The Best of Palau: 29 Epic Things to Do

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The Republic of Palau is an island nation in the Western Pacific Ocean that has long been at the top of our travel wish list. It’s a destination that both met and exceeded our expectations. Palau’s natural beauty is undeniable and it offers one of the best marine ecosystems in the world.

When we landed at the airport we smiled widely as the immigration officer stamped the Palau Pledge into our passports. He gave us a minute to read and then asked us if we agreed to act responsibly and aid in the protection of Palau during our visit. Of course, we both signed without hesitation.

During our 9-day visit, we immersed ourselves in the vibrant local culture, jumped into the crystal-clear waters for world-class snorkeling, hiked through their lush emerald forests, and paddled through limestone rock islands. We ate fabulous meals alongside local cultural quirks, like dipping everything in Kool-Aid, and their famous fruit bat soup.

This guide is an extensive overview of the best things to do in Palau. We’ve shared everything we experienced during our trip, along with tips and recommendations to make your trip memorable.

Are you ready to say WOW to Palau?

Unmissable Things to do in Palau

Koror Island

1. Drive Over the Japan – Palau Friendship Bridge

Aerial view of the Japan-Palau friendship bridge in Palau
The Japan-Palau Friendship Bridge seen from the air

The first thing you’ll likely see when you arrive in Palau, is the beautiful Japan-Palau Friendship Bridge, as it connects the largest island of Babeldaob, where the airport is located, with Koror.

The bridge was built in 2002 to replace the original one that collapsed in 1996. It serves as a crucial link for both transportation and economic activities between the two Palau islands.

Funded primarily by Japanese aid, the bridge symbolizes the strong diplomatic relations between Japan and Palau. Its construction has facilitated easier movement of people and goods. It has also boosted tourism and development projects on Babeldaob, contributing to Palau’s economic growth.

2. Walk the Streets of Koror

wood mask in a shop in Koror, Palau
One of the shops on the Koror Main Street

Koror is the largest city and the tourist hub of Palau. It’s where we stayed during our visit, and likely where you will stay. It’s a fantastic hub for the many day trips and scuba diving shops, offering close access to the Rock Islands.

Directly in town, you’ll also find the Palau Visitor’s Authority, Palau Aquarium, Belau National Museum, and Etpison Museum.

During our visit, we enjoyed walking the main street in search of restaurants and gift shops. The locals are friendly and happy to point you in the right direction if you want something specific.

3. Learn the Political History of Palau – Belau National Museum

Displays at Belau National Museum in Koror, Palau
Informative displays in the Belau National Museum

The Belau National Museum is the oldest museum in Micronesia and serves as a cultural repository and educational center. Established in 1955, it was dedicated to preserving and promoting Palauan heritage. It offers an extensive collection of artifacts, photographs, and traditional art.

Exhibits cover the natural environment and prehistoric life of the islands before moving on to the impact of World War II and contemporary Palauan society. The museum also hosts cultural demonstrations and has a traditional Bai (meeting house). We found that it offered a deeper understanding of Palau’s rich history and cultural practices.

4. Etpison Museum – Learn Traditional Culture and History

Cultural displays at the Etpison Musuem in Palau
The storyboard collection at the Etpison Museum is very impressive

The Etpison Museum is a stunning museum that offers a unique glimpse into the Palauan history, culture, and biodiversity of its islands. Founded in 1999 by a former president of Palau, the museum features a diverse selection of exhibits ranging from traditional Palauan artifacts and historical photographs to displays about the local fauna and flora.

One of the highlights is its collection of storyboard carvings, which are intricately detailed wooden panels that depict Palauan legends and stories.

Additionally, the museum includes a modern gallery showcasing the work of contemporary Palauan artists. We spent over an hour in this museum, and it shouldn’t be missed during your visit to Palau.

5. Visit the Palau Aquarium

The Palau Aquarium is part of the Palau International Coral Reef Center and provides an engaging educational experience. Highlights include vibrant coral displays, tanks filled with colorful fish, and interactive sections where you can learn about coral growth and marine ecology.

The aquarium plays a crucial role in conservation education, promoting awareness and stewardship of Palau’s precious underwater resources. It’s an ideal spot for anyone keen to understand the rich biodiversity of this island nation.

6. Try Local Food at the Penthouse

Lina Stock dining at The Penthouse Restaurant in Koror, Palau
Enjoying delicious local food at The Penthouse in Koror

Koror offers up a nice variety of international food options, but if you’re looking for something local, you’ll want to add the Penthouse Restaurant to your to-do list. The restaurant is located within the Penthouse Hotel and just off the lobby.

Each dish on the menu is prepared and served in the typical Palauan style. The food is fresh, delicious, and worth trying. Think fresh sashimi, fried fish, stuffed crab, and let’s not forget the delicacy of fruit bat soup, which is also available.

7. Mingle with Expats at Malakal Island

Malakal Island, Palau, seen from the air
Malakal seen from a scenic flight

Malakal Island is a small yet crucial part of Palau. This small island is known for its prime location close to Koror. It hosts several dive shops, resorts, and a busy marina. Most of the tour operators in Palau are based here.

Like Koror, there are plenty of bars and restaurants. If you don’t stay in Koror, you’ll likely be somewhere on Malakal Island.

Rock Islands

8. Explore the Rock Islands

Lina and David Stock in Palau's Rock Islands
Divergent Travelers enjoying the beautiful water in the Rock Islands

The Rock Islands of Palau are an impressive collection of limestone and coral uprises. They are famous for their tropical plants, endemic palm trees, archaeological sites, underwater world, white sand beaches, and turquoise lagoons.

They hold UNESCO World Heritage status, recognized for their natural beauty and biodiversity. This cluster of around 300 islets is what brings most visitors to Palau, us included.

It’s possible to explore these islands on day trips, multi-day trips, and by scenic flight. If you have time, it’s worth combining all of them to explore the area in-depth.

Before doing so, you’ll be required to purchase a permit. Any operator you book through will handle this for you and collect the fee. The permits are good for 7 days, so I suggest you plan several outings to make the most of it!

9. Kayaking in Paradise

Lina Stock kayaking in the Rock Islands of Palau
Kayaking in Palau is simply stunning

While most visitors to the Rock Islands visit on boats, we highly recommend you spend some time exploring from a kayak. Palau offers so much beauty from the water level, and paddling offers the chance for a unique experience.

It’s possible to book kayak day trips along with multi-day kayak trips to the Rock Islands from Koror. Paddle Palau offers both options and they are the best operator in Palau for kayaking trips.

10. Book a Camping Expedition – The Ultimate Adventure

Camping with Rock Island Kayaking Expeditions in Palau
Our campsite in the Rock Islands

If you want to really immerse in the Rock Islands and intimately experience Palau, we recommend a kayak and camping expedition. You’ll set off from Koror by boat on a fully supplied expedition with Paddling Palau. They are one of the only tour companies that offer overnight kayaking trips.

During the day, you’ll explore different islands including popular places and hidden gems. By night, you’ll tent camp on the beaches in a remote location while drinking delicious coconuts, eating fresh fish, and watching the sun melt into the water.

We spent three days and two nights on one of these expeditions and it was the highlight of our time in Palau. It’s one of the top adventures in the world, and if you’re up for some adventure, there is no better way to see the Rock Islands.

11. Mud Up at the Milky Way

Lina and David Stock bathing in mud at the Milky Way in the Rock Islands - things to do in Palau
Taking a mud bath at the Milky way in the Rock Islands

The Milky Way lagoon in the Rock Islands is a must-visit for anyone exploring Palau. This secluded natural pool is renowned for its creamy, white mud at the bottom. The mud is said to possess skin-enhancing properties, so we didn’t hesitate to partake in a mud bath during our visit.

Accessible only by boat, the Milky Way is surrounded by lush, uninhabited islands, offering a serene and picturesque environment. We swam in the crystal-clear turquoise waters while relaxing in the soothing mud. Our visit was also timed perfectly, and we had the entire place to ourselves!

12. Jellyfish Lake

Jellyfish Lake is one of the marine lakes in Palau that offers a truly unique ecological phenomenon. The lake was once the habitat for millions of golden jellyfish, which have evolved to be virtually stingless due to the lake being isolated from the ocean for a long time. Think thousands of years. This means it is safe for humans to swim among them.

Over the years, Jellyfish Lake has seen these stingless jellyfish undergo significant population changes due to environmental factors. In 2016 the jellyfish number began a sharp decline due to drought conditions. This impacted their lifecycle, however, conservation efforts and natural recovery have helped the population begin to rebound.

Access to the lake is controlled to ensure the delicate balance of this isolated environment is maintained. Visiting here is both exclusive and memorable.

As a note – when we visited the Rock Islands in 2024, the lake was open, however, very few jellyfish were visible. We chose to forego a visit at the recommendation of our local guide.

13. Long Lake

David Stock kayaking in Long Lake in the Rock Islands of Palau
David kayaking near large Jurassic vegetation!

Long Lake stands out to us for its tranquil waters, secluded setting, and prehistoric ambiance, enhanced by dense Jurassic-era-like vegetation. Surrounded by dense mangroves that closely resemble the plants from millions of years ago, this marine lake offers a journey back in time.

It’s also one of the very few places you have the chance to see saltwater crocodiles. Don’t worry, they are very small and prefer to be away from people.

It’s accessible only by kayak through narrow channels lined with mangroves and is a serene sanctuary within the Rock Islands. We enjoyed the quiet retreat of paddling through calm waters, observing the lush greenery, and listening to the sounds of nature.

The lake supports a diverse ecosystem, including various bird species and aquatic life, making it a quieter alternative to the more tourist-centric Jellyfish Lake.

14. Long Beach

Long Beach, not to be confused with Long Lake, is a stunning white sandbar that is formed during low tide. If you can time your visit when it’s visible, you’ll enjoy a beautiful natural wonder. The beach is only accessible by boat, with tours typically departing from Koror.

15. Ngeremdiu Beach

Ngeremdiu Beach is a beloved stop for day-trippers who visit the Rock Islands from Koror. Not all tours stop here, but the ones that do are treated to a literal paradise. We were lucky enough to use this beach as a base for three days during our kayaking and camping expedition in the Rock Islands.

In addition to being a straight-up paradise, Ngeremdiu also holds a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation since 2012.

Not far from the beach, you can take a short hike to see the ruins of an ancient Palauan village. Just off the beach, you can see the remains of a WWII fighter plane.

16. World Class Scuba Diving

Beautiful coral gardens and fish in Palau
Palau is gorgeous under the water

Scuba diving in Palau is a world-class experience and the country is renowned for its extraordinary underwater landscapes and biodiversity. The islands are encircled by one of the most spectacular barrier reefs, along with numerous wartime wrecks, submerged caves, and walls that drop off into deep blue abysses.

As a diver, you can explore sites like Blue Corner, famous for its strong currents and large pelagic encounters, and the German Channel, known for manta rays.

The waters of Palau are famous for its schools of fish, sharks, and vibrant coral gardens, making each dive an unforgettable adventure.

17. World Class Snorkeling, too

David Stock snorkeling in Palau
David snorkeling with large schools of fish in Palau

If you’re not a scuba diver, you’re still in luck. Palau offers some of the best underwater opportunities in the world, even for snorkeling. We don’t recommend snorkeling any of the deep dive sites, you’re not likely to see much.

So, refrain from insisting that you visit the Blue Corner or German Channel and instead head for the impressive shallow reefs.

We snorkeled so many sights in the Rock Islands and every single one was impressive. Some of our favorite spots included Shark City, Lighthouse Channel, Rainbow Reef, Cemetery Reef Fish Bowl, Fantasy Island Fish Apartments, and Einstein’s Garden. You can’t go wrong, trust your guides!

Babeldaob Island

18. Scenic Flight over the Rock Islands

Lina Stock looking out of an airplane in Palau over the Rock Islands
Door off scenic flight over the Rock Islands

Taking a scenic flight over the Rock Islands with Smile Air offers a spectacular aerial perspective of Palau’s most iconic landscapes.

From the comfort of a small aircraft, you can look down on the lush, green islets surrounded by bright blue waters, which are dotted with secret lagoons and white sandy beaches. We even opted for a door-off flight!

Smile Air’s flight routes highlight the dramatic contrast between the dense tropical vegetation and the crystal-clear seas. They offer three routes, and we opted for course B which lasted 40 minutes.

19. Airai Bai and Cultural Tour

Lina and David Stock with members of Airai village in Palau
Meeting the locals in Airai village

We love starting our adventures with cultural tours as it gives us a much deeper understanding of the country we are visiting. This tour is a full-day experience.

We learned how to make traditional grass skirts. They showed us how they harvest the grass, prepare it, dye it, and then how they weave it. Each grass skirt is made for the recipient who orders it. No two are the same. It takes weeks to make them, and they become a treasured part of the buyer’s possessions.

From there we walked a historical stone pathway to the Palauan Bai (The Men’s House) which has acted as the heart of all villages in this island nation for centuries. Each state in Palau has a Bai and this building serves as a cultural institution. Even to this day. The buildings have played a significant role in the history and development of Palauan society.

We aren’t allowed in, but it was fascinating to admire the various carvings and decorations that symbolize Palauan culture and beliefs while sipping on a nice cold Palauan coconut.

Afterward, we walked through the village and learned about daily life through the centuries and the foods they grow and harvest. We enjoyed a farm-to-table lunch at the community center while learning about Palauan dance and song. This meant we were also treated to a performance!

Our afternoon was spent learning about cultural politics, which included seeing a gorgeous war canoe, called Kabekl. We finished our visit at the site of an ancient stone circle that overlooked the sea and was overtaken by the forest around it.

This tour is intimate and well worth your time to really know Palau and its people. You can book this experience directly with the Palau Visitors Authority.

20. Eat Burgers at Bem Ermii

Bem Ermii burger truck in Airai, Palau
The BEST burgers in Palau!

Bem Ermii is a popular local burger joint located in Babeldaob near the bridge. It is known for its delicious, fast-food offerings including freshly made burgers, fries, and milkshakes. The burgers are of fantastic quality, featuring locally sourced ingredients that capture the unique flavors of Palau.

To be honest, they serve up some of the best burgers we’ve had in our travels! The menu is creative, with a wide variety of combinations and fusions. We ate there twice during our 9-day visit to Palau. Don’t miss it!

21. Aimeliik Bai

Aimeliik Bai in Palau
Aimeliik Bai

The Aimeliik Bai stands as a prominent cultural landmark, representing one of the best-preserved examples of a traditional meeting house in the region. This historical structure is adorned with intricate carvings and paintings depicting various aspects of Palauan mythology and the history of the local community.

These artworks are not only decorative but serve as a storytelling medium, passing knowledge and cultural values from one generation to another. They are stunning to see in person, and we enjoyed visiting both the Aimeliik Bai and Airai Bai during our visit.

The Bai serves as a cultural hub where community decisions are made, ceremonies are conducted, and traditions are preserved. Each bai stands as a testament to the architectural ingenuity and rich cultural heritage of Palau. If you’re able to visit one, you’ll be provided with a deeper understanding of the island’s past and present social customs.

22. Ngardmau Falls

Ngardmau Waterfall is the tallest waterfall in Micronesia and one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Palau. Access to the falls involves a scenic hike through lush forests. The trail can be steep and slippery but is well worth the effort, as it leads to the magnificent waterfall cascading into a large pool.

23. Ngatpang Waterfall Hike

Lina Stock at Ngatpang Waterfall in Palau
Enjoying the stunning and secluded Ngartpang Waterfall

Visiting the Ngatpang Waterfall offers an adventurous trek through a lush tropical forest leading to one of the island’s hidden gems. The hike involves a steep section of stairs down, before following a wall-beaten jungle trail to the river. You do need to cross the river, so be sure to use the rope to keep your footing.

You will then climb down alongside the waterfall before reaching the bottom of the falls. Here you can swim and enjoy the waterfall. There is a covered area at the trailhead and signage about the trail rules, including payment of the visitor’s fee. This makes a very nice alternative to the more popular Ngardmau Falls.

24. Visit the Capitol Building – Melekeok

Palau Capitol Building in Melekeok
The Palau Capito Complex in Melekeok

Melekeok is the capital of Palau and houses the Palau National Government. When we were told about it, we knew we had to see it. We were not expecting to find an impressive Capitol Complex that is modeled after the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.!

The buildings are not open to the public, however you are free to wander the grounds. This is something we recommend! The buildings are beautiful, and so are the gardens. There is also very interesting art to admire on the outside of the buildings. The views of the coastline and surrounding landscapes also make the visit worth it.

25. Obakelderau Petroglyph

Stone with carvings at the Obakelderau Petroglyph site in Palau
The only known petroglyph site in Palau

If you like ancient history, then you’ll want to add the Obakelderau Petroglyph site to your things to do in Palau list. This is the first rock carving to ever be found in Palau, making it both fascinating and unique.

The massive basalt stone was found during a road project around the larger Obakelderau site and is assumed to depict the oral story and Palauan legend of Tulei and Surech. It is also thought to mark the burial spot of Surech.

In short, Tulei and Surech were forbidden teenage lovers. The story tells of their love, separation, and ultimately death. Visiting the site provokes a lot of thought, and it is recommended to visit with a guide who can provide more backstory along with a local perspective.

We visited this site on a guided tour of Babeldaob with Fonzy.

26. Badrulchau Stone Monoliths

The Badrulchau Stone Monoliths are an impressive archaeological site with over 50 basalt monoliths. Some of the stones weigh several tons and are thought to date back to around 150 AD. The arrangement and original purpose of these stones remain the subject of intrigue and speculation, with theories suggesting they may have served as a support for a high platform or as part of a ceremonial center.

More Places to Visit in Palau

27. Ngarchelong – northern boat tour

Lina Stock on a beach in Ngarchelong in northern Palau

After immersing in the many wonders of Palau’s south, we knew it was time to head north. This part of Palau is widely untouched by tourism, yet we discovered it was just as spectacular as the south.

This day trip leaves from Malakal and goes all the way to the northern tip of Babeldaob to the islands of Ngarchelong. The lagoon in the northern reaches is solidly in the Marine Protected Area and holds some outstanding offshore reefs to explore.

Our boat trip was a full-day affair as we cruised the lagoon, snorkeled multiple sites, enjoyed a castaway-type lunch on a secluded island, and reef-hopped our way back to Koror.

If you’re planning a trip to Palau, we highly recommend that you reach out to the fabulous Swings Palau Tours which operates this trip. Capitan Swing will give you an off-the-beaten-path adventure you won’t forget!

28. Kayangel Island – Furthest North Island

Kayangel is the northernmost state and the only inhabited atoll of Palau. It offers a pristine escape with crystal-clear waters, white sandy beaches, and vibrant coral reefs. To visit Kayangel, travelers typically arrange a boat trip from Koror, which takes about an hour and a half depending on sea conditions.

Once there, you can enjoy the small island community, engage in superb snorkeling, or relax on the untouched beautiful beaches. Kayangel offers a stark contrast to the busier main islands, giving you a real taste of secluded island life.

For those planning a visit, it’s advisable to check local boat schedules and weather conditions and consider staying overnight in guest accommodations to fully experience the serene natural beauty of the atoll.

29. Peleliu Island – Furthest South Island

Peleliu is one of Palau’s southernmost islands and is renowned for its historical significance as a major battleground during World War II. Visitors to Peleliu can explore well-preserved war relics, monuments, and museums dedicated to the memory of those who fought in the fierce battles that took place there.

To visit Peleliu, you can take a boat from Koror which takes an hour. There are also options for organized tours that include guided visits to key historical sites such as the Peleliu War Memorial Park, old Japanese headquarters, and various hidden bunkers and caves.

Other Recommendations for Your Palau Trip

Where to stay

  • Palau Hotel – we stayed here. It is centrally located and comfortable.
  • Palau Pacific Resort

Our Recommended Places to Eat


WIFI is widely available. Palau has its own cell network, so you won’t be able to roam with any plan from another country. You can purchase local SIM cards and data. Worth noting, they cannot accommodate e-sims.

Our trip to Palau was in partnership with the Palau Visitors Authority. However, all opinions, stories, advice, and insane love for this incredible destination is 100% ours, as always.

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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA

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