Palau – kayaking the Rock Islands

Palau – the worlds best diving and super friendly people at the heart of Micronesia……..
Palau is an interesting place….if all you ever saw was the main street of Koror, you would think you were in some dodgy craphole.  All but the extraordinarily expensive tourist hotels are little more than grubby doss houses, largely catering to the migrant Philipino and Bangladeshi workers who are here en mass serving the largely asian tourists.   The number of Chinese  tourists has increased ten fold in the past five years and as a result there has been rapid growth in chinese businesses.   40% of visitors come from mainland China, 25% from Japan and 15% from Korea and Taiwan.      Similar to Yap, the antagonism towards the chinese tourists, who are perceived to only ever spend money in chinese establishments, runs high.  By contrast the Japanese are very popular (and they did own the country up until after ww2, where Palau had one of the bloodiest battles in th pacific).   The government has cut the number of charter flights from china by half since last year, and is focussed on attracting only high end tourists from now on.
Mens house in Elechui

Its a slightly weird place.   Koror has some charm, a couple of decent coffee shops, several supermarkets (each and every one with out of date dairy products for some reason), and some decent restaurants.  But it isn’t somewhere you would want to spend a lot of time.

Rock islands 
Things to do
Kayak the rock islands
  • I did two kayak tours with Sams Tours, though there was a lot more snorkelling and sitting on the boat than paddling.   Apparently they used to do real kayaking tours for 6-8 hours but the tourists used to be exhausted after an hour so they changed to a lazier approach.   It is a nice day out but not a work out
Rock islands
 snorkel and dive
  • Snorkel – even if you don’t dive the snorkelling lets you see plenty of fish and wonderful coral.  If you don’t want to go out on a boat, the snorkelling under the Japanese bridge in Palau is excellent
  • Diving – I don’t dive, but Palau is apparently one of the best places in the world to do so.
Japanese cannon (right hand side)
Take a land tour of Babeldaob island
  • See the Badrulchao monoliths and stone faces – these have been here for 2000 years and no one actually knows what they are for
  • Visit the Bai – men’s house at Elechui.  Note that unlike most of the Pacific, Palauans have a matriarchal society.   They still have men’s houses, and the chiefs are men, but importantly the chiefs are chosen by the women and will be fired by the women if they are not doing a good job.   And while the men have a men’s house, normal houses are actually referred to as ‘Blai’ which is the feminine version of the word for men’s houses i.e. all the normal houses are women’s houses and the men are only in charge in the men’s house
  • Swim under Ngardmau Falls – if you fancy you can pay $40 to ride the ‘monorail’ down, but it is only 15-20 minutes walk each way
    If you go with Malahi, you also get the botanist tour, we stopped for soursop, limes, kalamansi, imsur (a type of star fruit).  She was awesome – it was like been driven around the island by a friends mildly eccentric granny
  • If you have time you can also take the Land tour to Peliliu – I didn’t go but you can get a local ferry there and back for about $5, although it requires an overnight stay.   Apparently it is super interesting for history buffs
Decoration – men’s house at Elechui
Decoration – fruit bat on men’s house at Elechui


  • Work out on the track –

By far the most fun thing I did in Palau was go to the free fitness class at the track behind the community centre (Mon, Tues, Thurs at around 5.15pm).  The locals were incredibly friendly and welcoming, which was great as busting out burpees in 90% humidity is easier with company.   For the rest of my time on island people I met at the class kept saying hello in the street. Alternatively the track is the place to run in Palau, as the roads are a bit dangerous.

Ngardmau Falls
Badrulchao monoliths
Additional Notes
  • Palau is eye wateringly expensive. I stayed at Pinetrees hostel, $80 for a room with shared bathroom (one shower for up to 17 people).  I would recommend it, as it is the best value on the island – get used to Palau pricing.
  • Sams tours are good for everything you need but assume every tour will cost $150.  If you are canny you can find a cheap kayak to rent at a gas station for ten bucks a day, you can also find rental cars for $30 per day, ask a local or Baba at pinetrees
  • Eating is overpriced – best supermarket was Surangel & sons, although also try Payless for rotisserie chicken.  Thursday morning market next to gymnasium for fresh fruit.   The sashimi and bento boxes at Yanos were also good.   Every meal I ate out was disappointing at best and vile at worst (and pricey), and this included three of the top five restaurants on TripAdvisor

The Milky Way – for palauan skin cream
Kayaking the mangroves on Long lake

January 20, 2017; Koror, Palau