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Home to half of the country's population, it's no surprise that Koror has the largest concentration of different services, for visitors this includes shops, diving operators, and places to eat and sleep. Like other capitals of small island nations, the city is rather utilitarian and doesn't have that many attractions.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
The climate is tropical; warm or hot around the year with a lot of rain. The first couple of months of the year are a bit drier, whereas July to October is the rainiest part of the year.
Palau has been inhabited by people from Southeast Maritime Asia for several millenia and the first Europeans to reach the islands were the Spanish. The islands were parts of Spanish East Indies for centuries but present-day Koror remained a small fishing village. This changed when the islands were sold to Imperial Germany in 1899.
During the brief German rule the harbor was expanded, a colonial administration was set up here and the population grew to around 500. After WWI the islands were ruled by Imperial Japan, one of the allies of the war. In the following decades the population of the town grew to 38000, though few of them were native Palauans. The Japanese made Koror the capital of the South Seas Mandate, and established a weather station, schools and military facilities. As such, the islands saw major fighting during WWII, after which they were administered by the United States.
The U.S. made Guam their main base in the South Seas, which meant Koror wasn't such an important town under the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. In 1994 Palau became an independent country and Koror served as its capital until 2006, when the seat of government was moved to Melekeok/Ngerulmud, a planned city on the neighboring island of Babeldaob. Nevertheless, the latter is made up of little but the seat of government, and Koror remains the economical capital and Palau's most populous city by far.
- See also: Palau#Get around
The airport is located on Babeldaob island next door (about 8 km east of downtown Koror), and visitors will cross over to Koror via the Japan-Palau Friendship Bridge, usually in a rental car or shuttle bus.
There are three primary methods of getting around Koror: rental cars, taxis, and the BBI shuttle. Walking may be an option for some, but most of the large resorts are located well outside the main shopping/dining area of Koror.
There are car rental terminals at the airport, as well as rental desks at some of the large resorts. Palauans drive on the right side of the road, though many of the cars are imported from Japan and have steering wheels on the right. Traffic tends to move very slowly throughout Koror, as the speed limits are low and speed bumps are sprinkled liberally throughout the city. Although the traffic flow varies throughout the day, the volume is light enough that there are no traffic signals in Koror.
Koror has a sufficient number of taxis, though they can be difficult to find if you are out walking around. It's usually easiest to ask the hotel concierge or even your waiter/waitress to call one for you. The taxis here are not metered, but rather have a fixed rate sheet based on your starting and ending points. A taxi ride from the far-flung Palau Pacific Resort into the heart of Koror costs $6-8, depending on exactly where you're getting dropped off.
By shuttle bus
In the evenings the BBI shuttle service is also an option. It operates roughly between 5-10PM, with two shuttles plying the same route in opposite directions. The shuttles stop at the two major resorts, Palau Pacific Resort and Palau Royal Resort, and cover the entire stretch of the main street through downtown Koror. Shuttle tickets cost $7 per person and are good for a week. The shuttles follow a timeline and schedules are easily obtained when you purchase your ticket. The larger resorts sell tickets right at the hotel.
- 1 Palau International Coral Reef Center, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Very educational aquarium with a handful of open air habitat exhibits and a single room of aquariums with various local aquatic life and a good souvenir shop. Emphasis of displays is on education, though the entire place is easily seen in 30-60 minutes. They include a topographical map of Palau; a recreation of a mangrove swamp, a seagrass aquarium; an inner reef aquarium; an exhibition of coral and another of the country's famed jellyfish; deep-water aquariums and a couple of salt-water crocodiles to end the tour in a cage just outside the main entrance. Easy walk from downtown Koror in the direction of Malakal. Admission is $7 for adults.
- 2 Belau National Museum, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. At the national museum you can learn about the history, culture and arts of the country. The main exhibition is about Palau throughout history; different aspects of their traditional lifestyle, the Spanish, Japanese and American eras as well as a section about the Taiwanese aborigines. The museum also features research and media libraries and some 4,500 objects, ranging from money and artworks to domestic utensils and canoes. admission adults $10, children $5.
- 3 Etpison Museum, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Another museum displaying the culture and history of Palau and Micronesia, housed in a colorful building of tiles in different colors, and carved figures including a spider god that, according to legend, taught Palauan women how to give birth. The exhibits include mannequins presenting traditional clothing and situations, historical tools and money, canoes, shells as well as different artworks. It also houses a photography exhibition of the local wildlife, and the Captain Wilson Art Gallery displaying modern art. The museum has a gift shop with books, jewellery and storyboards, among other things. admission $10.
- 4 Sacred Heart Church. A Catholic church finished in 1935 on the site of a church built during the Spanish rule. The low, white building with brown corners has a veranda with a bell tower that itself has a balcony on top of it.
- 1 Palau Public Library. A resource for learning especially for students at the Palau Community College, it is popular with visitors too. A highlight is the Micronesia-Pacific Reference Collection, a unique collection of journals and reports about this part of the world.
- 2 Palau National Stadium (PCC Track & Field Stadium). The national stadium with a seating capacity of 4000 hosts track and field competitions and football (soccer) games and is home to the national team.
- 3 NECO Marine Palau (Located at the NECO Malakal Marina), ☏ , . 7:30–17:30. Neco Marine is a locally owned and operated tour operator that was also PADIs first dive center on Palau. NECO Marine Palau provides custom tours and boat charters, specializing in scuba diving, special discounted Palau resort packages, snorkelling, and fishing. Whether looking to book an activity for a large group or a customized private tour with a private guide, Neco Marine Palau can accommodate almost any request. Divers are also able to enjoy up to 32% EAN Nitrox complimentary on all dives.
- 4 Palau Dive Adventures. Concierge service dive shop that is well recommended. It is limited to three people per diver, and offer a Monday to Friday schedule where the person dives 14 times in 5 days. Also offers a liveboard option. Expensive.
- 5 Splash. The dive shop attached to the Palau Pacific Resort is recommended. The equipment available for rental is of high quality, and either new or well maintained. The dive masters are also very experienced, responsible and know the dive sites very well. Angelo at Splash is highly recommended as a dive master especially if you have not dived in stronger currents. Splash runs a large, wide diveboat, carrying more than 20 divers.
- 6 Fish 'n Fins. The oldest dive center in Palau. They have two live-aboard vessels, and seven smaller (and faster!) dive boats, operating from the base in Koror. The guides are very professional and are more than willing to share their extensive knowledge of the ocean and the life in it. Divers can use Nitrox EAN 32 for the same price as air. Gas mixtures for technical divers are also available.
- 7 Sam's Tours. Another dive shop in Palau that offers diving, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing and land tours. They have some great guides that provide educational and environmental information about the locales. Sam's Tours uses small, fast narrow boats which carry 4~8 divers.
- 8 Sara Guide Service, ☏ . Environmentally responsible professional sports fishing guides in Koror. They have experienced Palaun boat captains and Japanese and Western guides that make you feel welcome. Catch and release fish and have a great time! Great food too on their 8 and 10m boats.
- Expedition Fleet, is the largest privately owned live-aboard fleet in the Philippines. Their ships operate all over the Philippine Island and Palau. Expedition Fleet is known for experienced and professional Dive Masters, and for excellent service on board.
There are a number of stores in Koror to purchase traditional Palauan storyboards, but the best shopping spot is the jail, which sells storyboards made by the prisoners. The proceeds go to the prisoners' families to help support them while they are in jail. The jail has by far the largest selection of story boards in Koror, but it is also the most expensive place to purchase them. Helpfully, the jail puts a color coded sticker on each storyboard and offers visitors laminated sheets describing the story associated with each color. The jail is in the center of Koror, set back off the main street on the east side. The jail accepts cash only. Note: Importing anything made by prison labor is illegal in the USA and possibly other countries.
Another non-traditional location that has a vast selection of storyboards is The Rock Island Cafe. They are displayed around the restaurant, simply ask at the counter for pricing and selection. Some of the larger resorts have a small selection of storyboards in their gift shops. Locals can also point you to some out-of-the-way storyboard shops that you'd never find on your own. These hidden shops tend to have the lowest prices, but also usually have a small selection.
A small storyboard at an inexpensive store will start around $100. The largest storyboards at the jail, which may be several feet across and elaborately carved into the shape of an animal, can run several thousand dollars. Many of the places that sell storyboards can assist you with shipping them back home. Major shipping companies and even the USPS all service Palau.
There are small shops and markets located throughout Main Street in downtown Koror. The two largest shopping centers are the WCTC Shopping Center and Surangel's Supercenter, which are located right across the street from one another in the center of town. Each has a grocery store and department store, and the WCTC has some additional shops including an Athlete's Foot. Surangel's has the best selection of sunblock in town.
- 1 W.C.T.C. Shopping Center, Koror (Located at the heart of Koror), ☏ . 7AM to 10PM. This is the shopping destination in town. It has a full-size grocery store, a drug-store, digital photo printing, The Athlete's Foot, and a full-service department store with a broad selection of local souvenirs.
Palau uses the US Dollar as its official currency, and credit cards are accepted at most, though not all, shops and restaurants. The Bank of Guam and the Bank of Hawaii both have an ATM on Main Street in central Koror. As of early 2012 there are no surcharges for using these ATMs, though they do limit you to a maximum withdrawal of $200 per day.
- 1 Yano's Market (Yano & Sons). Try the beef steamed in titiml leaves (a local plant that is often confused with basil), clams cooked in coconut, local kangkun vegetables stir fried with onions and garlic.
- 2 Penthouse. Try the fruitbat cooked in coconut if you are adventurous. Otherwise, the creamy taro leaf soup with coconut, local fish soup (which you can also have for breakfast with fried garlic rice), mangrove crabs in spicy sauce, grilled prawns and baked lobster with garlic butter are all must tries. This restaurant also has an excellent in-house bakery.
- 3 Taj. Found in the center of the main strip, right across from the jail, is a popular Indian eatery. The menu options and prices trend upscale, but the atmosphere is laid back, including outdoor patio seating, and many diners come dressed in very casual attire befitting Koror's tropical climate.
- 4 Bottom Time Bar & Grill. Off the beaten path and located inside Sam's dive center. It is a very casual place with typical pub fare and views of the water. Given its location at the dive center, it gets crowded and loud in the late afternoon when the dive boats return.
- 5 Drop Off Bar and Grill, ☏ . Popular hangout located near the Palau Royal and Cove Resorts, Drop Off is a outdoor restaurant that is frequented by tourists and locals alike. Most ideal for a relaxing casual afternoon by the swimming pool, or for a night of conversation and drinks. The bar specializes in fresh locally caught fish served in a various tasty varieties. Dont miss their famous Poke or spicy Poke Bowls. Palau's local beer is readily available on draft. The menu also offers large burgers, sandwiches, steak, pizza and fish and chips. Vegetarian options are also available. Reservations are recommended for dinner. Though the bar area and its couple of TVs have a roof overhead, some of the seating is pretty exposed, so check the weather before heading here for dinner.
- 6 The Rock Island Cafe. An excellent home town cafe-style eatery, a great place for a quick bit of American-style food. Their portions are large and their prices are reasonable (try the bread sticks). It is located a little west of the Court House on Koror Island.. The Rock Island Cafe is run by Seventh-Day Adventists, so it is closed Friday 6PM to Saturday 6PM.
- 7 Kramer's (on the wharf at Malakal). A bit hard to find for the first time but food is good and the nightlife always interesting.
- 8 Bem Ermii. In a small trailer near the courthouse in downtown Koror, and makes great burgers and milkshakes.
- 9 Carp. A good medium-range option with generous portions and well prepared dishes of Japanese and local flavor, including coconut crab. It's located adjascent to the Palau Royal hotel next to the dock that takes you to the Carp Island resort.
Also, the Taj, an excellent Indian restaurant, Fuji, a reasonably-priced pseudo-Japanese restaurant, or Dragon Tai on the way into Koror.
- 1 SLC. A locals bar where foreigners are warmly welcomed. With a patio perched on the edge of one of the rock islands and live bands most weekends, it's a good place to spend a Friday or Saturday evening. Located on the outskirts of Koror, you'll need a cab, which shouldn't set you back more than $10 to get to and from central Koror or PPR.
- 2 Palm Bay Bistro, Malakal (right behind West Plaza Malakal, south Koror, right before the Ice Box Plant), ☏ . 7AM-9PM. Great steaks and pastas, and it has the best bartender in Koror with a jewel of a collection of signature drinks and coffees. Also serves Red Rooster Draft on tap and is located right next door to the Palau Brewing Company, Palau's own microbrewery. Brewery tours are also available upon request.
- 1 Guest Lodge Motel (Free transfer from airport. Short walk from), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. The Guest Lodge Motel offers a nice and clean place to stay if you just need a place to sleep and relax between days of outdoor activities. The Tuilding looks a bit shoddy from the outside, because the top floor is not finished. Rooms have AC, refrigerator, Cable TV, 130 V and 230 V power outlets, shower/bath, towels, etc.
- 2 Cliffside Hotel (Just outside of Koror but offers a free ride into town if you request it.). It is a cheaper alternative to the near-by Palau Pacific Resort (PPR), and offers free access to the PPR's private strip of beach. The staff will be happy to help you book a dive tour if you wish. The restaurant is good and it has its own pool along with access to the pools at the PPR.
- 3 West Plaza by the Sea, ☏ . 36 rooms overlooking the ocean lagoon and nearby islands. Rooms range from standard class to deluxe rooms with kitchenettes, and a penthouse suite on the roof deck with a large private veranda, whirpool bath, kitchenette, and plenty of spacious living area. West Plaza By the Sea also features the Red Rooster Cafe. The cafe offers a wide selection of Japanese Cruisine, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The nightly happy hour features Palau's only locally brewed beer on tap, Red Rooster Draft.
- 4 West Plaza Desekel, ☏ . Located near museums, restaurants and banks. West Plaza Desekel offers 30 rooms ranging from deluxe to standard accommodations. Located on the hotel's ground floor is the Deskel Market, a full service grocery store complete with ice cold beverages, fresh local and imported produce and a large assortment of Western and Asian foods.
- 5 The Caroline's Resort, ☏ . A few minutes outside of downtown Koror, this charming option offers accommodation in several bungalows nestled in the hills amongst the jungle. The bungalows are equipped with A/C, satellite TV, attached bathrooms and bar fridges. Each also has an external patio with views over the ocean. Nice touches include the option to have breakfast served on your patio, and guests also have access to the Palau Pacific Resort's amenities so you can enjoy the beach and pool during the day.
- 6 Cove Resort Palau, ☏ . Houses 71 rooms and three suites with Sealy Deluxe mattresses and amenities like 48-inch flat-screen TVs, stocked minibars and room service. Resort features include complimentary international daily buffet breakfast, the largest lagoon pool in Palau, a relaxed cocktail bar, onsite dining at The Hungry Marlin Restaurant and Bar and concierge assistance offering custom dive and rock island tours and dolphin encounters.
- 7 Palau Pacific Resort, ☏ . Is a world class resort on the outskirts of Koror with a pool, a restaurant, free wi-fi and its own private strip of beach. Known locally as PPR, it is very nice (beautiful beach, excellent restaurant, vaulted ceilings) but it is also quite a ways out of Koror (10-15 minute drive). They run an hourly shuttle into Koror most evenings, or it will set you back about $5 each way for a cab.
- 8 Palau Royal Resort, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. One of the newest hotels in Palau - catering largely to Japanese. Located in Malakal, a couple minutes walk away from Sam's Dive Shop or Neco Marine.
Explore the rest of Palau. To the south there are the uninhabited Rock Islands, a popular place for diving. Across the bridge to the north is Babeldaob, which is largely undeveloped but home to the world's least populated national capital.