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Best Places to Visit in Palau, Top Attractions
Tourism in Palau is centred around scuba diving and snorkelling, which both are outstanding, but there are a lot of other Palau points of interest you should see. In this article, we will tell you where you can find the best Palau points of interest and how to get there from Koror. There are, of course, some POI’s that can only be reached by boat! During the Second World War, Palau was in the centre of a battle arena for control of the Pacific. As such, there are many different relics and historical sites that you can visit. If you have plans to visit Palau and want to know more about its past, then continue reading to find out more about the top things to do in Palau. You should probably plan two days to go and see as many of the stunning sights as you can during your visit to Palau. Palau is a country made up of over three hundred islands, situated in Pacific Micronesia. While presidential republic is the governing system in Palau, the country is in a free association with the USA. Palau boasts of its own unique cultural heritage which includes elements of Pacific and western traditions. Tourism in Palau offers natural beauty as well as some fascinating historic attractions. Here are some of the best things to do and places to see in Palau.
#1- US Marine Corps Monument
On a clearing located on the eastern flank of Bloody Nose Ridge is this small but poignant coral memorial, dedicated to the US Navy and Marine Corps troops who perished in 1944 during the Battle of Peleliu. Its location is highly symbolic – it is near a Japanese
#2- Palau Aquarium
This intriguing aquarium is part of the Pacific International Coral Reef Centre, a Japanese-funded research complex. It aims to educate visitors about Palau's coral-reef ecosystem and features 16 themed sections, each recreating a different habitat.
#3- Orange Beach
The first US invasion forces to land on Peleliu came ashore at Orange Beach on 15 September 1944. From concrete pillboxes, the Japanese machine-gunned the oncoming waves of Americans as they hit the beaches. Today Orange Beach is a quiet picnic spot with a sandy beach and calm, clear waters.
#4- Japanese Power Plant Building
One of Peleliu's most spectacular WWII sites, this large concrete structure suffered severe damage from aerial bombing – look for the massive hole in the facade – and is now partly overgrown with trees and shrubs. The Japanese built it to supply electricity during the time of their occupation. The adjacent building with a heavy metal door was used to store fuel.
#5- Tank and Japanese Cannon
Right in the middle of the island, there's a wrecked LVT A1 tank that was lost in action when US Marines overran a nearby Japanese stronghold in 1944. Behind the tank, a flight of stairs leads to a small natural limestone cavern, quite hidden behind a tangle of vegetation. Inside lies a large 200mm gun, perfectly preserved. It was used by the Japanese to protect the airfield.
#6- Belau National Museum & Bai
This little museum features exhibits from all eras of Palauan life, including artworks, photography, sculpture, storyboards and more. As you move between floors it is fascinating to trace the history of colonial occupation on the island. The museum grounds also contain a striking wood-and-thatch bai (men's meeting house), carved and painted with depictions of Palauan legends.
#7- Airai Bai
Palau's oldest bai (men's meeting house) is over 100 years old, 21m long and 6m wide, with a steeply pitched roof reaching a height of 12m. It was constructed using local materials of wood and thatch on a stone platform. A number of legendary scenes and symbolic motifs are painted inside and outside. Look for the figure of delerrok, the mythical money bird, found at all four corners of the bai; it was thought to bring good fortune to the village.
#8- Peleliu Peace Memorial Park
On the southwestern tip of the island, the Japanese government built this memorial in 1985 for those who perished on Palau during WWII. The monument comprises a rectangular concrete block with basaltic inlays, supported by two massive concrete slabs. During a visit in April 2015, Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko offered flowers and prayers at the cenotaph.
#9- Melekeok Bai
This elegant bai (men's meeting house) stands in superb isolation up a hill in Melekeok. From the Melekeok State Office, where you'll pay the entrance fee, a stone path leads to the bai in about 15 minutes. This well-proportioned structure is elaborately ornamented with traditional designs and colours. The east gable sports the legendary figure of dilukái, the symbol of fertility, as well as animal and marine-life motifs. The rooster is said to represent an industrious individual, who rises early.
#10- Kaigun Sho
Babeldaob's most impressive WWII site, Kaigun Sho is a bombed-out shell building, used as a communication centre by the Japanese during WWII. The facade is partially scarred by bullet holes. A Japanese tank and a few anti-aircraft guns lie next to the building. The site is easy to find – coming from Koror, rather than turning towards the airport, continue straight on the main road.
#12- Thousand Man Cave
On the northern outskirts of the Klouklubed village, Thousand Man Cave refers to a maze of tunnels and chambers built by the Japanese during WWII. The Americans encountered a great deal of trouble penetrating this cave system to dislodge the 1000 or so Japanese who refused to surrender – they resorted to blocking up the exits, leaving only two open, and using flame-throwers and explosive charges to force the remaining Japanese out.
#13- American Tanks
Northwest of the airstrip, two sturdy-looking US tanks rust in union on a grassy patch of land near a dirt track. Both are LVTs – Landing Vehicle Tractors – that were used to carry US Marines from ship to shore when the US invasion forces landed on Japanese-controlled Peleliu in September 1944. One tank is equipped with a 75mm gun.
#14- Japanese Military Headquarters Building
This two-storey building was the Japanese forward command post during WWII. It was important in their efforts to control Peleliu and was very fiercely defended, but the Americans managed to bomb it in 1944. With stairs that lead to nowhere, pockmarked ceilings, and exposed wires and girders forming uncanny shadows on the green, slimy walls, the headquarters could form the stage for a horror movie. Also look for the three heavy metal doors at the back.
#15- Badrulchau Stone Monoliths
If you want to see the 'Easter Island of Micronesia', bookmark this archaeological site located at Babeldaob's northernmost point, where you'll find large basalt monoliths studded on a hillside. Their origin and purpose is unknown, but according to one legend the gods put them there to support a bai (men's meeting house) that held thousands of people. Some stones weigh up to five tonnes. Badrulchau is also a wonderful picnic spot, with splendid sea views.
#16- WWII Memorial Museum
Housed in a concrete building that was a dispensary during WWII, this well-organised museum is an excellent starting point to understand the historical significance of the battle for Peleliu. It contains a fine collection of period photographs and war artefacts, including weapons, uniforms and proclamations. Just across the road, a path leads to White Beach. When the tide is low, you can see a few tracks of Sherman tanks immediately offshore; they look like coral formations.
#17- US Army 323rd Infantry Monument & Lookout
The large coral ridge that runs parallel to Peleliu's west coast was nicknamed 'Bloody Nose Ridge' by the Americans in WWII. This small limestone hill covered with thick jungle was turned into a virtually impregnable fortress by the Japanese troops during their occupation of the island. The US forces gradually gained the upper hand, but at tremendous cost in life and limb on both sides. At the top of the hill, a coral obelisk honours the US Army 323rd Infantry.
#18- Palau Community College Bai
Your first encounter with a bai (men's meeting house made of wood and thatch) will probably take place in the grounds of Palau Community College, right in the centre of Koror. Here you'll find a superb bai beside a small memorial amid tropical gardens. There's another bai in the college's courtyard and both are replicas of original bai. Check out at the elaborate, colourful designs on the gables, depicting legends and traditional stories.
#19- Ngatpang Waterfall
Fancy a dip? Make a beeline for this little jungle waterfall that drops into a broad pool. It's only a five-minute walk down the main road, but there's no sign. To get there from Koror, follow the road to the airport and turn left (west) at the T-junction just after the Japan-Palau Friendship Bridge. Follow this road for about 12.5km until you see the rusty remnants of a plane on your right; the path leading to the waterfall is just across the road.
#20- Palau National Capitol
Washington DC? No, Palau's political centre. This monumental building, which was constructed in 2006, is a replica of the American capitol. Visitors are often surprised by the imposing dome structure and the scale of the complex – such a large construction on a remote island. It is flanked by judicial, executive and legislative wings connected via a central open plaza and colonnaded breezeways. Most of the time it feels eerily empty.
#21- Ngardmau Waterfall
One of Babeldaob's premier attractions, Ngardmau Waterfall flows from Palau's tallest peak, 217m-high Mt Ngerchelchuus. It's the tallest waterfall in Micronesia. It can be accessed on foot – a tough but rewarding 20- to 30-minute hike along a jungle path – or, for the less energetic, by a clunky monorail. A dip in the cool pools at the base of the falls is not to be missed.
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