Palau is an island nation on the western edge of the Pacific Ocean, located southeast of the Philippines. The quirk of fate which put this particular archipelago in Micronesia at the intersection of the Pacific and the Philippine Sea has turned Palau into a tourist paradise with a scintillating array of dive sites filled with marine life and coral reefs. The climate is warm and sunny most of the time and the local population of about 20,600 is divided between the former capital Koror and the adjacent island of Babeldaob, where you will find the current capital Melekeok. This leaves tourists free to get a car for hire in Palau and explore hundreds of uninhabited islands such as the Rock Islands and the beaches, dive sites, and unique attractions such as Jellyfish Lake.
Koror, the former capital,is the tourist hub in Palau. It has all the hotels and tourist facilities you need, such as the WCTC Shopping Center at the town center. You will need to get a car for rent in Palau anyway, and it helps if you want to poke around Koror. Koror Jail has become a tourist attraction, mostly because of the storyboards made by inmates that are available for sale. See the Coral Reef Center and visit Dolphins Pacific, a dolphin research facility where you get to swim with the dolphins. Koror has its own list of dive sites and snorkeling experiences. There are dive centers that can provide training and diving gear if you need help.
Melekeok, on Babeldaob Island adjacent to Koror, is the current capital of Palau. You can drive from Koror to Melekeok using the Japan-Palau Friendship Bridge. The only thing worth seeing here is the impressive but somewhat out of place capitol complex, considering that the town has a grand population of 261. Outside the capital, the rest of the island is worth exploring, offering beautiful beaches on its eastern coast between Ngiwal and Ngaraard.
The main reason people come to Palau is for diving, and nothing remotely matches the dive sites in the Rock Islands. This is a protected and uninhabited conservation area, and you need a permit to visit. Permits can be arranged by local tour companies. They will take you on tours of the Rock Islands, with snorkeling at Blue Corner, German Channel, and other dive sites, with beach visits included. A visit to Jellyfish Lake is a separate issue. You get to snorkel in this lake with prehistoric sea creatures and millions of jellyfish. Their stingers are just about useless, so snorkeling in Jellyfish Lake is safe and a fascinating experience not to be missed.
Most visitors start at Koror after landing at the airport before heading for the Rock Islands and perhaps further down to Peleliu. But there is a lot more to see if you plan for the trip. Book your car rental in Palau right now and figure out what other tourist destinations you can squeeze in between the beaches and coral reefs. You can visit Mount Ngerchelchuus on Babeldaob and the town of Meyuns on Ngerekebesang Island.
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