The islands are locally known as Belau. Early explorers called them Los Palaos and Pelew Islands. The Spanish dubbed it the Caroline Islands before the Germans finally gave it its present name, Palau.

It took a stroke of fate to initiate Palau’s contact with the outside world. On a stormy August night in 1783, British Captain Henry Wilson ran aground in his ship Antelope, off the stores of Ulong Island. What he discovered was fascinating- an ancient culture steeped in tradition and living in perfect harmony with nature.

Palau villages were traditionally organized around matrilineal clans. Men and women had strictly defined roles. A council of chiefs governed the villages, while a parallel council of women held an advisory role in the control of land, money and the selection of chiefs. While

Women were caretakers of their homes and families, they also carried the responsibility of educating their children about Palauan traditions and culture, ensuring the continuity of the village or clan. They also cultivated taro fields and harvested shellfish from the shallow reefs. The sea was the domain of men, who braved its fury to harvest the fish necessary to sustain the village and wage battle. Inter-village wars were common so men spent a lot of time in the men’s meeting house called “bai,” mastering techniques of canoe-building and refining their weaponry skills. Palau’s modern life balances on rich cultural inheritance and practices that endow the people with a sense of ownership to their Island. Traditional arts and practices are commonly performed and held during festive occasions to emphasize the people’s way of entertainment and hospitality. Those that dig into its history and explore the island will find remnants of an ancient lifestyle that is not much different than the modern world it is today.

Now with modern influences the people of Palau are giving much effort to the preservation of their culture, especially with younger generations. Cultural activities are held regularly, such as the annual Olechotel Belau Fair and twice-monthly Night Markets. The Palau Women’s Conference is another important annual event led by Bilung and Ebilreklai, the high ranking traditional matriarchs of Koror and Melekeok, together with the women throughout Palau. The conference is held to discuss issues concerning the improvements and initiatives needed to strengthen Palau’s culture.

Cultural Experiences

Experience Airai! Sense the Culture

Enjoy a culturally rich and eco-friendly, guided tour and try authentic Palauan food-- A PATA gold winner for community-based tourism !

This tour covers three of Palau’s historic and cultural landmarks: One of the last remaining traditional bai, a chief’s meeting house, called, Bai ra Rengara Irrai, located in Ordomel village; the traditional war canoe (kabekel) named Kesebekuu and a traditional causeway called, Chades er a Mechorei. To close off your tour, you will be graced with a traditional style lunch buffet prepared by the local women and men of the village.

In a village, a bai acts as a meeting house as well as a symbolic structure to members of the community. In former times, every village had a bai, but have since been destroyed and (or) reconstructed, except for this one. This bai, in particular, is a chief's meeting house, which is still being used today by the chiefs. There are a total of 10 chiefs and each chief is assigned seats along the walls in accordance to rank and title.

The bai, on occasion, was also the scene of feasting and dancing. The bai is lavishly decorated in both the exterior and interior with significant symbols and legends found on the gables and beams.
Inside this chiefs' meeting house is a display of art illustrating legends, war stories, and other historical tales that hold great value and serve as reminders to the chiefs and the people of this village.

See the traditional war canoe,  Kabekel

This was the major type of ocean vessel that is distinguished from all others in the Pacific area, they are usually low in the water when compared to the length of the boat and the size of the sail.

This Airai war canoe named, Kesebekuu, was built around the 1990’s by some of the elders of Airai and some of the younger men who are involved in men’s association in the village. The tools that were used to carve the canoe were adze tools, which is very common in every village who construct the canoes. Each sitting position in the war canoe has significant values, each sitting position represents the ranking of each person's traditional clan in the village.

enduring image of Palau. Beneath her islands, is an ocean of dazzling gardens replete with luminous, rainbow-like collection of fish and crustaceans. The sheer splendor of the diving experience here

canoe has significant values, each sitting position represents the ranking of each person's traditional clan in the village.

Visit the traditional causeway called, Chades er a Mechorei

It entered the Palau Register of Historic Places in 1995 and remains one of the most significant pieces of Palauan heritage that can be seen in Palau today.

 It is not certain when the Chades er a Mechorei or the meeting house were constructed. However, respected elders from Airai say that they were constructed before any foreigners came to Palau.

Chades er a Mechorei is a significant site for the village of Airai. It demonstrates the skills and perseverance possessed by Palauans of former times and they were capable of creating sophisticated architecture, without using any form of technology that we use today.

It is said that people from all over Palau helped construct the causeway. Various clubs and villages in Palau worked together to assemble the Chades er a Mechorei.

Chades er a Mechorei is a valuable landmark because in the old times it served as the boundary for jurisdiction under Reklai and Ibedul, the two highest chiefs in Palau. The Northern side belonged to Reklai while the Southern part belonged to Ibedul.This causeway is situated on the dividing line and is connected to the Kambes (compass) in the interior of the village beside the Bai ra Rengara Irrai.

A taste of Palau!

Palauan culture is intrinsically composed of many facets of which a large component of it is food. Get the full experience of a Palau feast after touring these cultural and historical treasures! This is a tour deserving to be on your travel itinerary when you #visitpalau #culture #sustainable tourism

Option 1: Historical site tour only. Available everyday
Option 2: Tour + Lunch. Available every Thursdays (flexible upon request, requires at least two week advance notice)
Option 3: Dinner Show which includes traditional activities + dance performance) * flexible upon request, requires at least two week advance notice, minimum of 20 pax

Book your tour through us! Email [email protected] or [email protected]

680 Night Market

680 Night Market is an evening jam packed with live entertainment, dance performances, food, and arts & crafts, celebrating Palau’s unique culture and the many cultures residing in Palau. This is held at least twice a month at the Japan-Palau Friendship Bridge. Follow us on our social media: @680NightMarket (Facebook & Instagram)

Museum Tours

Palau has three museums in total. Two located in Koror and one located in Peleliu.

Belau National Museum

was established in 1955 and is the oldest museum in the Micronesia region. They have several exhibits. timeline of Palau’s cultural heritage and history. This historical exhibit is composed of a three-part display from pre-contact Palau to contact periods of Spain, Germany, Japan and the US to Palau today. The exhibit features objects and images of the Palauan culture and traditions handed down from generation to generation including beliefs and custom practices, structures, weapons and tools, containers and utensils, and other necessities as they were used. Also displayed are documented accounts of sightings of the Palau islands by foreign sailors including an actual acquaintance established by Palau's High Chief Ibedul with Captain Henry Wilson and his crew from the Antelope. This was the first recorded account of foreign contacts in Palau and the introduction of foreign materials.

For more information, please visit their website

Etpison Museum

The Etpison Museum opened in August, 1999, in a 3,000 sq.ft three story building designed and constructed by Shallum and Mandy Etpison. The museum is dedicated to Shallum’s father, late Palau president Ngiratkel Etpison, who donated the land for the museum building. Dutch-born Mandy Thijssen Etpison is the Managing Director and curator of the museum. Shallum is President and CEO of the NECO Group of Companies, which include the tourism-related businesses Neco Marine, Drop-Off Bar & Grill, Neco Yamaha, as well as other family-owned businesses.

The museum features cultural displays with dioramas, and includes displays on the history and foreign influence, traditional money types, the famous 1st child birth ceremony, Palau and Yap canoes, and storyboards by Palau’s most famous carvers through the years.

The museum opened the Captain Wilson Art Gallery at the Palau Pacific Resort in April, 2017, which showcases Palau’s nature and culture through the photography of Mandy Etpison. The gallery sells aluminum and acrylic art and photo prints, as well as high end art objects and souvenirs.

For more information, please visit their website
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