Kiritimati: the Other Christmas Island

Kiritimati, Kiribati, Christmas Island, travel, Fiji, Air Pacific, airport
Kiritimati (pronounced Kee-Rees-Mass in the local Gilbertese language), also known as Christmas Island is the world’s largest coral atoll. It is located in the South Pacific Ocean in the Line Islands and is a part of the country of Kiribati (pronounced Kee-Ree-Bahs). It lies just west of the International Date Line and is the first inhabited island to celebrate the New Year each year. This brought it some global attention during Y2K.
Kiritimati, Kiribati, Christmas Island, travel, Fiji, Air Pacific, sunrise, airport
Christmas Island, not to be (but easily and often is) confused with the Australian Christmas Island, was a strategic island held by the allies during World War II. The Americans and Australians utilized the island so the Japanese could not build a base to intercept the highly trafficked Honolulu to Australia trade and supply route.
Kiritimati, Kiribati, Christmas Island, travel, Fiji, Air Pacific, airport
Post World War II, both the British and Americans used Kiritimati for nuclear testing-the British in 1958 and the Americans in 1962. The locals were not evacuated during these tests and there have been several claims of illness as a result of the tests over the years with little or no retribution.
Kiritimati, Kiribati, Christmas Island, travel, Fiji, Air Pacific, airport
Today, Kiritimati is best known for bonefishing, surfing and scuba diving. There are very limited tourist facilities on the island with a few small hotels, even fewer restaurants, just a couple of stores and one dive shop.
Kiritimati, Kiribati, Christmas Island, travel, Fiji, Air Pacific, airport
There is one road that goes from the airport to the main settlement of London. The International airport is essentially a shack, literally. It has a 6900 foot runway which handles two 737 landings a week. Tuesday night an Air Pacific flight leaves Nadi, Fiji at 11:59pm and arrives the following morning. That same flight continues on to Honolulu. The Air Pacific plane then returns from Honolulu about 3pm the same day en route back to Nadi. So it is possible to take a day trip from Fiji, as I did.
Kiritimati, Kiribati, Christmas Island, travel, Fiji, Air Pacific, airport
The flights are very expensive for a short trip so booking well ahead can save you a few bucks. You will likely have to book two separate one way flights on the Air Pacific, soon to be Fiji Airways website, as the date changes don’t register well with the computers. Also, if you want to stay a full week, you’ll have to be a serious diver or bonefisherman! I’ll be honest; there isn’t a ton to do aside from simply enjoying being on one of the most remote islands in the world.
Kiritimati, Kiribati, Christmas Island, travel, Fiji, Air Pacific, beach
For me, the biggest draw was the beaches and amazing water. I love the beach, as anyone who reads my site knows. Kiritimati doesn’t disappoint for beaches. They are white, they are long and they are beautiful.
Kiritimati, Kiribati, Christmas Island, travel, Fiji, Air Pacific, beach, marina, boat
The water is clear if not completely crystal clear. It is like a bath. The sands are also full of rocks and shells unlike I’ve seen on other beaches. The “fluffy” rocks are light and unique to this Christmas Island.
Kiritimati, Kiribati, Christmas Island, travel, Fiji, Air Pacific, beach, crab
There are also a ton of crabs on the beaches and all around the island. This is really ironic considering Christmas Island, Australia is world famous for their red crab migration. Kiritimati has a ton of little crabs on the beaches but also many larger crabs digging holes all over the island. You can’t step five feet without stepping on a crab hole!
Kiritimati, Kiribati, Christmas Island, travel, Fiji, Air Pacific, beach, crab
This leads me to the people of Kiritimati and of Kiribati in general. There may be only 5000 people on the island but they may be the nicest people I have ever encountered. We rode the local busses to and from the airport and people couldn’t have been nicer. People stopped us all over town to just say hello and chat. The immigration woman who stamped us into Kiritimati saw us walking on the streets of London and offered us a tour of the island in her car-we took it!
Kiritimati, Kiribati, Christmas Island, travel, Fiji, Air Pacific, church
There were so many other examples as well from the airport people to the lady at the store we bought Cokes from. I loved the people and it was so refreshing to remember that people can really be that sweet and genuine.
Kiritimati, Kiribati, Christmas Island, travel, Fiji, Air Pacific, bus
This was my second time in Kiribati, the country. A few years ago I was in Tarawa, the capital. Kiritimati has much more character and actually occupies about 70% of the actual landmass of the whole country of Kiribati. Back here now in Fiji, I already miss Kiritimati and will always treasure my brief but rewarding trip to the remote Line Islands.
Kiritimati, Kiribati, Christmas Island, travel, Fiji, Air Pacific, beach, water

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  1. Kai Chongloi says

    Amazing place! I’d like to visit someday!

  2. Wow that’s really cool you made it there

  3. Such a fantastic post, thanks for sharing. Sounds like a great place. I had never heard of it until today like most people I’d imagine.

  4. These words have never come from me, but thanks for taking me to a place I’ll never go.

  5. Great report. I can’t find your Tarawa post. How would you compare the two for a vacation? What are the best things to do and see in Tarawa?

    • Len, I never did a Tarawa post actually…I probably should but that was a few years ago when I wasn’t writing full time as I am now. So I missed a few places along the way. There is actually less to do in Tarawa though than in Christmas Island for sure!

  6. I want to go. I’ve always been fascinated with the Pacific Islands and their history. Love your post!

  7. watch my documentary film from Kiritimati!

  8. Peter Haugland says

    Sailing to Kiritimati from Majuro. What currency is used and are credit cards excepted? Will be in need of diesel and water also.

  9. Did the Japanese ever attack Kiritimati ? ?
    My uncle was there December 19th 1941 building an air field.
    Please contact me if you know.

  10. Beriki B Timon says

    I am from Kiritimati Island, the biggest coral island in the world,,,ahaha,,,boasting!!! Anyway, I am grateful to answer some of your questions which I could answer. Contact me on the address given above. I love Kiritimati…



    • lawrence wall says

      Hi there Berki,
      I was on Kiritimati,from mid 1959 to mid 1960 in the royal air force,

      I was stationed at a place called S,P,A,L, it was the old seaplane base, south pacific air laines, do you know of the place?

    • I am trying to schedule a trip to Kirimati but having trouble finding accommodations. Everything seems to be in Tarawa. Any suggestions?

  11. Spent over a year on the island during the atomic tests from 1958- 59 would love to return some day to show my family

  12. I was on this super island for a year during the bomb tests 1957- 58 with the Royal Engineers. Would love to see the changes and walk with the crabs again.

  13. Dan Lamprecht says

    My Dad came there during WWII to build an airstrip. They’d only let the GI’s stay there for 6 months, they thought they’d go stir crazy otherwise. He’d spend about 6 hours manning the radio and then the rest of the time goofing off, swimming and fishing. He did everything he could to try to convince the higher ups he was OK when it came time to get transferred off.
    He spent the rest of his life talking about his time there. They are some of my favorite stories from him. He is 98 now and his memory comes and goes, usually focused on some of his best travel memories. Not too long ago he was drinking with some of his old army buddies. I guess he made it back finally.

    • Geoff Uhrik says

      My Dad who recently passed away was also on Kirimati during WW11. He converted to the Catholic religion during his tour of duty. He spoke of a priest, Father Stack. I was wondering if your Dad ever spoke of him?

  14. Hi, I\’m possibly going to be travelling to Kiritimati for work and I was wondering if you could help me with some basic information… such as: would I be able to purchase the following items somewhere on Kiritimati… large plastic (or similar) storage containers (like nally bins), standard household bleach, jerry cans for carrying petrol, safety helmet/goggles. Thanks for your help.

  15. My father, Frank Ledford, WWII VETERAN, was stationed here. He was in the radio signal division intercepting Japanese code, thus their locations. I have great photos.

    • Gail Kettere says

      My father (Eugene Lamprecht) was also stationed here during WWII. He is now 98 and has dementia. In his mind he is always coming and going to Christmas Island. He was one of the lucky ones during this awful war. His memories are wonderful of this Island and his mind always takes him back there.

  16. James Buente says

    My dad was a Captain there during WW2

  17. Julia Rotunno says

    I’m going here in less than two weeks. I can’t wait!

  18. Kathy Boles says

    My Dad was stationed on Xmas Island during WW2. There was a picture that was taken of him decorating a tree with things they had around there,It was in a Chicago paper. He talked about Bob Hope and USO shows,
    His group was trained for a battle,but he got separated from them in Hawaii.Some how he got sent to Xmas Island.I think he always felt guilty he didn’t go into battle with the group he was trained with.
    I think he did have good memories of Xmas Island,
    Would like to know more,He was om a staging Island.

    • Ken Hendrix says

      My dad was also on Christmas island. He was air Corps and had been at Wheeler Field Hawaii on December 7. Was in the battle of Midway as a crewman on a B-17. Somehow got sent to Christmas Island as an engineer working on the airstrip.Helped build the officers club which they called the Holiday Inn. He passed away in 99. Would be 103 now. Sad to see all these guys go. Won’t be long until there is a news item about the last World War II vet. I recently found some old photographs of Bob Hope’s visit.Some other Hollywood people too. Lots of pictures of Dad with his buddies as well. I’m sorry I wasn’t aware of these posts before now.

  19. Carol Allan says

    My husband and I stopped there in 2004 while on a lengthy cruise in the South Pacific….lovely people…nice memories and I love listening to Ella sing Christmas Island even though I am sure she was singing of “the other Island”

  20. L. Paul Ebert says

    I was on board a navy ship during the nuclear testing in 1962. Was there for 6 nuclear tests from July through September as I remember. Would’nt want to go through that again but did go on the island as I was a member of the Captains gig and had to take the Captain to the island frequently.. Beautiful island where we swam, collected shells and coconuts. I would like to see the island again although I feel it still must be radioactive even all these years later.

  21. Mike McAteer (Mac) says

    Hi. I was stationed on Christmas Island during 1959 . My unit was the Royal Army Service Corps /146 unit. I have made contact with some men who served in 94 Company, 146 unit took over from 94 coy. It would be great to make contact with some RASC men.

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