There are exactly three tourist accommodations on Kosrae offering dive packages. I have had the pleasure of staying at two, and eating/diving with the third, so here is some practical information to help you decide between them.
Nautilus Resort and Restaurant
I stayed at the Nautilus on my longest trip to Kosrae. The rooms are basic yet comfortable, with air conditioning, hot water, a mini refrigerator and plenty of space, and in particular a large desk convenient for a work trip. Sliding glass doors let in a ton of light to brighten the whitewashed cement-block interior. The Nautilus does offer a two room apartment that would be very comfortable for a family.
The best features of the Nautilus are its proximity to the Blue Hole, free use of kayaks and the saltwater pool, the only in-ground pool on the island. When I stayed there was not in-room Wi-Fi, but guests could purchase pre-paid FSM Telecom cards to access the internet using an ethernet cable. The nautilus is a very green establishment with the implementation of a rainwater filtration system and more recently solar panels.
The menu at Nautilus restaurant is perhaps the least inspiring in Kosrae. The American standards of pizza and burgers take precedence, but healthy travelers can rejoice in knowing there is fresh fish available almost every day. Befriend Salik, the jack-of-all-trades for the resort, and he will happily share freshly speared sashimi with you on return from his dives.
On that note, the absolute best aspect of the Nautilus is its staff. Everyone from Salik to the sweet front desk clerk Mary and the wait staff are incredibly friendly and hospitable. In the typical Kosraen fashion the staff go out of their way to make your stay as comfortable and enjoyable as possible, and when you’re so far from home that counts much more than a disappointing lunch menu.
Update: Since the writing of this post, the Nautilus has changed management. This was no ordinary changing of the guards, the previous owners raffled the resort on the internet! The staff were retained, so expect to have a wonderful stay even with a new owner at the helm.
The Pacific Treelodge and Bully’s Restaurant
I was able to stay at the Pacific Treelodge on my second visit. The rooms are again very basic, but the cottages of the Treelodge win my vote for best accommodation for the connection with nature that is imparted by their being nestled into the mangrove forests. Another plus is the free in-room Wi-Fi, although do know that the signal can be very weak, even near the signal booster.
Kosrae Village Resort may have my vote for best overall menu, but Bully’s Restaurant at the Pacific Treelodge wins the award for atmosphere, charm and hospitality. The local women who staff the restaurant always offer a friendly smile, and if you’re lucky your lunch might be enjoyed with the soothing sounds of a Kosraean lullaby strummed on a uekalali.
The traditional open-air falet is situated on the bank of the Mutunnenea Channel. From this tranquil setting you can watch Kosrae’s native bird and bat species float overhead as the river ebbs and flows with the tides. Guests of the hotel can launch a kayak directly from the patio. As an added bonus, every Tuesday is movie night on the patio.
After you’ve worked up an appetite kayaking through the mangroves, enjoy a Bully “burger” of freshly ground tuna or a platter of today’s catch sashimi. The dinner menu surprisingly offers several locally sourced eggplant dishes and other classic Italian dishes to pay homage to the owner’s heritage. Speaking of Maria and her husband, ask anyone on the island to tell you their epic love story that ended with her finding her happily ever after on this tiny island.
However, the star dish is the mangrove crab. Served with a cup of traditional Kosraean soup, the mangrove crab is huge and boasts a very unique flavor. This is not your sweet and succulent Dungeness crab, the mangrove crab is earthy and funky. It reminds me of some of my favorite malbecs, those that taste like fungus and dirt, and when you gaze out into the murky mangrove as you devour the massive claws, you can fully appreciate the flavor profile.
Kosrae Village Resort and Inum Restaurant
Kosrae Village Resort (KVR) would probably have been my first choice if I had been traveling for pleasure rather than business. The cottages of KVR are designed to emulate traditional Kosraen structures, using locally sourced materials and handiwork. Cottages are available in two sizes, or opt for the larger, secluded suite. The cottages are shaded by beautiful trees, located directly on the beach and sheltered to the east by a mangrove forest. Each cottage is equipped with a ceiling fan, electricity, hot water and a private garden shower.
The Inum restaurant at the KVR restaurant is the most impressive, boasting an array of Southeast Asian-inspired dishes. The menu changes periodically based on the availability of local ingredients. I tried a number of Filipino and Cambodian inspired pork dishes and local reef fish dishes, which were all bursting with flavor. My favorite dish was the mangrove crab “super” salad. The meat of the entire crab is extracted for you, so don’t have to work for your meal. It is piled high atop fresh local produce with a tangy lime vinaigrette. As mentioned previously, the owners Bruce and Katrina can usually be found on the premises and are very friendly and knowledgeable about diving and Kosrae in general, so grab one of them while you enjoy the restaurant for wonderful company and conversation.
Update: Since the writing of this post, unfortunately KVR has closed.
Regardless of which resort in Kosrae you select, you will have an amazing experience exploring the island with some really fantastic people.
Kosrae also offers two budget accommodations, ASCO in Tafunsak and Tradewinds in Lelu. Thanks to reader Sorcha Vaughan for the added recommendations!
Have you stayed in Kosrae? Which resort and what did you think? Leave a comment!