Micronesia

The Island is a Prison: Resorts of Pohnpei

Boardwalk at Nahlap Resort

If you’re like me, when people tell you that there aren’t any beaches on Pohnpei–a tropical Pacific island–you won’t really believe them.  You’ll  think to yourself, ‘okay, what they really mean is that the beaches aren’t that nice, like they’re not manicured.’  Then, when people say that the mangrove trees get in the way of enjoying the ocean, you’ll think, ‘okay, what they really mean is that there are these beautiful trees out in the water and some people evidently get fussy about having to swim around the roots.’  So if you’re like me, perhaps you’ll envision a rustic, backwoods kind of beach where the jungle butts up against the shoreline and massive ancient root systems spread throughout the shallows.  Maybe you’ll even picture yourself snorkeling through clear blue waters under intricately gnarled shady limbs.

But then again, if you’re like me, you’d be wrong.  Oh so wrong.

Nahlap Resort entrance from the boardwalk

Let’s translate:

No sand beaches=not entirely accurate; there is one sand beach.  By the airport.  About ten feet long.  And it’s dirty.

Mangrove trees=dense boggy swamp-forests of treacherous impassible roots.  Think in terms of miles, not single trees.

So another odd fact about Pohnpei, Micronesia, is that from the moment you step onto this tropical gem of a lush remote island, people will be telling you why you should leave. (The mainland, that is.)  And head out to Pohnpei’s nearby resort islands—where the real action is.  Ostensibly.

Church at Nahlap Resort

To be honest, it’s entirely possible to live on Pohnpei and never see the ocean.  I lived about a half a mile from the mangrove for nearly a year and only touched ocean water about four times.  True, you can see the water from many vantage points in Kolonia, but throughout the rest of the country, this is simply not the case.  It’s common, then, to start feeling a little frustrated when you begin to experience island fever without ever having enjoyed the perks of blissfully rolling tides.

Okay, so what’s a land-locked islander to do? The key, or so you’ll be told at least, is to escape!  The cure to feeling confined, evidently, is to run away and spend a couple of days on an even smaller and more remote island than the one on which you currently live—a resort island, to be precise.

Resorts like Nahlap, Black Coral, and Ant Island are only a short boat taxi ride away and are filled with incredible snorkeling, white sand, and sunset vistas.  They are basic (think:  hollow wooden shacks with sometimes-working doors and plank floors where you can lay your sleeping bag), but their abundance of natural wealth makes for a more than memorable experience.  In all fairness, it’s possible that these get-aways really would be the cure for claustrophobia if they weren’t, you know, the size of your living room.  Yeah, that’s right, a whole resort island that could fit inside your garage.  Nothing erases the feeling of imprisonment like twenty square feet of space.

To return to where we started, if you’re like me, perhaps you’ll underestimate what I mean by small here.  Thus, an illustration to help clarify the concept:  despite the roar of the crashing waves on all sides of you, from the southernmost cabin on Black Coral, you will be able to clearly hear everything your drunken group mates on the northernmost corner of the island have to say about you.  (On a separate an unrelated note, I’d advise you think about the types of people with whom you’d enjoy being deserted before you actually are deserted with them.)

Sunset on boat taxi ride from Nahlap

Also, another thing to keep in mind is that Pacific currents are no joke. This is, after all, a part of the world where getting sucked out to sea is kind of like going the wrong way down a one-way street—it may not happen all the time, but most of us have tried it once or twice.  What this means for you is that when the current’s up, you’re beached.  And since taxis, too, must kowtow to the ocean’s fickle moods, you’re going to be beached for a while.  Thus, even in paradise, it is possible that the glorious white sand and the vast blue horizon may begin to feel like something distinctly less glorious and vast when you realize that they’re all you’ll be looking at for the next six hours.  And it is possible that a resort-island get away might feel like less of an escape when you realize that, in fact, you literally can’t escape it.

All of that having been said, though, the resort islands are a must-see for visitors to Pohnpei.  Their classic Pacific-island style and unique array of possibilities both above and below the water are certainly worth the risk of spending a few hours baking on the Equatorial sand.  With their proximity to reefs and their luscious swaying palms, the resort islands of Pohnpei are a fun trip for surfers, snorkelers, sunset gazers, alike.  So choose your companions wisely, cross your fingers for calm seas, and hop on an outbound taxi.  Just know that when you find yourself stranded on a distant strip of beach surrounded by strangers, you will not be the first happy traveler to find yourself sweating profusely and muttering under your breath, “This island is a prison.”