While booking my Aeroplan mini-RTW miles redemption, I decided to do the United Island Hopper as my final segment of the trip. This flight path is very unique as one United Airlines plane would hop from one Pacific Island nation to the next until it reaches its final destination.
The United Island Hopper starts in Manila and hops over to Koror in Palau. Afterwards, it hops over to Guam, then Chuuk in Micronesia, Pohnpei in Micronesia, and Kosrae in Micronesia. The final segments would then take you to Kwajalein Atoll in Marshall Islands, Majuro in Marshall Islands, and finally arriving in Honolulu in Hawaii.
The whole journey would take me nearly three days to complete. I’m very glad I did this journey as it gave me the opportunity to explore some of the little know island nations in the Pacific Ocean.
United Island Hopper segments
Manila, Philippines to Koror, Palau
After spending Christmas in Manila, my girlfriend and I began our journey back home to Vancouver, Canada. The first segment in the United Island Hopper was from Manila to Koror. We were issued several boarding pass for this leg of the journey.
The flight from Manila to Koror was a painful one. The airplane was fully booked and we ended up sitting at the very back of the plane. This was especially bad because our seats couldn’t recline at all. As a result, our backs hurt from the long flight.
When we arrived in Koror, many of the passengers got off the plane while new passengers got on. In between this short transit, the cleaning crew came in the plane and cleaned up the trash left by the previous group of travellers. We also switched seats on our plane for the next leg of our trip.
Koror, Palau to Guam, USA
After swapping seats, we felt a bit more comfortable with seats that can recline. United Airlines in general doesn’t have one of the most comfortable airplanes.
When we finally reached Guam, Karen and myself were dead exhausted. I was still feeling sick because I haven’t fully healed from my food poisoning bout that I got from Madagascar. We decided prior to travelling to Guam that we would book a room in the Guam airport hotel to recuperate after an exhausting overnight flight.
When we arrived in Guam, I was still feeling ill because I had a fever not too long before travelling here. We mostly used our time in Guam to rest up.
I was a bit choked that I was sick because I really wanted to see the Underwater World in Guam. However, not wanting to throw away our layover here, we decided to go for a walk and at least try out the local food. This turned out to be a great decision because the local Guam food is very good!
Ridiculously delicious chicken with red rice
After eating, we went to a local K-Mart in Guam to get some bottled water and bananas and got ready to head back to the airport for the next segment of our flight.
Guam, USA to Chuuk, Micronesia
Turns out you are allowed to bring food through security in Guam, just not water. I was able to bring some of the bananas I purchased from K-Mart and ate them while waiting to board for our flight.
Our next segment in this United Island Hopper took us from Guam to Chuuk, Micronesia. This segment would be a fairly short flight.
Upon arrival, we waited in line to go through immigration. We also noticed some of the passengers hopped off just to get a passport stamp then went back to the plane. I guess they’re pretty relaxed in Micronesia and they’re okay with tourist getting passport stamps as souvenirs.
Arriving in Chuuk
Not long after we got through immigration, we were greeted by bag checkers. They thought Karen and myself were Japanese and were motioning to us using body language if we brought any sake with us. We said no back and spoke to them perfect English. The bag checker looked surprised.
After getting out of the airport, our hotel has a vehicle waiting to pick us up and take us to our accommodation (High Tide Hotel). The hotel is very basic and costed us $70 USD for one night. I had to call the hotel long distance to book a room because they don’t have any online booking or email address published online.
One thing I noticed was the giant creepy crawlers that wandered in some parts of the hotel. Just outside our room was a giant spider that you can see on the picture below. We also had a cockroach in our room which Karen killed for me because she’s not scared of them (unlike me).
Giant spider from hell
The next morning, I was still feeling ill so I decided to eat congee for breakfast. I wish I wasn’t sick because they had amazing food in the hotel restaurant!
We didn’t do much in Chuuk because we only had a short layover, just enough to sleep and head back to the airport. However, Chuuk is more of a diving destination so if you’re not diving, there’s really not much to see.
Chuuk, Micronesia to Pohnpei, Micronesia
After eating breakfast, we went back to the airport and boarded our plane. We paid the departure tax in Chuuk which was an expensive $30 USD per person.
Our next destination from here is Pohnpei. Looking out of the window of the plane, you can see many atolls that surround Chuuk, it was definitely very scenic.
Finally, we arrive at Pohnpei where we would be spending 24 hours exploring the island. We booked a tour to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site called Nan Madol. I wrote a lengthy blog post about my experience which you can check out here.
Pohnpei is probably the most tourist friendly island in Micronesia. There’s a lot to do and explore from ancient ruins to World War 2 relics and of course hiking trails!
After we completed exploring the Nan Madol the next morning, we were off to the airport again to head to our next stop – Kosrae.
Pohnpei, Micronesia to Kosrae, Micronesia
We barely made it back to the airport on time. As soon as we finished checking in, they closed down the check in counter. Afterwards, we went to pay the Pohnpei departure tax of $20 and went through security.
The security staff used a swab on my laptop and put it in this machine. Suddenly, the machine starts beeping red and so the security staff started doing additional checks.
For some reason, it kept beeping red every time they swabbed my laptop. I’m not sure why it was happening because the airports before didn’t have this issue. They eventually let me through which had me worried why my laptop kept beeping red when they swabbed it.
When I checked online, apparently, when they swab your laptop, it is because they’re looking for explosives.
After this security check was finally over, we were off again to our next layover which is the beautiful island of Kosrae.
I kind of wish we had time to get off the plane and explore Kosrae. It’s probably the nicest looking island in Micronesia so far. It was very green and lush with beautiful mountains. Oh well, maybe in another lifetime.
Kosrae, Micronesia to Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands
Without much delay, we were off again. This time, we were landing in the US military base at the Kwajalein Atoll. According to many websites, you’re not suppose to take pictures there but the flight crew never mentioned anything on that matter when we landed. As a matter of fact, the only thing they mentioned was not to get off the plane; otherwise, we would get scolded by the US military personnel.
Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands to Majuro, Marshall Islands
The next leg would take us to Majuro, the capital of Marshall Islands. I was excited to disembark here because I heard we are allowed to ask for a passport stamp as souvenir. The flight crew told me if I go to the waiting room, there’s a window there where I can speak to the immigration officers and ask for a passport stamp. “Cool!”, I thought, and off I went and followed their directions.
Turns out that I was wrong. The immigration officer looks at me and tells me they don’t give out passport stamp souvenirs. He then tells me if I want a passport stamp, then I have to stay at least one night in Majuro to get one.
Damn…well I guess I have to come back here again one day. I waited in the waiting room until it was time to board again.
Majuro, Marshall Islands to Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
The final leg of our trip would take us from Majuro to Honolulu. The flight was quite long and I was restless. When we finally arrived in Honolulu, I was dead tired and wasn’t feeling good.
Luckily immigration moved fast and we were able to catch the airport hotel shuttle to our accommodation. We didn’t get much sleep because we arrived at 3am and had to check out at 11am the next morning.
I definitely was feeling sick still. Thankfully, I predicted something like this would happen and so we booked an Airbnb in Honolulu before we left Pohnpei.
The Airbnb we stayed at was very comfortable and we were well taken care of by our host. I ended up sleeping the entire afternoon which I really needed. When I finally woke up, I felt significantly better and took the time to at least try some local Hawaiian food before we left the island.
United Island Hopper experience conclusion
Eventually, it was time for us to leave Hawaii and head back to Vancouver. Worried that I would get sick again, I decided to use some of my Alaska Airline miles and upgrade our flight from Honolulu to Seattle to “First Class”. I put it in quotation because it didn’t seem like a first class flight at all. The seats were bigger but that’s about it. I wonder to this day if my Alaska miles went to waste by redeeming it on this.
We boarded one more leg in Seattle going back to Vancouver and before long we were back home.
The entire United Island Hopper trip is as exhausting as it sounds. It’s a very long journey and definitely very interesting. However, I think it’s quite rough on the body to do all these flights and I’m not sure if I would do it again.
I think like anything, it was an awesome once in a lifetime experience. I just wish I wasn’t sick when we did it so I could have thoroughly enjoy it more. Not to mention eat some of the delicious food that many of these island nations had to offer!