The Essential Nauru Travel Guide

It’s hard to find a travel guide to Nauru or even find out how to travel to Nauru. In fact, it’s hard to find people who have even heard of Nauru let alone people who have been to Nauru! Wikipedia is probably the best Nauru travel guide but it’s not great. Lonely Planet doesn’t even include Nauru in its books anymore. So I have decided to write my Nauru blog post in the (long) form of an essential travel guide to Nauru.
Nauru, pinnacles, beach
A few weeks ago I posted a rough itinerary for my current trip on my Facebook fan page. One of my long-time Australian fans, I had never met before, was actually working in Nauru and messaged me that she would be on island. I was beyond thrilled as I was expecting my two days on Nauru to rival Tuvalu as the most boring place on Earth!
Nauru, sunset, phosphate factory
That said, I had a great experience on Nauru in large part to her and her friends and co-workers who made me feel at home in Nauru of all places. I wouldn’t have been able to write this comprehensive a Nauru travel guide had it not been for her-so thank you!

How to get to Nauru

5-6 years ago there was one ‘Our Airline’ 737 that served Nauru and it’s schedule was just stupid to be honest. I should know because I tried to navigate it back then when it left out of Honiara in the Solomon Islands. Now with the advent of the Australian refugee and detention center, there are 4 ‘Nauru Airlines’ 737’s and one cargo plane serving Nauru. So it has become much easier to get to and from Nauru albeit the tickets are very annoyingly expensive. I paid something asinine like AUD$1400 from Nadi to Nauru to Brisbane.
Nauru Airport, Nauru, Yaren District
You can fly to Nauru direct from Brisbane, Australia; which is where Nauru Airlines is based. You can also fly direct from Nadi, Fiji and Tarawa, Kiribati on a multi-island hopper; which now includes Pohnpei and Kosrae in Micronesia and Majuro in the Marshall Islands. This is all due to the money that Nauru has received from the Australian government for the controversial detention center as part of their Pacific Solution.
Nauru Airlines, Nauru, Nauru Airport, Our Airline
Additionally, tourists now need visas to enter Nauru and they are a bit of a pain to get. It took mine a few weeks to get finalized. You have to email the Nauru consulate in Brisbane, fill out some forms then get confirmed flights and hotel. This is pretty standard but it took forever and they were very slow to respond to emails. Tourist visas cost AUD$50 and if you’re a journalist, it cost something ridiculous like AUD$8000. Luckily I am not a journalist!

Where to stay in Nauru

Realistically there are only two options for accommodation in Nauru and they are both very overpriced for what you get-which is crap. I stayed at the Odn Aiwo Hotel; which is the most centrally located place to stay and home to a pretty good Chinese restaurant and a depressing casino. It’s the place where the expats and some locals hang out at night. The rooms at the Odn start at AUD$120 and they are just gross.
Odn Aiwo Hotel, Nauru, hotel, Odn
I paid AUD$130 for the double which was still pretty crappy but much larger. It looked like a room you’d pay $10 for in a dumpy Latin American city-seriously. But it got the job done and it was only for two nights. The location was helpful to be able to walk places in town to get snacks and water, plus the best hikes and sunset views are right near the Odn.
Odn Aiwo Hotel, outside, Nauru
The other option is the Menen Hotel; which is definitely nicer than the Odn. I went there for a Nauruan wedding party with my Aussie friends. It’s a good place to have drinks and it is on the water in a much prettier setting than the Odn. That said, it’s several kilometers out of town and you need a taxi to get anywhere. There’s only one taxi on the island, a minivan, driven by a refugee named Muhammad who is very nice.

Where to eat in Nauru

I mentioned the Chinese restaurant in the Odn and according to the Aussie’s I spoke with that is pretty much the top place on the island for dinner and drinks. I had the salty fish, as did every single Aussie I was eating with, and it was pretty good-certainly good enough and I didn’t get sick!
Nauru, Bay Restaurant, deck
The other “good” restaurant is the Bay restaurant; which is said to have been in business for 50 years. They claim to be Western Asian fusion and serve pizzas, burgers, fish and sashimi in a delightful setting. It was definitely the nicest place I saw in Nauru-period.
tuna sashimi, The Bay Restaurant, Nauru, Bay Restaurant
I had the tuna sashimi; which was fresh and excellent. I also had the spaghetti Bolognese that was horrific but as usual if you douse it in Tabasco Sauce, it makes everything better! We tried to order pizzas but there was a flour shortage on island so they couldn’t make them. Those types of things happen on islands like Nauru.
Nauru, Yaren District
I should also mention there’s an excellent pancake place that’s actually in an appliance/hardware/grocery store. I didn’t get the name of it but if you leave the airport facing the runway and take a left, it’s about 1.5 kilometers down on the right and well worth the walk in the sweltering heat from the Odn or the Menen! It’s just out of the Yaren District line.

Things to do in Nauru

At first glance, Nauru being only 18km around is a small and boring island and the obvious thing to do is taxi, walk, run, scooter or bike around it. Obviously, you can do that. However, since someone who had been on island for 18 months showed me around, I got to do some things that most people will never do.
Nauru, Bomber track, wreckage, WW2
The Bomber Track is the coolest thing to do on Nauru by far. It is a grueling 30-minute hike up through the jagged pinnacles at the top of the island to where a US fighter jet was shot down by the Japanese in World War II.
Nauru, bomber track, Japanese artillery
I literally cut myself several times and banged my head a bunch others as the hike is not exactly for big or tall people and you have to be in pretty good shape, strong and balanced. My friend was much shorter than me and significantly smaller and she just shot right through those pinnacle holes giggling at me trying to figure out which body part to put through first!
Nauru, Lee Abbamonte, Japanese artillery
Along the way you pass the fighter jet wreckage and eventually end up at the artillery where the Japanese shot it down. It is still in pretty good shape given the incessant heat of the Nauruan sun. Nauru is located just 40 miles below the Equator. It is a great spot to take in a bird’s eye view of the island. You can even see the detention center from up there or look down into the Japanese bunker..
Nauru, Japanese bunker, WW2
There are some cool caves just back from the runway on the interior side of the runway. Much like the Bomber Track, you’ll need a local to show you where they are because otherwise you’ll never find them. We enlisted a Nauruan guy to take us and it was pretty cool.
Nauru, Cave, caves
It’s not exactly Carlsbad Caverns National Park but it’s cool for Nauru and there’s a nice underground pond and a cool hole in the roof looking up. It’s clearly where Nauruan kids party as well by all the broken beer bottles etc.
Nauru, caves, hole
The beaches in Nauru are all OK. There is nothing great about any of them but the views can be fantastic with the pinnacles in the right light. However, swimming is quite dangerous because of the pinnacles and the whole island is surrounded by a massive reef-so be careful.
Nauru, pinnacles, beach
Over by the Odn you can go swimming and they even have lifeguards on duty right at the end of the runway where locals jet ski and surf. Plus there’s the harbor; which is the locals favorite swimming spot and it’s blocked off from the Ocean-it’s basically a big swimming pool. It should be noted that you can’t swim in bathing suits or bikinis-you must cover up meaning both men and women wear shirts and shorts in the water. The locals are very conservative.

The Nauru Detention Center

The Australian detention center, refugee camp, asylum seeker processing station; whatever you want to call it is something you can’t avoid talking about if you’re in Nauru. You cannot go there as a civilian nor would you really want to. The Australians run it much like Christmas Island; which is where the majority of the refugees come from. As I said, it’s a part of the Australian governments Pacific Solution. That name sounds eerily like something out of Nazi Germany.
Nauru, Lagoon
I’m not going to get into the politics of the center and it’s very different from Guantanamo Bay as there aren’t high-risk prisoners on island; it’s just refugees and asylum seekers. The reason it’s on Nauru is because Nauru needed the money and the Australian government doesn’t want the refugees or asylum seekers in Australia.
Nauru, swimming, harbor
Nauru squandered their incredible phosphate wealth which they still process to this day in the most unattractive fashion. In fact, at one point in the 1970’s Nauru was the wealthiest nation per capita in the world. Queen Elizabeth even visited the island in 1982!
Nauru, Presidents House, graffiti
So as a result of Nauru needing the money, they are now chalk full of refugees from all over the world including Somalis, Syrians, Iranians, etc. The refugees are generally granted 5-year visas to stay in Nauru but they really can’t leave Nauru. Nauru is not the type of place you want to stay for 5 years-you’d go insane.
Nauru, beach
But these people came to Christmas Island through Indonesia because the situation in their own countries was awful. So it’s a tough one and this has caused some major issues for both sides and has become a hot button political issue in Australia.
Nauru, locals swimming, jet skiing
Anyway, I don’t know enough about it to say what’s what but I heard things from both sides. I will leave it at the Australian government has a tough thing on their hands and they probably could’ve handled the situation better. Of course the question remains, what’s next for the center, refugees, asylum seekers and the Nauruans?
Nauru, Phosphate factory
If the center closes then Nauru will become one of the poorest, most unemployed countries around. How can they make any money? Fishing licenses and phosphate only bring in so much and the regular people in Nauru have nothing. It should be interesting watching from afar.

Some facts about Nauru

There are 14 districts.
There is no capital city.
The population is about 10,000 give or take.
Nauru is an independent nation since 1968.
Nauru athletes excel in power lifting.
Nauruans like listening to music as loud as humanly possible.
The currency is Australian Dollars.
The banks and ATM’s often run out of money.
It is oppressively hot and humid in Nauru-always.
It rains a lot in Nauru.
Nauru gets about 100 tourists a year-maybe.

So in a 1935 word nutshell, that is my essential travel guide to Nauru. There isn’t much to the island nation but there is more beneath the surface than it appears. The Nauruan people are very nice and I had a great experience. However, as a tourist, 2 days is more than enough time to get a great feel of the island-just ask a local to show you around.
Nauru, lagoon, palm tree
While I am grateful for the great experience, I can pretty confidently state that I won’t ever be going back to Nauru unless I have a really good reason!
Nauru, essential Nauru travel guide

Comments

  1. Here’s a destination you don’t see a post about everyday! Very interesting.

  2. The Australian government is guilty of mass humantarian violations and have mistreated thousands of innocent people who have come to Australia in search of a better life. Instead of taking them in to protect them from the horror from where they came, they stick them on a crap island in middle of nowhere. Shame on Australia.

    • I don’t know enough about the situation to agree or disagree with a firm belief. Even the workers I spoke with didn’t really know-it’s a tough issue but I was assured the refugees and asylum seekers were treated pretty well but I really don’t know.

    • We can put them all in your house.

  3. I had never heard of this country until I read this post. I can’t tell if it sounds nice or terrible based on what you wrote.

    • Thanks Vipul and it’s both to be honest. As I inferred, I had a good time because of the people I met and things I did but it was not a nice place and had I been alone I would’ve have gone bonkers.

  4. I think you’re wrong that Nauru is not like Guantanamo Bay. Both governments have looked to other countries to take in their major criminals. Luckily for Australia, they found it in Nauru by taking advantage of them. The rich countries always take advantage of the poor countries. It’s quite sad really.

    • There’s no high risk criminals on Nauru-zero. Only asylum seekers and refugees.

      Australia has similar centers for high risk people on Christmas Island and a Papua New Guinea Island, I believe called Mannas or something like that-sorry too lazy to look it up!

      Christmas Island is much like Lampedusa in Italy where it’s close enough to 3rd world nations where people can take boats there and claim they’re seeking asylum. The Italians have a similar center and issue on Lampedusa. Ashmore and Cartier is another island where the people go from Indonesia and PNG.

  5. Cool post about a fascinating place. I had never really seen pictures of Nauru.

  6. wow…nice pics. I liked the hike the best….imagine standing on the artillery and thinking, “here once stood a man pointing this on an fighter plane, knowing that if he missed…he was going to be dead.”

    Besides, I am small so wouldn’t have had any problem cutting through. 😉

  7. I worked on Nauru for a year with Save the Children – you did a good job of seeing the place. Well done!

  8. Thanks for a really interesting piece. Nauru has always fascinated me. I was wondering why you decided to visit Nauru for (presumably) a second time.

  9. Cool post about a fantastic place. I had never really seen pictures like this

  10. Just arrived in Nauru today, #193!!

  11. Zam Askandar says:

    Thanks for the very informative piece. Would like to know more about the people living there. Any useful books or articles that you might recommend? Thanks again.

  12. Thank You Lee, for ”publishing” my comment on immigrants. I see, that truth is banished ewerywhere nowadays. Sad and Sick times we live in..

    • HI M, I’M SORRY I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE REFERRING TO. If you had submitted a comment prior, it is subject to a spam filter and also my assistant who will delete inappropriate or salacious comments. I see no other comments from you so I don’t know.

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