Last updated on September 13th, 2023 at 07:24 am
Micronesia is a a UN recognized country, which is comprised of a group of islands located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is a land of stunning natural beauty, with clear blue waters, white sand beaches, and lush rain-forests. Micronesia is also home to a rich and diverse culture, with over 8 different languages spoken across it.
This tropical country consists of 4 states (Pohnpei, Yap, Chuk and Kosrae) with 607 islands and atolls. Each of it’s 4 states is centered around one or more main volcanic islands.
In this post we share some important logistics about these islands as well as our fabulous and scary experiences here.
Getting to Micronesia
Getting to the islands of Micronesia is not that easy although each one of the major islands does have an international airport: Pohnpei on Pohnpei Island (PNI), Chuuk (TKK) on Weno Island, Kosrae (KSA) Okat on Kosrae Island, Yap (YAP) on Yap Island.
The United Airlines Island Hopper is an airline route between Guam and Honolulu, Hawaii, via several small islands in the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. The route, is the only scheduled service for many of the islands visited en route. Many of the islands are only serviced once a week or so.
Best Time to Go
Micronesia has 2 climates -a dry season from November to April and a wet season from May to October. However, there is little seasonal variation in temperature, with less than 1.5ºC (3ºF) between the average hottest and coolest months. The bigger difference is in the humidity as the wettest and most humid months are between July and October.
Accommodations – With a Warning
Since the main island of Pohnpei is quite small, we decided to book our hotel a few months in advance of our arrival. The #1 hotel listed there is the Mangrove Bay Hotel. Therefore, we booked a room and the hotel was quite responsive.
About a week before arrival we messaged the hotel to ensure that our room would still be available. No response. We tried again a day later. Radio silence. We tried every form of communication, yet the hotel was ghosting us.
Our last ditch effort was to call the hotel from Guam. No answer. Finally right before we were to board the plane someone answered and we were informed that our designated room had a flood in it 2 weeks prior and that our reservation was moved to another hotel (rated 3.6/5 on Tripadvisor). When were they planning to tell us?!
Rob got working immediately on this and we quickly booked Yvonne’s Hotel . It was one of their last rooms and they did not offer airport pickup. Oi! We were assured that taxis and rental cars will be waiting for us when we arrived. News flash – they were not.
Yvonne’s hotel is basic but clean. We skipped the booking.com fee and negotiated directly. For 2 nights the cost was $196 USD cash only. Acceptable wifi, working air conditioning and a clean twin bed with a private bathroom and 1 towel to share.
Currency in Micronesia is the US dollar. The main grocery store in Pohnpei and some restaurants accept credit cards. However, most places do not. ATMs are very limited. Therefore, we recommend that you bring enough USD with you to last the trip.
Unfortunately, we could not find a single eSIM card to work in Micronesia. Furthermore, the only way to purchase an actual SIM card for Micronesia is at the main Telecom Office (FSMTC) which is in the center of Pohnpei and about a 5 minute drive from the airport.
FSMTC Address: 1210 Kaselehlie St. Kolonia, Pohnpei FM 94941, Micronesia.
Hours of Operation: Monday – Firday: 08:00 – 17:00; Saturdays & Holidays: 08:00 – 13:00; Sundays they are closed!
We arrived at 01:00 on Saturday well technically Sunday, so there was no way for us to get a card until Monday morning.
If you land at the Chuuk Airport the FSMTC location is directly across the street from the airport, making the transaction quite a bit easier (depending on when you land, of course).
We recommend downloading as much as you can prior to arrival as the connectivity is extremely limited (slow).
Common prepaid plans for tourists:
5 GB data for 5 days = $5 USD
12 GB data for 5 days = $10 USD
Transportation in Micronesia is quite limited. There are taxi services which are quite cheap – if you can get someone who is willing to come out. The price for taxis between the airport and the main hotels is $1 USD per person. However, if you want the person to come and pick you up we recommend pledging at least $5 USD (as this will make it worth their while).
When we arrived on the Island Hopper at 1:00 (am), there were zero cabs and zero car rentals open. Although our hotel insisted that there would be both. A police officer did call her friend and about 30 minutes later a private taxi arrived for the 5 minute drive for which we gladly paid $10 USD.
- Pohnpei’s Capital Taxi (+691-320-5485)
- Yap’s Twenty-Four Seven Taxi Service (+691-350-8294).
There are usually car rentals at the airport during the day, however due to a lack of supply we were able to rent a decent SUV from our hotel (Yvonne’s Hotel). It was $65 USD for the day all in.
Top Things to See and Do In Pohnpei
Pohnpei has a few not to be missed attractions. One is Nan Madol and the other is the Kepirohi Waterfalls. And if you want to see the island from above and enjoy a good hike, we highly recommend the hike to Paipalap (Sokehs Rock). The first two are accessible by car.
Nan Madol – An Ancient Engineering Marvel
Nan Madol is an ancient city located on the southern part of Pohnpei Island. It is the only ancient city ever built atop of a coral reef. The ruins are made of stones and columns that are so heavy that no one has figured out how they were built.
The city was built by the Saudeleur dynasty, who ruled Pohnpei for over a millennium. The Saudeleur were a mysterious people, and there is no carving or art to help us understand their culture. All we know about them comes from legend.
Legend says that the Saudeleur were a powerful and wealthy people. They had control over the entire island, and they lived in great luxury. The city of Nan Madol was their capital, and it was a place of great beauty and mystery.
The Saudeleur dynasty eventually collapsed, and the city of Nan Madol was abandoned. The ruins have been slowly reclaimed by the jungle, and they are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The ruins of Nan Madol are a fascinating and mysterious place. They offer a glimpse into a lost civilization, and they continue to inspire wonder and speculation. In addition, the people of Pohnpei still view the ruins of Nan Madol as a sacred place. They believe that the spirits of the Saudeleur still inhabit the ruins, and they avoid the area at night.
Well, I can second that. We arrived in Nan Madol in the late afternoon and spent a few hours there. Our last point was the main “building” of the ruins. By the time that I got there, I found myself having a harder and harder time breathing. Rob agreed that he was having a difficult time taking in oxygen. We both felt really tired. The sun was starting to slowly set and we decided that it was time to take the dodgy path back to the car.
There are many myths about Nan Madol. However, according to the local myth, the Saudeleur Dynasty started with the arrival of two sorcerers from the land of Western Katau. The sorcerers could levitate huge stones with the aid of a flying dragon and built an altar at Nan Madol to worship Nahnisohn Sahpw, the god of agriculture.
And yes, these are myths and Rob and I base things on data and science. However, I can attest that there is something there that I did not like. Therefore visit at your own risk.
Kepirohi Waterfalls is the most popular waterfalls in Pohnpei. It is a stunning 20 meter cascade that is 30 meters wide and drops into a large, open lake. The lake is perfect for swimming, and it is a popular spot for both visitors and locals alike.
The waterfalls is made up of large, square basalt stones, and it is surrounded by lush tropical vegetation. It is truly a breathtaking sight, and it is a must-see for anyone visiting Pohnpei.
The waterfalls is located just a short walk from the main road. The path to the waterfalls is well-maintained and easy to follow. It is lined with tropical flowers, which add to the beauty of the hike.
The best time to visit Kepirohi Waterfalls is during the dry season, which runs from May to September. The water level is lower during this time, making it easier to swim in the lake.
Foreigners need to pay $10/person to visit the area.
Paipalap, or Sokehs Rock – Amazing Hike
Paipalap, or Sokehs Rock, is a massive volcanic plug that juts out of the north end of Sokehs Mountain in Pohnpei. It is over 100 meters tall and towers over the island’s harbor and only town, Kolonia.
The rock is a popular destination for hikers and climbers. The trail to the top begins south of a brown house 1.2 kilometers (0.74 miles) beyond Mwalok A-1 Store and just before the Danipei Church. The path is well-defined and steep, with cement steps near the bottom and a level segment with two large basalt outcroppings and some cave-like formations.
The ascent of the rock itself is not a technical climb, but it is challenging and should only be attempted on clear, dry days. The rocks are treacherous when wet, and there have been several injuries from falls.
The first pitch of the climb begins at the “Tree Cliff” and skirts a 70° face with the assistance of tree roots, fixed ropes, and the electrical conduit. This section is often underestimated and may be the most dangerous part of the climb.
The second pitch starts at the rear foot of the main rock and involves a steep climb with some assistance from the conduit. The crux is a 2-meter section where the conduit has corroded and is no help at all. Climbers must rely on natural holds and a narrow crevice.
The third and final pitch is easier, but no less exposed. Most people straddle the conduit and haul themselves up.
Once on top, the views are spectacular. You can see the lagoon, reef passes, tuna fleets, and northern islands. On clear days, you can even see Pakin Atoll to the west.
If you are looking for a challenging hike with stunning views, Paipalap (Sokehs Rock) is the perfect place for you. Just be sure to be prepared for the challenge and to take all necessary safety precautions.
Top Things to See and Do Outside of Pohnpei
Ant Atoll is a large, stunning coral reef atoll which is 28.5 kms away from Pohnpei. It is an important refuge for biodiversity, and in 2008 it was recognized as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
The atoll is privately owned by one of the traditional leaders (Kings) of the area. His name is Rohsa and he is a conservation leader and visionary. Due to this, Rohsa does not want the atoll developed by large resort companies because he wants to preserve the natural beauty and landscape of the stunning atoll.
The atoll is uninhabited, with the exception of one small settlement. Tourists come to enjoy the long white sandy beaches, dive and snorkel in the clear waters, and to see the many seabirds that nest on the atoll.
Ant Atoll is home to the only healthy population of giant clams in the area. These clams can grow up to 6 feet in diameter, and they are a popular attraction for divers.
Chuuk is one of the largest semi-closed circular oceanic atoll lagoons in the world. It is a graveyard for more than 70 Japanese World War II relics. These wrecks are a popular destination for divers, who can explore the sunken ships, planes, and submarines.
The surrounding reef protects the lagoon from strong currents, so this dive is possible for less experienced divers. However, to see some of the most interesting wrecks this becomes a more technical dive. To plan a dive or a few here, check out this site.
Micronesia certainly does have some very interesting places to visit. Nan Madol is a must due to it’s very strange and unknown origin. If you have extra time, do try to visit the Ant Atoll as it is a very special place.
However, it is a country that is not easy to get to and doesn’t have a good infrastructure for tourism. Therefore, unless you are counting countries you may be more interested in visiting beaches like the ones in Antigua and Barbuda or perhaps Dominica for the incredible hiking and nature.
Have you been to Micronesia and experienced the natural beauty here? And did you have any kind of interesting reaction visiting Nan Madol? We would love to hear about your experiences or perhaps help you plan some. Let us know in the comments below as we love to help fellow travelers and explorers.