Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge

Hawaii

(808) 792-9560

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, a circular string of 52 islets, is one of the most diverse and spectacular coral reef systems in the world. Over 130 species of stony corals populate the reefs. About 1,000 miles south-southwest of Honolulu, the atoll is the only nesting habitat for migratory seabirds and shorebirds within 450,000 square miles of ocean. It consists of about 680 acres of above-water forest lands and 515,232 acres of submerged lands and open water, including approximately 16,094 acres of coral reef habitat. It is the only undeveloped and unpopulated wet atoll left in the tropical Pacific. The lush vegetation supports over a million birds of 29 species. Palmyra also provides a rest stop for the bristle-thighed curlew, a species of concern. Some 4,000 miles from Alaska, Palmyra is the first place the bird rests on its journey to French Polynesia. Only 6,000 of these rare birds are thought to exist, and several hundred of them spend the winter on Palmyra. Numerous other unique wildlife species also occur here.

Map of Palmyra Atoll NWR

Latitude, Longitude: 5.875600, -162.059326

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Activities

  • Boating

    With prior approval by the USFWS, privately owned vessels are permitted access to the atoll for up to 7 days to see and enjoy the natural resources of the refuge. A maximum of 2 vessels are allowed at one time and up to 6 yachts may visit in a month. Private vessels must have U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved holding tanks for sewage and an appropriate and current USCG inspection certificate. Additional precautions include the need for visiting yachts and ships to have clean hulls free of fouling organisms prior to entering the reefs and West Lagoon at Palmyra.

  • Fishing

    Recreational bonefishing is conducted at Palmyra on a catch-and-release basis with artificial flies and barbless hooks. A total of eight anglers are allowed in the lagoons at one time, with no more then 2 fishing outings permitted per day. Catch rates are monitored through daily logs and tagging studies in order to assure sustainable fishery conditions.

    The offshore sport fishing program at Palmyra allows visitors access to pelagic game-fish, including tuna (ahi), wahoo (ono), and mahi-mahi. Fishing is limited to 8 people per trip, with no more than 2 boats at a time, with up to 3 trips per day. Fishing logs are required for each trip. Only pelagic species are permitted to be kept for on-island consumption.

    No sportfish of any kind are permitted to be shipped off the atoll for any reason. No bottom fish or reef fish are allowed to be targeted, and any that are accidentally caught are to be immediately released. Jacks can be fished on a catch-and-release basis, and none are permitted to be consumed or retained for any reason.

  • Water Sports

    Up to 12 visitors at any one time are allowed to participate in recreational diving and snorkeling programs. Two groups of up to 4 divers or snorkelers are allowed per boat at lagoon, channel or ocean reef sites at any given time. An additional 4 snorkelers are allowed using a third small skiff near the lagoon or channel area. Thus, the total capacity is a combination of up to 12 snorkelers and divers.

  • Wildlife Watching

    Wildlife viewing can be conducted through diving and snorkeling. Up to 12 visitors at any one time are allowed to participate in recreational diving and snorkeling programs. Two groups of up to 4 divers or snorkelers are allowed per boat at lagoon, channel or ocean reef sites at any given time. An additional 4 snorkelers are allowed using a third small skiff near the lagoon or channel area. Thus, the total capacity is a combination of up to 12 snorkelers and divers.

Directions

Flying

Public access to Palmyra Atoll is self-limiting due to the very high expense of traveling to such a remote destination. The Nature Conservancy owns and operates the only airplane runway on Palmyra and by boat, it's a 5-7 day sailing trip from Honolulu. There are four ways the public may gain access to the refuge:

Working for, contracting with, or volunteering for The Nature Conservancy or Fish and Wildlife Service; Conducting scientific research via Fish and Wildlife Service Special Use Permits Invitation through The Nature Conservancy sponsored donor trip Visitation by private recreational sailboat or motorboat.

With prior approval by the Fish and Wildlife Service, privately owned vessels are permitted access to the Palmyra Atoll NWR for up to 7 days to see and enjoy the natural resources of the refuge. A maximum of 2 vessels are allowed at one time and up to 6 yachts may visit in a month. Private vessels must have U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved holding tanks for sewage and an appropriate and current USGC inspection certificate. Contact the Refuge Manager to arrange and secure your visit.

Access to Cooper Island must be arranged and secured through The Nature Conservancy. Contact the Deputy Director of the The Nature Conservancy's Palmyra Program at [email protected] for further information.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(808) 792-9560

Links