The Island of Kosrae Provides Adventure, History and Military Discounts

Located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Hawaii and Guam, the Island of Kosrae is a peaceful spot packed with outdoor adventure on land and sea, interesting history, local island culture and eco-travel that provides discounts on attractions and lodging to United States Military personnel.

An island with majestic vertical elevations, Kosrae's lush green interior is surrounded by one of the world's most pristine coral reef systems and white coral beaches on the island's rim.


Known to dive enthusiasts for it’s warm water, colorful underwater world of reefs and sea creatures, the island dives include the romance of sunken ships, possible buried treasure and a glimpse of history through the wrecks just off the island shores. Kosrae has an optimum mooring buoy program. Buoys mark the best dive and snorkeling sites all around the island.

There is the wreck of the 19th century sailing ship the Lenora, once sailed by the feared pirate Bully Hayes. The historic remnants of the Lenora, named for one of Bully Hayes' twin daughters, rests in 40 feet of water in Kosrae's Utwe Harbor.  The notorious pirate and trader often used Kosrae as a hiding place. In I874, a typhoon whipped the ocean waters and sank the ship. It was discovered in the harbor 110 years later. All that remains are pieces of wood and metal but the novelty attracts many, who are rewarded with an abundance juvenile fish, lionfish and turtles to swim alongside.

Another sailing ship from the 1800s, a wooden whaler, rests in Kosrae's Lelu Harbor in 70 feet of water. The remnants of the whalers' trade are present and the diver's imagination can fill in the rest.  

Three 20th century airplane wrecks can be explored. There were only two Martin PBM Mariner seaplanes known to have sunk in the Kosrae area. The first is a PBM-5, which sank in 1945 and the second, a PBM-5A, which went down in 1955. One of the wrecks rests against a reef face in Kosrae's Lelu Harbor under 70 feet of water. The remains of the second PBM are located on the north side of the harbor, in 60 feet of water. Historical records indicate that both crashed on takeoff. 

The Martin PBM Mariner was a patrol bomber flying boat of World War II and the early Cold War period. It was designed to complement the PBY Catalina in service.

A new airplane wreck was recently re-discovered by Sleeping Lady Divers – a dive operator on Kosrae -- also in the waters of Lelu Harbor. It is identified as a U.S. Navy Grumman Albatross airplane that was on a medevac mission. According to diver reports the airplane-crashed nose first. The plane rests in 90 feet so dive time to see the wreck is limited even with Nitrox. 


Surfing enthusiasts on both long and short boards treasure Kosrae too for its privacy. With only two-other surfers, both of them, your buddies, in the water, it’s a busy day and it’s excellent surfing. October through March are the best months and the experience ranges from long walls to stand-up barrels. The consistent medium to large swells from the north, northeast, and northwest, are made for intermediate and advanced surfers.

All day hikes and those of only 45-minutes, both provide time in the scent and sound rich tropical landscape. Active hikers may make the trek to the island’s highest peak Mt. Finkol, which rises to 2,064 feet. The trail through the rainforest is but the climb is moderate. The Mt. Oma trails are verdant with tropical plants and flowers. A strenuous hike for most, active military will find it mildly challenging. Halfway up, scattered on the hillside are the many caves dug by the Japanese during their occupation of the island in World War II. The discovered caves are in good shape and there is the lure of discovering those that are known to exist but have not yet been found. Cascading waterfalls are another feature on the way to the top and the breathtaking views of Kosrae’s Utwe Harbor and Lelu causeway.

A kayaking sojourn through the mangrove forest is both beautiful and intriguing. A canopy of mangrove trees drapes the channels where some of Kosrae’s fifteen resident birds and nine migratory visitors will probably be seen. Kosrae is a non-technical mountain climb site with the most ever being useful is a rope. A unique experience for the visiting hunter is the opportunity to hunt wild pigs with the Kosraean men. Good physical condition is required to participate in one of their hunts.

Kosrae was occupied by the Japanese during World War II, and has its share of artifacts. You can easily find bunkers and the radio station on the beach that some claim inspired a move “Up Periscope,” from a true story. During the war, the US commando to create a diversion that enabled him to enter the radio station, grab the codebook, and escape back across the reef to the waiting submarine blew up a nearby fuel depot. The remarkable story was later made into the 1959 Hollywood film. Towards the end of the war, the Japanese blew up the station so that it would not fall into U.S. hands.

There are the stairs to nowhere, which were used as steps up a steep cliff face to the Japanese weather station. There are rusting tanks and further remnants from the war.

Most accommodations and attractions on Kosrae offer a 15 percent military discount. Space Available Flight, better known as Space A, is an economical way to get to Guam, Hawaii or Japan and then on to Kosrae.  The Joint Operational Support Airlift Center (JOSAC) site, allows daily checks of the OSA Space-Available Flight schedule and a searchable OSA Flight Schedule. These schedules can only be accessed from a government installation.

The Kosrae International Airport, in Tafunsak Village handles direct flights from Honolulu on Monday and Friday mornings Kosrae also receives flights from Guam on Monday and Friday. Traveling to Kosrae from Europe, the common flight paths are via Manila (Philippines), Seoul (Korea), or Tokyo (Narita Inl, Japan), and then connecting through Guam. From the U.S. mainland, the common flight path is via Honolulu, but you can also take a direct flight to Tokyo from many U.S. cities, and then travel via Guam.

Kosrae easily ranks as one of the safest places on the planet. Crime is uncommon, and normally petty. Add to that the pristine beauty, active adventure, cultural experience and military discounts, and it’s the perfect destination for a week or longer of leave.