Home to an estimated population of between 10,000 and 14,000 (or half of the country's inhabitants) it's no surprise that Koror has the largest concentration of different services; for visitors these include shops, diving operators, and places to eat and sleep. Like other capitals of small island nations in the Pacific, the city is rather utilitarian and doesn't have that many attractions.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
The climate is tropical; warm or hot throughout 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 maritime Southeast Asia for several millennia. The first Europeans to reach the islands were the Spanish, and the islands were subsequently part of the Spanish East Indies for centuries. Despite this, Koror remained a small fishing village until the islands were sold to the German Empire 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 World War I, the islands came under Imperial Japanese rule. 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 the Pacific War, after which they were administered by the United States.
The U.S. made Guam their main base in the South Seas, which meant Koror lost some of its importace 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 home to the seat of government and little else, with Koror remaining the economic capital and Palau's most populous city by far.
- See also: Palau#Get around
- 1 Roman Tmetuchl International Airport (ROR IATA) (about 8 km east of downtown Koror). The airport is located on Babeldaob island, 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 car, taxi, 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 companies 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 through Koror, as the speed limits are low and speed bumps are liberally sprinkled 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 5-10PM, with two shuttles plying the same route in opposite directions. The shuttles stop at the two major resorts, Palau Pacific and Palau Royal, 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, M-Dock (Walk from downtown Koror in the direction of Malakal. Aquarium is signposted off Main Street by the high school.), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 8AM-5PM, Sa Su 9AM-5PM; fish feeding 3:30PM daily. Very educational aquarium with a handful of open-air habitat exhibits and a single room of aquaria with various local aquatic life. The emphasis is on education, though the entire place is easily seen in 30-60 minutes. Exhibits include a topographical map of Palau; a re-creation 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 aquaria and a couple of salt-water crocodiles in a cage just outside the main entrance. Good souvenir shop. Adults $10, Child (6-12) $2.50, Child (under 6) free.
- 2 Belau National Museum, ☏ , email@example.com. 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 on 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. 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 building decorated with colored tiles and carved figures including a spider god who, 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, and art. 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. $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 National Stadium (PCC Track & Field Stadium). Hosts track and field competitions and the national soccer team's home games. Seating capacity of 4000.
- 2 NECO Marine Palau (at the NECO Malakal Marina), ☏ , . 7:30AM–5:30PM. A locally-owned tour operator that was also PADI's first dive center on Palau. NECO Marine Palau provides custom tours and boat charters, specializing in scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing. They can accommodate activities for large groups, customized private tours and almost everything in between. Divers are also able to enjoy up to 32% EAN Nitrox complimentary on all dives.
- 3 Palau Dive Adventures. Concierge service dive shop. It is limited to three people per dive, and offer a Monday to Friday schedule where the person dives 14 times in 5 days. Also offers a liveboard option.
- 4 Splash. Attached to the Palau Pacific Resort. 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. Splash runs a large, wide diveboat, carrying more than 20 divers.
- 5 Fish 'n Fins. The oldest dive center in Palau. They have two live-aboard vessels, and seven smaller (and faster!) dive boats, operating from their 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.
- 6 Sam's Tours. Offers diving, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing and land tours. They have some great guides who provide educational and environmental information about the sites. Sam's uses small, fast narrow boats which carry 4-8 divers.
- 7 Sara Guide Service, ☏ . Environmentally responsible professional sports fishing guides. They have experienced Palauan boat captains and Japanese and Western guides who make you feel welcome. Catch and release fish and have a great time! Great food too on their 8-m and 10-m boats.
There are a number of stores in Koror to purchase traditional Palauan storyboards, but by far the largest selection of story boards in Koror can be bought from the jail. Storyboards are made by the prisoners, and the proceeds go to their families to help support them while they are in jail. Helpfully, they put a color-coded sticker on each storyboard and give 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. They only accept cash, and are the most expensive place to purchase storyboards. It is illegal to import anything made by prison labor into the USA.
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 to 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 serve Palau.
There are small shops and markets on Main Street in downtown Koror. The two largest shopping centers are the WCTC Shopping Center and Surangel's Supercenter, which are right across the street from one another in the center of town. Surangel's has the best selection of sunblock in town.
- 1 W.C.T.C. Shopping Center, Main Street, ☏ . 7AM-10PM. Has 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.
Credit cards are accepted at most shops and restaurants. The Bank of Guam and the Bank of Hawaii both have an ATM on Main Street in central Koror. In early 2012 there was no surcharge for using these ATMs, though they did 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, or local kangkun vegetables stir-fried with onions and garlic.
- 2 Penthouse. Try the fruit bat 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 (right across from the jail). 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 (inside Sam's dive center). 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 (near the Palau Royal and Cove Resorts), ☏ . An outdoor restaurant with a swimming pool that is frequented by tourists and locals alike. The bar specializes in local beers and freshly-caught fish. Don't miss their Poke or spicy Poke Bowls. The menu also offers large burgers, sandwiches, steak, pizza, fish and chips, and vegetarian options. 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 (a little west of the Court House on Koror Island). An excellent "home town cafe"-style eatery, great for a quick bit of American-style food. Their portions are large and their prices reasonable (try the bread sticks). The 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 (adjacent to the Palau Royal hotel). A good medium-range option with generous portions and well-prepared dishes of Japanese and local flavor, including coconut crab.
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, the country's own microbrewery. Brewery tours are also available upon request.
- 1 Guest Lodge Motel (Free transfer from airport.), ☏ , fax: , email@example.com. A nice and clean place to sleep and relax between days of outdoor activities. The building 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). A cheaper alternative to the nearby Palau Pacific Resort (PPR), and offers free access to the PPR's private 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 to deluxe rooms with kitchenettes, and a penthouse suite on with a large private veranda, whirlpool bath, kitchenette, and spacious living area. Also features the Red Rooster Cafe, which offers a wide selection of Japanese cuisine, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- 4 West Plaza Desekel, ☏ . 30 rooms ranging from standard to deluxe. The hotel has a full-service grocery store complete with a large assortment of Western and Asian foods.
- 5 The Caroline's Resort, ☏ . This charming option offers accommodation in several bungalows nestled in the hilly jungle. The bungalows are equipped with AC, 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. The resort features include daily international 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 (PPR) (10-15 mins' drive from Koror), ☏ . A world-class resort on the outskirts of Koror with a pool, excellent restaurant with vaulted ceilings, free Wi-Fi and its own beautiful and semi-private beach. They run an hourly shuttle into Koror most evenings, or it will set you back about $5 each way for a private cab.
- 8 Palau Royal Resort (in Malakal, a couple minutes walk away from Sam's Dive Shop and Neco Marine), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. One of the newest hotels in Palau - catering largely to Japanese.
- 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 Australia, Belvedere Apartments, Apartment 201 East Meyungs, ☏ , email@example.com.
- 3 Japan, Palau Pacific Resort, Ngerkebesang, ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Taiwan, Republic of China, 3F Ben Franklin Building, ☏ , email@example.com.
- 4 United States, Omsangel/Beklelachieb, Airai, ☏ , fax: , ConsularKoror@state.gov.
Citizens of Canada can obtain assistance from the Australian Embassy. Citizens of other countries will have to contact a mission outside Palau. The responsible British embassy is in Manila (Philippines). The responsible New Zealand consulate is in Honolulu (Hawaii, U.S.). The responsible French embassy, which also provides assistance to other EU citizens, is in Manila.
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 the largely undeveloped Babeldaob, the world's least-populated national capital.