photo of Palau islands

Palau Islands (Micheal Aw/Photodisc)

What to do in Palau

The Republic of Palau, located in the western Pacific, southeast of The Philippines, makes up one of the most unique island groups in the world. Mushroom-shaped limestone isles smothered in green look as though they were scooped up with a spoon and plopped into the neon-green and blue waters. Around every turn, you'll find bleach-white beaches devoid of human footprints. If you don't mind the somewhat steep prices and the time it takes to travel to this remote Pacific outpost, you will be rewarded with one of the most interesting and dramatically scenic island groups in the world.

All travelers to Palau spend some time in the main island of Koror, home to almost all of the tiny nation's modern infrastructure and about two-thirds of the population. Just north of Koror is Babeldaob, Micronesia's second-largest island, which is almost entirely virgin except for enigmatic ancient monoliths. South of Koror, the fantasy-like Rock Islands—mainly uninhabited and a beachcomber's dream—make up the middle bulk of Palau's 350-some islets, and feature colorful reefs, limestone arches, blaringly bright beaches, and thick jungle. South of the Rock Islands is the sleepy isle of Peleliu, littered with intact World War II wreckage.

Palau's main attractions are under the water's surface: huge blue clams that can weigh tons, nautilus shells the size of dinner plates, manta rays that look like small airplanes, and intricate reef systems that seem to stretch on forever. Palau has over 1,300 species of fish and more than 700 species of coral. The famous saltwater Jellyfish Lake teems with millions of harmless creatures. On top of that, Palau was the site of some of the most extreme battles in the Pacific during World War II, and divers will find a plethora of wrecks of seaplanes and ships. You can get out on to the water in a variety of ways: Try a Fish n' Fin canoe tour or book a charter boat with Palau Sea Ventures. For those who don't like getting wet, there's the impressive Palau Aquarium. November through June is the high tourist season in Palau, when the northeast winds keep dive spots calm.

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