About YapThe Land of Stone Money
Yap Welcomes You!
Unique. No other word describes this remote island group quite so well. Ancient and modern ways coexist here and today Yap is a society with a flavor all its own. Population just 8,000, Yap Island is home to native Yapese, Outer Islanders and a few off-islanders forming a quaint community based on ready smiles and respect.
Yap’s tone is serene and relaxed. Residents take pride in their island and its culture. They want to see this island develop but carefully and responsibly. Holding these Micro Games is a big step forward, the largest international event Yap has ever hosted.
We hope you’ll pause to appreciate Yap’s clean natural beauty and its culture’s special charms. Enjoy your stay!
In the heart of the tiny commercial district of Colonia, the state capital, you’ll discover the Yap Living History Museum. Its name is apt – history is very much alive in Yap. Authentic traditional buildings, the same as still in use throughout Yapese villages, occupy a park-like setting that plays host to regular cultural festivals for the enjoyment of locals and visitors.
Yapese cultural self-identity is rooted in its traditional dances. Centuries old, these carefully rehearsed group performances in elaborate, handmade, traditional attire are a source of competitive village pride. Featuring soaring chants, swirling colors, rhythmic clapping or clashing bamboo poles, these dances are mesmerizing. But more than that, they are the way legends and oral history are passed down through the generations. Don’t miss a chance to experience them.
Check out the canoe houses beside the museum on the lagoon. Yapese celestial navigating skills are legendary, and here they’re kept alive by elders happy to share their lore and boat-building skills. They offer short excursions in hand-carved canoes, too.
You’ve heard about Yap’s famous stone money, the island’s national symbol. You’ll see examples here and there, or better, visit one of the impressive stone money banks. Unique to the island of Yap, this ancient currency is made of limestone quarried and carved in Palau and brought on bamboo canoes to Yap. It is still treasured and exchanged today.
A gift from nature, Yap’s unspoiled reefs offer world-class diving opportunities. Scuba and snorkeling enthusiasts from many countries target Yap as a prime destination, especially to get up-close to our magnificent manta rays. Several dive shops offer undersea adventures and customers seldom leave disappointed.
Almost all the island’s land is privately owned. This means you might need to get permission or pay a small fee to explore some backroads and trails. Ask your host or hotel about this. And of course, respect villagers’ peace and privacy.
How to dress. Cool and casual, for sure, but local custom dictates (for men and women) clothing that cover your legs to the knees.
FSM is the 14th largest country in the world, bigger than China or India! Just kidding, sort of. But FSM’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), at 1,000,000 square miles, does in fact rank 14th in the world. (By land area, we only come in at 176th.)
Yap State boasts the nearest land (Fais Island) to Challenger Deep, the deepest place on the planet at 35,800 feet below sea level. If you dropped Mount Everest there, it would be one mile underwater!
Chances are, you arrived here via Yap International Airport, the only airport in the world whose code (YAP) spells out its whole name. Sorry, GUM!
Yapese stone money is well-known to economists world-wide. It’s taught in university textbooks as an innovation that answers the question: What is money?
Yap State has only 11,000 residents but five official languages: English, Ulithian, Woleaian, Satawalese, and Yapese.
Earliest mention in history: Egyptian trading records from the 1200s mention an island in the Pacific that uses stone money. That could only be Yap!
Then, Now, and Beyond
Yap was first settled over 4,000 years ago. Then the Spanish came and colonized the island from the 1500s until 1899. Next, the Germans, Japanese, and Americans each took a turn at running things until FSM became its own country in 1986. For all that, Yap is still distinctly Yap. Credit goes to its resilient people.
Now we and all our Pacific Island neighbors face a very modern challenge: sustaining precious ways of life in the face of climate change and geopolitics.
“More than just games,” we hope you’ll enjoy this event like a family gathering and connect with new brothers and sisters from other islands. We’re all related. Talk up the future. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.
Photos: Joyce McClure