How to Spend 5 Days in Palau

Scuba divers have long prized Palau for its stunning underwater beauty — but it’s not just divers that will be wowed by the natural wonder of this island nation.

Palau Travel Itinerary: Rock Islands
Palau’s Rock Islands are a UNESCO WorldShutterstock

Scuba divers have long prized Palau for its stunning underwater beauty — but it's not just divers that will be wowed by the natural wonder of this island nation. Kayakers, snorkelers, boaters and sun worshippers can appreciate the clear waters, white-sand beaches and shallow coral reefs of this Micronesian destination. To reach Palau, bear in mind that there are no direct flights from the United States — most flights typically route through Seoul, Taipei, Honolulu or Guam. Once you've arrived, here's how to spend your five-day stay.


Fantasy Island

Palau Travel Itinerary: Palau Pacific Resort
Make the most of Palau's turquoise lagoons and postcard-perfect beaches with a stay at Palau Pacific Resort. For an even richer South Pacific experience, check in to one of the five over-water bungalows. Most flights to Palau arrive late in the evening, so pop into the resort's Meduu Ribtal Restaurant before it closes for a bite of local fare, from coconut giant clam sashimi to taro leaf soup. Then finish the evening with a dip under the stars before retiring.Courtesy Palau Pacific Resort


Lay of the Land

Palau Travel Itinerary: Ngardmau waterfall
Rent a car to drive Koror’s northern road, a ring that encircles the entire island and takes 90 minutes without stops. Make your first detour in Ngardmau and hike to the waterfall (shown above). Your next stop is Ngarchelong, home to a collection of stone monoliths, whose origin, like those that of Easter Island’s statues, is unknown.Shutterstock

Happy Hour

Palau Travel Itinerary: Fish dinner at Kramers Cafe
You know it's a good seafood joint when it's packed with locals—which Kramer's Café usually is. The second-story balcony overlooking the Neco Marine Harbor packs plenty of romantic ambiance. Go for the Hawaiian-style poke, stay to relax to the chill beats of ambient house music while sipping cocktails with expats who staff the island's dive shops and bars.Courtesy Kramer’s Café


Get Your Float On

Palau Travel Itinerary: Kayaking the Rock Islands
The most photographed destinations in Palau are undoubtedly among the Rock Islands — sheer-walled limestone islands that appear like massive mushrooms on the ocean's surface, covered in tufts of green jungle. The best way to tour them is via kayak. Sam's Tours leads full-day adventures. Try the Long Lake expedition to experience a saltwater lake home to baby eagle rays, green sea turtles and giant clams.Shutterstock

Local Flavor

Palau Travel Itinerary: trying fruit bat soup
Palauan food can be hard to define, as the tiny nation is heavily influenced by many of its island neighbors in the South Pacific. Still, if you're curious what Palauans dish up at home, sit down to a meal at the Penthouse Hotel Restaurant. The cement outside doesn't scream island escape, but the smells inside do. Opt for the coconut and taro root soup, crabs or the catch of the day. To satisfy an adventurous palate, try the fruit bat soup — a dish Palau is known for (shown above). Save room for a starchy taro-based dessert or a cheesecake bread bun.Jon Whittle


Dive In

Palau Travel Itinerary: Snorkeling and diving
You don't need to be scuba certified to witness Palau's underwater beauty. With Fish 'N Fins, snorkelers are welcome on daily boat trips to the reef. While scuba divers drop in and go deep along a coral wall, snorkelers stay shallow to check out giant clams, clownfish and green sea turtles. Or, try scuba diving for a day. Ask for the DSD, or Discover Scuba Diving course, which lets you don a tank and scuba gear, swimming in close to anemones, cuttlefish, schools of jacks and more. If it turns out you love it, you can book extra days. The only caveat: You can only dive to 40 feet.Shutterstock

Spice Route

Palau Travel Itinerary: The Taj
Sure, Indian food might not be an obvious choice when in Palau, but it's one of the best picks in Koror. The Taj in downtown Koror dishes up butter chicken, lamb vindaloo and a wealth of other options. If you have the time, plan on lingering. Their Wi-Fi is some of the best on island so you can catch up on posting your vacation pics before heading home. Plus, hookahs, aka water pipes, are offered after dinner to loungers who want to smoke mild tobacco in flavors including apple, banana and strawberry. Call ahead to skip taxi fare: They will pick you and your party up for dinner and bring you back to your hotel.Courtesy The Taj


High Flying

Palau Travel Itinerary: helicopter view of Palau
For roughly the cost of a night in a high-end hotel, splurge on a helicopter tour of the Rock Islands. This nation is spread out, and unless you have the time to see it all by boat, an aerial tour with Palau Helicopters is the way to go. You'll gain a birds-eye view of the country's inland saltwater lakes, plus the green islands and the white-sand channels between where you could spot what appears to be black kites in the water — aka giant oceanic manta rays with wingspans of up to 23 feet. When they ask if you want the doors on or off, the correct answer is "off."Shutterstock