By Ben Janeczko
Pristine beaches, spectacular landscapes, engaging culture and crystal clear water abounds – how do you choose? We have asked our team for their favourite islands to help you navigate your way to the perfect South Pacific adventure!
Upolu, Samoa – Alisha
I have visited most of the islands in the Pacific, and while they are all beautiful, my favourite is the island of Upolu on Samoa. The people are genuine and warm, the island is packed with lush jungle and hidden waterfalls and of course, it goes without saying that the beaches are absolutely stunning. One thing that stood out to me about Samoa is how quiet it feels – there were hardly any other tourists, so it felt very much like we were discovering a secret place. Driving along the pristine South Coast you will see one deserted beach after another and even at the spectacular To Sua Ocean Trench we were surprised at how quiet it was. If you’re after flashy 5-star resorts and shopping then Samoa isn’t for you, but if you’re wanting to get off the beaten track and enjoy the breath-taking natural scenery and immerse yourself in an authentic island culture then this is the place for you.
Pohnpei, Micronesia – Blake
You may not have ever heard of my favourite island in the Pacific – it’s Pohnpei, the capital island of the four states of Micronesia. It may be difficult to get to the middle of nowhere, but that is one of the best reasons to go. Imagine having the ruins of Angkor Wat to yourself – that’s what it is like visiting Nan Madol – an ancient city built on top of a coral reef. I spent a whole day exploring the ruins with two locals and didn’t see one other person. The origins of the site, like many ancient wonders is a mystery with magic as the locals only explanation. Besides Nan Madol, the island is surrounded by surf and reefs – most likely you will have the sites to yourself to surf, scuba dive, snorkel or kayak around the mangroves.
The remoteness certainly comes with its rewards as I recall spending an afternoon at a waterfall with just my two friends and a kaleidoscope of butterflies. There are few places where you can really escape other tourists and feel like an intrepid traveller these days – Pohnpei is undoubtedly one of them which offers incredible natural beauty reminiscent of Hawaii and mysterious ruins that are up there with famous sites such as Machu Picchu. The biggest wonder is that most people don’t even know about it.
Oahu, Hawaii – Hilary
I love the island of Oahu, Hawaii because of the beauty, history and diverse experiences it offers. The laid back north shore is known for world-class surfing, delicious shrimp trucks, and the stunning Waimea Valley which stands in stark contrast to glamourous Waikiki – which is on the south shore and known for its iconic city beach, exciting nightlife, and endless shopping opportunities. Being able to shift between these different styles of holiday to suit my mood, while always enjoying the rich Polynesian culture that pervades the entire island, is why I love Oahu.
Niue – Rosemary
Niue rates as my favourite Pacific island and if you think you’ve had your fill of golden sands and beach resorts in the Pacific, then be prepared to be blown away. Known as the ‘rock’, this tiny pacific nation is not your usual ‘flop n drop’ destination. With no real beaches, but with some of the clearest waters in the world, Niue is a dream destination for snorkellers and divers, and if you time your visit right you can swim alongside the majestic humpback whales on their annual migration. Book a hire car for the week and explore caves, chasms and snorkelling spots where you can have the place to yourself entirely. Niue is also famous for its unique honesty bar which only opens on Sundays, where you help yourself to drinks behind the bar and leave some money in the till at the end – this contributes to the well-earned reputation locals have for being the friendliest people in the world. This beautiful pacific island offers active adventures, chilled out vibes, an exceptionally rewarding holiday experience and one to add to your must-visit list.
Vanuatu – Karen
Vanuatu is the friendliest of all pacific island groups spanning 83 coral and volcanic islands forming a spectacular archipelago. This is an unspoilt remote island destination where you can still see tribes that live today as they did hundreds of years ago with one of the most spectacular active volcanoes, where you can stand on the rim and experience nature’s fireworks. This is where the concept of bungee jumping first began with the ancient ritual on Pentecost Island and still continues today but is known as land jumping. Vanuatu’s archipelago has some of the world’s best scuba diving and snorkelling with world war ruins in Espiritu Santo, crystal blue swimming holes, underwater caverns, dramatic scenery, white sand beaches and some of the best tropical jungle treks in the world. Too many people only go to Port Vila and think they have experienced Vanuatu but please get off the beaten track, explore some of the 83 islands, meet the shy locals and see the true Vanuatu – in my opinion it has the most diversity of any of the South Pacific island groups.
Aitutaki, Cook Islands – Matt
I’ve travelled to many of the islands of the Pacific and they are impossible not to love. The wonderful people, the incredible mountains emerging from the Pacific ocean and amazing crystal clear lagoons are the highlights and when it comes to choosing a favourite it is near impossible. When it comes to out and out beauty, two islands stand out for me, Bora Bora in Tahiti and Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. Bora Bora is the more popular option with more international standard hotels however my heart always stays with the Cook Islands. The people are amazing and the stunning lagoon on Aitutaki and its laid back island vibe are impossible to beat. I have visited Aitutaki twice, my first overseas trip when I was seven years old and more recently with my wife and young child, and would return in a heartbeat, take me there now!
Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea – Aya
My trip to Papua New Guinea was filled with adventures that went beyond my imagination. It became more adventurous as I transited in Port Moresby and journeyed onto more remote areas by taking a short internal flight in order to get closer and amongst untouched nature. Diving into the pristine turquoise blue water and being surrounded by the breathtaking landscapes were some of the highlights. I truly enjoyed our encounters with manta rays and exploring the beautiful coral reef forest where a large variety of critters live. On land, a visit to the nearby village in the rainforest was a very special treat. I felt as if time had slowed down, as I watched the villagers go by their everyday business, carving their canoe, weaving a basket, a group of children climbing a tree to get some fruits for afternoon snacks. PNG has diverse indigenous cultures, there are many traditional tribal villages with over 800 languages and cultures. PNG is a wild gem in the Pacific, being so close to home yet it offers a wide array of unique experiences for adventure lovers.
Paradise Cove, Yasawa Islands, Fiji – Shae
My favourite place in the Pacific would have to be Paradise cove in the Yasawa islands which is northwest of the main islands in Fiji. As soon as I arrived, I can see why they call it Paradise Cove, as it really is Paradise! One of the nicest beaches I’ve seen with crystal blue water and palm trees lined along the beach. I love that it is far away from the main touristy islands and you feel so relaxed as soon as you arrive.
With really spaced out rooms it’s the only resort on the island, so nice and quiet and you can get away from everyone and feel like the only one on the island, it’s so peaceful. It had the most amazing outdoor leafy private bathrooms in the suite, with our own private plunge pool, it really is ultimate relaxation! I love how friendly all the Fijians are and they make you feel like you’re part of their family, you wouldn’t even know if they are having a bad day as they always have a smile on their face. I was married on the island too so it’s extra special to me and I can’t wait to go back!
Lord Howe Island, Australia – Ben
There is something about Lord Howe Island that hits you immediately as you see it creeping up on the horizon on approach to the airport. After just under two hours of nothing but ocean & blue sky out the window, the peaks of Mount Gower and Lidgbird are an impressive sight as they welcome you in to land. It is somewhat of a privilege to visit this remote South Pacific island, as only 400 visitors are allowed at any one time to help preserve the pristine environment. I was lucky enough to stay at the luxurious Capella Lodge, which has stunning views of the island landscape and is perfectly placed to explore. During my time on Lord Howe I was able to completely switch off from hectic everyday life and immerse myself in nature, with a nice little touch of indulgence as a reward. Early morning hikes to spectacular views were the perfect excuse when justifying my glass of wine with some cheese before dinner… a win/win really. Other favourite activities included cycling around with every local greeting me on the way past, playing the most scenic round of golf of my life, snorkelling amongst the impressive marine life, and feeding huge kingfish at Neds Beach.
The South Pacific islands offer travellers an endless array of water activities, natural wonders to explore, intriguing cultures to meet and picture-perfect opportunities to be as adventurous as you like… or to enjoy the warm hospitality that is common across them all.
If you are interested in a cruise or tour to one of these fascinating destinations, please contact us for more information and unbiased expert advice.