Palau is an expensive cruiser's dream that is mostly only affordable for the well off or the fortunate
American Flagged boats and American Citizens. Those of use lucky ones do not have to pay the boat
fees nor visa fees. My unfortunate Canadian partner pays 50 dollars a month for a visa and only gets 90
days in the country. This is a bit of a problem for us, since most Americans come and stay 90 days then
apply for residency and then get to visit the outer islands (Rock Islands) for free. We or she needs to
leave after 90 days and flights are not a cheap option.
Palau (at least the Rock Islands) is quite beautiful. There are tons of places to anchor and even more if
you are a local. We found out the hard way that too many of the nice areas are off limits unless you get
permission from the Governor to enter and that only works for locals and residents. That means no
access to the best dive spots unless you have a very large dingy and are willing to go 5 or more miles in
it. Still there are lots of other spots to dive. The outside reef is clear water and nice marine life. This is
in my opinion the best diving in all of Micronesia. There is more fish life and more varieties than any of
the rest of Micronesia. There are also caves, wrecks, planes, etc to dive on.
Most boats sit on a mooring at Sam's travel/dive shop, when not at the Rock islands. They charge 2
bucks a day, but then we found out they don't always have a mooring available! We paid for one then
went out to the islands for a bit and came back to find no room at the inn. So much for the promise to
save our mooring. For 35 bucks they let you join their yacht club and this lets you have showers, trash,
and a dingy dock. Still waiting for our yacht club card. The dock gets bouncy in SW winds and there are
many dingies on it at times making for interesting landings. We never ate at the bar, but did try various
places in town and outside sams. Mostly the food was expensive, tasteless, and very salty. Folks say the
carp is the best, but it is way too salty for us. The longshoreman is decent, but slow as heck to serve
your food and often very cold inside so take a jacket. The best we ever saw was the burger shack by the
baseball field in town. The fries are nothing special, but the burgers are good.
The rock islands cost quite a bit to visit. Expect 40 for the boat and 50 a person for a 10 day pass. The
boat gets a month and you can buy 1 to 3 cards for 10 to 30 days from the rangers. They seem to be
the only ones who can issues 10 day passes with future dates. Sam's sells passes, but won't future date
them. Pretty much don't expect much of anything out of Sam's other than a great place to have mail
shipped in from the US.
We found out the hard way about the Rock islands. We had lots of waypoints for anchorages from other
cruisers and had a great anchorage picked out by the dingy channel to the best dive spots in Palau. We
lasted 30 min at that anchorage, before the rangers came along and threw us out. We then went up to
the 11 islands and lasted one night before being tossed out yet again! Apparently just last month they
decided that 11 islands is off limits unless you get special permission from of course the Governor. It
pays to be the "king". Basically half the Rock islands seems to be off limits and all the best spots. There
are few beaches you are allowed on and those tend to be jammed with day dive and tour boats. Yes
these nice quiet places tend to get shattered when mid morning all the day boats come roaring feet from
your boat. Heck one day a stupid dive boat went between us and another anchored boat. We were at
most 100 feet apart!
Still if you can afford the fees this is a great place to dingy or kayak to explore. There are lots of caves
and some even have WWII stuff in them. There are several wrecks with guns and even some live scary
stuff like depth charges. Most of the popular dive spots have moorings. Sam warned us not to leave the
dingy unattended on the mooring, because a dive boat might untie you. We did all the time and had no
problems other than bouncing off dive boats on the same mooring. Many dives have current so watch
out. The dives inside the lagoon are low vis silty ones.
I joined two other cruisers for a trip to Peleliu to see where the US invaded in WWII. It was a costly battle
in American lives for an objective that was never needed. The Japanese were fully dug into large caves
and the Americans had zero cover. Many areas have been declared free of danger (unexploded bombs,
etc.) if you stay on the marked trails. Of course we went everywhere and saw places few folks have been
to. There are caves with large guns, hospitals, bombs, machinery, radio equipment, etc. There are also
large garish monuments to the bravery and sacrifice of the Japanese soldiers and a few tiny ones for the
US Marines. Last time I checked America won that war! Now Japan is back with aid, fishing rights,
grants, and basically owns this country.
The way we visited was taking bicycles on the ferry (19 buck each way) and staying at the hotel across
from the ferry dock (60 a night). Few places were open to eat and many were expensive. We became
experts at junk food at the mini mart. They do a mean frozen burrito:) Oh don't forget the state fee of 15
dollars as well.
Palau is a great place for fees. They have something like 16 states and only 17K people. Each state
wants the money. If you rent a car and drive around you can hit most of the states. One state wants 25
a person to see their two Jap war sites or face a 500 fine. Every waterfall is 5 or 10 bucks. The war
canoe costs to take a photo. We stopped in a village to read the sign of what was around and some lady
tried to charge us for just being in the village! It got so freaking annoying we finally just kept driving and
seldom stopping. We kept making jokes of don't look, don't take a photo, and most of all don't stop for
anything! Oh by the way there is a mere 50 bucks each exit tax that they want to raise to 100! I love the
breakdown of 20 for the exit tax and 30 for a green fee. I guess the 30 is for the priviledge of eating
giant clam soup, eating sushi, fruit bat soup, or maybe the shark fin soup, or turtle soup or... Yes they
claim to be a marine park, but they allow fishing for 20 bucks a person. Every place we snorkeled we
saw evidence of giant clams having been taken. Yes a bit back I mentioned fruit bat soup and they do
actually toss a whole fruit bat in to a large soup bowl. This is one really ugly looking soup. At least they
allow asian long line boats to base out of the country or else how would you get the yellow fin tuna to
serve in town?
The funniest thing we saw was the new government complex. This supposedly cost over 1/2 billion to
build and is huge. It was completed several years ago and is empty. Nobody wants to drive from the main
town all the way out there. Yes they built it out in the middle of nowhere! They had to pave roads to it!
At least it was built with aid money for such a grand purpose.