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Home to five islands and 29 atolls (each made up of many islets), the Republic of the Marshall Islands actually occupies a total land mass smaller than Rhode Island. But according to Yetta Aliven, information and special projects officer for Marshall Islands Visitors Authority (MIVA), the destination offers a great deal of appeal for American visitors looking for an exotic escape. Just one flight goes from the U.S. to the Marshall Islands — a nonstop from Honolulu via United Airlines that takes about four hours.
Raised in the Marshall Islands, Aliven handles a range of marketing projects for MIVA. She shared some insight with us about what makes the small, Micronesian nation such an alluring tropical paradise.
Why are the Marshall Islands a great destination for U.S. travelers? Sun, sea and surf are what the Marshall Islands are all about, and I think U.S. travelers will enjoy the year-round, 80-degree temperatures. Fishing, diving, snorkeling, kite surfing and windsurfing are only a few ways to enjoy the islands.
The isolation of the islands is great for people who want to get away from city life. Although we have internet access, cellphones and a lot of modern technology, sometimes it’s not as easy as just picking up the phone or connecting to the web.
What activities might American travelers enjoy?If you’re coming to the Marshall Islands, it’s all about the ocean. If you like anything that has to do with the ocean, you’re going to love it here. If you don’t like the ocean, I don’t think this is the destination for you. I usually stress that to people.
The Marshall Islands are also known throughout the Pacific region for weaving and crafts excellence. You cannot say you have been in the Marshalls without buying one of our famous kili bags or contemporary shell necklaces. Handicraft shopping is a must.
People should visit the Waan Aelon in Majel project (WAM) in the capital of Majuro, which is a grassroots project developed to teach and pass on the knowledge of traditional canoe-building, carving, handicraft and navigation to our young people. In the past few years, WAM has revived traditional canoe-building and navigation skills and has expanded to invite our visitors to experience riding in a traditional canoe — with just the wind and waves to push them along the sheltered blue waters of the lagoon.
Are there some outer islands people should visit? The closest outer island to Majuro would be Arno Atoll. It’s about 10 miles away from Majuro, about a two-hour boat ride. There’s no electricity on the island, and you can see how the Marshallese live out there. There are little bungalows and bed-and-breakfasts for rent, as well as a daily water-taxi service that goes into Majuro. When people come here and want to go to an outer island, Arno Atoll is usually the first one we mention, because you don’t need to take a plane.
If you really want to surf, you should go to Ailinglaplap Atoll. Martin Daly, an Australian surfer, diver and entrepreneur, started Indies Trader, a surfing and diving charter. Many pro surfers have come in, including Kelly Slater. Daly’s clients can dive in Bikini Atoll, which is probably one of the best places to dive; many of the reefs are pristine, and it’s kind of an untouched destination, with underwater wrecks and abundant sea life.
Are there standout hotels or resorts you recommend? One of the main hotels on Majuro Atoll is Hotel Robert Reimers, which has room categories ranging from garden view to lanai rooms with lagoon views to bungalows on the lagoon. It also has an island within Majuro Atoll called Eneko Island, where you can go and spend the night in cabin-style rooms.
Marshall Islands Resort has standard rooms — single or double. It has a pool, an accessible beach, a gym and a restaurant, bar and lounge, and dive shops are right there.
What’s the food like in the Marshall Islands? There’s a lot of fish; the sashimi here is really good. We have various styles of cooking breadfruit, banana and taro, just like the other Pacific Islands.
My favorite restaurant is Dar Cafe, a small, family-style restaurant. I love teriyaki, and I go there for that, but they also have a little Marshallese-style deli.
Marshal Islands Visitors Authoritywww.visitmarshallislands.com
Hotel Robert Reimers www.hotelrobertreimers.com
Indies Trader Marine Adventureswww.indiestrader.com