First Timer’s Guide to Micronesia – How to Get There & Things to Do

Culturepohnpei Micronesia
Listen to First Timer’s Guide to Micronesia – How to Get There & Things to Do

Here is the ultimate Micronesia travel guide for beginners – take a dive and learn about all and everything that you need to know about planning your first Micronesia holiday!

Clusters of tiny islands peppered across the North Pacific Ocean make up the Federated States of Micronesia. It is the amalgamation of the two Greek words for ‘small’ and ‘island’ – an apt description. The total landmass of all the islands combined is still smaller than the pint-sized European nation of Luxembourg!

But what they lack in land mass, Micronesia makes up in the area it covers. This vast region covers more than 2,900 kilometres and crosses five time zones, west of the International Dateline. The space between the islands means their landscapes and cultures are endlessly varied. From the steep volcanic peaks of the Carolines to the staggering limestone plateaus of the Marianas to the coral reefs of Kwajalein, each destination is unique and diverse.

The region has had an unruly history of foreign control and political change – thus the islands have various foreign influences over the ages. But for the most part, local inhabitants have maintained their customs, cultural heritage and their traditions have stayed intact. Micronesia serves as a home to a multitude of ethnic groups, including: Pohnpeian, Yapese, Polynesian and Chuukese to name a few.

Of the 607 islands of Micronesia, only a handful are inhabited with approximately 115,000 people living in the region. It is rife with natural beauty; the pristine cerulean seas and vast tropical landscapes remain largely unscathed. Micronesia is a little slice of paradise in the Pacific, and a perfect destination for your next overseas trip. Before you plan your trip, read this Micronesia guide to learn the basics about these beautiful islands.

The ultimate Micronesia travel guide

Waterfalls in Micronesia (Pic: SPTO)
So much to do in Micronesia!

How to get to Micronesia

The Federated States of Micronesia can be divided into four states: Chuuk (which was earlier known as Truk Lagoon), Kosrae, Pohnpei and the island of Yap. Pohnpei International Airport is the main airport for travel to Micronesia. It’s located on Pohnpei Island near the nation’s capital Palikir.

Due to small population and low tourist traffic in these Pacific islands, flights are limited and getting to Micronesia can be a little complicated. Flight paths vary, depending on where you want to go. You can fly to direct to Chuuk from Brisbane, and Guam from Cairns but if you’re flying from Sydney, be prepared for a few transfers.

The good news is that once you’re over there, you can ‘island hop’ between these exquisite destinations. Aussies only need a valid passport, so yay!

Where to stay in Micronesia

Guam is an island in Micronesia that is also part of the United States, it’s a hybrid of American and Micronesian culture which makes it both pretty to visit and culturally accessible. It’s the biggest island in Micronesia and boasts an array of five-star hotels and modern shopping malls. Guam is a good base if you want to island-hop, too!

We recommend staying at the Fiesta Resort located on Tumon Bay. It is steps away from the pristine white-sand beach, yet close enough to the island’s tourist attractions. Along with historical and cultural sites, Guam is perfect if you want to explore all day, then chill all night.

For travellers looking for a more nature and action-based getaway, we’d suggest Palau. Referred to as ‘the underwater Serengeti’, its pristine limestone landscape, iridescent blue-green lagoon and leafy green forest will steal your heart. The Palau Pacific Resort is a luxury resort which capitalises on this stunning location. It’s been awarded ‘Best Diving Resort’ for 14-consecutive years by the Dive & Travel Awards. It’s easy to see why, it’s an island haven for divers and non-divers alike.

Then, Pohnpei has its own charm – along with a good selection of hotels, that is. The Ocean View Plaza Hotel and Mangrove Bay Hotel have great views of the bay, while the Cliff Rainbow Hotel is an excellent choice for budget travellers looking to explore the island of Pohnpei.

Things to do in Micronesia

Micronesia Things to Do
Scuba-diving in Micronesia

Relive WWII underwater in Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon

Chuuk is located in the Caroline Islands, it’s renowned for its giant lagoon – a graveyard for more than 70 Japanese WWII relics. Here you can immerse yourself in history, scuba-diving amongst numerous ships, planes and submarines! Witness the peaceful legacy of a blood-soaked world war firsthand – it’s quite the humbling experience.

Dive into a lake full of jellyfish in Palau

Palau is a place of unprecedented natural beauty, but it’s most spectacular scenery resides below its waters. In an enclosed lake in the middle of some steep-sided rock mountains you can swim among a mass of gently pulsating golden jellyfish. Don’t worry, they’ve lost their ability to sting! It’s a truly magical experience swimming with these ephemeral beauties.

Check out the ‘Venice of the Pacific’ on Pohnpei Island

The large stone ruins of Nan Madol are joined together by a series of water canals that measures up to 1.5 kilometres. The construction of the ancient city began approximately 800 years ago and was abandoned when the first Europeans arrived. Travellers often feel like they’ve been transported into a real-life Indiana Jones movie; and the truth is not that far off. Nan Madol is as beautiful as it is remote.

Count the coins on Yap Island

Yap Island is famous for the thousands of huge round stone ‘coins’ scattered around the islands. It’s also a cultural hub and does a fantastic job of celebrating indigenous art – some of which you can see at the Ethnic Art Village. If you happen to be in Yap during March, join in the ‘Yap Day’ celebrations, where the free-spirited Yapese celebrate their culture – it’s plenty of fun!

Exploring ruins in Nan Madol!
Turn Indiana Jones and search some ruins! (Pic: SPTO)

Explore the ruins on Lelu Island

This prehistoric archaeological site dates back to the 13th-14thcentury. The massive walled city was built for Kosraean royalty and includes burial mounds and dwelling compounds of the high chiefs. It’s surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and its isolated setting affords quite a spiritual experience. You’ll definitely feel a bit like Indiana Jones on the trail, that’s for sure.

Go scuba-diving, snorkelling and fishing

Micronesia is also a haven for adventure sports of the aquatic kind. You can go whale-watching, swimming with manta rays, dolphins and turtles, sign up for epic fishing charters and island adventures – all in a single holiday !

Cuisines and dishes to try in Micronesia

Cuisines and dishes to try in Micronesia
Food is an important part of any country and its culture; and why should Micronesia be any different? As culture differs from one country to another, it gives rise to customs – and learning about new ones is just so much fun! Did you know that on some islands in Micronesia, the arrival of a stranger calls for a full-on feast? The locals will prepare fish, mangrove clams, sea cucumber, octopus and eels in special preparations and attending one is just a blast.

Preparing traditional sakau or kava in Micronesia
Preparing traditional sakau or kava in Micronesia. Pix: David Kirkland.

Sakau, or Kava, is the most notable item in Micronesian culture. It’s a soporific drink made from the powdered root of a pepper tree with an earthy flavour and calming effect. Besides numbing your mouth and throat, it also puts you in a darn sociable mood. Other staples include breadfruit, yam, taro, rice, cassava (that’s tapioca) and coconut crabs. The last one is on a conservation list, though.

Things to know about Micronesia:

  • The US dollar is the currency used throughout Micronesia.
  • English is the official language of Micronesia.
  • You can use an international licence to drive in Micronesia, you will need to drive right-hand side of the road.
  • WiFi is available in most mainland hotels, however connection speeds are still quite slow. You’ll appreciate your 100MbPS connection on a whole new level after getting back home.
  • The best months to visit Micronesia are December and March when rainfall and humidity are relatively low.

Now that you’ve got a starter’s guide on Micronesia, go ahead and plan that epic tropical island holiday! If you need someone to talk to, chat with our South Pacific Specialists on 1300 991 751. You can also check out some of our fantastic Micronesia holiday deals and packages – we bundle accommodations, return flights, transfers, breakfasts and even seasonal specials like free nights and tours!

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