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Published: February 2009Best Island Vacations 2009: Pick Your Paradise

Catch the Greatest Wave on Earth

Federated States of Micronesia: Pohnpei, Caroline Islands

Text by Meg Lukens Noonan
When the big winter swell starts breaking on Palikir Pass, a channel in the surrounding barrier reef of mountainous, jungly Pohnpei, it is one hell of a wave. Aussie pro surfer Dylan Longbottom has called the hollow, glassy barrel, which is accessible only by boat, "by far the best right in the world." Though they can indeed get huge, most days the waves run a manageable two to six feet. And even if the water goes flat, there’s still plenty to do. Kiteboard the cross-shore winds at Sokhes Pass, dive the reefs of the outer atolls, or hike to one of Pohnpei’s shampoo-ad-worthy waterfalls that tumble out of the high country—where rainfall averages 400 inches annually—into cool, swimmable pools. "It’s like Tahiti 50 years ago," says Allois Malfitani, co-owner of the Pohnpei Surf Club, a nine-room riverfront lodge that caters to wave riders. "From the water, you can hardly see any sign of human presence." People have, in fact, been on this island halfway between Manila and Honolulu for ages. Take a jaunt to the haunting Nanmatol ruins, a seventh-century stone city on Pohnpei’s east side that is best explored by sea kayak. For further anthropological, um, studies, stop by the Rusty Anchor, a harbor-front bar hidden in the shell of an unfinished hotel and frequented by an Altmanesque cast of expats and locals. Don’t miss an open-air sakau market, where you can sample the mildly narcotic, mellowing goop made from the roots of pepper plants that—if rather unpalatable—is an island staple.

The Lure: Surfing

Vitals: Pohnpei Surf Club, doubles from $185, including room, tours, gear, and boat trips to the waves; pohnpeisurfclub.com

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