Ngerkebesang Island, Palau

Rock Islands, Palau

Traveling for the holidays is not fun. Sure, you’ll have a great time once–or if–you arrive at your destination, but the in-between is almost painful. Cars on the highway are backed up for exits, trains are delayed, and flight after flight keeps getting cancelled. As you sit there trying to figure out a way to somehow get to Boston, Boise, or wherever the hell you’re going, you jealously watch other people depart for more exotic places. If only that were you.

It could be. You could easily forgo the boxes, the bows, and the nonreturnable gifts. You could visit your family for Thanksgiving, Easter, or your father’s birthday that you always seem to forget. You could be one of those people taking off for a quiet island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, where even Santa Claus can’t find you. It could be the best Christmas ever.

You’d arrive in Palau in the middle of the night. Between the travel time, the time difference, and the complete darkness, you feel more than a little out of it. Have a shuttle drive you over the causeway between Koror, the island nation’s largest city, and Ngerkebesang Island, one of the nearly 600 islands that make up the archipelago.

Photo: Palau Pacific Resort
Photo: Palau Pacific Resort

When you wake up late the next morning and finally step onto your balcony, you’re amazed at the beauty before you. Bright aqua water, powdery white sand, swaying palm trees, and a wooden pier are right in front of you. You smell flowers, even though you can’t see them yet. Birds chirp off in the distance. And it must be 60 degrees warmer than it was at home.

Spend your first few days exploring the Palau Pacific Resort, which blends in to its surroundings. A-shaped buildings aren’t taller than the coconut trees. Saltwater ponds are filled with colorful fish and stingrays. The orchid garden is your favorite spot other than the cabana you claimed on the beach. A wonderful, calming scent flows from the spa. And as soon as you enter the water, you spot giant clams, humphead wrasses, and hawksbill sea turtles.

Eventually, make time to see more of the islands. Swim among stingless jellyfish in freshwater Jellyfish Lake. Kayak among the mushroom-shaped Rock Islands that are made of limestone and coral. Hike through the lush mountainside to reach beautiful waterfalls. Visit Badrulchau to see the 37 stone monoliths and Anguar to see relics from World War II.

Just return to the resort in time for dinner on the beach. You’ll be surrounded by bamboo torches and wear a flower crown for your holiday dinner. Merry Christmas, to you.

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