Palmyra Atoll

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WorldCentral PacificHawaiiLine Islands, HawaiiPalmyra Atoll
Palmyra Atoll
05°53.000'N, 162°05.000'W Chart icon.png
Palmyra Atoll

Palmyra Island has an isolated location, and since there has been no human activity for 60 years since the navy left, the coral reef is as pristine as you are likely to find. Since the end of WW11, the island has been owned by various concerns, including a Judge in Hawaii, a fishing concern that never got off the ground until the Nature Conservancy acquired Cooper Island. A permit, acquired in Hawaii, is technically required to visit the island, with a limit of 2 yachts visiting at any one time, and a limit of a week total visit. Check if the rules have changed prior to going.

Palmyra is one of the Northern Line Islands (southeast of Kingman Reef and north of Kiribati Line Islands), located almost due south of the Hawaiian Islands, roughly halfway between Hawaii and American Samoa. It's 9 mi (14 km) of coastline has one anchorage known as West Lagoon. It consists of an extensive reef, two shallow lagoons, and some 50 sand and reef-rock islets and bars covered with vegetation — mostly coconut trees, Scaevola, and tall Pisonia trees.

The islets of the atoll are all connected, except Sand Island in the west and Barren Island in the east. The largest island is Cooper Island in the north, followed by Kaula Island in the south. The northern arch of islets is formed by Strawn Island, Cooper Island, Aviation Island, Quail Island, Whippoorwill Island, followed in the east by Eastern Island, Papala Island, and Pelican Island, and in the south by Bird Island, Holei Island, Engineer Island, Tanager Island, Marine Island, Kaula Island, Paradise Island, and Home Island (clockwise).


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Local weather conditions are just at the edge of the NE trades, and it rains, a lot averaging 175".

Sources for Weather forecasts:

  • NOAA weatherfax covers this area


Roughly 900 miles to/from Hawaii, we made the trip in 5 days in a very fast boat in June when we had a good window with strong NE trades and reached the whole way. The system moved just as we got there, and then the trip would have been much slower. On our way back from Samoa, we were hard on the wind and never got enough easting to get there, so tacking would have been in order, so if coming up from the south, make all the easting you can, when you can. To make it to Hawaii, most experienced skippers try to make it to Fanning Island before heading north, So Palmyra is too far west.


  • Just give 'Palmyra Island' a call on ch16, there is no one else around for hundreds of miles

Also see World Cruiser's Nets.


Entry is 052 degrees from the SW (avoid the foul ground to the west) This is a dredged channel from the navy. We saw depths of 26 feet, but if you wander the edge is very abrupt and 2 vessels have been lost by being too far west. Sand Island to the east, wooded, is the dredge spoil from the channel. The channel is over a mile long, and there is a range marker. The range markers may or not be visible in the distinct clearing. The range marks are a long distance across the lagoon, and it is easy to mistake the concrete block as one of the marks. The surf breaks on Penguin Spit to the south.

There are buoys shown on the chart at the outer entrance to the channel, and they are no longer there. We used C-Map charts, and the detail was adequate. Use your eyeballs for deep blue water depth and follow the obviously deep water in.

Once in the lagoon, follow the deep water over to the concrete apron and the obvious buildings and anchor. Anchoring near the end of the airstrip is prohibited as the aircraft/mast issue.



Marinas & Yacht Clubs

Marina, no. Yacht club, minimal.


  • The chartlet shows 'ruins', which is not the case, as the researchers using the island have their small boats there on the existing launch ramp. Most visiting boats anchor off the bulkheading there, and duck over to the little dingy dock near the 'yacht club'. TNC does not want you to anchor elsewhere, as the spots shallow enough to anchor are either near the airport approach or near bird nesting sites, and there are lots of birds here



Nothing available here, all barged in from Hawaii once a year. The original Navy cistern is in use, and the significant rainfall is used for keeping the tank filled, if well supplied, very limited quantities may be available.


N/A (Not Available).


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Pack it in/Pack it out.



N/A (Not Available).

Cooking gas

N/A (Not Available).


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Available if you have your Iridium phone working...

Mobile connectivity

Is there mobile telephone signal such as G4, G3, GPRS in the island? How strong is the signal? Are there any blind spots?

Vehicle Rentals

Bring flip flops.


N/A (Not Available).


Truly a sail in/sail out destination. Only an absolutely life threatening situation might get a flight chartered from Hawaii.

Eating out

None, but a picnic at the North Beach lawn chairs is very scenic, and if you have brought a garbage bag, pick up a bag full of plastic from the beach while you are there!



Give a short history of the island.)

Places to Visit

Cooper Island is under the control of the nature conservancy, the rest is US Fish and Wildlife. Cooper Island has well established walking paths, and has been cleared of leftover WW11 explosives, mostly. The 'yacht club' has an assortment (that have been defused) should you have any doubts about staying on the paths. The other islands are off limits.


Contact details of "Cruiser's Friends" that can be contacted for local information or assistance.


List links to discussion threads on partnering forums. (see link for requirements)



See Hawaii.


We welcome users' contributions to the Wiki. Please click on Comments to view other users' comments, add your own personal experiences or recommend any changes to this page following your visit.

  • We had a great time here. There are buoys to tie up to so that you can tie up and leave your dingy to dive/snorkel and not damage the pristine coral. There are no supplies, so plan on having everything with you.

Verified by

Date of member's last visit to Palmyra Atoll and this page's details validated:

  • Concerto was here June, 2006. This Wiki page updated Jan '10.

This is a usable page of the cruising guide. However, please contribute if you can to help it grow further. Click on Comments to add your personal notes on this page or to discuss its contents. Alternatively, if you feel confident to edit the page, click on the edit tab at the top and enter your changes directly.

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Names: Lighthouse

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