Palau Travel Guide
Sitting to the southeast of the Philippines, the young island republic of Palau is an intriguing destination, as it boasts attractions ranging from mysterious monoliths to a series of limestone islands so beautiful, they have been recognized as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.
These sights make Palau a viable place to visit despite the current misfortunes plaguing its biggest claim to fame (Jellyfish Lake – read more about it below). If you plan on visiting the Philippines, Guam, or nearby islands in Micronesia, strongly consider adding this tiny nation to your itinerary.
Currency: US Dollars
Languages: English, Palauan, Sonsorolese, Tobi, Angaur, Japanese
What To Do
Begin your visit to Palau by stopping by the Belau National Museum. Founded in 1955, it isn’t the biggest attraction you’ll ever visit, but it is the perfect place to learn about the backstory of this Pacific island.
From indigenous art and sculpture work to storyboards and photographs which illustrate the history of Palau, you’ll gain the context needed to understand the current state of this island nation.
While most attractions in Palau revolve around natural wonders, the Stone Monoliths are a notable exception to this rule. Known as the ‘Easter Island of Micronesia’, the site in question is home to a couple dozen columns of basalt stone, some weighing as much as five tonnes.
It is not known who put these stones in place nor what purpose they were meant to serve, but the mystical atmosphere which pervades this place and the ocean views possible from this site makes it a must-see for photographers.
Easily accessible from the main highway, an admission fee of $5 USD is charged, so be sure to have some small bills on you before visiting.
Want to go on a day trip you won’t soon forget? Make plans to check out the Southern Lagoon of the Rock Islands. Within its 100,000 hectares, 445 uninhabited limestone islands can be found, each of them ringed by an astonishing variety of coral species.
Formed by volcanic activity versus the buildup of coral, these isles often take on visually pleasing shapes. Carpeted by greenery, surrounded by stunning azure waters, and with ancient village sites on some of the isles, it is not surprising this area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you have the ability to see this amazing corner of our planet, we urge you to do so. With many former visitors remarking it was the most beautiful they have ever seen in their lives, it is highly likely you will have a highly positive experience as well.
Of all the attractions in Palau, Jellyfish Lake was among the most famous for many years. Up until 2016, millions of giant jellyfish, who had evolved separately from their cousins in the sea, had called this lake their home.
Lacking predators of any sort, they had no need for stinging tentacles, making it safe for tourists to go for a swim with these harmless and photogenic animals. Sadly, recent years have not been kind to them, as an unrelenting drought has made this closed ecosystem an unlivable place for most of them.
A die-off soon ensued, leaving this body of water almost completely devoid of the trademark creatures. Once the drought breaks, it will take a few years of recovery to get this lake back to its prior state.
When you visit Palau, inquire about its status, as it would be a shame to miss out on this amazing place if it does get back on its feet soon.
There aren’t many big name beaches in Palau; however, its most beautiful one is worth going out of your way to experience. Located on Omekang Island, Long Beach offers the sort of blissful getaway you won’t find on Koror Island. Blessed with a lengthy strip of sand and crystal clear waters, it is the sort of place where all the troubles of life melt away.
Just be sure to come here wearing water-resistant sunscreen, as there are no natural sources of shade on this beach. The equatorial sun is notoriously strong and will burn you in less than ten minutes if you aren’t adequately protected, so re-apply your coat after you have gotten out of the water.
What to Eat
With strong American and Filipino influences, many meals in Palau take their cues from these two countries. If you are looking for something uniquely Palauan, though, ask some locals where you can get some Fruit Bat Soup.
Made by stewing the meat of this gigantic species of bat with ginger and onion, it is the type of meal that will give you bragging rights with your travel buddies.
Ulkoy is another dish you’ll commonly find in Palau. Consisting of shrimp and squash fritters which have been deep-fried, it is a tasty (if unhealthy) comfort dish found in many homes in this part of the world.
As mentioned earlier, the proximity of the Philippines to Palau has exacted a good deal of influence on the food enjoyed here. The tastes that Filipinos have is evident at dessert in Palau, as treats like Halo Halo and Pichi Pichi are common here.
The former is a mix of gelatin pieces, sweet beans, coconut, cream, fruit, and more, while the latter is made by lumping grated cassava, sugar, and gelatin together into a mold.