Pohnpei is the most developed of the four states in Micronesia.
Pohnpei is also one of the rainiest inhabited place in the world. With about 300 inches of rain per year at the higher elevations and 150 inches at the waterfront, and no dry season, expect it to rain every day, with alternating patches of sun, clouds, and rain. However, since the temperature hovers around 85°F (about 27°C), the rain is never seen as much of a nuisance, and most people walk around without umbrellas or other rain gear. Rain can often be seen as a relief, because it cools the weather down a few degrees and keeps the humidity from feeling oppressive.
The Northern end of the island has most of the population, as well as the city of Kolonia. There are no well-defined boundaries to the city, and the townships are all quite near each other. There is a ring road that circles the island. Most people live on the ring road.
The regional language of Pohnpei is Pohnpeian. However, most people learn English as well. Outside of the capital and the college, most people only have rudimentary English skills, and once you get into the villages, only Pohnpeian is spoken, by and large. The older population has more proficiency in Japanese, the language of the occupation during their childhood.
United Airlines is the only airline with flights to Micronesia. They offer an island-hopper flight, which goes East to West on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and West to East on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The airport is small, and most checking on the islands is done by hand, so expect to have all of your luggage (carry-on or check-in) hand-searched. Because of this, check-in generally happens at least an hour before boarding, even though there are never huge numbers of people at the airport.
Intrepid travelers arrive on their sailboats to visit Pohnpei. There is a harbor for sailboats.
Street names are not generally used to give directions. There are no addresses. Fortunately, there is only one main road and it is pretty easy to get around. If you are lost, locals know where practically everything is and are happy to give directions.
There are some car rentals available on Pohnpei. The roads are in fair to poor condition, and potholes are common. Cars will drive on the wrong side of the road to avoid potholes. It is acceptable to pass a slow moving car anywhere there is enough space. At night many drivers are intoxicated on Sakau and tend to drive very slowly. There is little in the way of signage.
There are also taxis, which are relatively cheap. A taxi ride in Kolonia will cost $1 per person. Prices increase the farther you go outside of Kolonia.
Walking is easy, as there are few distances within the Kolonia area which are more than a couple of miles away. Many people walk around town. Dogs may nip at you if you make too much eye contact with them.
Sokehs rock - a massive rock outcropping. a hiking trail leads to the top for a panoramic view over the island. there are some WW2 era Japanese guns at the top.
A Japanese Gun from World War II
Nan Madol - a must see. the ruins of a thousand year old royal city. the ruins are located on artificial islands, and it has been called "the Venice of the pacific"
the Spanish Wall - located in the capital, Kolonia, this wall is all that remains of the old spanish fort.
Pohnpei's surf season generally goes from late October until April but there are occasional good waves other times of year in other spots.
Pohnpei has been featured in many surf magazines from all over the world over in recent years and as a result there are times when heavy crowds swarm the best breaks. Other times though it still remains a quiet and uncrowded island for surfers.
To get to the best waves in Pohnpei you will need to get a ride from one of the many local fishermen with boats.
You can easily check to see if there are waves from the hotels in town. South Park Hotel sits above Kolonia harbor and faces directly north toward Main Pass, Center Channel and gives a peak of Lighthouse Pass. Ocean View Hotel, aptly named, has clear views to the reef line on the north side of the island which provide a full indicator of what the swell is doing.
A short drive to Nan Pohnmal (5 minutes)west of town where the U.S. Embassy housing complex is located provides a clear view of the entire NW reef including Palikir Pass which is easily seen from the bluff top vista.
The local crew reccomends NIHCO Marine Park which is in Sekere along the north western shore of the lagoon at the closest point of land to Palikir Pass. Locally owned, NIHCO has the best accomodations and the newest boats and surf tourist accomodations in Pohnpei. []
Dive and Snorkel
Pohnpei has very good diving and snorkeling. The diving here mostly along reefs. The island is well known for its manta population. There is decent diving and snorkeling from Nahlap Resort. You will need a boat for the best diving spots on the island. The only PADI certified dive center on the island is at The Village, where the cost is dependent on the number of divers going out that day (call or e-mail to make arrangements).
Kayak Sea Breeze hotel rents kayaks. The rate is $2 per hour. Coco Marina, across the street, also rents Kayaks.
See Mangrove Forests There are no natural beaches. Instead of beaches the island is surrounded by a belt of mangrove swamp. Travelers will find that there is not obvious access to the ocean in Kolonia. There is public access to the water a Nett Point.
Nahlap Resort Built on top of a reef in Kitti Municipality, Nahlap features about 10 spartan cabins. Nahlap is about a forty five minute drive from Kolonia. There is an unmarked turn down a dirt road, off of the ring road to get to Nahlap. During low tide there is enough sand to spread out and get the beach experience. You can dive and snorkel from here, but you will need your own equipment. This resort offers overnight cabins, and day use cabins, all with BBQ pits. There is a shared restroom. Nahlap runs a water taxi to the resort that is $5 per person, round trip. The use fee is about $3 per person to rent a cabin. Kayaks can be rented for a couple of dollars. There is a Sunday discount.
Shop Handicrafts such as wood carvings, woven baskets, and wall hangings (often incorporating shells and small wood carvings) are made by the local population. As well as purchasing these, you can watch them being made.
Explore Japanese relics
In addition to a small Japanese tank in downtown Kolonia, there are two old shore batteries on the island. The easiest to find is on the way to Sokeh Rock. A road runs up the side of the hill but will likely require some hiking unless you have a four-wheel drive vehicle. The two heavy gun batteries are located near a picknic area as you crest the hill. They are not clearly marked so you must wander a few trails to find them.
The other battery location is harder to find, but more interesting. It's located on Temwen Island, quite close to Nan Madol. Follow the island road to Nan Madol. Near the end of the road is a school. Ask the locals about the "Japanese guns" and they will direct you to a very narrow and dark road leading into the jungle. Follow this until you see a sort of turn-off as the road goes down the hill to the left. Park here and walk down the hill to introduce yourself to the property owner, Robert. For three dollars, he will guide you to the four guns on the hilltop, a very unusual hollow stone tower, an ammo bunker and great water cisterns. Not many people come out this way, so the trail is heavily overgrown, as are the relics.
There are about ten restaurants to eat at on Pohnpei. At most you can expect lunches from about $6.50 or $7, and dinners between $12 and $20.
Coco Marina Owned by the Neime Company, http://www.neime.com/cocomarina.html, is a restaurant with an extensive menu of both local and American standards, and the only place on the island to get a proper Caesar Salad. The Hawaiian Style Poke is definitely something to try and the chef, formerly from San Diego, knows how to do a burrito the right way. The menu also features steaks and produce, fresh from Hawaii, and the fish is always fresh. The bar is well-stocked and drinks are potent and inexpensive. It's located in Kolonia, across the street from the Australian Embassy and Sea Breeze Hotel. (691) 320-5631.
The China Star Restaurant down by the shipping port is by far the Best restaurant on the island. The cooks are from China and most dishes have fresh veggies. Meals are between $8.00 and $16.00. (691) 320-6849
The Joy Hotel and Restaurant is known for its Joy Lunch, a Japanese-style set lunch of fried fish, tuna sashimi, rice, salad, and soup. They also serve local snacks like breadfruit and banana chips as a free appetizer. You can get it at dinner there, as well. Joy lunch is $7.50. Joy dinner as around $10.00 a plate. (691) 320-2447
PCR / Nanchelik PCR has a river view and a Japanese revolving lazy susan, where you sit and pick off the dishes you like- sahami, sushi, fried fish and chicken, seafood spaghetti, etc. (as of 2012, the convery belt was no longer in opperation). All you can eat lunch (which usually includes sashimi and cucumber rolls) is $6.50. (691) 320-5444
The Peppermill had a good lunch menu of sandwiches and light dishes but closed in July 2009 due to econmic decline. (691) 320-7612
SEI restaurant is known for its buffet lunch, which, at $6.99, has all-you-can-eat sashimi, rice, and fritters, among other things. Architecture alone is worth a visit. (691) 320-4266
Angie's "Fast Food", right next to the now defunct Peppermill, has food which isn't really fast and is not particularly tasty. However, they do have burgers and fries, and reasonable prices. (691) 320-1480
The Village Resort has the best dining on the island. Its comfortable terrace overlooks the sea; a great place to take a book and hang out for hours! For breakfast, try the banana pancakes or the surprisingly delicious fresh tuna omelet. They have fresh fish brought in every day and often have mangrove crab available.
The Orchid Located at Ocean View Hotel, it is reasonably priced and has great view. (691) 320-3075
Cliff Rainbow Restaurant has a Joy Lunch style set but their best lunch is the seafood spaghetti! Their pizza is also the best on the island, but you have to specifically ask them for the pizza menu, as they do not hand it out for some reason. And don't forget the fried ice cream! (691) 320-2415
Cupid's sounds like a cheesy nightclub, but is a good restaurant and has the best sunset view on the island. Located adjacent to the Australian embassy, it's a bit off the regular route, but an easy one-dollar taxi ride. Their drink specials will likely keep you well after sunset.
The Rusty Anchor - the most popular bar on Pohnpei. It is located in the shell of an unfinished hotel and has an excellent view of the yacht harbor. It is known as the expat bar, but locals also frequent the bar. Beer is between $2 and $3.50. There are pool tables.
Club Flamingo - the only nightclub on the island. $3 cover. Open on the weekends, after 10:00 p.m., the party can go on until 3 in the morning. Don't get caught on the dance floor after a song ends!
Tattooed Irishman - at the Village Hotel. Probably the best view and fanciest bar on the island. A great place to see a sunset. Beer is between $2.50 and $4.
Sakau en Pohnpei - many people around Pohnpei enjoy anesthetizing themselves with a goopy concoction known as sakau (a.k.a. kava). Try some and you'll understand why people say "like the feeling, not the taste." There are numerous sakau bars (markets) around town. 'Green Bay' is a popular sakau bar. The atmosphere at the market is very quiet and low key. The price is usually $7 for all you can drink in a shared cup. For about $10 you can get a personal cup.
The PCR Hotel 10 rooms with AC, TV, internet connection, fridge and a restaurant and small private marina located downstairs. The Pohnpei Surf Club is based here. Land and ocean tours anywhere on the island and off shore. Snorkeling, surfing, sport fishing and all equipment included. Please contact Pohnpei Surf Club at (691) 320-7845.
The Village Hotel is set in the jungle, outside of Kolonia, with sweeping views of the ocean. It is the only resort hotel on the island and features a bar and a restaurant. There are 20 mangrove pole, thatched roof bungaloo's that make up the rooms. The Village can arrange tours of the island as well. Rates are between $100 and $130 per night. The Village is the best way to experience Pohnpei if you're a diver. Make sure you go for the trip to Ahnd (Ant) Atoll. Rates are reasonable and the dive masters will make sure you get the best experience possible. (691) 320-2727.
Palikir Marine Adventures New self-contained bungalows at the foot of the Palikir hills, with a constant view of Palikir Pass, a 5-minute boat ride out. PMA is the only locally owned surf camp on Pohnpei and offers a unique personal experience with a maximum capacity of 6 surfers at a time. (691) 320-8618
Ocean View Plaza Probably somewhere close to a two star hotel, it is neither new, nor old. It serves as a decent place to sleep. All the rooms feature kitchenettes, air conditioning, private balconies, full bath, cable TV, telephones and laundry service. (691) 320-7049
The island is remarkably safe. Respect the local culture and you'll be OK.