical forests. Koror is linked by three bridges to the neighbouring Arakabesang Island, Malakal Island, and Babeldaob.
No one is sure who first populated Palau, but the current residents are descended from a combination of Malay Indonesians, New Guineans, and Polynesians. Palauan and Filipino are the two most common languages here, but English is widely spoken.
Visitors to Koror, Palau, can fly in from either Guam (1hr45m), Manila (2hr30m), or Taipei (4hrs30m). Palau Airport is situated in Airai state, on Babeldaob, around a 30 minute drive across the bridge from Koror town.
Taxis are prevalent and a one-way fare between the airport and Koror costs around $20 (US dollars are the currency here). Most large hotels offer free airport transfers, so check with your hotel when booking.
Much of Koror’s economy is based on tourism, thanks to its beauty and all-year round temperature of about 85F. In addition to all the water sports you can imagine, one of the most popular attractions are the Rock Islands; a collection of limestone spikes and old coral reefs, that push up through the ocean’s surface.
This 18 square mile area contains gorgeous beaches, azure blue lagoons, great scuba diving opportunities, and the famous Jellyfish Lake, Palau. This 12,000 year old marine lake on Eil Malk Island is a magnet for snorkelers who want to swim amongst the thousands of Golden and Moon Jellyfish that cross the lake every day.
But don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe. These particular jellyfish – found only in Palau – have such a mild sting that it’s barely noticeable. It’s a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with these beautiful creatures.
Back on Koror Island you can visit the largest dolphin research institution in the world at Dolphins Pacific on Malakal. Hop onboard one of the many eco-tours out into the Pacific Ocean to see the dolphins and even get a chance to swim with them. The facility also offers diving and instruction in how to become a dolphin trainer.
Other must-see sights in Koror include the Mother and Child Stone in the hamlet of Ngermid and Palau Aquarium, near the Marina, part of the Pacific International Coral Reef Centre. Belau National Museum, south of Main Street, is the place to go to learn about Palauan life. Artwork, crafts, and a fascinating pictorial exhibit of colonial Koror really brings the island to life. Main Street has a host of hotels, bars, and restaurants, plus a plethora of scuba-diving stores.
The vibe is quite heady with a definite “relax the day away” attitude, but it perfectly fits this island paradise. Most of the shopping to be had is arts, crafts, and souvenirs. It’s a great place if you are looking to pick up something unique, like a wood carving or original Palauan
painting to take home with you.
Accommodations are dotted all around Koror, so whether you want a cheap, Main Street room or something a little more luxurious with the waves lapping at your balcony, Koror has a surprisingly wide range of options. The Palasia Hotel Palau is situated right on Main Street, within walking distance of numerous places to eat, drink, and shop. It’s a very spacious, luxury hotel located on stunning grounds that stretch right to the sea.
There are sumptuous restaurants, drinks terraces that offer incredible beach sunsets, and just about every modern facility you can wish for including a duty free shopping center. If you prefer to be out of town a little bit, then head somewhere like the Palau Plantation Resort, south of Main Street. This resort has a more island feel, with billowing palm trees, tropical woodland and rustic rooms. The whole place looks like a vast treehouse, with luxurious interiors, privacy, and wonderful restaurants, swimming pools, and sea views.