Kosrae's Attractions

Kosrae's attractions are varied and numerous, focusing on history, culture, and the environment. Kosrae can fulfill true ecotourism interests: Trekking through jungles and mountains, quietly canoeing in the mangrove channels, marveling at ancient ruins, or diving huge pristine hard coral reefs and snorkeling with spinner dolphins are just some of the many activities awaiting the traveler.

Or you may wish to simply do nothing at all and unwind from the hectic pace of today's world. Basking in the equatorial sun, snorkeling in the colorful reefs or just lounging around the appealing grounds at Nautilus may be the ticket you need to refresh yourself. Be forewarned: It's contagious!

Pre-historic Forest
On the western side of the island is a pre-historic 130-acre forest of Terminalia Carolinensis trees, or Ka trees as they're locally know, that is only accessible by boat. It offers visitors spectacular scenery of the 100-foot-high canopy formed by densely leafed branches that only grow from the very top of these massive trunks. Supported by huge buttress roots, these trees are only found in three places on the planet, and this is the world's only existing forest.

The land owners now offer tours by boat and then by foot into this pristine forest. Tours vary from 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on how deep you want to venture into the forest. We are very fortunate not to have snakes or crocodiles on Kosrae, so adventuring here is very enjoyable for all.

Lelu Ruins
One of the wonders of the Neolithic world, the Lelu ruins are an archaeologist's dream. Built by hand over the course of several hundred years, the city of Lelu was crafted from multi-ton basalt prisms that were transported from the other side of the island. The religious and political capital with its impressive walls standing 20 feet high, royal tombs and residences of the king and his family, and intricately cut channels for canoes to transport food and other necessities will capture your imagination like no other site on Kosrae. The walled city represented the peak of cultural development and architectural achievement during the last years of the 15th century.

And the best part of experiencing the site is its accessibility. Located in the heart of Lelu Village near Ace office supplies, visitors will be transported to another world within minutes of wandering its coral-clad walkways.

While walking within the ruins, look for the large sakau-pounding stone at the entrance to Insaru, which holds the pyramidal tombs of the kings. The bodies were placed in crypts, and when they had decayed, the remaining bones were taken to the blue hole near today's swimming dock located at the Lelu Causeway.

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Near the ruins, off a small trail behind the cemetery, is the 355-foot high Lelu Hill. Transformed by the Japanese during World War II. The hill contains air raid shelters, tunnels, trenches, and foxholes. Weapons have been removed, but the echoes of the 1940s still resound strongly. The jungle growth is thick, so wear appropriate clothing and tote a machete and flashlight.

Menke Ruins Hike
Menke Ruins is located in the very heart of Kosrae and is accessible from the Utwe Village circumferential road. Salik Wakuk will be your guide for the 3-hour trek through the lush tropical rain forest, which crosses the Utwe River several times. Along the way Salik will point out various flora and fauna and explain their importance for local medicine and food sources.

Menke Ruins is a reminder of Kosrae's past: there you will see some basalt walls, chambered living quarters and religious platforms. This area was built years before Lelu and is considered a religious site where ancient Kosraens worshipped "Singlaku," the Goddess of Breadfruit. She is believed to have magical powers and be able to produce food during periods of dry weather. It is also suggested she fled to Yap at the time of the first missionary's arrival, although some believe she is still here.

The hike takes about one hour each way and is an easy walk, it is suited to all types of people, but crossing the river after heavy rain can be a little tricky. Ask Salik to cut a walking stick, as it will be easier to maintain your balance. On return, Salik will provide some local fruit direct from his garden.

What to bring: older clothes and sturdy shoes, as the hike can be muddy and wet (the red clay is hard to wash out), drinking water, hat, camera & film, insect repellent, and a plastic bag for your camera in case of rain. Please be advised there are no bathroom facilities (only nature’s own) as is the case with all Kosrae's hikes.

 

Tafunsak Gorge Hike
Tafunsak Gorge is one of Kosrae's best hikes; and it takes place mainly along the river. The first part follows the main pipeline for about an hour until reaching a small water catchment area for the village of Tafunsak and then into the Gorge itself.

The 70-foot sheer walls and winding stream are picturesque, with hanging ferns and orchids protruding from the cliff face. Continue along for another 15 minutes until the end where the waterfalls are.

This hike is strenuous but suited to the young at heart (we have had a 65-year-old do it). It is also wet and can be muddy, so old clothes and sturdy shoes are a must. Take a zip-lock bag for your camera, packed inside a backpack, hat, sunscreen, bottled water, and a change of clothes if you want to come back dry. Beware of heavy rain as the river is subject to flash flooding.

Stop off at the Wiya Bird Cave on the way home; it is located near the quarry in Tafunsak. This cave is home to many Swiftlet birds who build their nests from saliva and moss on the walls of the cave. They can be easily disturbed when approached (try not to look up if they are flying overhead).

Mt. Oma
The hike to the top of Mt. Oma, 1555 ft above sea level, will reward you with breathtaking views of Kosrae's lower areas and waters from Utwe Harbor to the Lelu causeway. Follow Hamilson Phillip as he takes you along the old Japanese trail winding up to the summit. This hike is strenuous and for the mostly fit and young at heart, and it will take approximately 5 to 6 hours.

Keep an eye out for the Tuhram, Kosrae's state bird, large monitor lizards sleeping on the tree branches and fruit bats hanging upside down from the branches.

Japanese Caves & Cascading Waterfalls
Halfway up Mt. Oma scattered about the hillside are many caves that were dug into the mountain to protect the Japanese occupants from Allied forces during WW II. They were dug mostly by Kosraean and Gilbertese Islanders who had been displaced from their homeland and resettled here.

One cave in particular has a bed that was carved out of the tunnel's side, and this tunnel winds its way back and opens up through a narrow opening farther up the hill. Most of the caves are in remarkably good condition for their age, and there are still many that have yet to be rediscovered.

Another 15-minute walk will take you to the cascading waterfalls, a series of three falls, each with a small rock pool to cool off. This hike is moderate and suitable for most everyone; ask Hamilson to cut a walking stick from a local branch, which makes it much easier.

If school is out Hamilson's kids may perform a song or two at the end. He also has a waiver to sign prior to starting.

What to bring: hats, sunscreen, camera/film, plastic bag, tennis shoes or similar (no rubber thongs), backpack, drinking water and a sense of adventure.

Finkol Hiking Trail
Hiking Mt. Finkol is for the adventurous, experienced, and fit traveler since this is Kosrae's highest peak. The hike up the near 2,000-foot, mist-shrouded mountain requires a tour guide and about eight hours (round-trip). The trail is steep and can be difficult during rainy weather, but it is well worth the time. As you slowly work your way up the trail, check out the varied flora and fauna. Once the summit is reached, you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the island. Access is gained on the new road in Utwe.

Utwe-Walung Marine Park
The Utwe-Walung Marine Park offers visitors a look at some of Micronesia's most pristine forests and mangrove ecosystems. Located between Utwe and Walung villages, the park is a community-based conservation area, recognized by the people and state of Kosrae for its outstanding and sustainable biodiversity.

You can select from a variety of tour offerings at the park seeing the mangrove channels by traditional canoes, trekking to ancient stone ruins built centuries ago deep in the rainforest, snorkeling in crystal-clear, 83F degree waters over colorful reefs teeming with life, or strolling along the isolated beaches near Walung Village.

You can unwind at the park's headquarters. Set on the shore a stone's throw from the famous Bully Hayes' shipwreck site, the building's architecture mirrors the past with a steep-pitch woven roof, and an open-area interior that is breezy and comfortable. Bathroom facilities are available.

Wiya Bird Cave
The bird cave located in Tafunsak about three miles from the airport and just before the quarry is home to thousands of Island Swiftlets. The mouth of the cave has a large opening that goes back about 60 feet; the floor is soft, but is covered with bird droppings and is considered unsafe to walk on. It is believed that the cave once cut through the island. Local lore says that giants used to live there and were thought to have taught Kosraeans how to count from one to ten. A sign adjacent to the cave will inform you of the legend. Parking is adjacent to the site off the main road.

Toror Hiking Trail
Though a dam now conserves water at Toror in Malem, it was once a Japanese command post during the Second World War. Hike is about 10 minutes and is considered easy for all ages.

Legend has it a family of giants lived in the Wiya Bird Cave before it collapsed and they taught the early Kosraens how to count from 1 to 10. That's why we have a giant language!

Walung
Though you can see Walung from the airport in Tafunsak, it is considered remote, since access is mostly gained by boat at high tide or by a dirt road that can be rough in spots. Walung, joined to the main island with thick mangrove forests, is home only to Kosraeans, who live a traditional lifestyle. Walung embodies the more traditional pace and customs of Kosrae before development. White sandy beaches cover a three-mile stretch, and the ocean waters are extremely clear and calm for all ages to enjoy. The village has a "Stay with Families" program for staying with locals to see traditional ways.

A footpath adjacent to the beach allows visitors to stroll the outer limits of the island. Historical sites abound and waterfalls offer a cooling respite. Permission is required by the village representative to visit the village. Knee-length shorts or lava-lavas are appropriate beach and swimwear. Exercise caution when exposed to the equatorial sun.

Sipyen Waterfall
Located just 10 minutes drive from Menke entrance. A short 5-minute walk up a small river will lead you to the 30-foot-high falls, where you can dip in a small pool and be invigorated by the cool, clear water after a hard day's touring. Best to bring a change of clothes and a towel.


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