Hi, posting a little bit late for you but here should be some helpful info for future travelers. Yes, United (formerly Continental) is pretty much the best choice if coming from the States. January thru March is generally the best time for diving. The problem is that is considered the 'High Season' and you get the privilege of paying the highest rates for everything. The kayaking is excellent; Palau's scuba diving is world class!
A couple of great resources on Palau:
1) David Noland wrote a great piece on kayaking in Palau called The Secret of the South Pacific: A Guide to Palau (http://away.com/tripideas/palau-sea-kayaking-308961.html). The info easily translates for the diver's needs.
2) There is also a great dive and travel site on Palau called Palau Travel & Dive Photolog (http://palaudiving.wordpress.com). This web site is an amazing resource for diving and traveling to Palau. Whatever you need is probably covered at this site.
Fondest memory: Palau's diving is world class. You may only go once but it will be truly a trip of a life time. There is probably no better endorsement for how good it is than Jacques Cousteau calling it one of the world’s best places to dive or CEDAM calling it one of the Seven Wonders of the Underwater World.
Palau has just about anything a diver could ask for except just about anything you do there will be at level you can't experience anywhere else.
The people are great, too.
It's an understatement to say that the landscape and views are awe inspiring. I couldn't get over how many islands there were or how uniquely beautiful each one was!! The scuba diving/snorkeling is the biggest must-do activity in Palau. Second to the water sports was the opportunity we had to learn the historical significance that WWII played on the island of Pelilu. This was hands-on learning at is best.
Fondest memory: My fondest memory was snorkeling in Jellyfish Lake. It made my entire trip. I've heard that the jellyfish population is on the decline, so this is an absolute must-do. Note: You'll need a permit to visit this area. Ours was included in our package tour for around $35USD. Also, please be VERY careful when snorkeling here. The jellyfish are extremely fragile and even a hard thrust of your hand can kill them. I also suggest not wearing any sunblock while snorkeling here - this may be one of the reason for the decline in population.
Mobile phone on GSM roaming is non-existent in Palau.
Official currency is the US dollars
Tipping is optional in Palau
Expect to pay about US$20 for a dinner meal; however, there are decent budget eats around the town.
A half day land tour for 8 pax roughly cost US$20-25 per person
Seeing the local critters. Like this lizard, who has claimed a condo (tree) on his own island paradise. But don't forget the jellyfish. I wish I had my own island paradise too.
But did you know, foreigners can only lease land. Ownership is not allowed unless you are a local.
Fondest memory: Friendly people, vacation, island paradise, friends that I've made.
Tall trees along the beaches, allowing for shade when you swim. Local vegetation is abundant and green.
Favorite thing: A few things to keep an eye out for are stone paths and terraces. You will see some of these on Babeldaob Island. The stone footpaths are still used and connect villages together. I walked along one for a while and it took me to a sort of hang out spot in the jungle. A lot of the stones are rounded and can be slippery when wet. Terraces are still easily visible as they are a couple around the island. They are still a bit of a mystery as there weren't really any villages around them and they were abandoned around 1600 or so.
Favorite thing: Bais were quite important to Palauans during the days of yore. They were a traditional meeting place for men. They had bais for chiefs only and bais as a sort of clubhouse where young men would learn how to be come a man. The only women that were ever allowed to enter bais would be the ones there for entertainment purposes only. They are elevated off the ground as they are on stone platforms. They are quite decorated with paintings and carvings telling of local legends. Most of the original bais have been destroyed. The bai in the picture is a newly built one in Koror by the Belau National Museum.
Favorite thing: The Taste of Palau festival showcases the food and handicrafts of Palau. It is a good festival considering the size of the country. They have various sorts of traditional food plus new food made out of traditional products. There a couple dozen stands to look at and do some shopping for knick knacks. They have live music playing and contests happening with some decent prizes, even useful for tourists. It goes on for a couple of days at the end of March and is held in Bethlehem Park in Koror.
Favorite thing: The Palau Visitor Authority is located at the intersection of the main road and the road that goes off to Ngerekebesang Island in Koror. I found these guys to be amazingly helpful in helping plan my vacation. I would ask them a question about a state and they would phone them up and try to find the answers for me. Even when I wanted to go to Peleliu Island and the ferry rides didn't match my remaining time left, they arranged a seperate boat ride and was able to get me a tour guide for the island and book my accomodation on short notice. They have brochures for many things involving the country and the air condition office is a nice break from the heat and humidity of outside.
Paradise thru distorted mirrors: Is the mug half empty, or it is just that it has been filled a few too many times....
Sitting out in the sun, chugging a few too many cold ones can make one ponder such things...
After being underwater for most of the day, I cant describe how enjoyable it was to sit on the beach (or in the pool) at the hotel, sip on a beer, and watch the fading sun light up the sky in reds and oranges...
Every day the sunset was different there, but they were all spectacular....
There's nothing quite like a Giant Manta... Sharks are exciting, Eagle Rays are gracefully. Clownfish makes for nice photo ops, but to see they giant creatures sweep through the water is the best...
Once day (hopefully) I'll get some pictures in crystal clear water of one... (They're strainer feeders, so are often found in water that is not so clear...)
A quick glance off the stern finds four more of the beasts.... Now even VT members less learned than Dr. Manueleb could probably calculate that the big fish appear to be propogating at a geometric rate...
I can say that Palau is the first place that I have dove where you don't only see sharks on every dive, but you are actually surrounded by them on most every dive....
Well, lesseee.... I saw the first shark of the trip about 30 seconds into the first dive....
Just lucky maybe.... Well, I can fill out the requirement for at least one or two shark pictures anway....
Kinda of a Michael Jackson of the deep thing going on here....
I dunno why, but this diver decided to try to do an upsidedown moonwalk across the bottom of the hull after this particular dive...
Im sure there's a reason...
snorkle jellyfish lake. Camp on any of the rock islands. My dive shop dropped me off on my own island for the night with a full tank of air and gear.
Fondest memory: Fruit bats flying in the full moon light while I camped on a island about 10 miles from the next human. Oh man, if you have the ability to go to Palau.... GO NOW!