Top Dive Island: Yap

When the full moon rises high over the mangroves in Yap, it shines down on Colonia Town like a heavenly beacon. And in nature’s spotlight, divers gather at the outdoor pubs to share, what else: beer, food & dive stories. They talk about the island’s mantas. They drink local suds called Manta Gold. The tales flow, but the nights end early — because in the morning, there’s diving to do.

Yap Highlight

Plan your trip during the full moon from December to April (Yap Day, a three-day cultural celebration event, starts March 1). On the incoming morning high tide, you’ll be rewarded with great visibility in Miil Channel to see mating manta rays.

Since the discovery of resident manta rays that make daily visits to the island's inner channels, diving has become the main attraction here. Of course tourists come to enjoy the unique culture and to see the natural beauty of this sparsely populated isle. But mostly they come to see the mantas of Miil Channel, the sharks of Vertigo Wall or the swim- throughs and beautiful shafts of light in Yap Caverns. They come to marvel at Lionfish Wall's flowerlike corals, go on a macro hunt to spot mating mandarinfish and to watch the dolphins chase the dive boats. They're here to truly live the dive life, if only for one coveted week. And the Yapese people are happy to have them. They have always been one with the sea and understand the draw. Even the gables of some traditional meeting houses display manta art, reinforcing the deep-rooted seafaring history of this tiny island community. — Tim Rock

Travel Tip: Don't miss the island's stone-money banks to see the huge stone discs that were quarried centuries ago from Palau and other Pacific islands and brought to Yap by ocean canoe.

When to Go: Year-round. The wetter summer months offer a good possibility of dolphin and pilot-whale encounters.

Getting There: Continental Micronesia serves Colonia (YAP) from Guam and Manila. Typical flight itineraries begin at Continental's Newark or Houston hub.

Dive Conditions: Water temps rarely dip below 80°F, with 100-plus-foot visibility on the outer reefs. Visibility in the channels swings drastically from more than 100 feet down to just 20 feet.

Operators/Accommodations: Manta Ray Bay Resort (www.mantaray.com); Beyond the Reef (www.diveyap.com); Nature's Way (www.naturesway.fm); Yap Explorer (www.yapexplorer.com); Traders' Ridge Resort (www.tradersridge.com).