Visitor Activities

Blacktip shark 512x219

Please remember that access to the Refuge by sea going vessels require a Special Use Permit (SUP) from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Contact the refuge manager at regarding SUPs prior to your visit.

  • Sailing and Motorboating

    With prior approval by the USFWS, privately owned vessels are permitted access to the atoll for up to 7 days to see and enjoy the natural resources of the refuge. A maximum of 2 vessels are allowed at one time and no more than 6 vessels may visit in a single month. As no dumping of any kind is allowed within the Refuge, private vessels must have sufficient holding tanks for all black and gray water to accommodate their needs throughout the entire length of stay. Vessels are required to provide documentation of a hull bottom inspection and cleaning showing the absence of any marine organisms that is dated within two weeks of their departure for the Refuge. Additional documentation of an inspection citing no signs of a rodent presence detected must be completed within 48 hours of departure for the Atoll.  The Refuge is only open for visitation when an FWS manager is present. Contact the Refuge Manager to discuss times the Refuge will be open to visitors. No pets (e.g. dogs and cats) are allowed on the refuge even if they remain aboard the vessel.

  • Wildlife Viewing

    There are excellent snorkeling and bird watching opportunities within the Atoll. For those bringing their own equipment, SCUBA diving is also permitted. Paddle boarding and kayaking are also excellent ways to view wildlife within the lagoon.

  • Photography

    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges has been wildlife photography.  That’s not surprising – the digital camera population explosion and cell phones with ever-improving picture-taking abilities are increasing the number of nature photographers at a rapid rate.  You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started.  A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors.

    Nearly 12 million people visit outdoor areas each year to photograph wildlife, and national wildlife refuges naturally are at the top of the list. Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the Refuge System.  We welcome all levels of photographers to record their outdoor adventures.  

  • Fishing

    Due to the sensitive nature of Palmyra's ecosystem and the high abundance of apex predators, recreational fishing opportunities are very limited Permits for catch and release bone-fishing will only be issued to groups who are led by a resource monitor already familiar with the atoll's environment and refuge regulations who is approved by the Refuge Manager.


    A single resource monitor/guide may accompany no more than two bonefish anglers at a time.  Recreational bonefishing is conducted on a catch-and-release basis with artificial flies and barbless hooks. No more than 4 guides with up to eight anglers may be actively fishing in the lagoon at any one time. Catch rates are documented through daily logs maintained by the approved monitor/guide.