As I mentioned in yesterday’s post – I wanted to do a roundup of travel related information for Palau. Information on travel to Palau is fairly sparse as I found out – so I figured anything I can add to the pile would help. This post isn’t so much for my regular readers as it is for folks that stumble on my blog while looking for various Palau information. Do keep in mind that this post really only represents my perspective and what I experienced in Palau, and that others experiences may differ. With that, here’s the roundup of my Palau (and Guam) posts, in order of posting:
Guam Recap: The Tour de Guam
Scuba Diving: One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish
Kayaking Day 1: For the love of all raindrops holy, please stop raining!
Kayaking Day 2: Here comes the sun!
Kayaking Day 3: Jellyfish Lake
Helicopters and Peleliu: From the Air
First up: How to get there
There are basically two options with respect to getting to Palau, but all options go through Guam. You can either fly via Honolulu or via some other major Asian city (Tokyo/Hong Kong/Manilla). The most common route for Americans is via Honolulu, where Continental flies. From there you pick up another Continental flight from Honolulu to Guam, and then the last Continental flight from Guam to Palau. Continental operates what’s called “Continental Micronesia” from Guam, with TONS of flights to all over the place in the region. It’s like a mini-hub for them. This is good for two reasons – it makes booking flights easy. And you can use any of the SkyTeam alliance members; such a Delta and Northwest to redeem miles for tickets.
We actually went via Tokyo instead of Honolulu. This is because I have a pretty strong United affiliation due to business travel, so I was able to get to Tokyo easily on miles (Tokyo is a big United hub). And then from there catch the 3.5 hour flight to Guam and the tow hour flight to Palau. I redeemed Delta miles for the Continental flights – only 25K roundtrip from Tokyo to Palau (it would have only been 12.5K roundtrip if I was using Continental miles!). This allowed us a day stopover in Guam, which was just about right to check out the island.
There is an Asiana Airways flight that you’ll see nonstop from Seoul to Korror (Palau). Don’t even bother trying to book it. It’s actually a charter flight operated by a tour company in Korea. It will show up in your airline search results, but it will error on when you try to book it. I called dozens of travel agencies… I tried for weeks to get to speak to someone in English about it, but eventually gave up.
As a general rule, basically all of the Palau flights arrive late at night, and leave around 12AM to 2AM. It sucks…but you just find ways to keep yourself busy on your last day.
Where to stay
Once you arrive you’ve got a selection of hotels to choose from. Well…really not that many actually. I ended up choosing the Palau Pacific Resort (PPR as it’s called by the locals). It’s a fairly nice place that’s centrally located to everything you want to be near. They’ve got a dive shop (Splash) onsite, as well as a few restaurants, tennis courts and a fitness center. It’s got a really long sandy beach in front of it and a coral reef out in front for snorkeling as well.
I don’t know the other resorts that well, but if I were going to Peleliu, I would stay at the Dolphin Bay Resort, which is just recently redone. We swung by there for a few minutes and it seemed like a really nice quiet place with good friendly owners. Some folks in our dive group stayed at the Cliffside Hotel, and it seemed pretty nice as well.
If you’re going to be out and about every day and don’t need a ‘romantic’ setting – then go with something other than PPR to save money (like Cliffside). If you’re looking for ‘romantic’, then PPR is probably your best bet. Do keep in mind that compared to other places I’ve been to – I wouldn’t consider Palau a hugely romantic location – more an active persons location. For romantic, I’d recommend going to the Maldives or Tahiti – and still get great diving in.
With respect to choosing between the main island (Korror) and Peleliu, I would generally suggest Korror. Quite simply you’ll run out of things to do on Peleliu within two or so days. Of course, it does have excellent proximity to many of the southern dive sites (such as Blue Corner) – reducing the boat trip time from 45-60 minutes down to 15 minutes.
Some folks I know did diving live-aboards (which are dive boats that you stay on for a number of days). To be honest, I guess I’m not sure why you would do that (live-aboard) in Palau given how easily accessible the vast majority of the dive sites are from shore. If you want to be able to pull off 3+ dives a day – then it makes sense, but for 2-3 dives a day… just go from shore.
We did all of our diving/kayaking through Sam’s Dive Shop. I can’t say enough how much Sam’s rocked! I was able to sort all my pre-trip information out via e-mail with someone who spoke/wrote excellent English. Don’t underestimate the value of clear communications when you’re on a tight timeline.
They picked us up most morning in front of our hotel via boat for the short 5-7 minute ride to the dive shop. Upon arrival at the dive shop (which was just recently renovated), they were incredibly friendly and more than willing to help. They were clearly focused on the customer.
Hands down you can’t beat Ron at Sam’s Dive Shop for going the extra mile. He worked to lay out a kayaking route/plan, as well as give tons of great suggestions along the way. He was able to put together activities and itineraries that weren’t on the menu – ‘on the fly’. We got the feeling that anything we could think of – he could execute on. This included putting together the custom helicopter charter and flight down to Peleliu, the custom Kayak/Jellyfish lake trip – as well as of course the custom kayak trip. Despite thier name, don’t look at them as just a dive shop – they’ll pretty much arrange anything you want for you – be it diving, snorkeling, fishing or kayaking. Heck…they even helped us get grocery shopping done for our trip.
Speaking of helicopters…we actually went up in the helicopter twice – once as part of our charter flight, and then a second time as part of a published helicopter tour. For a 10-15 minute flight it was $79 to see the major attractions by air. WAY worth it! Best deal in town. The helicopter seats three passengers – however in the very near future they’ll have a new one that will seat four passengers. There is only one helicopter shop in town, so everyone knows who it is. If you’re looking for the helicopter pilot’s e-mail addresses – just shoot me an e-mail and I’d be happy to help get you connected; although all of the hotels have this information too. Also, the intra-island flights you may read about in the guide books are gone now. The company closed down after runway construction put them out of business. Helicopter is your only air choice once you get to the islands.
As for Kayaking – lots of fun. The weather did put a bit of a damper on the first day, but the second day was awesome. If you at all enjoy paddling – then definitely do a few days in a kayak. We did everything through Sam’s, well technically Blue Planet (partnered with, but essentially part of Sam’s). As an FYI, I had originally tried contacting Paddling Palau, but they are apparently Blue Plane now, so just contact Sam’s instead.
Jellyfish Lake – you have to see it if you go to Palau. If you don’t see it when in Palau…you need to be bonked over the head or something. All of the dive operators will stop by the lake every few days on the way back/to a dive. So you don’t have to worry about scheduling an extra day just for Jellyfish Lake – just add it to one of your dive days and save the time. You’ll spend about 30-45 minutes floating in the lake after a short 5-10 minute hike.
The weather… there is no ‘best season’ to go to Palau. It’s basically the same all year round (based on my numerous conversations with locals). It rained a little (or a lot) every day we were there, but was generally sunny out. You sorta get used to the rain…sorta. Don’t bother trying to plan around it…just go with the flow.
At any rate, if there’s something I didn’t cover here (and there is probably tons of stuff), feel free to e-mail me (address on the upper right side) and I’ll be happy to answer. Even if ya find this post a few years from now.