Nauru: Your Ultimate Guide to the Beautiful South Pacific Island
Updated On: November 06, 2022
Are you searching for an unusual and exciting experience, like running around an entire country island? Well, then, you should think about Nauru as your next travel destination. While this island in the South Pacific Ocean seems to have accumulated a bit of a bad reputation in many aspects, it follows the same simplicity known in many islands in this region.
Nauru is known to be the least visited country in the whole world. This is, unfortunately, true due to the island’s long history of mining phosphate. However, we assure you that this island will offer you an experience you will remember for a long time.
In this article, we will learn about this mysterious island country, how to get there, where to stay, and which activities you can enjoy there. We will also provide weather information to give you an idea of when it is the best time to visit and some essential tips for your time there. Ultimately, we’ll learn some interesting facts about this incredible island!
So, let’s get to it!
Some Information About Nauru
The Republic of Nauru, or Pleasant Island, is the smallest island country in the whole world, with only 21 square kilometres. Consequently, it’s instead called a microstate. As the world’s third-smallest country, the island is preceded by the Vatican and Monaco. It is also considered to host the world’s second-smallest population of about 10,000 people.
Some say that the island’s name is derived from the Nauruan word Anáoero which translates to “I go to the beach.” The island has been inhabited by Micronesians since 3,000 years ago. However, little is known of the island’s settlers before that. It is believed that the island had been isolated from the outside world for a long time, allowing the distinct Nauruan language to develop.
Pleasant Island was the name that British Whaler John Fearn gave to Nauru when he sighted the island in 1798, making him the first westerner to see the island. Since 1826, there’s been regular contact between the island and European whalers, with the last whaler reported in 1904. During this time, several ship deserters started living on the island. They traded goods with the locals and introduced firearms in Nauru, later used during the Nauruan Civil War between 1878 and 1888.
When Germany annexed the island in 1888, this brought an end to the Nauruan Civil War and thus began the establishment of a kingdom-ruling system. During the 30 years Germany administered Nauru, phosphate reserves were discovered on the island in 1900. The first phosphate shipment was exported in 1907, according to an agreement between Germany and the Pacific Phosphate Company.
After the outbreak of WWI, Nauru suffered greatly, from being seized by Australian troops and having supply ships sunken in its vicinity to falling under Japanese occupation from 1942 until 1945. Almost 20 years after establishing a trusteeship between Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and the United Nations, under which the three countries administered Nauru, Nauru finally gained its independence in 1968.
Nauru’s Environment and Climate
Despite the coral reef surrounding Nauru, most of the island’s land area suffered greatly due to aggressive phosphate mining. The long years of mining have left the land barren and dotted with limestone pinnacles, some of which are 15 metres high. Not to mention how phosphate runoff and silt caused the death of around 80% of the marine life that once flourished around the island.
Several fruits and vegetables grow through the only fertile stripe of the coast, such as coconuts and pineapples, and several plant species grow on the island as well. Many indigenous birds left the island after losing their habitat due to mining. Still, there’s diverse marine life in the reef surrounding the island.
Because of its closeness to the Equator and the ocean, the weather in Nauru is typically hot and humid. While temperatures during the day range from 30 to 35 degrees Celsius, it’s almost stable at night at 25 degrees Celsius. The rainy season in Nauru begins in November and continues till February.
How to get to Nauru?
As with visiting most countries around the world, you need a valid passport, a hotel booking or proof you have a sponsor, and an entry visa to be allowed into Nauru. However, there are several countries whose citizens are granted free entry visas upon their arrival in Nauru. These countries are the Cook Islands, Samoa, and the Solomon Islands.
Applying to get an entry visa to Nauru is to either of these offices:
- The Nauruan Visitors Office: (+674) 557 3133
- The Nauruan Press Office, located at the United Nations: (+1) 212 937 0074
Suppose you’d like to send your visa application by e-mail. In that case, it’s good to know that it can take a lot of processing time, so you should apply to obtain it way before you’re scheduled your visit. You can apply through e-mail by sending in your application to either of these e-mail addresses:
The tourist visa to Nauru costs A$100, while the press visa -if you’re a journalist on business- costs A$200. If you’re aiming to write a piece about the Australian detention centre located on the island, you’d better have A$8000 to pay for it. If you’re a journalist visiting, then you should direct your visa application to Joanna Olsson, who is the Director of the Government Information Office, at this e-mail address:
They will then send you a card you need to fill out and attach a copy of your passport. You will pay the visa fee upon arriving in Nauru, and the officials will need to keep your passport for a day so they can register it on the system. No worries, though; you’ll get your passport back the following day.
The only way in or out of Nauru is by plane through Nauru International Airport. The only carrier is Nauru Airlines, which became the national carrier in 2016. There are somewhat irregular flights every week to Nauru from Brisbane, Australia, Nadi, Fiji, and Honiara of the Solomon Islands.
How to Get Around Nauru?
Since this least-visited South Pacific island is so tiny and has only about 200 visitors a year, you needn’t worry about crowds at all. You can rent a car, bike or scooter because of little public transportation. You can also choose to walk; however, it might not be the best idea with the humidity and heat. Still, hitchhiking is common in Nauru.
The island bus goes around the island almost every hour and costs only 50 cents. You might find many locals clinging to the train cars which carry goods between the mining area and the Aiwo Harbour.
Renting a Car
There’s a paved 19-kilometres road circling Nauru, which you can drive on in about an hour. Interestingly enough, the airport’s taxiway takes about 3 kilometres of these 19, which has the only traffic light on the island. The traffic light stops vehicles and clears the path so aeroplanes can land at the airport. The moment of a plane landing is seen as one of the most favourite moments to witness and photograph by tourists. Of course, renting a car here will need an international driving license.
Renting a Bike
You can head to Capelle & Partner to rent a bike. You can ask at your hotel or even ask one of the locals; there are many options.
What to see in Nauru?
Nauru promises an entirely different experience from the one you could have at any other South Pacific island. So, it’s safe to say if you’re looking for sandy beaches, giant waves, and shallow waters, you might be slightly surprised that none of these exists on the island. Instead, Nauru will offer you an off-the-beaten-track experience that will satisfy the part wanting to look back in time and enjoy the slow-paced time.
Here’s what you can see in Nauru:
Anibare Bay – Anibare District
Anibare Bay is where you can start your journey on the island, with a white sandy beach and calm and amazingly blue waters to stretch, sunbathe, or go for a swim. Not to mention palm groves that are deep and adequately clean with majestic coral pinnacles adorning the area for a magical touch to your swimming time.
Another unique experience awaiting you is seeing the sunrise while chilling on Anibare Bay. The Anibare Harbour, built with Japanese funding at the turn of the millennium, is the smallest of Nauru’s two ports located south of the bay. There, you can watch the local fishermen bring in the day’s catch.
Aiwo Harbour – Aiwo District
Constructed in 1904 to accommodate the phosphate mining industry, Aiwo Harbour is the biggest of the two harbours on the island. It’s suitable for the different cargo ships, whether those used for exporting the mined phosphate or those bringing in food and supplies. Aiwo harbour was built around the same time the railway servicing the phosphate mines was built.
This entire area is perfect if you have an interest in industrial mining. There are refining plants to process the phosphate at the end of the railway before it’s transported to the ships using two massive conveyor belts. While this area was more lively during the 1970s and 1980s, you can still see worn-out belts and old refining plants. It’s a great area to understand how phosphate mining has shaped the island as a country throughout history.
Buada Lagoon – Buada District
This lagoon is the only space of fresh water in Nauru. If you start from the road opposite the Od’n Hotel and keep going until the road branches out, then go left, you will find a picturesque and enchanting lagoon. One element adding to the place’s magic is the dense palm trees surrounding it. Unfortunately, the lagoon water is not clean; therefore, it’s not proper for swimming, but you can walk around the lagoon and take great pictures.
The ridge is the richest testimonial of Nauru’s dark history during the Second World War. At 63 metres high above sea level, Command Ridge was and still is the highest point on the island. Back in the day, it was the ideal spot to keep an eye on the approaching enemy since Nauru was occupied by the Japanese during the war.
Several remaining artillery has been there since the war, such as two anti-aircraft guns, each with 6 barrels still pointed up to the sky. You’ll also see the remains of the prison complex used by the Japanese to detain Nauruans protesters and five Australian military personnel during the war.
The communications centre recently opened for visitors is the most unique spot. Even though it’s not properly lit inside, and you’d need a torch to see, you will quickly notice the Japanese writings on the walls.
To get to Command Ridge, take the road opposite the Od’n Hotel, drive for about 700 metres, take a left when you get to the end of the ridge, and then keep walking by the phosphate pinnacles. The ruins should be located a little bit in the forest.
Apart from Command Ridge, several ruins from the WWII era are scattered all over the island. Old cannons dotted here and there along the island roads, even between homes and throughout the island’s beaches, you can find Japanese pillboxes scattered in plain sight.
Government Buildings – Yaren District
Close to the airport, you will find both the government building and the president in the Yaren District. While the Parliament building isn’t as fancy as those in countries around the world, it’s still considered one of Nauru’s significant landmarks. You can even attend a parliament session since they’re publicly held.
Nauruan history, culture, and artefacts from the Second World War era are displayed at the museum.
The Moon Landscape or Topside
The Moon Landscape refers to the interior of Nauru. Due to the phosphate mining, the island’s surface was distorted, which explains why the locals call it “Topside.” Mining the phosphate created limestone pinnacles. They’re now covered in vegetation and give this South Pacific island an exciting vibe, which distinguishes Nauru from other Pacific islands.
As cliché as it may sound, your likeness to this landscape will depend on the glasses you’re looking through. You might either find the landscape cosy, even exotic. However, some might feel sad about how the environment has been terribly exhausted and merely decorated using old mining equipment and rusting vehicles.
What to do in Nauru?
One of the most exciting things to do in Nauru is to break your own record by going around an entire island in a day, guided by the sealed road going around the island. If you’re for it, you can go around the island by car, which will take 25 minutes of non-stop driving. If you wish to exert an effort and look around, you can go around the island on a bicycle for 2 or 3 hours, while if you choose to walk, you’ll get around in 6 hours.
There isn’t much to do in Nauru other than enjoy the scenery. Many spaces of land became barren because of the phosphate mining, but some lovely views survived. You can go from your hotel or lodge to the only supermarket on the island, Capelle & Partner, and continue on your path. Every Saturday, there’s a match of Australian rules football at the 1 Linkbelt Oval sports field.
Most beaches in Nauru are shallow, rocky, and unsuitable for swimming. You can watch the local fishermen returning with the day’s catch at Anibare Harbour. You can even contact the Equatorial Gamefishing Charters if you’d like to try some fishing yourself, and they will get you set up. The company has two fishing boats that are adequately equipped, each of which can fit five people. You can catch yellowfin tuna, wahoo, marlin, and sailfish. Let the little fisherman inside you out on this island!
You can contact the company at:
- (+674) 557 1000
- [email protected]
Where to stay in Nauru?
As Nauru is a small island, the accommodation options are pretty limited, and some of them will help you get engrossed in the experience of this South Pacific island. So, there are only two hotels on the island, one in the east of the island and the other in the west. You can add to that the guest rooms available at the supermarket, located towards the north of the island.
These are the guest rooms and apartments available at the Capelle family supermarket, where they offer both short and long-stay accommodation. The family keeps the accommodations up to par and offers excellent room service. In total, there are seven apartments available and five rooms in the complex. There’s an air conditioner, free airport transportation, and free parking. Across the street, there’s a beautiful beach where you can head for some relaxing time.
Price Range: $95.
Location: Capelle & Partner, Occidental Building, Ewa Beach.
Contact Number: (+674) 557 1055
Contact E-mail: [email protected]
This hotel is considered to be the most affordable hotel in Nauru. While the building has been run down over the years, some advantages emanate from the hotel’s location. Many facilities are nearby, such as the bank, airport, post office, and some supermarkets. From this location, you can head to see the Japanese WW2 guns and prison.
Visitors’ experiences have varied after their stay at Od’n, but they agree that this hotel is more affordable. There weren’t many good things said about the place on TripAdvisor, only a few, but one of them is the indoor Chinese restaurant, where you can have your meals. The Od’n Aiwo Hotel is considered the tallest building in Nauru.
Price Range: $40 to $80.
Location: Boe, Aiwo District.
Contact Number: (+674) 558 8644
Contact E-mail: [email protected]
Menen Hotel is considered the more luxurious and, hence, more expensive than the other accommodations available in Nauru. Menen Hotel is deemed the largest hotel on the island, having a capacity of 119 rooms and conference rooms that can accommodate up to 200 people. Reservation will include breakfast, and there’s a restaurant on-site as well as a bar.
The reviews about Menen are mixed. Some described it as a good hotel, considering its high prices, while others said they’d had better experiences in other accommodations in Nauru. What the reviewers all agreed on, though, was that several facilities at the hotel need maintenance.
Price Range: Rooms from $95 to $160, Suites from $255 to $500.
Location: Anibare District.
Contact Number: (+674) 557 8020
Contact E-mail: [email protected]
Where to Eat in Nauru?
Food in Nauru is quite diverse. You will find different places that perfectly serve dishes and flavours from other parts of the world. You can count the number of restaurants in Nauru on one hand, but the food is totally worth it. Here’s where you can have a bite in Nauru:
This Indian-style restaurant promises to serve you great Asian food focusing on Indian cuisine. It also offers you a relaxing time at the bar. Bay restaurant serves all meals throughout the day, with reservations, outdoor seating, and takeout services available. From pizzas, delicious burgers, and soups to delicious cooked meat and curry, you will enjoy your meal without a doubt.
They announced last month they’ll be reopening the dine-in service and regular working hours, with several precautions taken to fight against Covid-19.
Location: Island Ring Road, Anibare, Nauru.
Working Hours: Monday to Saturday, from 12 pm to 10 pm.
Contact Number: (+674) 557 1111.
Like many other places to eat on the island, Anibare also serves Chinese food in the 1970s style, as described by one reviewer on TripAdvisor. The restaurant serves all-day meals, including brunch, and offers only seating. You can indulge in spring rolls, fried rice, chicken and fish with chips, soups, barbeque chicken, and fish curry. The restaurant is located inside the Menen Hotel, making it its main restaurant.
Location: Anibare Bay, Meneng, Nauru.
Working Hours: Every day from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm and from 5:00 pm to 10:30 pm.
Contact Number: +674 557 8010
With a great and warm atmosphere made exciting by the different stories you get to hear from the locals working here, you’re going to enjoy your time. The restaurant serves mainly oriental dishes, but you will find burgers, meats, and lots and lots of fries. You can enjoy these dishes for both lunch and dinner at affordable prices.
Location: Anibare Bay, Meneng, Nauru.
Working Hours: Every day from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm.
Contact Number: +674 558 1848
Eating on a Budget
As you explore the area and get to Capelle’s Supermarket, you will find a fast food kiosk serving mainly western-style fast food, which might be your cup of tea. You can grab a bite there instead of heading to another place, and then you can continue exploring.
On the other hand, there’s a great Chinese restaurant called Kasuo, located near the Od’n Aiwo Hotel. The restaurant serves mostly fish, Chinese-style noodles, and fried rice. Kasuo is open from Monday to Saturday from 12:00 pm to 10:00 pm and closes on Sundays.
Interesting Facts About Nauru
Aside from the previous fact that Nauru is the smallest island country in the entire world, there are many other interesting facts about this South Pacific island. These facts include:
1. The Smallest Island Country in The World
With its 8.1 square miles, Nauru is considered the smallest island nation in the world and the third smallest country in general, after Monaco and The Vatican. The population is primarily Polynesians and Micronesians and is divided into 12 tribes, represented by the twelve-pointed star on the Nauruan flag.
Furthermore, Nauru is considered the smallest of the Pacific islands. It is also considered the smallest country outside Europe and the smallest independent republic in the world.
Nauru might be the only country in the world with no world heritage sites, protected areas and, most surprisingly, rivers. There is a 30-kilometres-long road in Nauru, and the only railway was built in 1907 to transfer phosphate and is 5 kilometres long.
2. Origins of Nauruans Remain Unknown
Even though the Europeans arrived in Nauru, it was during the 18th century when they discovered the country consisted of 12 tribes, each having its chief. The origin of their ancestors, as well as their history, still remains unknown.
3. Nauru Doesn’t Have a Capital City
While the government offices in Nauru are located within the Yaren District, the island doesn’t have an official capital city. The Yaren District is dubbed the capital mainly because of its government offices.
4. Once the Wealthiest Country in The World
Back during the 1980s, Nauru had the highest GDP in the whole world. Over the years, bird drippings created massive amounts of phosphate in the country, leading Nauru to get rich by mining this precious reserve. In 1975, the Nauruan economy earned about $2.5 billion, making individual income the highest in the world. This resulted in great prosperity for the people since the government stopped collecting taxes and offered various essential services for free, such as education, healthcare, and transportation.
The government’s massive gains from mining phosphate allowed it to save nearly A$1.6 billion and deposited it in a trust called Nauru Phosphate Royalty Trust. When the phosphate mines started to run out because of aggressive mining activities, as a result, in 2011, the mines were declared to be economically unviable.
The non-viability of the mines led the country to head to spend the money from the phosphate trust, and more difficulties arose, especially with a series of bad investments; the money from the trust shrank down to A$138 in 2002. Nauru went from having the largest phosphate reserves in the South Pacific region to being one of the world’s poorest countries in 2017. In 2013, the country’s GDP per capita was 51st globally, giving Nauru the title of the second smallest GDP in the world.
5. Olympic Medals: A Far-fetched Dream
Even though Nauru has won many medals in the Commonwealth Games, it still hasn’t obtained an Olympic medal of any ranking, despite its participation in the summer tournaments since 1996. The two main sports in Nauru are weightlifting and Judo, with weightlifting being the national sport. Nauru’s wealth of medals from the Commonwealth games includes ten gold, ten silver, and nine bronze medals. This wealth puts the country ahead of many other countries, such as Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe.
6. Nauru was Originally Named Pleasant Island
John Fearn, a British whaler, visited Nauru back in 1798 and was the first westerner to do so. He described the island as pleasant, so he named it Pleasant Island. With the fantastic coral reef surrounding it, this exotic island was ideal for sea activities such as diving and snorkelling. However, excessive phosphate mining destroyed the rich marine life the island once had. Due to this excessiveness, the island now receives almost 200 visitors annually.
7. The Nauruan Flag
The Nauruan Flag is an utter representation of the country and its location in the world. The flag’s background is blue, representing the Pacific Ocean, and the single horizontal yellow stripe from one side to the other represents the Equator. The twelve-pointed white star represents three things. First is the country’s location, which is to the south of the Equator and west of the international date line. Secondly, they represent the country’s independence, and thirdly, the number reflects the twelve original tribes of the Nauruan people.
8. Once a Tax Haven in The 1990s
During the 1990s, Nauru offered foreigners passports in exchange for a fee. For only $25,000, anyone was able to set up a bank account with no further requirements. This opened the way for foreigners to open shell bank accounts, which paved the way for laundering money and made Nauru a tax haven. During this time, Nauru had a staggering number of more than 400 shell banks that back then were only existent on paper. One of the organisations that benefited from this was the Russian mafia, which was able to launder more than $70 billion through Nauru.
Due to this activity, Nauru was dubbed by the FAFT, or Financial Action Task Force, as one of the less cooperative countries in the world regarding handling money laundering. In 2003, Nauru eventually adopted the anti-avoidance regulation, which drove foreign money out of the country. As a result of the law, however, the label of uncooperative was finally lifted in October 2005.
9. English is Spoken Fluently by Many Locals
Nauruans speak Nauruan, a distinct dialect of the Pacific island and the official language in the country, so naturally, it’s spoken in every home. However, almost half of the population can also have a conversation in English. This fluency comes from the historical ties with the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. English is also the language used frequently in commercial as well as government affairs.
10. About 200 Visitors per Year
Due to the harsh surface of most of the island, Nauru is considered one of the world’s least visited countries, with just about 200 visitors in a good year. The number of visitors was considered too low to earn the country a spot in the report of the World Tourism Organisation.
11. There are no Armed Forces
Twenty-two countries worldwide don’t have armed forces, and Nauru is listed as one of them. However, due to an informal agreement between Nauru and Australia, the Australian army is responsible for the safety and defence of the former state in case of an attack. On the island, however, a significant number of the police force is responsible for keeping the safety of the people.
12. There are no Personal Taxes
As phosphate mining was the main industrial activity in the country, many people depended on it for work. These people were left jobless after the phosphate mining industry fell apart. This pushed the unemployment rate in the country to a staggering 90%, so there’s no point in the government collecting personal taxes.
On the other hand, Nauru can’t depend on tourism for revenue since the country only receives about 200 visitors a year. The only employer in Nauru is the government itself, leaving no other sources of income in the country. For these reasons, Nauru mainly depends on foreign aid.
13. More Than 90% of the Island has no Topsoil
Phosphate mining might have brought temporary prosperity to the island. However, it completely destroyed the land, leaving more than 90% barren with no topsoil. You will see coral pinnacles that stretch 15 metres high and stick out of the ground. Not to mention the immigration of many native birds because their habitats were destroyed by the loss of natural life.
This leaves a single coastal strip where coconuts grow. In 2000, the government announced a rehabilitation project for the entire island. However, such a massive project will cost more than $300 million and take more than 20 years to achieve.
14. Nauruans Once Almost Moved to Australia
Due to excessive phosphate mining, several scientists expected Nauru would eventually become inhabitable by the middle of the 1990s. So, there were two suggestions in 1963 and 1970 to move Nauru’s population to an island off Queensland, Australia. However, Nauruans strongly objected to the proposals and decided to stay in their homeland.
15. Obesity is a Major Problem in Nauru
More than 71% of Nauruans are considered obese, and American Samoa is the only country in the world that beats this number. In general, obesity is known to be a major problem affecting the population in many Pacific states, such as Palau, Samoa, Tonga, and Kiribati. There’s a claim that locals in Nauru are genetically prone to obesity.
16. Another Phosphate Mine
The Nauruan government announced in 2005 that they’d discovered another phosphate mine; therefore, they’ll be resuming phosphate mining. The government announced at the time they expected this new reserve to last for the coming 30 years.
Important Tips for Your Time in Nauru
There really aren’t many dangers to look out for when in Nauru, well, except for your steps and the harsh soil that was stripped by the phosphate mining. However, here are some tips on staying safe and healthy on the island, just in case:
- Crime isn’t widespread in Nauru. If you need help, you can call their emergency numbers which are 177 or 118. Or you can head to the police station yourself, which is located near the airport.
- There’s no risk of earthquakes occurring in Nauru. Still, the island is prone to be hit by tsunamis resulting from earthquakes by the Ring of Fire surrounding the Pacific Ocean.
- It’s pretty rare for a country by the Equator to be hit by a cyclone, so there’s no record of a hurricane hitting it. If you head to Nauru, though, expect to see a lot of rain and thunderstorms during the wet season.
- Before venturing into the water by the coast, be sure you’re safe because a shallow reef surrounds the entire island. There are also cut-outs in the reef to make way for the harbours and boats. There’s a risk of strong currents, dangerous sea animals on the reef, and even moving boats, so it’s best to be safe.
- Do your best to avoid drinking tap water in Nauru. The primary source of water in the country is the water collected from the rains in tanks placed on the houses’ rooftops and the water from an old desalination plant.
- While many of the diseases usually contracted in equatorial countries pose a lesser risk in Nauru, you must be aware of mosquito bites during your visit to avoid contracting dengue fever.
- Getting a shot for Hepatitis B is also recommended before visiting Nauru.
- Nauru has two hospitals, the Nauru General Hospital and RON Hospital, located in the Denigomodu District to the west of the island. Before visiting, ensure you have suitable travel insurance. If you’ve contracted something more serious, you may need to be transferred to Australia. The number for Nauru General Hospital is +674 555-4302.
Indeed, a unique island-like Nauru might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s usually between the folds of these unusual places that the best experiences await!