Federated States of Micronesia Travel Guide
A disparate set of islands scattered across the tropical Pacific Ocean, the Federated States of Micronesia are unknown to most travellers. This archipelago may be tough to reach, but with a ruin complex that defies imagination, and the largest warship graveyard in the world, those who make the effort to get out there will be richly rewarded for their persistence.
Currency: US Dollars
Languages: English, Trukese, Pohnpeian, Woleaian, Nukuoro, Kapingamarangi, Yapese, Kosrean, Ulithian
What To Do
When one thinks of South Pacific island nations like the Federated States of Micronesia, they usually picture blissful beaches, waterfalls surrounded by lush vegetation, and World War II era shipwrecks. However, one of the biggest surprises in all of Oceania can be found in this unassuming country, as it is here where you will find Nan Madol, the only ruins of an ancient city/civilization found atop a coral atoll.
Found off the island of Pohnpei within easy driving distance of the capital city of Palikir, this amazing site is best visited at high tide, which is when stingrays can be observed swimming in its canals. This also means you’ll need to be prepared to wade through knee-deep water, so bring a pair of reef shoes to protect your delicate feet.
The most mystifying aspect of this place: it is constructed of basalt rock, which needed to be quarried, shaped, and then shipped to this coral atoll (no local volcanic activity to produce a supply). Given how heavy this rock is, the building of this place ranks among the greatest feats of engineering in human history.
Fascinated by war history and enjoy diving? Indulge both hobbies with a visit to the Chuuk Lagoon. The final resting place of a sizable chunk of the Japanese naval fleet after a massive American raid effectively gave them their ‘Pearl Harbor’, the bottom of this picturesque lagoon is littered with the remains of 44 ships, making it the biggest single wreck diving site in the world.
While it can be easy to get carried away here, be cautioned that wreck diving comes with its own set of hazards. You should have significant experience, and even then, a diving guide is strongly recommended for your own safety. We recommend spending at least a week to make the most of this bucket list destination.
Think the coins in your pocket have gotten out of control? Imagine how the people of Yap felt whenever they had to make a purchase. In the midst of the Federated States of Micronesia, the story behind the Stone Money of Yap is easily one of the most fascinating and bizarre tales in the long history of currency.
These stone discs, which could weigh as much as four metric tonnes each, were quarried from limestone elsewhere in the archipelago, then they were transported over hundreds of miles over the open Pacific Ocean to the island of Yap.
Even more bizarre: whenever these stone discs changed hands, they didn’t leave the island or were even moved. Oral history was used to keep track of their ownership. Not even losing these behemoths to the waves of the Pacific nullified their value. This happened once during a storm, yet island authorities still considered it valid, despite the stone being irretrievable.
All this goes to show that no matter what civilization you are dealing with, a system will eventually be devised (no matter how onerous and inefficient) to allow it to move beyond the structural limitations of a barter system.
Looking for the best waterfall in the Federated States of Micronesia? Put Kepirohi Waterfall on your list of things to see and do. A bridal veil-style chute located on the island of Pohnpei, it is reachable within a short hike of about 10-15 minutes from a roadside trailhead.
It is a great place to swim as the water is quite warm (about 28 degrees Celsius), but even if you don’t plan on going in, you can feed the fish if you are so inclined.
For all of its isles, the Federated States of Micronesia lacks the sort of beach which would make this country more popular among tourists (likely a blessing in disguise), but if you wish to spend a day acting out a deserted island fantasy, Ant Atoll is the best place to do it.
A coral island sitting off the west coast of Pohnpei, it is the sort of place that would be developed to the hilt if it were located in Fiji, but since it is in underrated Micronesia, you and your travel party will likely be the only visitors when you go.
A variety of hard and soft corals and various marine life await snorkelers, swimmers will enjoy the sandy bottom near shore, and those wanting to soak up the atmosphere of this tropical paradise will love laying on the empty beaches which ring this island.
What to Eat
Those wanting to sample unique dishes while in the Federated States of Micronesia will want to start by hunting down some Rotama. Composed of taro root steamed in an in-ground oven and then mashed upon removal, it is a major source of carbs for the hard-working people of this island nation.
Fermented Breadfruit is also eaten with many meals. A speciality of the island of Yap, it has a pungent taste, but it is thought to contribute positively to the health of those who eat it on a regular basis.
Finally, you’ll be in luck if you get to have some Koapnoair Koakihr while exploring the Federated States of Micronesia. Consisting of sweet potatoes boiled in coconut milk, it has an understated sweetness to it which makes it great to have at the end of a meal.