Written by Ashley from Stand By So Journers
The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) are an island chain spread nearly 2,700 km in the western Pacific Ocean, just north of the equator. The FSM as a nation is something of a hodgepodge; the four states, Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap, are as distinct culturally from one another as they are geographically, and experiencing their diverse cultures is by far the best reason to visit. Add world class diving and the “off the beaten path” appeal of the largely unknown FSM states, and you’ve found a unique destination worth seeking out for your next adventure.
Where to stay on a budget?
Kosrae has three accommodation options for English-speaking tourists, and all are owned by wonderful people. The most unique is Kosrae Village Resort, which offers private cottages built to reflect traditional Kosraen architecture. The Nautilus Resort is conveniently located next to the Blue Hole, a wonderful snorkel and shore-diving spot. The Pacific Treelodge is nestled into a mangrove forest, with direct kayak access to the snaking Mutunnenea Channel. Rates start at $105 per night.
The capital of Pohnpei boasts the most accommodation options, fitting a range of budgets. For travellers focused on surfing and diving, stay at the Pohnpei Surf Club’s headquarters at Mangrove Bay. In Kolonia, the Riverside restaurant at the Seven Stars Inn boasts one of the best breakfasts on the island, and the adjacent Lefty’s Sport Bar is a popular watering hole for expats. Rates in Pohnpei start as low as $55 per night.
In Yap, O’keefe’s Waterfront Inn is a charming homage to one of the Pacific’s most legendary characters, Captain David Dean O’Keefe. For dive holidays, Manta Ray Bay and Yap Pacific Dive Resort offer dive packages and the most luxury in FSM. Rates typically start around $150 per night on Yap, although some options are as low as $95 per night.
Where to eat on a budget?
Despite the abundance of seafood just off their shores, it’s actually difficult to eat on a budget in the restaurants in FSM. Oddly enough, this is because local fisherman fish specifically for their families and villages, and rarely sell to the few restaurants on each island, so they rely on expensive imports just like their meats and much of their produce. However, each island has markets and roadside stands in the villages where you can buy the excess catch from the local fishermen for a very good price. Make friends with a local or your hotel staff and they’ll gladly cook whatever you bring in to their kitchen.
There are a few good dining options on each island, some offering weekly specials. In Kosrae, try the Bully tuna burger at Bully’s Restaurant, and on Friday do not miss the mangrove crab special! Coco Marina on Pohnpei has a great tuna sashimi in “local sauce”, a delicious concoction of soy sauce, onion, calamansi and Pohnpeian pepper. Mnuw, otherwise known as “the ship”, on Yap is one of the best FSM restaurants and offers nightly dinner and drink specials.
What to do or to look at?
The islands are known for their diving –Kosrae for unique coral species, Yap and Pohnpei for giant manta rays and Chuuk for WWII shipwrecks. However, there are truly unique and interesting things to do on each island that should not be missed.
As the largest and highest of the states, Pohnpei offers the most land-based sights and activities. For history buffs, the Pohnpaip petroglyphs are worth checking out, but Nan Madolis a gem that should absolutely not be missed. For hikers and climbers looking for a real challenge, take on the Kitti 6 Waterfall hike or scale Sokehs rock.
Kosrae is small, but steeped in centuries of history. Explore the sprawling complex of the Lelu ruins on your own, then hire local guide SalikWaguk to take you on a hike to the even older Menke ruins. Plenty of WWII relics are scattered across the island, ask a local to point out areas of interest. For a truly one of a kind experience, hike through the last remaining stand of Terminalia carolinses, locally known as the “ka” tree, in the world.
What not to do?
Luckily the islands are not overly touristy and generally safe for travellers. However, it is important to respect local customs and traditions. In Kosrae, the Sabbath is strictly observed, so travellers should avoid planning activities on Sunday. Also, female travellers should respect local customs by dressing conservatively. Take a cue from the locals and wear calf-length skirts or dresses and cover your shoulders.
3 fun facts?
- Pohnpei is one of the wettest places on earth, receiving rainfall totals up to 300 inches per year in its mountainous interior. Just know when you go hiking, no matter the time of year, it will rain.
- Kosrae is known as the “Land of the Sleeping Lady” because from the shore her central mountain range resembles a woman peacefully sleeping.
- Yap’s moniker is the “Land of Stone Money”, because as early as 500 CE Yapese navigators brought huge limestone discs quarried from Palau and other nearby islands back by bamboo canoe to use as currency in the transaction of land deals, marriage and more! The stone money continues to be passed down through the generations and still used in transactions.
This great guide was written by Ashley Tippins. Check her out on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. She also has a blog which is a great read, check it out here. If you are looking for more accommodation then check out Agoda and Hostelworld, I highly recommend them. Travel insurance? Go World Nomads, a trusted and reliable travel insurance company.
Author: My name is Ashley Tippins and, along with my husband, I travel the world on non-revenue pass travel, better known as standby. We have to balance our love for travel with our careers, so my goal is show readers just how we are able to have fulfilling travel experiences with a limited amount of vacation time.We are standby sojourners, and we invite you to follow us as we explore the globe, one empty seat at a time!