Aerial view of Arrak Campus on Majuro atoll Marshall Islands

Island Paradises Compared: Palau, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands for Expats

Choosing an offshore location for living, investment, or retirement is no small decision for an expat. The Pacific Islands, with their stunning landscapes and unique cultures, offer intriguing possibilities. Among these, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), and the Republic of the Marshall Islands stand out for their distinctive appeal. But how do these islands compare in terms of population, standard of living, cost of living, and international access? Let’s dive in.


Palau: With a population of just over 18,000, Palau offers a close-knit community vibe. The small population contributes to a sense of intimacy and security, with expats often finding it easy to get to know locals and other expatriates.

Micronesia: The FSM is more populous than Palau, with around 113,000 inhabitants spread across its islands. The larger population allows for more diverse communities, which can be appealing for expats looking for a blend of local and international interactions.

Marshall Islands: Similar in size to Palau, the Marshall Islands are home to approximately 59,000 people. The population is relatively small, fostering tight-knit communities, particularly in the capital, Majuro.

Standard of Living

Palau: Palau is known for its high standard of living compared to other Pacific Island nations, with good healthcare, education, and infrastructure. However, this also means it can be more expensive, balancing out the higher standard of living.

Micronesia: The standard of living in Micronesia can vary significantly between states and islands. Generally, it’s lower than in Palau, with variations in access to healthcare and education. Expats may find that some islands offer basic amenities, while others have more developed infrastructure.

Marshall Islands: The standard of living in the Marshall Islands is generally lower than in Palau but comparable to Micronesia. Health care and educational services are available but may not meet the standards expats are accustomed to. Infrastructure is adequate in urban areas but can be lacking in more remote atolls.

Cost of Living

Palau: The cost of living in Palau is higher than in many other Pacific nations due to its isolated location and dependence on imports. Housing, food, and transportation can be expensive, although this is somewhat offset by the lack of personal income tax.

Micronesia: The cost of living in Micronesia varies by location but is generally lower than in Palau. However, expats should be prepared for higher prices for imported goods and limited availability of certain products.

Marshall Islands: The cost of living here is similar to Micronesia, with expenses varying significantly between urban and rural areas. While local products can be affordable, imported goods and utilities can be costly.

International Access

Palau: Palau enjoys good international connectivity despite its remote location, with direct flights from several Asian cities. This makes it relatively accessible for expats and tourists alike.

Micronesia: International access can be more challenging, depending on the island. The main international airport is in Pohnpei, with limited direct flights from abroad. Travel between islands typically requires additional local flights.

Marshall Islands: International access is similar to Micronesia, with direct flights from a handful of cities in Asia and the Pacific. Internal travel between atolls relies on air and sea transport, which can be infrequent and weather-dependent.


For expats considering a move to the Pacific, Palau, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands each offer unique advantages and challenges. Palau stands out for its higher standard of living and better international access but comes with a higher cost of living. Micronesia offers a more diverse experience with a generally lower cost of living, though with variable standards of living and international access. The Marshall Islands provide a middle ground in terms of cost and standard of living but share Micronesia’s challenges with international access.

Ultimately, the best choice depends on what you’re looking for: whether it’s Palau’s pristine environment and higher standards, Micronesia’s cultural diversity and scattered landscapes, or the Marshall Islands’ tight-knit communities and historical intrigue. Each offers a unique slice of Pacific life, with its own set of rewards and challenges for the adventurous expat.


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