Why go to Pohnpei?


“Paradise, but not as you know it” might be a good strapline to promote Pohnpei.  Then again, most folks on the tiny Pacific island don’t seem to care much about attracting tourists to their shores. If you like your travel destinations set up to make life as easy as possible for you as a visitor, this is not the place for you.



Take a drive for example and you’ll be struck by the total absence of road signs. The odd hotels or bar has put up a sign to let people know where they are. There’s one road sign for Palikir, the capital of the Federated States of Micronesia of which Pohnpei is a part. But try and work out which village you’re driving through and you’ll soon be throwing away your map in frustration.  With so few visitors (“You’re from Britain? Yes, we have many British visitors – another couple came here six months ago”) the need for signposts has never really arisen.



Don’t come to Pohnpei for beaches. Apart from a few sandy corners most of the coast is marked by inaccessible rocks or by dense mangrove. There are nearby atolls with pristine white sand that  are only a short boat trip away and the snorkelling on the reefs around Pohnpei is easily accessible. We met a surfer who had flown all the way from Brazil just to have the waves along the Pohnpei coast all to himself.



That few people have heard of Pohnpei is all the more surprising given that it is home to one of the most astounding historical sites in the Pacific regions. Nan Madol is an abandoned city built in the 11th century on water (the Venice of the Pacific labels are inevitable). Stick the ruins of Nan Madol anywhere else in the world and you’d have thousands of people visiting each day. Our small group of seven had the place to ourselves; the previous day only two had come to explore the dramatic stone ruins, spread across 223 acres and built on 98 individual islands in the shallow clear waters of the Pacific.



Pohnpei is known as one of the wettest places on the planet and if you come here be prepared for the fact that however clear the skies may look, rain clouds can appear without warning and deliver an almighty soaking. The rain is actually quite pleasant given that the temperature is a fairly constant 28-30 degrees day and night, but you’ll need to carry a supply of plastic bags to help protect your valuables from the deluge.




Recommended reading




If you are thinking of heading to Pohnpei I’d recommend reading Up Pohnpei by Paul Watson. Paul is a young lad from England who travelled to the island recently to coach the Pohnpei state football team, having discovered that they had never previously won a game. His descriptions of Pohnpei, its people and the complexities of island life are entertaining and a good taster for a visit to this charming part of the world.


You can get the Pohnpei included in your RTW here