When it rains in Palau, you are pretty much stuck in town or your hotel room. Luckily, there are several good Asian restaurants and walking around Koror in the rain is not that bad after all. It is better than paying for a tour and being super disappointed due to the weather. In my case, it rained for three full days, but there were a few hours where it did not rain. Hence, I took my umbrella and wondered around town.
To start off, there really was not much to see in Koror itself, but here were some of the things that I did. I wandered around Main Street, which was literally the main street that connects the islands. Main Street sports most of the key restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, and little mom and pop stores. The busiest parts of main street were about one kilometer long. Thus, walking around was very easy, but you won’t see many people walking, only the kids when they get out of school. The locals predominantly drive everywhere and you will barely see a soul.
There was the Supreme Court at one of the junctions, but it looked like a typical island court, only 2 stories high.
Across the court was the elementary school, it got really busy when the kids got out. The kids wore uniforms, which was really cute. The uniforms differed depending on the grade (elementary or high school).
As I continued down towards Malakal Island, I made an hour pit stop at Ngaremeduu Bay Conservation Area. I found people snorkeling and some people hanging out at the small beach. It was cloudy when I got there, so I just sat around the park.
On the other side of Main Street towards the airport, there was a gymnasium, post office, fire station, police headquarters and a few churches off the main street. So, there really was not much to see. It will probably take you a few hours to see Koror city center.
Let’s get to the food section now. Are you hungry?
There were lots of restaurants in Koror and most of them were the Asian variety of Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Filipino, fast food and local food. What is local food? Root vegetables such as taro (harvested exclusively by women), yams and pumpkins are the staple carbs, while tropical fruits such as dragon fruit, mango, passion fruit, bread fruit, rambutan and soursop are the norm. Coconut is a widely used ingredient for flavouring everything. I mean, literally everything! I almost forgot about the fruit bat soup. They eat bats in a soup. I saw it with my own eyes and it was pretty scary. I passed.
Here are the places that I ate and my overall recommendation on them.
Antheus Café – I had the chicken teriyaki set lunch and it was very good. The cost was $10 USD and the place had free Wifi, but awfully slow and hence, don’t bank on it if there are lots of clients. It took about 10 seconds to load a picture. The café had several different kinds of mix and match lunch sets and it was very crowded from 12 to 3pm. The café had an outdoor bar upstairs, but it was very hot and I could barely sit there. I went straight down to the indoor first floor to enjoy the air-conditioning.
Taj Curry – I had the butter chicken and it was pretty good. The place was a bit on the steep side for restaurants in Palau. The décor was nice and played the hit music. I had a few beers at the adjacent bar. The local dark brew was pretty good, but not cheap at $6 USD a mug.
Rur Gift Shop – The shaved ice from this gift shop near the WCTC mall was great. Prices for the shaved ice started from $3 USD and the most expensive one was $9 USD. You can customize your shaved ice from the base package of $3 USD and add additional toppings.
Yano’s – I ate here three times to try the local food. It was a small local food place that was popular among locales. Most people took their food out, but there were a few seats to eat there. They had some hot cooked meals and others were pre-made meat and rice dishes. They had turtle on display, which I did not try. It looked kind of gross, so I skipped. Otherwise, I tried the marinated beef, chicken adobo, grilled pork and the tofu dish. The store also sells desserts, fresh fruits and juices. The prices were easy on the wallet.
Supermarket/gas station food – Most of the supermarkets sell simple bento style meals for $3 to $5 USD. The ribs from one of the supermarket was ok. It required more sauce, but was not bad for a snack. The chicken curry meals at the gas station costs around $3 USD and they can be filling with a lot of rice with a few pieces of meat. I had to eat two of them to satisfy my meat crave.
Things to do
There is an abundance of water activities on the island. You can go scuba diving, kayaking, parasailing, snorkelling, fishing, sailing, pretty much anything to do with water sports. At the same time, there are hiking trails to the waterfalls in the inner parts of the island. You can simply walk around the city and enjoy the local and international cuisine.
I recommend the Jellyfish Lake Tour ($90 USD per person and $100 USD for the permit) if it is available. Ensure that the jellyfish are available, since tour companies will sell the tour with very little jellyfish. Ask a few of the locals or information desk at the airport or hotel before going on the trip.
Peleliu Island is where you will discover reminiscences of tanks, planes, cannons, etc where Japan fought a bloody war during WW II. There is a memorial museum there as well.
The waterfalls in Ngardmau are located on Babeldaob Island (the same island where the airport is on). You will have a chance to hike your way through the lush jungle and end up at the waterfall. I was told that you can hike on your own. It takes about one hour to get there by car, so if you do rent a car, do the trip on your own. Make sure to hike with at least two people. If not, there are tours that start around $95 USD per person.
Almost everyone on the island speaks English, but other languages such as Japanese and Tagalog are widely spoken by the locals and expat workers. Palau mainly caters to tourism and thus, there are expat workers from Japan, Philippines, China and South Korea.
A SIM card is unnecessary unless you plan on staying for a month. The hotels will assist you for phone calls. Unless there is free Internet at your hotel, you will most likely have to purchase one. Internet is not cheap and very slow. It costs around $10 USD for 10 hours. You can purchase the Wifi cards at any of the gas stations or supermarkets.
–USD is the official currency and ATMs are abundant, while credit card use is accepted, although with an additional fee of 3-5%.
-If you plan on doing water sports, bring a waterproof camera.
-To keep costs to a minimum, you can either self-cater or purchase the premade food at the supermarket. The premade and fast food usually sell out by 6pm, so go there early.
-Public transportation from the airport does not exist and flights arrive very late at night. It will be best to secure your transport from your hotel. My transfer was $20 USD each way. It was expensive for a 20-minute ride, but that was one of the cheapest. If you take a normal taxi, it supposedly costs $40 USD.
-Take a small umbrella with you, since it rains often.
-Almost everything is imported and thus, bring everything you need in advance. Purchase your toiletries, sunscreen, etc before arrival.
-When renting a car, the local rental car companies were a bit cheaper around $75 USD for a small car with full insurance. The international companies like Hertz were available too, but costs $10 USD more.
I did find one hostel online called Ms. Pinetree’s Hostel, but it was fully booked and I could not get a dorm bed. Instead, I stayed at a hotel down the street from Pinetrees, which was $40 USD per night for a Spartan room. There was really nothing in the room except a bed and an air conditioning unit and an attached private bathroom. I was told by the reception that this was the cheapest private room in town. There may be some AirBnB options, so check online.
Getting around from the airport to Koror
Taxi: The published fare at the airport to the city center was $35 USD.
Public bus: I was told that there is no public bus or transportation from the airport.
Rental cars: There were rental car outlets in the airport and in Koror.