When travelers think of visiting islands in the Pacific Ocean, images sparkling blue waters and sandy, palm tree lined beaches come to mind. But the Pacific is an enormous region with many islands, so where’s the best place to begin?
Although you might think that there’s no way to go wrong with a Pacific island vacation, there are definitely some islands better suited to specific travel tastes and best times of the year to visit. So as you narrow down your choices of which area to visit and when, keep these island recommendations in mind!
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Palau is a tiny area of land in the Pacific, but it’s packed with impressive nature. It’s an archipelago of volcanic and limestone islands that are covered in forest and surrounded by turquoise waters. Diving is the main reason people visit here, and the top attractions are Blue Corner, the Badrulchau Stone Monoliths, the Ngardmau Waterfall, and Jellyfish Lake. If you plan to dive at Palau, you can see some of the best shipwrecks and most fascinating marine life anywhere in the Pacific. The largest town to visit here is Koror, which has several museums worth seeing. You’ll also find World War II relics in the jungle, and off-road driving is a popular activity. Recommended hotel options are the West Plaza Coral Reef Hotel Koror Island, the Palau Pacific Resort, and the Palau Royal Resort.
Surfers flock to Tahiti year after year for the amazing wave and weather conditions here. One of the best places for surfers to hang out is the village of Teahupoo, and the Billabong Pro Surf Competition takes place here too. The best months for surfing here are May, June, July, and August. Tahiti is also an incredibly popular wedding and honeymoon destination. If you plan your visit for July, you can attend the Heiva Festival, which features Tahitian crafts, dances, and performances.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
This is one of the most famous and favored islands in the South Pacific and definitely deserves mention on our list. Bora Bora is northwest of Tahiti and less than an hour from Papeete by plane. It’s a romantic paradise favored by honeymooning couples and anyone looking for pure bliss. Overwater bungalows are the most popular type of accommodations on Bora Bora, and there are many resorts and hotels here to choose from. A few highly rated ones include Hotel Sofitel Bora Bora Marara Beach Resort, Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, Hotel Maitai Polynesia, and the Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa. Some of the most fun things to do when you visit Bora Bora are jet skiing, shark and ray feeding, snorkeling, diving, and simply relaxing on the beach.
Lord Howe Island
Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea is a convenient getaway spot from Australia; it’s less than two hours by plane from Brisbane and Sydney. However, it still remains in pristine condition and made it onto the World Historic Register for its rare plant and animal life. This is an idea spot for eco-tourists who want to escape crowded island areas and experience some of the world’s best day hikes. This is a prime bird watching destination and popular for snorkeling, fishing, and scuba diving too. There are quite a few types of accommodations for tourists here, including lodges, apartments, retreats, and even treehouses. Top picks are the Pinetrees Lodge, which is an oceanfront spa resort, and the Capella Lodge, which is an island retreat with chic rooms, a great restaurant, and free Wi-Fi.
Tanna is an amazing place in the Pacific that is known for having the world’s most accessible active volcano. Mt. Yasur, the volcano, is the top attraction in Tanna, but there are also other mountains, hot springs, rainforests, and coffee plantations worth visiting too. The beaches are secluded, and the village life is authentic. Tanna Island is about a 45-minute flight from Port Vila. The main town here is Lenakel, which has a port, market, and shops. Other sites to see in Tanna are Port Resolution, the John Frum Village, the Tanna Coffee Factory, Giant Banyan, and Yatana Surf Beach. Accommodation options on Tanna include the Blue Reef Resort, Tanna Evergreen Resort, Hidden Treasure Bungalows, and Leneai Palms Resort on the West Coast. On the island’s east coast, you can stay at Friendly Bungalows or the Sunrise Bungalows. Several of the resorts offer tours as well as accommodations.
Ouvea, New Caledonia
Beautiful beaches are the big draw of New Caledonia, and Ouvea spans along a lovely stretch of coastline. However, the area has other amazing landscapes too with waterfalls, rainforests, and mountain ranges. One of the best ways to explore the island is to rent a bike and ride along the beautiful bays. Thatched huts along the beach are popular accommodations, and prices are quite reasonable. The world’s largest lagoon and second largest coral reef are located in the New Caledonia island group, and most visitors begin their journey at the Tontouta International Airport just north of Noumea.
Laucala Island, Fiji
For a truly luxurious island experience, Laucala Island in Fiji is one of the best places to plan a trip. Laucala island is off the coast of Taveuni and spans just 12 square kilometers. There are top-notch restaurants to dine at and luxury residences to retire back to at the end of the day. This is a great choice if you’re looking to go “all out” with your island vacation – with spa treatments, locally-grown produce, a golf course, and water adventures. If you’re really looking to splurge, you can actually rent out the entire island for yourself, with rates starting at about $150,000 USD per night.
Vava’u Islands, Tonga
But if getting in touch with nature sounds more appealing for your island adventure, consider visiting the Vava’u Islands of Tonga. This is a great place for animal and wildlife lovers because you can actually swim with humpback whales here. These islands are a pit stop on the whales’ annual migration route, and there are tour operators that take visitors out to see the whales. If being that close to these large creatures makes you a bit squeamish, you can also book a boat tour to view their majestic beauty from a safe distance.
Rarotonga, The Cook Islands
The Cook Islands are a slightly less intense and expensive island experience compared to Bora Bora. Although these islands are growing in popularity, especially as a wedding destination, they still offer off-the-grid travel experiences in a serene setting. The weather is great here year-around and the vibe is laid back. Rarotonga is the capital of the Cook Islands and as tropical and beautiful as any capital could be. It’s the center of tourism and also easy to get your bearings because the island is only about 32 kilometers around in size.
Samoa is made up of 10 islands and located about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii. Most visitors to Samoa begin their journey on Upolu because that’s where the airport is and Apia because that’s the capital. However, if you’re looking for unspoiled beauty and sheer relaxation, head to Savai’i. This is one of the largest Polynesian islands, with gorgeous beaches and volcanoes. Savai’i is made up of traditional villages, with no large towns to distract you from the getaway you crave.
Yasawa Islands, Fiji
Fiji consistently ranks as the #1 spot to visit in the South Pacific, and the Yasawa Islands are an excellent place to add to your Fiji travel itinerary. These islands form a long chain along the coast of Viti Levu, which is the main island of Fiji. A visit to these islands promises a low-key, local experience because they are mostly populated with locals rather than tourists. Some tourists opt for small cruise ships to see these islands and the Mamanuca. Local companies offer four and seven-day intimate cruises that accommodate 100 or less passengers.
Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu
A conversation about the Pacific’s islands wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the amazing diving opportunities from the islands here. One of the best places to go diving in the Pacific is around Vanuatu, especially if you like to see more than just fish below the water’s surface. The area Espirito Santo is known for its fabulous wreck dives that are steeped in history and intrigue. Divers in this area have uncovered in-tact ship rooms, cooking utensils, weapons, and medical supplies while exploring this region.
The Solomon Islands are full of ancient Melanesian culture and are peaceful place to visit today. However, there is much history in these islands, including slavery, wars, and even cannibalism. This is also a great place for history buffs to visit since the region was a battleground during World War II during Japan’s occupation. Today, the Solomon Islands are a great place to canoe down the river, swim with dolphins, go snorkeling, and photograph the blooming orchids.
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is part of an arc of mountains that stretches through the South Pacific. There are over 600 islands that make it up, and hundreds of indigenous languages are spoken here! It’s often divided into four regions and 20 provinces. Travel used to be fairly off-limits and unheard-of here, but curious adventurers have been exploring this place more than ever before lately. The main island is Bougainville, and all the islands offer an authentic experience with lots of local wildlife and a fascinating history. Flora and fauna that exists nowhere else on earth can be found in Papua New Guinea, making it a perfect destination for animal lovers and nature enthusiasts. Although much of this region is undeveloped, there are still plenty of places for tourists to stay. Accommodation picks include the Loloata Island Resort, the Melanesian Hotel and Apartments, the Lissenung Island Resort, and the Gazelle International Hotel.
Niue is a very remote island in the Pacific that is a tiny independent nation. It’s in the middle of Samoa, Tonga, and the Cook Islands, and its name means “behold the coconut.” This is not a travel destination for luxury travelers, but rather adventurous ones who aren’t afraid to pull on some hiking boots and get exploring! It’s incredibly scenic, so you can also rent a car or motorcycle to get to the best caves and snorkeling spots. Although it’s definitely remote, there are still motels, guesthouses, cottages, and restaurants here. Recommended accommodations are the Namukulu Cottages & Spa and the Scenic Matavai Resort Niue, both of which are along the western coast.