Any U.S. Marine can tell you about Tarawa: This atoll in the Gilbert Islands was the scene of a bloody amphibious landing in World War II. Today the island is far more peaceful, though no less important—the main city of Bairiki is now the capital of Kiribati. At Betio, site of the World War II battle, you can still see blasted bunkers and rusted artillery pieces. The road from Betio to Bonriki, where the airport is located, passes scenery that's representative of Kiribati as a whole: small villages, palm groves and beaches. There is no road north of the airport, but there are several villages in that direction where people maintain a traditional Micronesian lifestyle. Several small islands off Tarawa can be reached by foot at low tide.

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