Nanumea is the northwesternmost of the Tuvalu group, and its twin lagoons are considered by many to be the most beautiful. The two islands here are about five km apart. On Lakena Island is a small freshwater lake surrounded by palm and pandanus. American Passage, just west of Lolua village on Nanumea Island, was cut through the reef for 500 meters by the U.S. Army during WW II to allow small boats to enter the lagoon. It's said that yachts can can enter the eastern lagoon through this passage although this has not been verified recently. An unprotected anchorage is off the northwest end of Lakena.
In 1943 the entire population of the atoll was moved across the lagoon to Lakena Island as U.S. Navy Seabees began constructing an airfield a mile long on Nanumea. Almost half of the atoll's coconut trees were sacrificed for the runway and as many as 2,300 U.S. personnel were stationed here at the time of the invasion of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands. Nanumea experienced two Japanese air raids and a U.S. landing craft still sits on the reef. Aircraft wreckage (mainly B-24s) is strewn around the atoll.
If you have a head for heights, climb the pointed spire of the church—the view is worth it—but get permission from the pastor first. This German-style tower is one of the highest in the South Pacific, not at all what you'd expect to find on such a remote island. At the Nanumea Island Council Guesthouse guests may cook for themselves, which is a good idea as the meals prepared by the attendant are overpriced.