You probably won't want to go to Pohnpei, the site of the nation's capital, if you just want to lie around on the beach—there are better beaches elsewhere in Micronesia. But if you're looking for magnificent Pacific island scenery, you will certainly find it on this island. (And, if you are lucky, it may stop raining long enough for you to enjoy it.) Pohnpei's mountains rise nearly 2,600 ft/790 m, providing a spectacular backdrop for its waterfalls, rivers, beaches, mangroves and rain forests.
Pohnpei offers more examples of both Micronesian and Polynesian culture than other islands. The 800-year-old Nan Madol ruins, for instance, are among the great archaeological sites of the Pacific. They consist of 92 manmade islets on reefs and tidal flats near Temwen Island. The ruins include an abandoned city with walls, temples, tombs, bathing rooms and pools for turtles, and are best seen at high tide. You can arrange to kayak through the canals connecting the islands.
While on Pohnpei, walk the streets of Kolonia, the island's main town, to see the ruined Spanish fort, wartime fortifications and the former Japanese meteorological station (now a botanical garden). Palikir, the capital of the Federated States of Micronesia, is just 5 mi/8 km west of Kolonia, but it holds nothing of interest to tourists. At Porakiet, "the village within a village," you'll find Polynesian residents in traditional huts who make wood carvings of sharks and other figures. Climb Sokehs Ridge to see abandoned Japanese guns and a great view. This site has been cleared and is a real treat. You can also hike to the rear of Sokehs Mountain and view the Diamond Head of Micronesia up-close and personal. There are road signs to direct visitors to favorite waterfalls and swimming spots. Among the most impressive waterfalls we've found are Kehn Paipohn in Kitti and Kepirohi in Madolenihmw.
Because of runoff from heavy rains, the diving from Pohnpei Island itself is excellent. The nutrients that feed the marine life make this one of Micronesia's most diverse destinations. Dive at incoming high tide for the best results inside the lagoon. Pohnpei has two resident manta ray families. It also has two nearby atolls, and the diving and snorkeling there are also very good.
Kolonia also offers the best nightlife in the country. Residents settle into bars that serve sakau, the mildly narcotic drink extracted from pepper roots. (Note: It has anesthetic properties, and it is often made with unpurified water.) Visitors are welcome in these quiet establishments, which are found almost everywhere. We suggest four nights on Pohnpei. 145 mi/235 km east of Chuuk.
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