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Visitor Activities

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Please remember that all visitor activities require a Special Use Permit (SUP) from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Contact the refuge manager at regarding SUPs to arrange 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 up to 6 yachts may visit in a month. Private vessels must have U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved holding tanks for sewage and an appropriate and current USCG inspection certificate. Additional precautions include the need for visiting yachts and ships to have clean hulls free of fouling organisms prior to entering the reefs and West Lagoon at Palmyra.

  • Wildlife Viewing

    Up to 12 visitors at any one time are allowed to participate in wildlife viewing through recreational diving and snorkeling programs. Two groups of up to 4 divers or snorkelers are allowed per boat at lagoon, channel or ocean reef sites at any given time. An additional 4 snorkelers are allowed using a third small skiff near the lagoon or channel area. Thus, the total capacity is a combination of up to 12 snorkelers and divers.

  • Environmental Education

    Members of the public are permitted to visit the refuge to participate in environmental education and interpretive hikes, and other self-guided or staff-guided walks, and motorboat or kayak outings on the refuge. Wildlife photography is also a part of this activity. Up to 30 participants at any one time are allowed to participate in refuge environmental education and interpretive programs, including hikers and kayakers. A minimum of one approved guide for each group of hikers and kayakers is required. Groups of hikers or kayakers are not to exceed 10 individuals.

  • Photography

    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges in the past ten years 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.  Refuges provide enhanced opportunities to photograph wildlife in natural habitats by providing platforms, brochures, interpreters, viewing areas, and tour routes.  Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the Refuge System.  We welcome beginning and expert photographers alike to record their outdoor adventures on film, memory card or internal hard drive! 

  • Fishing

    Due to the sensitive nature of Palmyra's ecosystem and the high abundance of apex predators, recreational fishing opportunities are very limited as permits would only be issued to groups who are lead by fishing guide's who are already familiar with the atoll's environment and the refuge regulations.



    Recreational bonefishing is conducted at Palmyra on a catch-and-release basis with artificial flies and barbless hooks. A total of eight anglers are allowed in the lagoons at one time, with no more than 2 fishing outings permitted per day. Catch rates are monitored through daily logs and tagging studies in order to assure sustainable fishery conditions. 

    The offshore sport fishing program at Palmyra allows visitors access to pelagic game-fish, including tuna (ahi), wahoo (ono), and mahi-mahi. Fishing is limited to 8 people per trip, with no more than 2 boats at a time, with up to 3 trips per day. Fishing logs are required for each trip. Only pelagic species are permitted to be kept for on-island consumption.

    No sportfish of any kind are permitted to be shipped off the atoll for any reason. No bottom fish or reef fish are allowed to be targeted, and any that are accidentally caught are to be immediately released. Jacks can be fished on a catch-and-release basis, and none are permitted to be consumed or retained for any reason.

Page Photo Credits — Credit: USFWS
Last Updated: Apr 13, 2016
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