Home to so much more than simply the greatest beaches imaginable, the islands of the South Pacific unfold to reveal unique histories and cultures that welcome travelers and proudly showcase the natural wonders surrounding them.
Travelers can dive to the ocean floor and explore shipwrecks and coral reefs, scale mountains to reveal wondrous views of stunning landscapes, taste food plucked from the pristine waters moments previously and above all experience a way of life that has existed for centuries and warms the soul. There is no end to adventure in the South Pacific, but here are 10 of the best spots to discover.
10 Cook Islands
The 15 landmasses that make up the beautiful Cook Island are dotted amongst an expanse of ocean that rivals the size of Western Europe and yet it is populated by just 15,000 people. This opens the islands up to exploration due to the freedom to roam and easy-going and welcoming locals.
One of the finest spots ripe for adventure is Rarotonga which is entirely encompassed by glittering lagoons and home to stunning mountains that always watch over visitors with a gently guiding eye. Another is Aitutaki, which features boat tours atop its breathtaking lagoon and opportunities to snorkel beside the underwater locals.
Once beyond the capital of Port Vila, Vanuatu gently reveals itself to be a stunning collection of islands with more on offer than is possible in a single visit. A single day could include wreck-diving with qualified instructors, getting up close and personal with a live volcano and strolling along a pristine beachfront before feasting on the freshest seafood you are ever likely to eat.
Vanuatu mixes an adventurous spirit with a penchant for luxury as only the South Pacific can, blending hair-raising river rafting with resorts placed on private beaches and close enough to feel the waves lapping at the door.
8 Solomon Islands
A melting pot of traditional tribal culture and European colonialism, the Solomon Islands are a remarkable sight to behold. Made up of a staggering 992 islands, the country has a truly individual identity forged through the passing of time and convergence of cultural societies.
Village life here is much the same today as it was centuries ago, right the way down to the bartering system that remains in place amongst the locals. Visitors can trek to the macabre Skull Island, which is a sacred place filled with the skulls of defeated adversaries. World War II wrecks still rest in the area and can be explored in between strolls along the impeccable beaches and dips in the refreshingly cool ocean.
7 Bora Bora
A quick glance at a brochure offering activities in Bora Bora is likely to leave most travelers feeling overwhelmed. Despite its relatively small size, there is simply so much to do here that it can be intimidating working out how to do it all.
Tear through the trees on a 4x4 safari, dive into crystal clear waters kissing white sandy beaches, journey to the depths and befriend the colorfully diverse wildlife beneath the surface, witness a feeding frenzy featuring ravenous sharks or relax atop a turquoise lagoon on a relaxing cruise.
After all of that, there is still Mount Otemanu to scale, taking in the utterly unbelievable views from the peak once successfully summited. Don’t forget the romantic midnight beachfront dinner several resorts will offer. Feeling tired yet?
6 Isle Of Pines
Measuring at just 13 kilometers by 15, the Isle of Pines is accessible via a short flight from New Caledonia and provides a magical insight into the South Pacific way of life. A jaunt here feels like escaping the outside world into a private sanctuary created just for you.
The assortment of coral reefs in this area is the second largest in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the Isle of Pines offers tremendous access to these natural wonders. Grab a snorkel and flippers to explore beneath the shimmering surface before hiking to the top of Pic Nga and casting a glance back down at the picturesque playground you can call home until a heart-wrenching farewell.
A prized part of French Polynesia, Mo’orea is surrounded by a dazzlingly bright blue lagoon. The island was shaped through a volcanic activity that gave it an imposing and natural beauty.
Protected waters here provide access to sea life that will strain the eyes with its explosion of color and movement that fill the senses. The waters can be explored aboard a kayak, surrounding mountains can be scaled on foot and the local whale and dolphin residents are always willing to put on a show to those who spend the time reaching them by boat.
As a result of three ocean currents congregating together in the waters of Palau, the area is widely regarded as the best in the South Pacific for scuba thanks to the wonderfully diverse array of aquatic life on display.
Home to the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Rock Islands, Palau offers a wildlife show starring sharks, eagle rays, turtles, jellyfish, and every variety of sea life you both have and haven’t heard of. An absolute must when visiting Palau is taking the plunge into Jellyfish Lake and sharing the water with the millions of creatures that have evolved to lose their stings due to a lack of predators.
With the name of this untouched paradise meaning ‘behold the coconut,’ it is no wonder that Niue is a relaxing and welcoming island nation. There is no commercialism here, no crowds or traffic, no shopping malls and above all, no worries.
RELATED: 10 Ways To Island Hop On The Cheap
Covered in almost 1000 hectares of rainforest, adventure waits around every corner when exploring the world’s smallest independent nation. Also sporting impossibly clear waters, glorious reefs, caves, and visiting humpback whales during migration season, there is no end of fun to be had here.
To truly get to grips with the Tongan way of life, don’t bother putting your watch on in the morning. Everything here runs on island time which is impossible to work out and refreshing to give yourself over to. The ever-present sun will be the only time-piece you need and even when that has completed its day's work, the moon keeps evenings ticking along as the famed relaxing party atmosphere gets into full swing.
Tonga is one of the greatest destinations for sailing in the Pacific and there are plenty of ways to hire a charter for a day that will take you to the northern islands of Vava’u and treat you to an unforgettable experience.
Prepare to live life the Samoan Way from the moment you arrive in this striking country. Locals here go about their days in much the same way their ancestors did in years gone by, within traditional villages governed by chiefs.
Boasting a coastline overflowing with natural wonders, hidden bays, surfing paradises and a limitless array of sea life, Samoa is a shining jewel set into the Pacific. Romantic resorts are in high demand for those wanting to rest beside the ocean with a book but just a short investigation of the area will reveal some of the world’s most gorgeous scenes.