The South Pacific can be summed up in three words: big, blue and beautiful.
This vast region covers more than 800,000 square kilometers of land and stretches from the top of Australia all the way to Hawaii. It’s also home to some of the most picturesque holiday destinations in the world.
The area is divided into three ocean-bound regions: Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia. The island nations found within these regions are all unique and have their own distinct characteristics. Some islands like Fiji and Vanuatu are well known, full of five-star resorts, water sports, and tourist attractions. Others are off the beaten track and offer a more rustic experience.
The South Pacific Islands might be small in size but they’re big in spirit, each location brings with it bespoke cultural traditions and culinary specialties. The history and tradition in these islands runs deep, much like the surrounding turquoise seas.
What makes the Pacific Islands so great?
The crystal-clear water, warm sunny weather, and pristine white-sand beaches make these places undeniably stunning. But it’s the sheer diversity between each island destination that ensures there really is something for everyone: beach, food, nature, culture or adventure.
Most of the islands are only a short plane trip away which means they’re perfect if you can only afford a few days off work, or you’re traveling with kids and are worried about flight duration.
The tourism infrastructure varies island to island, but most destinations have regular flights with straightforward connections, which means most Pacific Island holidays are cheap and easy.
So, which South Pacific Island should you visit?
Whether you’re the up-at-6am type who jumps on jet skis and spends all day climbing mountains, or the poolside chiller who has the room service menu memorised after one day – each island provides a unique setting and different activities to cater to your needs. Read on to see which South Pacific Island is best for your next holiday…
The Cook Islands
A beguiling blend of Polynesian and New Zealand culture exists right across the Cook Islands’ 15 little islands. You get the picturesque Polynesian landscape and unparalleled hospitality, with all the safety and infrastructure from New Zealand – this makes it the best South Pacific Island for family trips.
Rarotonga is home to an assortment of kid-friendly resorts and has ample outdoor activities such as snorkelling, golf, tennis, sailing or scuba diving to keep the whole family entertained.
If you’re up for something a little more adventurous, hire a scooter and explore some of the island’s intricate natural tapestry, like the entrancing underwater world of the low-lying coral reefs and vibrant lagoons. (Browse a few Cook Islands Hot Deals!)
Head to Rarotonga beach and experience a traditional ‘Island Night’ Polynesian feast. This is pork slow-cooked in an earthen oven with taro root and other local produce, and it is just as delicious as it sounds.
Fiji is the most popular island in the South Pacific, attracting more than 690,000 visitors each year, which is nearly the same as the rest of the islands combined. Still, the island has managed to retain that wild and exotic feel.
Fiji boasts incredible landscapes, lush tropical and pine vegetation juxtaposed against white sandy beaches and pristine blue-green waters. Its waters host an abundance of marine life and vibrant soft coral reefs which makes it an ideal location for diving and snorkelling enthusiasts.
The island is full of top quality resorts with all family-friendly amenities parents can need. Also, there are plenty of adventure or relaxation opportunities around. Enjoy a hang at the beach or, if you’re more adventurous, take a thrilling zipline adventure over the rainforest.
Fiji is lovingly referred to as the ‘Land of Smiles’ and its people are what make this island truly unique. Their generous and warm spirit wraps around you like a big hug. Their big smiles and cheeky laughter is infectious – it’s impossible to not have fun.
Kava: Fijians consider it their national drink. It’s made from the powdered root of a pepper tree with an earthy flavour and calming, soporific effect. Quite different from alcohol, a kava ceremony is very important in Fijian culture and tradition – a must-experience!
For those of you who want to enjoy a fresh-baked baguette with your breathtaking beach backdrop, Tahiti is for you. The lovechild of French and Polynesian culture, Tahiti and Her Islands are all about luxe living in the lap of nature.
Tahitian resorts incorporate opulent European refinements with laid-back South Pacific style – try French sophistication with an island chill-factor – a truly winning combination. Sure, it’s beautiful and luxurious, but Tahiti’s real strength is its versatility. You can sip on a wine from a tropical vineyard, partake in some hip-shaking Tahitian dancing, explore the turquoise wonderland or go gung-ho on a quad-bike… your wish is Tahiti’s command.
You can sip on a wine from a tropical vineyard, partake in some hip-shaking Tahitian dancing, explore the turquoise wonderland or go gung-ho on a quad-bike… your wish is Tahiti’s command.
Holidaying in Tahiti is a 1080p dream brought to life. The colours are vibrant, the waters are warm and the people are friendly, what more could you want?
Poisson cru: This is practically the national dish of Tahiti. It consists of raw fish and diced vegetables which have been soaked in coconut milk and marinated in lime juice. It’s seriously melt-in-your-mouth delicious!
Pristine beaches surround the rugged volcanic islands of Samoa, a fantastic display of Mother Nature’s handiwork. Samoa has managed to stay largely unscathed by flocking tourists and boasts an array of awe-inducing sights: abundant rainforests with powerful waterfalls and blowholes, world-class reefs and high mountain peaks.
From the basic beach huts (fales) to the relaxed local attitude, it’s all about slowing down and appreciating the simple things in life. There are few organised activities, the pace of life here is chilled even by South Pacific standards, which makes Samoa the perfect place to chill out and soak up your surroundings.
Head to Apia’s food market, Maketi Fou, to try local food cooked the traditional way. We recommend trying a plateful of Fa’ausi, which is baked coconut bread smothered in coconut caramel!
If you’re not about that flashy hotel life or tourist hype, Tonga is the place for you. It’s one of the most pristine islands in the Pacific – unpolished and unrefined, but strikingly beautiful.
It’s one of the least-developed islands in the Pacific and brings with it an understated charm. Chicken and pigs freely roam about with the locals; life here slowly ticks along to the endless lapping of the South Pacific. Tonga’s beaches offer everything from deep-sea diving to kayaking, even the chance to swim with humpback whales, and its steep-sided valleys and soaring peaks are perfect for hiking.
But if relaxation is what you’re after, set your watch to ‘Tonga time’ and let the good times roll.
Topai: Delicious doughnut balls which are served with syrup and coconut milk.
The Solomons is an archipelago of 992 islands located in the South Pacific, 150 of which are inhabited. At just over three hours from Sydney, it’s one of Australia’s closest neighbours, yet it’s one of the least-visited destinations in the Pacific.
This is good news as the culture remains intact and the scenery pristine. The Solomons offers a remote, real and unfiltered island experience, devoid of Western preoccupations. Most locals here survive off the land and sea, watching them go around work and life is a stark contrast to our tech-muddled days.
The snorkeling in the Solomons is second to none, the luminous underwater world is teeming with exotic marine life and there’s even a ‘graveyard’ of sunken planes and ships from WWII. This area is referred to as “the last frontier of the Pacific” and it’s easy to see why. Though you might be a short flight from home, you can feel totally isolated from the world… and your worries.
Poi: This delicate and delicious side dish is considered to be the national dish of the Solomons. It’s made by pounding cooked taro roots into a paste – it can be eaten straight away or left to ferment for a couple of days (sour poi).
Niue, or the ‘Rock of Polynesia’, is known for its soaring limestone cliffs and colourful coral-reef dive sites. It sits in the middle of the triangle formed by Tonga, Samoa and The Cook Islands. It might be one of the smallest countries in the world, but it’s home to the one of the largest raised coral atolls on earth.
This narrow reef shelf, which drops off into the indigo depths, means dolphin and humpback whales are permanent residents in Niue and dramatically close at hand.
Niue is not for the faint-hearted. You need to put a bit of effort in and walk, hike, climb, even swim, to some attractions, but you’ll be rewarded with utterly breathtaking views and experiences.
Whether it’s the unspoilt rainforest, spectacular caves, cliff-encircled chasm pools or the jagged coral pinnacles, Niue is proof that you don’t need to be big to be beautiful!
Nane Pia: Otherwise known as ‘Niuean porridge’ is a translucent porridge made from arrowroot and coconut.
Like Tahiti, New Caledonia is an amalgamation of French and South Pacific culture. Some streets resemble a distant suburb of Paris and, as in France, good food and wine is easy to find.
Cafes and bars are scattered along the beach and provide all kinds of French-Melanesian gourmet delights for you to enjoy while you bask in the beautiful beach views. New Caledonia is full of natural wonders, its picture-perfect blue lagoon is the world’s largest lagoon, and it’s truly breathtaking. It also has the second largest great barrier reef and the marine biodiversity is exceptional with more than 9,000 identified species.
So, immerse yourself in the world of coral, caves, canyons and croissants, New Caledonia is a place impossible to forget.
Bulime/Isle of Pines snail: The escargot of the South Pacific Islands. Bulime (snails) from the Isles of Pines, are served simply with garlic and butter. A local delicacy you just have to try!