Palau is made up of more than 350 of the most photogenic volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean you’ll ever encounter. Its waters boast more than 1,300 species of fish and more than 800 species of corals and sponges. Palau dive sites are among the best in wold. You’ll also find that big pelagic encounters, tranquil coral gardens, current-swept drop-offs, and many World War II wrecks are among the area’s major allure.
The history of Palau is a diverse one. The region was first colonized by Spain in 1885, then Germany, followed by Japan and the United States. Despite this, it has maintained its own unique culture with a relaxed lifestyle and simple but comfortable ways. It is a place that is in tune with the environment and an excellent site for scuba.
This stunning locale sits out in the Pacific just two hours east of Manila and three hours from Hong Kong. Situated midway between the Philippines and Guam in the western part of the Caroline Islands, it offers truly world-class diving.
Palau is particularly known for its incredible diversity of dive sites. With wreck dives, reef dives, and drift dives, the locale offers an incredible number of new places to explore, including historic World War II battlefields. The diving season is year-round, but experienced divers know that the “dry” season before May 1st is the best for experiencing the world beneath the waves.
The best part of Palau is that you can dive at the same site again and again and have completely different experiences each time!
Best Palau Dive Sites
Location: 25 miles SW of Koror, Northwest end of Ngemelis Island
Suitable for: Novices (no current) up to Experienced/Advanced (strong current)
Depth: 25 feet (8 meters) to 90+ feet 30 meters
Plateau: 45-60 feet (15-20 meters)
Blue Corner is a flat plateau dive site that runs off a few hundred yards before dropping abruptly. Due to the strong tidal currents, it is filled consistently with active big and little fish, making it one of Palau’s most requested dive sites and known as one of the utmost photo opportunities for scuba divers in the world. Attaching yourself by hook in strong currents, you’ll experience sharks cruising by. Pristine coral can also be expected. You may encounter:
- Gorgonian fans, soft corals, and eels
- Gray Reef and White Tip sharks
- Blue Fin and Big Eye trevailes
- Schools of Jacks, Snappers, Hawksbill, Green Turtle, Groupers, Barracuda
- Critters like the Leafy Scorpionfish, Nudibranch, Lionfish, and Anemone
- Pelagics like Hammerheads, Bull, Tiger, and Whale sharks
- Other marine like such as Whales, Manta, Dog Tooth Tuna, Sailfish, and Marlin
Location: Southern reef of Peleliu Island
Suitable for: Experienced/Advanced (strong current)
Depth: 30 feet (10 meters) to 90 feet (30 meters)
Peleliu Wall is one of the deepest and most beautiful dives in Palau. Deep crevices, canyons, and caves offer hideouts and shelter to a large variety of marine life. The currents are among the strongest you’ll experience in Palau, but the spot is famous for its large pelagic fish action. You may encounter:
- Bright yellow soft corals, bushes of black coral, and huge sea fans
- Pyramid Butterfly fish, Square Spot Anthias, Moorish idols, Sergeant Majors, Yellowtail Fusiliers, Palette Surgeonfish, Bumphead parrotfish, Triggerfish, and Purple anthias
- Gray Reef and White Tip sharks, Bull sharks, Hammerheads, Tiger sharks
- Although rare, Sperm whales and Orca sightings are possible!
Location: Southwestern reef of Palau, 24 miles from Koror
Suitable for: Novices
Depth: 3 feet (1 meter) to 90 feet (30 meters)
Many surprises await divers at this scenic reef that extends out from Ngercheu Island. A mini blue hole forms a large cavern and along the reef wall there are numerous small caves, arches, swim-throughs, and ledges to be explored. You may encounter:
- Gorgonian and other sea fans
- Square Spot Anthias, Barracudas, Yellowtail Fusiliers, Moorish idols, Pyramid Butterfly fish, Snappers, Big Eye Jacks, Blueface, Regal, and Emperor Angelfish
- Leopard sharks, White tip sharks, and Grey reef sharks
- And of course, the rare sighting of a Hawksbill turtle!
Location: West of Ngemelis Island and German Channel, 27 miles from Koror
Suitable for: Novices (no current) up to Experienced/Advanced (strong current)
Depth: 30 feet (10 meters) to 120 feet (40 meters)
Where two reef walls meet in the Pacific, a dramatic corner plateau is created. The site drops off into a deep-sea abyss. Yet divers who are less experienced can easily explore this area when there is no current. With its combination of reef formation, multiple corners, the wall itself, and the congregating marine life, New Drop-Off is one of the best photo opportunities a scuba diver will find. You may encounter:
- Moray eels, Turtles, Scorpionfish, Nudibranchs, and very large Gorgonian fans and healthy soft corals
- Schooling Blue stripe and Black snappers, Napoleon Wrasse, Barracudas, Spotted Eagle rays, Six-banded, Regal, and Emperor angelfish
- Clouds of Pyramid Butterfly Fish, Square Spot Anthias, Redtooth Triggerfish, Moorish idols, Sergeant Majors, and Yellowtail Fusiliers
- Gray and Whitetip Reef sharks
Location: Malakal Harbor, less than one mile from Koror
Suitable for: Novices; anyone who isn’t claustrophobic or afraid of the dark
Depth: 12 feet (4 meters) to 36 feet (12 meters)
Chandelier Cave is a system of 5 connected underwater areas. Four of these are easily explorable during most dives. There is no current so even novice divers can explore! Each chamber has fresh air, so it is possible to surface, take the regulator out, and breathe in wonder at the space! The visibility in the caves is usually fantastic, allowing you to see strange stalactites and limestone formations that give the dive site its name. You may also encounter:
- Three depth charges from WWII can be found near the entrance
- Shrimps and crabs live in plentiful sponges along the reef
- Soldier fish, Cardinal fish, and other small reef marine life
More of Palau Dive Site
With over 30 popular dive sites in Palau, you’ll never run out of options:
- German Channel
- Big Drop Off
- New Drop Off
- Blue Holes
- Barnum Wall
- Virgin Blu Hole
- Ngedebus Coral Gardens
- Ngedebus Wall
- Fairy Land
- Turtle Cove
- Peleliu Coral Garden
- Orange Wall
- Peleliu Expressway
- White Wall
- Yellow Wall
- Peleliu Cut
- Ulong Channel
- Shark City
- Helmet Wreck
- Chuyo Maru
- Iro Maru
- And many more!
What is the best way to dive in Palau?
Liveaboard is the best way to experience these unique, pristine Palau diving sites due to the number of scheduled dives that are possible per day. A typical liveaboard diving schedule starts early in the morning around 7 am and features 4-5 dives throughout the day and an evening dive before dinner. You can pick the dives you really want to do and leave some others out — or do them all! The quality and experience of the diving staff on a liveaboard can also help make the diving experience that much more meaningful and enjoyable.
Likewise, you can’t beat the convenience. You basically roll out of bed ready to explore the beautiful underwater world. There’s also the advantage of sometimes being the first in the water, which makes for amazing dives! Add the convenience of not having to carry your camera and gear around with you, and you will probably understand why if you want to eat, sleep, and dive Palau (and then repeat), a liveaboard experience is the way to go!
Permits, Fees, & Safety Measures
You will need a Koror State Permit and Peleliu State Permit, as well as to pay a Departure tax and Green fee to dive in the area.
Use of reef hooks and safety marker buoys is mandatory at many of the dive sites. Torches are a must for the Chandelier Cave dive too.
In addition to scuba diving, The archipelago of Palau offers opportunities for snorkeling, kayaking, bird watching, and more! On March 11-18, 2019 Dive & More will be returning for a 7-night dive trip to Palau aboard our newest member of the Ocean Hunter Fleet — the Ocean Hunter III Liveaboard!
During the week we’ll visit some gourmet meals, comfortable accommodations, and these best diving sites. With Underwater Photo Pro Ran Mor of Mozaik Underwater Cameras leading a photography workshop on the trip, it’s the perfect chance to try out new gear on the diverse marine life you’re bound to see down below!