Polynesian and Micronesian islands gave birth to some of the oldest human civilizations. These ancient Polynesians were famous wayfarers and navigators, often reaching islands hundreds of miles away on rudimentary sailboats, relying on the sun, wind, and birds for navigation. Inhabiting islands such as the Easter Island, lying more than a thousand miles away from the nearest inhabited island, is a stunning testament to this ability.
The South Pacific is one of the sparsest regions in the world, with individual islands sometimes separated by more than 1,000 miles. However, this barren waterland holds some of the most charming and alluring tourist destinations we could have ever imagined. Beaches are aplenty, so is cultural history, and so are unique, delicious cuisines! Its pristine islands, insistent though they may be about preserving the conditions that led them to becoming favorites with tourists, are slowly starting to take some large steps towards trying to attract visitors. Here is a list of the best destinations in the South Pacific.
Islands in the South Pacific are divided into three regions: Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia. Melanesia lies to the northeast of Australia, and includes countries such as Fiji and Vanuatu, and the island of New Guinea. Micronesia lies to the north of Melanesia, to the east of the Philippines and Taiwan. Polynesia is a triangular region, with the triangle being formed by the three 'points' of New Zealand in the south, Hawaii in the North, and Easter Island in the southeast. Islands from all three of these regions have been listed here.
Gems of the South Pacific
- Cook Islands
- Easter Island
- New Caledonia
- Solomon Islands
- Pitcairn Island
- Bora Bora
These islands have fairly calm weather all year round, but the southern winter, coinciding with the northern summer, is the best time to visit. Summers on these islands are humid and rainy, and thus, best avoided. Countries such as Fiji, Vanuatu, and Solomon Islands are rich in soft coral, and are home to a wide variety of marine species, including sharks and rays.
You don't need any specific vaccinations to travel to these countries, and the U.S. Dollar is a suitable currency to carry. Residents of the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand don't need a visa for most countries. Many of these countries are either part of or dependent on Western countries, and you need to get a visa of that country to visit these islands. However, it is recommended to confirm the status from official sources, since different countries in the region may have different entry requirements. Another point of note is to remember to carry a universal adapter, since there is a variety in the voltage and type of sockets found in these countries. So, if you can't find the specific details of the country you want to visit, just be flexible.
Visiting multiple countries in the South Pacific is not recommended (and sometimes not even possible), due to infrequent transport between the various countries.
Vanuatu, located to the east of Australia, gained independence from a unique French-British joint government in 1980. It is, of course, full of stunning beaches, but what sets it apart is the prevalence of cargo cults worshiping a mythical 'John Frum', who is popular all over the country. An active volcano on Tanna island, which you can watch harmlessly from quite close, also adds to the attraction of this island nation.
Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila, strikes a bewildering contrast to the hinterlands with its urban splendor. It is a great hub for horse riding trails, scuba diving, surfing. Kava, a popular local beverage, is also worth a shot.
Fiji is probably the most well-known travel destination among these scattered countries. It is famous for its beaches, and various related activities. With a large amount of soft corals present in the sea around it, it's no surprise that scuba diving is the most popular activity. Other popular tourist destinations include the Sigatoka Sand Dunes, the Sri Siva Subramaniya Swamy Temple, and Botanical Gardens in Suva.
Due to its emphasis on promoting tourism, Fiji offers various options for travelers of varying budget. This is rare in most other islands, where tourism is relatively emergent as a major industry, and thus, the infrastructure can be pricey. However, Fiji has also gained a notoriety for the propensity to harbor diseases such as dengue and hepatitis. If you have been immunized against these, Fiji is perfect for you.
It's pronounced New-ay, before you ask. Niue is an associated state of New Zealand, and is gradually waking to its potential as a seaside vacation spot. It has stunning beach vistas to offer aplenty, besides numerous opportunities to explore caves. Niue is also the first nation to offer wireless internet services to the entire population.
Cook Islands offer very diverse avenues to enjoy the sea. Its relaxed, laid-back lifestyle is, of course, conducive to an excellent vacation. Kayaking is very popular on Rarotonga's Muri beach. Its island cuisine is also a must-try. Rarotonga and Aitutaki are also some of the best scuba diving destinations in the region. It also has many historical monuments and museums detailing the history of the natives.
Easter Island is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world. It is mainly popular for the moai, mysterious statues erected by the native Rapa Nui people, but it also has several other attractions that warrant a visit. There are mountains to climb, crater lakes to marvel at, and stunning beaches to relax on.
Easter Island is a part of Chile, and only Chilean airlines fly there, so you will have to plan your visit accordingly. If you live in Eastern Asia or Australia, this may mean flying halfway round the world and then some. Also, in contrast to other islands on this list, where English or French are the dominant languages, Spanish is the language to master on Easter Island.
Tonga, is, as the locals are proud to maintain, the only South Pacific island not to fall under colonial rule. It is filled with stunning beaches where you can do pretty much every aquatic activity, including whale watching, surfing, and kayaking. When it comes to the latter two, this country is one of the best kept secrets. There are many ancient temples on these islands as well.
This French special collectivity offers one of the most diverse vacations in the South Pacific. Due to the French influence, life on this island has become an enigmatic confluence of European and native cultures. The capital, Nouméa, is one of the most urbanized and modern cities in the region, and offers many avenues of shopping and cuisine. However, the east coast of the main island, along with the outer islands, offer a more intrinsic view of island life.
Opportunities for aquatic activities are aplenty, with kayaking, surfing, and sailing among the most popular. The outer islands also provide a fantastic chance to sample the delicious native cuisine. These islands house the second largest double barrier reef in the world.
It is a wonder that Solomon Islands remain as unexplored as they are. In this writer's personal opinion, these present the perfect vacation package in the South Pacific. There's the obvious stuff, such as beaches and seafood (which is excellent, but not exactly unique), along with excellent avenues for aquatic activities such as kayaking and surfing.
Like most South Pacific islands, it also has a strong cultural history that it is only too happy to show off. However, what sets these islands apart from the rest is the numerous memorials and crash sites of WWII planes and boats. These tranquil, isolated islands were once the scene of some of the bloodiest battles the world has ever seen, and reminders of the saddening gore are scattered all across the islands.
Pitcairn Island is one of the most isolated places on earth, and is thus, ideal for someone who craves just that―isolation. It can only be reached by sea. Less than one hundred people live on this island, and commercialization of tourism is largely absent. This island is ideal if you just want to get away from it all and relax the hell out, but not much else.
Before you go, "Oh, great! another site that puts Bora Bora at the top", let me just accept that we are guilty of that charge, and move on to proclaim that the undisputed king of the South Pacific islands is, indeed, Bora Bora. The Society Islands are, each on its own, wonderful places to visit, but Bora Bora takes the crown due to the sheer beauty of the crystal-clear waters, and the variety of activities available for every sort of tourist. It is an excellent destination for scuba diving or snorkeling, with a variety of sharks and rays present in the waters around it, and it also has a few WWII monuments as well as churches. Accommodation is available in a huge range, including the famous over-the-water bungalows.
These were the best islands the South Pacific has to offer. In addition to these, Tahiti is a well-known tourist attraction, and Tuvalu and Kiribati are also definitely worth a mention, if not more. More detailed info about specific countries can be found on the official website for South Pacific travel. So, what are you waiting for? Decide which country you want to visit, and make the most of it. Bon voyage!