Chuuk (also known as Truk) is one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia.
The main population center of Chuuk is Chuuk Lagoon, a large archipelago with mountainous islands surrounded by a string of islets on a barrier reef. Chuuk State also includes several more sparsely populated "outer island" groups, including the Mortlock Islands to the southeast, the Hall Islands (Pafeng) to the north, Namonuito Atoll to the northwest, and the Pattiw Region to west. The Pattiw Region is of particular interest in that they are some of the most traditional islands in the Pacific and culturally related to outer islands of Yap.
Chuuk was originally part of the colonial territory of the Caroline Islands, and as such Chuuk has been a part of the Spanish Empire, then the German Empire and finally the Japanese empires.
During World War II, Chuuk Lagoon was the Japan's main naval base in the South Pacific theatre. A significant portion of the Imperial Japanese fleet was based there, with its administrative center on Tonoas (south of Weno). Due to its heavy fortifications, both natural and manmade, the base at Chuuk was nicknamed by the Allied forces as "the Gibraltar of the Pacific". In 1944 the U.S. forces attacked Chuuk under code name Operation Hailstone. The attack culminated in one of the most important naval battles of the war. Twelve Japanese warships, thirty-two merchant ships and 249 aircraft were destroyed.
After the War, Chuuk was one of six districts of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands which were administered by the United States under charter from the United Nations from the end of the Second World War to the early 1990s. Now Chuuk is a state within the independed Federated States of Micronesia.
The native language is Chuukese, although many people (particularly those in the hospitality industry) speak English. Just to make life more difficult, Chuukese varies from island to island although most people from different islands can understand each other.
United Airlines flies to Chuuk from Guam and from Palikir, Pohnpei.
There is no public transport infrastructure in Chuuk. On the main island, the two options are either take a taxi or rent a car or scooter. Both are fairly cheap, but the quality of the roads and the quality of the vehicles are about what you would expect in a relatively poor country.
Taxis will gave a white "TAXI" sign in their front window, and fares are normally $1 per person to and from any destination. They are generally not available after 530pm, except possibly at the airport, and on Sundays it may be difficult to find them. If you're trying to go a long way, you're more likely to be rejected than charged a higher price.
If you're trying to get from downtown Weno to Blue Lagoon Resort or Sapuk (both far destinations), you might try to get on a flatbed taxi. You can find flatbed taxis going from the TCM building to Sapuk, or from the road near Truck Stop to Blue Lagoon Resort. They will not have normal taxi signage, and the drivers may not understand English but they will understand your destination.
Travelling between islands will invariably require hiring a boat. Locals have said that the boats idling in the harbor can be unsafe, so you are better off organizing a trip through someone you trust.
Chuuk is renowned for its wreck diving. The PADI Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving lists four "Meccas" of wreck diving, and Truk Lagoon is one of the four.
In 1944 the US Navy conducted Operation Hailstone, the largest surface bombing campaign in history, wiping out a Japanese fleet stationed at the island. The seabed around Chuuk is now littered with nearly 70 wrecks of ships and planes, all protected from deep sea currents by a reef system, and most within depths appropriate for scuba divers.
Although Truk Lagoon contains a number of spectacular wrecks, the Fujikawa Maru is often singled out by diving magazines and travel guides as one of the top 10 wreck dives in the world.
Blue Lagoon Resort and Truk Stop both offer diving tours and equipment rental. You will need a PADI certification to wreck dive with these companies, and they both offer certification programs. Blue Lagoon Resort also offers a shallow-water "exploratory" dive for beginners near their dock.
If you don't want to dive, or can't, snorkeling can be a good alternative.
Blue Lagoon Resort offers snorkeling tours of four shallow wrecks: Kosei Maru, Hoyo Maru, Patrol Boat 34, and the Zero 2 plane. A full-day tour is $84 per person, includes four wrecks, and stops on two of Blue Lagoon Resort's private islands.
In Mwen, near downtown Weno, there is a partially submerged shipwreck which can be a DIY wreck snorkel.
Everything Else: DIY
The amount of things to "do" which are guided is limited. Chuuk's tourism infrastructure is very focused on diving, and although there are other wonderful things to do - they're much less straightforward than going to a tour agency.
If you're not comfortable making your way off the tourist trail in a third-world country, you might not want to try these actives.
Always be home before dark, know when cabs stop running, understand that you might have to walk home from wherever you end up, and bring plenty of water/sunscreen.
There are some beautiful hikes in Chuuk, but they are unmarked and can be tough to follow. For most hiking routes you will need a local guide, which might be a Tour Guide you pay, or a few Chuukese children who will hope to be paid in candy.
Overlooking Weno and Pou Bay, this mountain offers beautiful views and two ways to summit: a rocky access road for 4x4s and walkers, and a path through the jungle and up the rock face. The former is easy, the latter is challenging and potentially dangerous. You will need a guide for the jungle trek, but the road is somewhat well-known as the way to the weather tower.
The Japanese built a lighthouse in Sapuk during their occupation, and today it is a beautifully abandoned artifact sitting atop a hill in the Chuukese jungle.
There are two paths to the lighthouse, one originating at Xavier (a private school in Sapuk), and one originating near the Japanese Dock. The path from Xavier may have been damaged by a recent typhoon.
The lighthouse rises four stories above the jungle, and its possible to climb on top of (what was) the roof via a rickety but safe metal ladder.
From the roof there are gorgeous views of the northern coastline.
You may need a guide for the path, and expect that the locals whose properties you cross may charge you a $5 toll.
There are no real beaches on Weno (although some of the outer islands which can be reached by boat do have beaches).
Blue Lagoon Resort has a very small private beach which is in good shape and can be a good place to find sand dollars.
Private owners have in some cases developed their own beach property to be "tourist friendly". There is one such beach near the Japanese Dock in Sapuk. Don't expect anything beyond some sand and water - facilities may be rough or nonresistant. The owners may charge as much as $5 per person for access.
You will need to get transportation to these islands. Locals have said that boats idling in the harbor can be unsafe, so work with someone you trust to find a way to the islands.
Although the Chuuk visitor's centre lists a number of options, there are principally two land based hotels in Chuuk which tourists tend to stay at:
Chuuk is a very poor country, and visitors should adjust their expectations of the hotels accordingly. Although the rooms will be air conditioned and clean, the amenities will be somewhat limited.
Visitors who come to scuba dive (which is to say, almost all of them) often stay on one of the two liveaboard dive vessels which operate in Chuuk:
Alcohol is subject to a 50% sales tax in Chuuk, and all acohol is imported. Accordingly, an evening at the bar can rapidly become quite an expensive proposition in Chuuk.
It is best to observe the cultural norms of each island. For the most part conservative dress and manners will do much to ensure you have a safe visit. Women should NOT wear shorts or short skirts and bathing suits should only be worn at the main resorts. It is best to wear a T-shirt over your bathing suit if you will be swimming near public beaches. Speaking to a local of the opposite gender can be thought of as an open invitation to a more serious relationship.
When on the main islands, avoid going out alone after dark. As in many places around the globe men have more freedoms to behave as they choose. Many use the darkness, and a few too many drinks to behave as they would like. For the most part they will be more aggressive and overt in their attention seeking behaviors. They will over-react if they believe their ego/reputation has been questioned.
There is a $20 (cash only) departure tax payable at the airport.
As an alternative to the departure lounge, the Lei Side Coffee Shop across the road has air conditioning and wifi.