A scenic flight over the Rock Islands is becoming one of the most popular things for tourists to do in the little country of Palau, and it’s easy to see why: this is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Pacific!
While it’s a great idea to visit the Rock Islands on a boat tour, the scenic flight gives you an amazing and unique perspective that is really hard to beat.
I joined one of these flights recently on a little prop plane with Pacific Mission Aviation, and the whole thing was such a great experience.
They take the doors off for pictures, and you get an overhead view of the town of Koror, followed by incredible views of hundreds of Palau’s nicest islands, lakes, and lagoons. It’s paradise!
This travel blog will explain everything you need to know about the Palau scenic flights, including the booking process, prices, safety, and what to expect when you’re in the air. I’ll also share some of the pictures I took on my own flight!
Where Are The Rock Islands Located?
The Rock Islands are located about 10 kilometers (6 miles) southwest of mainland Koror, Palau, so they’re easy to reach by plane.
With a prop plane, you can get to the very best islands in about 10 minutes, although the scenery starts as soon as you lift off from Koror!
The Company: Pacific Mission Aviation
Scenic flights in Palau have been pioneered by a company called Pacific Mission Aviation (PMA), and they’re currently the only company that offers scenic flights over Palau.
PMA is primarily a Christian missionary organization, and by doing a scenic flight with them you’re helping to subsidize the humanitarian and medical work they do in the islands, while also helping them offset the costs of the inter-island flights they run for Palauan locals.
They’re doing a great work in Palau, and being able to contribute to that is a nice little bonus of going on one of their scenic flights!
Palau Scenic Flight: What To Expect
My scenic flight in Palau started with a 10:20 AM pickup from my hotel in the town of Koror.
I was traveling solo, but I had contacted PMA in advance and they were able to join me with a group of 3 other passengers doing the Rock Islands flight that day.
I hopped in the PMA van with the other passengers (all international tourists), and together we made the quick 20 minute drive over to PMA’s hangar at the Palau International Airport.
For check in, we spent a few minutes filling out a liability waiver and they charged our credit cards, and then we went out to the hangar to get ready for our flight in the little Cessna 206.
PMA takes the doors off of the plane for all of their scenic flights in Palau, which gives you great views and photo opportunities. For safety, you’ll have a seat belt and there’s also a safety bar that covers part of the open doorway.
The main thing you need to be careful about is sticking your phone or camera out the open door. The wind can be strong, so you have to hold it really tight with both hands or you could lose it.
If this is your first time flying in a little prop plane like this, then you may be a bit nervous lifting off the ground at first, but you forget about that pretty quick once you’re in the air.
The views are amazing even as you leave Koror. The town may not seem like anything special when you’re on the ground, but from above you can see that it’s actually surrounded by all kinds of lagoons and limestone rock formations.
PMA provided a headset for each of us to wear, which blocked some of the noise from the plane, and they gave a commentary explaining all of the sights in Palau as we flew over them. The Rock Islands look so perfect from above. It’s one of my favorite landscapes anywhere in the world!
We saw tropical islands of all different shapes and sizes, with turquoise lagoons, white sand beaches, barren sandbars, and rock arches. Even with a drone, it would be hard to get views like this.
Some of the famous landmarks we spotted along the way include the Milky Way, Jellyfish Lake, German Channel, and the iconic ’70 Islands’ formation that you always see on postcards and other souvenirs from Palau.
The total experience took about 2 hours including the pickup and drop-off from my hotel, and the flight time is about 40 minutes, but we got to see and photograph so many things in that amount of time!
As a cool bonus after we arrived back at the hangar, we also got to watch a C130 plane from the Australian Air Force land on the same runway where we had taken off earlier.
When Is The Best Time To Fly?
The Palau scenic flights normally go in the morning, when there’s the best chance for clear weather. The sky was totally clear when we started our tour, and we were already back at the hangar before some clouds began to build.
The time of year that you fly doesn’t matter too much, since Palau has plenty of rain all year long. The driest months in Koror and the Rock Islands are January to April, but even those months have plenty of rain.
I wouldn’t worry about it too much either way, because the rain tends to come in the evening or at night. You can never guarantee you’ll have perfect weather no matter when you go.
I visited Palau in September, which is supposed to be one of the more rainy months of the year, but actually the weather was perfect and there was no rain at all for several days, so it didn’t affect my travels one bit.
What Does The Flight Cost?
As a solo traveler on this trip, I paid $180 USD plus a 3.5% charge for paying by credit card. They accept US credit cards, but not American Express.
Their flights have a 3 passenger minimum, so that can also affect the cost. If they don’t have at least 3 passengers for your flight, then you may have to pay extra or reschedule it to another date or time.
You can check the current prices and other terms on their website. They provide free hotel pickup and drop-off in Palau, and there’s no charge to take the doors off the plane for photography.
Is It Safe?
Pacific Mission Aviation has been doing flights in Palau since 2012. In addition to the scenic flights, they also do inter-island flights in Palau to places like Angaur and Peleliu, so they have a fair amount of experience.
A plane is only as safe as the person flying it, but the Cessna 206 is generally known to be a safe and reliable aircraft. I wouldn’t want to fly one every day for my occupation, but I think a short scenic flight like this is very safe.
Is It Worth It?
Yes, I think the Palau scenic flight is totally worth it! This is one of the best landscapes in the world, and there’s no better way to see it than from above.
It’s an amazing experience, and the price is very reasonable for what you get. For comparison, I paid almost twice as much for my Great Blue Hole flight in Belize, and also for the Franz Josef glacier helicopter tour that my wife and I did in New Zealand.
On the Palau flight, I was able to take lots of great pictures of the Rock Islands, and overall it was much better and cheaper than similar tours I’ve done around the world.
Fun Facts About The Rock Islands Of Palau
- Why are they called the Rock Islands?
The Rock Islands may not look like rocks, but they actually are in fact limestone rock formations covered with tropical vegetation.
- How many islands are there?
According to UNESCO, there are approximately 445 uninhabited islands in the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon, and they cover a total area of 100,200 hectares (about 250,000 acres).
- What is the UNESCO status?
The Rock Islands Southern Lagoon has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2012, because of its exceptional beauty, natural biodiversity, and cultural value.
- What kinds of animals live there?
The Rock Islands are home to birds, fruit bats, dugongs, sea turtles, saltwater crocodiles, and many kinds of coral, fish, and giant clams.
Frequently Asked Questions (Palau Scenic Flight)
- Which airport is used for the flights?
The PMA scenic flight departs from the Roman Tmetuchl International Airport, also known as the Palau International Airport in Koror. However, for the tour, you’ll go to PMA’s office and hangar, which is on the north apron side of the Palau airport (map here).
- Can you take pictures?
Yes, you can take pictures to your heart’s content! I took more than 200 photos with my camera during the flight, plus some videos with my phone. They were even cool enough to let me mount my GoPro on the plane wing for another perspective.
Overall, as a photographer, this flight was a much better experience than my scenic flight over the Great Blue Hole in Belize, although that was fun too.
- Which seat is best?
The two right seats are best since they normally open the door on the right side of the plane. In my case, I was put in a corner seat on the left side of the plane, but I was still able to take pictures by craning over to the right side. The plane is small enough you’ll have nice views in any seat.
- How many passengers will there be?
The PMA flights normally have a minimum of 3 passengers, and a max of 5. In order to go with less than 3 passengers, you’d have to pay extra.
- Can you fly after scuba diving?
According to PMA, the flights operate at an altitude of around 300 meters (1,000 feet) where there is no decompression required.
- Do I need to bring my passport?
You don’t need to bring your passport for the scenic flight.
- How can I book the Palau scenic flight?
You can book a Rock Islands scenic flight on the official website for Pacific Mission Aviation.
Rock Islands Boat Tour In Palau
While many people choose to see the islands with a scenic flight, another great option is to visit them with a boat tour.
On a speedboat tour to the Rock Islands of Palau, you can do lots of fun activities like swimming in a bright turquoise lagoon nicknamed the Milky Way, walking on a soft white sandbar called Long Beach, and even snorkeling in a lake full of stingless jellyfish!
If you have the time and budget, you should try to do both activities. The scenic flight and boat tour are very different experiences, but they’re both amazing!
Read More: Rock Islands Palau Boat Tour
More Palau Travel Guides
Thanks for looking! I hope you enjoyed this guide for how to do a Palau scenic flight over the Rock Islands. It was one of my favorite experiences in the little country of Palau.
Don’t forget to check out my Palau Travel Guide before you go!