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Palau is home to about 18,000 people. Rechad er Belau, or Palauans, are the indigenous people of Belau, the traditional name of Palau. During your exploration in Palau, you will undoubtedly encounter diverse cultural influences from nations such as Japan and the United States. However, despite these external influences, Palauan culture remains deeply ingrained and resilient.

Palauan villages, then and now, practice a matriarchal and matrilineal society. The village's pulse is guided by the Council of Chiefs, while a parallel council of formidable women shapes the path, overseeing land, finances, and the anointment of leaders. Today, the Council advises the president on matters concerning traditional laws, customs and their relationship to the Constitution and the laws of Palau. Altogether, they work harmoniously to protect and serve the people.

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 Ebil Reklai, the high ranking traditional matriarchs of Koror and Melekeok, together with the women throughout Palau. 

In a world that rushes to the future, Palau preserves its heritage with steadfast pride, ensuring that the legacy of their ancestors lives on. From the warmest greetings to the gentlest touch of nature's hand, Palauans embrace a spirit of respect that illuminates their way of life.

Cultural Highlights

Palau's environmental initiatives and cultural practices showcase a nation deeply committed to preserving its natural resources and cultural heritage. By combining conservation efforts with traditional values, Palau sets an inspiring example for sustainable development and the protection of its unique ecosystem through efforts like the Palau Protected Areas Network. Some of the main aspects of Palauan culture and traditional values are summarized below:

Named as One of the Seven Underwater Wonders of the World! 

Matrilineal / Matriarchal Society

Palauan culture embraces matrilineal traditions, evident in how lineage, inheritance, and family bonds are traced through the female line. This cornerstone social structure has been an architect of profound influence, sculpting the very essence of Palauan customs, kinship networks, and traditional leadership.

Women have traditional authority over land and are responsible for overseeing clan finances. They also actively engage in selecting and removing chiefs, drawing from their perceptive understanding of male upbringing to identify individuals best suited to represent collective interests. It's a testament to their eminence that women are not just participants but catalysts of communal well-being, celebrated for their contribution to the very heartbeat of their communities.

In the enigma that is Palau, women's roles are more than just roles; they are the nucleus of a society that thrives through matrilineal lineage. These women stand as the vanguards of tradition, the stewards of progress, and the embodiment of resilience. Palau's identity is painted with the brushstrokes of matriarchy, and its future is sculpted by the unwavering strength and determination of its women, who shine as stars in both the household and the larger constellation of community life.

Respect for Nature

Palauan culture emphasizes a deep respect for the environment and the interconnectedness of humans and nature. Traditional beliefs and practices highlight the importance of maintaining a harmonious relationship with the natural world, which aligns with modern conservation efforts.

Storytelling and Oral Tradition

Palauans have a rich oral tradition, with storytelling playing a vital role in preserving cultural heritage. Myths, legends, and historical accounts are passed down through generations, helping to maintain Palauan identity and cultural values.

Traditional Arts and Crafts

Palauan culture is known for its exquisite arts and crafts. Skilled artisans create intricate traditional weavings, wood carvings in the form of storyboard, and clay pottery that reflect the beauty and symbolism of Palauan traditions.

Traditional Navigation

Palauans have a long history of skilled traditional navigation, using the stars, wind, and natural cues to navigate the vast Pacific Ocean. This seafaring heritage is celebrated and has been passed down through generations, reinforcing the cultural connection to the ocean.

Traditional Land Ownership and Decision-Making Processes

Customary land-ownership comes in the form of clans and the Bai meeting house is where traditional chiefs make decisions for their clans and villages.

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.

The 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. It is a valuable landmark because in the old times it served as the boundary for jurisdiction.

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

1. Cultural Heritage Guided tour - $10.00 (Tourist) $5.00 (Local)
2. Traditional Style Lunch Buffet - $40.00
3. Tour + Traditional Style Lunch Buffet- $50.00
4. Dinner Show: Tour + Dinner with Traditional Dance Performance- $80.00
*All children 10 & below are free. Ages 11 to 15 are half price.

Experience Airai offers a special menu option which includes either local fresh crab or lobster upon request. This is an additional $5.00. Minimum of 10 pax is required for lunch or dinner tours, booking needs to be made 3-4 days in advance.

What to bring/wear? Wear comfortable shoes, preferably closed-toed shoes. We also encourage bringing a refillable water container. Guided tours are not inclusive of drinks, only lunch and dinners.

Book your tour through us! Email Ms. Katarina Mad at [email protected]

Learn Artisanal Woodcarving with
Master Carver Ling Inabo

Itabori, the captivating storyboards that bring Palau's tales and folklore to life, are a common sight in Palau's stores. Yet, for an authentic and immersive experience, a visit to Tebang Woodcarving Shop is a must.

Since 1998, Tebang Woodcarving Shop has been a steadfast guardian of Palauan tradition. Owned by the local artisan and Master Carver, Ling Inabo, this shop is a treasure trove of culture and craftsmanship.

Visit his shop for souvenirs or custom work OR join him for a hands-on class where you'll learn the fundamentals of crafting Itabori, and even take your creation home! For anyone interested in booking a session with the Master Carver himself, please email [email protected] Please note that we require a four-day advance notice for booking. 

Open 8am - 5pm; Monday - Sunday | Contact number: +680 4884252 

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

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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