Peleliu Island is known mainly as fighting ground for one of the bloodiest battles of WWII in the Pacific region (the Battle of Peleliu, fought between the United States and Japan).
For us, Peleliu was an excuse for a costly (albeit spectacular) scenic flight over the Rock Islands, which are located between Koror and Peleliu. Plus, we craved for a lush tropical beach. Before the trip, we had imagined Palau as a place abundant in the sand. Sadly, the main state, Koror, appeared to be almost beach-free (the beach we visited at the Palau Pacific Resort was beautiful but paid).
To get to Peleliu, we contacted Pacific Mission Aviation (we e-mailed them) and booked two tickets in their Cessna plane. The flight was fantastic, we write about it in our article here.
To go back to Koror, we took a ferry from the North Dock. Neither mean of transportation is available every day, so check the timetables. We took a flight on Saturday and came back by ferry on Sunday. To see the details go to our article How to plan a trip to Palau.
Most of the island's population lives in the village of Kloulklubed, which is also the state capital on the northwestern coast. It is a very convenient place to stay, as most of the hotels and home-stays are clustered here. But by no means, expect the luxury accommodation. The hotels here are simple (if not rusty) places with basic amenities.
We chose Wenty’s due to its strategic location at the seaside. Within walking distance, we found a few grocery shops and a small restaurant. It will take you about 20 minutes of walking to get to the North Dock – the northernmost part of the islands, from where the ferries depart.
Unfortunately, the northwest shore of the island appeared to be swimmers unfriendly. The beach disappeared entirely during the high-tide, and when it emerged again for our sunset stroll, it was muddy, littered with seaweed and a bit smelly. At some point, we even encountered a swarm of jumping insects we guess were sand fleas. Also, the water was brownish, so we didn't dare to swim.
Despite all of the above, we enjoyed the stroll. Plus, the sunset was spectacular. See for yourself:
Anyway, if you think of coming to Peleliu solely for the beaches, you might want to reconsider your choice. We haven't seen the southeast located beaches, though. Maybe it would be worth staying there, despite the long distance from Kloulklubed. But then maybe not.
What attracts visitors to Peleliu is its sad history and the ubiquitous remnants of the 1944 battle. They are scattered all over the island: a rusting tank near the main road, bullet shells on the beach, a transporter overgrown with the foliage, a bunker with an entrance looking like a fox cave...
Especially the bunkers, or rather the network of caves, caught our attention. They had been interlocked by the Japanese into a "honeycomb" system inside the hill, and only occasional openings here and there (some marked and described on the description boards, which was very informative) remind you it's not an ordinary hill.
There are legends about the ghosts of the Japanese soldiers appearing near the caves. We entered one of the tunnels in Kloulklubed, and although we haven't met any wandering spirits, the visit did give us a spooky feeling (bring a torch!).
W H A T T O S E E N E X T
There are several ways of visiting Peleliu. You can do it on your own, on foot - but only places around Kloulkubed. The southern part is too far, plus the weather is unpredictable - it rained several times during our stay (it was a dry season!). Or you can do it on a bicycle - to be rent in the village, you'll see the signs. If you want to learn some extra information about the Battle of Peleliu, take one of the guided tours (again, you'll see the ad signs in the village). In our case, thanks to the courtesy of the manager of Wenty's, we made a short car tour around the island as a part of the pick-up from the airstrip. See our photos from Peleliu here.
Our summary: Peleliu is not for everyone. The history buffs will definitely appreciate the vibe. The rest (beach and snorkeling fans) will probably rest better on Kayangel Island.
To see what else you can do in Palau, go to our article What to see and do in Palau.