About the Marshall Islands
Marshall Islands is an independent republic located in the South Pacific between New Guinea and Hawaii. The nation is a collection of 29 atolls made up of over 1,000 islands, and 5 additional remote islands. The entire land area is equivalent to about 70 square miles, making it one of the world's smallest countries.
The country has a population of approximately 50,000 people. 27,000 of the citizens reside in the country's capital, Majuro, and on the surrounding Majuro Atoll. Many of the other residents (appx. 15,000) live on Ebeye Island in the Kwajalein atoll.
Like many of the atolls and nations of the South Pacific, the Marshall Islands were likely settled by explorers from Indonesia and Micronesia thousands of years ago. While the Marshalls may have initially been settled as long ago as 2000 BC, there is little to no tangible evidence of it. The earliest evidence dates to around the year 0 - 50 A.D. Today we call these original inhabitants, and their descendants, the Marshallese.
The Marshall Islands were first discovered by Europeans in 1526, by the Spanish sailor Alonso de Salazar who had only recently become captain. The previous captain, García Jose de Loaísa, had died of scurvy, and De Salazar died of the same disease a month afterwards. English explorer John Marshall visited the island group in 1788 while aboard the ship Scarborough. Europeans named the islands after him.
The archipelago was claimed by the Spanish Empire for a short period of time in the 1800s, but the German Empire established the Marshalls as well as several other island groups as protectorates late in the century. The Marshalls would remain under German and Japanese control until World War II, when the United States invaded several of the atolls and defeated the Japanese stationed there. After the war, it became a United States territory.
It was shortly after World War II when perhaps some of Marshall Islands most disturbing history occurred. During the 12 years that followed World War II, the United States tested 67 atomic and hydrogen bombs on various atolls in the Marshalls. By 1956, it had become one of the most toxic and radioactive places on Earth.
The Marshalls became an independent republic in 1979, at the same time several other South Pacific nations gained independence. Today, they still face difficulties from the nuclear testing that happened there so many years ago. In addition, the island faces potential disaster from rising ocean waters due to climate change.
The Marshall Islands is called a republic, but it is actually a combination of a republic and a parliament. The legislature consists of an executive branch and a legislative branch or parliament, called the Nitijela.
The executive branch consists of the President and the President's cabinet. The President is elected by the members of the Nitijela. This position has been held by Hilda Heine, the first female president of any country in Micronesia, since 2016. A third branch, called the Council of Chiefs or Iroij, acts as advisors to the executive branch, but does not have any voting power.
The Nitijela consists of 33 elected senators who represent 33 various atolls and islands within the Marshall Islands. The Speaker of the Nitijela plays a pivotal role politically. This position has been held by Kenneth Keri since 2016.
The fourth and final branch is the judicial branch. The judicial branch is independent of the other branches and consists of judges and Supreme Court justices.
Majuro, Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands
Best Time to Visit
The seasonal spring - summer transition months of February, March and April may be the best time to visit for those whose main interest is the weather, as the most rain and humidity occurs from September - November. The best seas for snorkeling and diving, however, may be the hotter summer months (Jul-Aug), for warmer and slightly calmer waters.
Climate varies from point to point within the Marshalls, but is fairly consistent throughout. The least amount of rainfall occurs from December to March, and the most rain falls from September to November. December and January are also the coolest months, while July and August are the hottest and most humid. The nation enjoys a tropical climate, with average highs near 83°F (28°C) and average lows near 77°F (25°C).
Air Marshall Islands is the most convenient method to travel from Majuro to the other atolls within the nation. Cars and taxis are present in Majuro, but less common on other atolls.
Know Before Visiting
Visitors should use extra caution while planning visits during years of El Ninos and La Ninas, as these events can bring more rain and heat than usual.
The official languages of the Marshall Islands are English and Marshallese.
Type I and 120V
Currencies accepted include the US Dollar ($). There are limited places to exchange and withdraw money, so it is best to do so before arrival when possible.
Pacific Reef Heron
Pacific Reef Herons can be either almost all white or a dark grey color. They are approximately 2 ft (61 in) tall, and walk along beaches searching for clams, mollusks and snails.
Black-Tipped Reef Shark
Black Tipped Reef Sharks are named for the prominent black tips on their dorsal fins (and slight black on their tail fins). They are relatively small (about 5 feet) and only pose a small threat to humans because they inhabit shallow waters.
Black Noddies are one of the most abundant birds in the Marshall Islands, and are found around the world in tropical areas. They have dark plumage on their bodies, and grey-white plumage on the tops of their heads. They are at ease near humans and human establishments.
Life in the Marshall Islands is generally slow-paced and laid back. For better or worse, its transportation is much the same way. As with many islands in the Pacific Ocean, air transportation is the primary way to get here. The country has its own public airline, called Air Marshall Islands, which is the primary provider of flights within the country. For international travelers coming from the United States, United Airlines is the main service provider. Most United flights are connecting flights that fly between Honolulu, Hawaii and other places in Asia. The international airport in the Marshall Islands is Amata Kabua International Airport. From this airport, it takes about 14 hours to reach New York City and between nine and 10 hours to get to Los Angeles. Honolulu is a 4.5-hour flight away.
Within the country, Air Marshall Islands is the largest air service shuttle between the islands. Air travel is the fastest way to get around the country. However, travelers should be aware that flights are scheduled from the mainland to the outer islands just once a week. The flights are subject to frequent cancellation and delays because of storms and medical emergencies. Along with flying between the islands, Air Marshall Islands also has direct flights to Australia and Kiribati.
Car travel is more common on the largest atolls, especially in the capital city of Majuro. On the roads, taxis are the most common type of transportation. Taxis can be hailed easily in Majuro, where they line up along the road throughout the day. Leaving the city's borders costs a fee of $2.00, while it costs $0.50 to travel by taxi within Majuro. The currency used in the Marshall Islands is US dollars. Unlike the United States, tipping is not expected for taxi drivers. Car-sharing is common in the Marshall Islands, so visitors should be prepared to share their taxi rides with others.
For people wanting to see the outermost atolls, boat is the only option. There are a number of private sailing companies that provide transportation to the more remote regions of the country. Since scuba diving is one of the Marshall Islands' top attractions, there are also a number of scuba diving vessels that bring divers to and from the uninhabited islands.