Palmyra Atoll

Capital N/A
Currency United States dollar (USD)
Population 0 (2018)
Electricity 120±6 volt / 60 hertz (NEMA 1-15, NEMA 5-15)
Country code N/A
Time zone UTC−11:00, Samoa Time Zone
Emergencies No emergency line

Palmyra Atoll is an uninhabited atoll in the Line Islands in Micronesia, 1,105 mi (1,778 km) (or 960 nautical miles) south of Honolulu, about half way between Hawaii and American Samoa. Its nearest neighbor is uninhabited Kingman Reef to the northwest; the nearest inhabited islands are those of Kiribati.


Map of Palmyra Atoll

Palmyra Atoll is administered from Washington, D.C., by the Fish and Wildlife Service of the US Department of the Interior. The atoll is partly privately owned and partly federally owned. Travellers are permitted to visit the refuge by private boat in certain circumstances. Visits must have prior approval.

The Kingdom of Hawaii claimed the atoll in 1862, and the US included it among the Hawaiian Islands when it annexed the archipelago in 1898. The Hawaii Statehood Act of 1959 did not include Palmyra Atoll, which is now primarily privately owned by the Nature Conservancy with the rest owned by the US government and managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. These organizations are managing the atoll as a wildlife refuge. The lagoons and surrounding waters within the 12 nm US territorial seas were transferred to the US Fish and Wildlife Service and designated as a National Wildlife Refuge in January 2001. A new international climatology research station began development in 2005.

The high rainfall and resulting lush vegetation make the environment of this atoll unique among the US Pacific Island territories. It supports one of the largest remaining undisturbed stands of Pisonia beach forest in the Pacific.

The atoll is best known for an incident which took place in 1974, when a yachting couple who arrived at the atoll with supplies for a year's vacation, discovered another poorly-provisioned couple (one fleeing a prison sentence), who took their ship and apparently murdered them both. The crime was the subject of a book published in 1991.



Palmyra is equatorial and hot. It's located within the low pressure area of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) where the northeast and southeast trade winds meet, which has also contributed to its shores being littered with debris carried by Pacific currents. It is extremely wet with between 160–200 inches (410–510 cm) of rainfall each year.



Palmyra consists of several low and nearly level sandy coral islands with narrow fringing reef that has developed at the top of a submerged volcanic mountain, rising steeply from the ocean floor. The islands are mostly connected (depending on the tide).

Get in


To visit Palmyra Atoll, you are required to get a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Their website advises: "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: (1) Working for, contracting with, or volunteering for The Nature Conservancy or Fish and Wildlife Service; (2) Conducting scientific research via Fish and Wildlife Service Special Use Permits; (3) Invitation through The Nature Conservancy sponsored donor trip; (4) Visitation by private recreational sailboat or motorboat."

For the truly adventurous and determined, jobs to work on the islands are periodically available for six-month stretches.

By plane


There is a 2,187-yard (2,000 m) unpaved airstrip on Cooper Island (the largest island, in the north), owned by the Nature Conservancy.

By boat


There are two moorings in the lagoon just off Cooper Island. The atoll is a 5-7 day sailing trip from Honolulu.


Reef habitats at Palmyra Atoll

There are a couple of natural sights on this small island; two lagoons, the extensive coral reef and several small sand islets.


  • Snorkeling
  • Birdwatching
  • Wildlife photography
  • Fishing is possible but heavily restricted and requires a special permit.
  • Treasure hunting

Buy, eat and drink


There are no facilities on Palmyra Atoll.



There are no public accommodations on Palmyra Atoll; the limited facilities are for researchers' use only.

Stay safe


Unexploded Ordnance may be present due to the Island's military past. Quail and Barren Islands are closed due to a high presence of UXO.

Shake out your bedding before you hop in, as brown spiders are known to crawl inside; they are not venomous.

Stay healthy


Make sure to drink plenty of water.



Go next


This park travel guide to Palmyra Atoll is an outline and needs more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. Please plunge forward and help it grow!