Marshall Islands Travel Guide
A chain of isles lying roughly halfway between Australia and Hawaii, the Marshall Islands have escaped the attention of tourism operators in the present day due to its infamous past.
In the 1950s, Bikini Atoll was pummelled by 23 atmospheric nuclear tests, including the largest nuclear detonation ever set off by the Americans, the 15-megaton Castle Bravo blast. While this particular island remains unsuitable for permanent habitation, it is safe to visit by diving outfits more than sixty years after being deemed a wasteland.
The rest of the Marshall Islands is perfectly safe for tourism. If you come, expect to be among the only foreigners, a fact which virtually assures you a warm welcome from locals.
Currency: US Dollars
Languages: English, Japanese, various indigenous languages
What To Do
Learn about the history of the Marshall Islands by spending some time at the Alele Museum. While tiny in stature, this building contains records, books, photographs, and other artifacts. This includes the first maps of this archipelago (which were created by the first Europeans to arrive here), and exhibits detailing the legacy left behind by years of nuclear tests.
Next, drive out to Majuro Bridge. While rather unassuming and ordinary in its appearance, this span is the highest point in the Marshall Islands, standing just under 10 feet above sea level. It isn’t just a geographical curiosity; it is also a popular place to cast a line, as many varieties of fish swim underneath this span.
Most of all, it is rather sobering that an ordinary highway bridge is the highest point of land in a sovereign nation, especially when you consider sea level rises expected from the most tepid climate change warming scenarios.
Looking out over a land which is expected to slip beneath the waves before the 21st century is through will give you a visceral sense of how unnatural global warming can impact the lives of other humans.
While Bikini Atoll is still considered to be unsafe for continuous human habitation, it is possible to dive here for short periods, as the background radiation here has receded enough from its heyday as a nuclear whipping boy for the United States military.
With nine ships sunk in the various blasts throughout the 1950s, there is plenty of wreck diving experienced SCUBA enthusiasts can do, which the less skilled can take in the amazing coral and marine life which now thrive in this area.
Want to go on land? It used to be possible, but access was denied by local authorities in 2008, so you’ll have to admire this irradiated tropical paradise from your diving boat.
Arno Atoll is a better candidate for those wanting to experience a tropical Pacific island, as its quiet beaches and traditional way of life will give you the sort of peak travel experience you are looking for on a trip to the Marshall Islands.
You won’t find sprawling resorts or luxury hotels here: just a few guesthouses, no internet, and limited electricity. Here, meeting locals, buying handicrafts, beach bumming, snorkelling, and touring the local clam breeding farm will take up your time – trust us when we say you won’t miss all the usual trappings of civilization during your stay here.
Looking for another outstanding place to dive during your time in the Marshall Islands? Have a diving outfit take you out to Kalalin Pass. The current here is strong enough that you won’t have to do much work to move around – just let the flow of the water carry you as you take in the sights around you.
With plenty of sharks and other big fish frequenting this nautical feature (which allows for dives as deep as 130 feet), the likelihood of having a memorable dive here is high.
What to Eat
While meals eaten in the Marshall Islands mirror what is enjoyed elsewhere in the Pacific, there are a few dishes unique enough to stand out. Baked Papaya with Coconut Cream is one of them, as it is made by cooking a papaya in coconut cream and a bit of sugar to create a treat that will have you loving this under-appreciated tropical fruit.
Sweet Potatoes & Fried Bananas is another flavourful dish that Marshall Island natives prepare from time to time. Made by frying cut up sweet potatoes and bananas in coconut oil, it is an indulgence that will allow you to bond with the locals easily.
Finally, be sure to sample some Sweet Macadamia Pie before going home. Hard to find due to the importation of its many ingredients, it nonetheless makes good use of the abundant coconut found here. It is an excellent ending to a meal consisting of seafood or canned meat, so do try some if you have the chance.