Kiritimati, or Christmas Island, is a raised coral island in the Pacific Ocean and is part of the Republic of Kiribati. It actually has the biggest land area of any coral island in the world at approximately 150 square miles. The atoll's lagoon, or central area, is about the same size. Kiritimati is about 144 miles north of the Equator and just 1,340 miles south of Honolulu. It’s the world’s farthest forward time zone, coming in at UTC+14. It’s also the first inhabited places in the world to experience the New Year.
The island started to see permanent settlers by 1892, which were mostly workers in coconut plantations and fisherman. It was later occupied by Allied Forces in WWII, with Americans taking over and creating the first airstrip, which provided rest and refueling for planes going between the South Pacific and Hawaii. In 1975, the Captain Cook Hotel was built on a former military base.
In the late 1950s, the United Kingdom did nuclear tests around the island. The U.S. did the same in 1962. During these tests, the island’s inhabitants weren’t evacuated, and some of the islanders have claimed to have suffered due to the radiation exposure. The atoll is now considered a wildlife sanctuary, with access to five sensitive areas that are completely restricted to outsiders.
There are about 5,000 people residing on this atoll, with five villages (four populated and one abandoned). The main villages are Tabwakea, London and Banana, which are located on the main road just at the northern tip of the atoll. The Cassidy International Airport is located just north of Banana and now sees weekly charter flights from Hawaii via American Te Mauri Travel.
Much of the interest in the island comes from tourists, mainly anglers interested in fishing the expansive lagoon as well as offshore fishing. Additionally, there are week-long ecotourism packages to the island. Recently, many surfers have come due to the good surfing waves during winter.
Upon arrival, there are a number of ways to get from the airport to the island of Malé or other atolls within the nation. Several companies offer sea planes from the airport, such as Trans Maldivian Airways or Maldivian Air Taxi. Speedboats and ferries are also available at the airport. The ferry schedule can be found at the Malé Airport website, located here.
Many of the same methods are used to get around the rest of the nation as well, although schedules and methods will be more sporadic depending on your location and destination.