The Marshall Islands have seen their share of conflict in the past century. Originally settled by the Germans, the Japanese took over when they declared war on Germany in World War I. It stayed that way until the US defeated the Japanese to end World War II. Since the end of the war, the islands have been used for nuclear testing by the United States, gained their independence and now the Marshall Islands and the main atoll of Majuro are a bustling, westernized place that’s popular with military, divers and yachties.
The only way to get to the Marshall Islands is to fly into Majuro via the United Airlines hopper that runs from Honolulu to Guam and back every other day. Once in Majuro, you can fly Air Marshall Islands to the outer atolls including the famous Bikini Atoll.
Bikini was made famous as the place that Harry Truman chose to conduct nuclear bomb tests between 1946-1956. It is said that there were 67 powerful nuclear bomb tests; which were the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs being detonated every days for 12 years. As you may have guessed the islanders experienced a lot of health problems as a result and the US never fully rectified the situation.
My Uncle David (who you may remember from some of my other trips like the ferry to Ogasawara, Chichijima or Algeria) and I flew in and checked into the Hotel Robert Reimers or the RRE; which is smack dab in the middle of town.
The capital “city” of Majuro is called the D-U-D Municipality; which is comprised of three islands. The D-U-D has all the major businesses, restaurants, shops and governmental buildings on Majuro. It is a pleasant place to be but there’s not a whole lot going on.
The highlight of the capital is eating time. DAR Coffee Corner has good breakfast and lunch and is located in town right behind the Formosa Supermarket; which is a good place to grab some snacks or drinks. We also ate the Tide Table restaurant in the RRE and the Marshall Islands Resort restaurant. Both were OK with the latter having great sunset sea views.
All the history and city details aside, the best thing about Majuro and the Marshall Islands in general are the beaches and the diving/snorkeling. The best beach on Majuro is Laura Beach at the far end of the main island of Majuro Atoll.
Renting a car is the best way to get to Laura Beach; which is an hours drive or so from town. It’s a nice drive because you see the whole island including the Majuro Peace Park as you drive through the suburbs.
The beach is gorgeous. You will likely be the only one there. You are supposed to be charged a dollar for using the beach but nobody was there to ask us for money so I guess we got away with one!
Another great thing in Majuro is to catch a boat to the outer islands of the atoll. We caught a boat to Eneko and had a great day. Eneko is about seven miles or so from town via fast boat. It is a small island with a gorgeous beach. Depending on the tide, you can walk around the island pretty easily although you should bring flip-flops because the coral on the Pacific side is pretty rough. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a little canine guide like we did. We named him Henry!
Eneko is a great place to get away from town and chill out for an afternoon. You can kayak, snorkel, lie on the beach, swim or just laze in a hammock for a few hours as yours truly did. Also, if you do go to Eneko or the neighboring island of Kiddenen, you can actually snorkel over a US fighter jet that was shot down in World War II. It is really cool and well worth a look.
That’s basically it for Majuro Atoll. To get to the outer islands and atolls like Bikini you have to rely on the spotty air service and the minimum stay is a week but Bikini is supposed to have some of the world’s best wreck dives.
Also, I should mention Kwajelein. Kwajelein is a $4 billion space tracking and missile defense facility operated by the US Department of Defense. The island has been at the heart of the US nuclear weapons program for some 60 years. Some 2500 US military and contract workers live on Kwajelein; which is very Americanized. I saw nice swimming pools, tennis courts and baseball fields from the air. This is very unusual for the Pacific islands as you might expect.
Access to the island is severely restricted. The only way you can stay overnight is if you have an on-island sponsor who secures your permit-apparently it is very difficult to get one. That aside, you can land on Kwajelein to be ushered to a water taxi to get to the nearby Marshall Island of Ebeye. I have landed at Kwajelein airport twice now and each time the only view I have got is from the sky and of course the tarmac.
The Marshall Islands are a well-kept secret. It’s one of those places that people go to for work or to volunteer and just kind of end up staying. People get used to the slow paced island life and can’t leave. The islands are cheap and pretty comfortable. I would definitely recommend coming down for a few days and certainly including it on a bigger tour of Micronesia.
The Marshall Islands
March 28, 2013 by 39 Comments