You might think that the South Pacific is just a cluster of beautiful islands, each one as as similar as the next, but there is actually a lot of diversity in the region. Whether you’re looking for a budget beachside escape, a luxurious getaway or a cultural adventure, here are some of the most popular of the South Pacific islands to help you decide which one is right for you.
Read more: 7 things to do in New Caledonia if you love history and culture
1. Bora Bora
The name Bora Bora comes from the island’s ancient name Pora Pora, which means first born, and when you see the spectacular mountain peaks, you’ll feel like you’re witnessing one of the oldest natural landscapes on the planet. Surrounded by colourful reefs and bright blue lagoons, Bora Bora is known for its luxury resorts and is frequented by the rich and famous. Over-water bungalows on stilts are the signature accommodation style on the island, while adventure activities and water sports are all the rage. But if you’re spending a holiday in such luxurious surrounds you might wish to do nothing but be wined and dined while you’re here.
Bora Bora suits: Anyone looking to splash out and lap up a bit of luxury while on holiday. No expense will be spared here.
2. Rarotonga, the Cook Islands
Just 32kms around, you could explore much of Rarotonga in an afternoon, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be left with much to do. Rarotonga will inspire you to move at a slower pace and really pay attention to the world around you. Rather than hopping from one destination to the next, Rarotonga’s laid back lifestyle, friendly locals and balmy weather invites visitors to take pleasure in taking things slow. That’s not to say there aren’t activities that will keep you busy, there’s the Punanga Nui market that was established in 1992 and features stallholders selling everything from locally-caught fish to traditional clothing and souvenirs. The local Maori culture is also strong on the island, meaning you’ll have some great insight into the local people and their traditions.
Rarotonga suits: Travellers wanting to take things slow and learn about the local culture. Visit the Te Vara Nui Village on the island for some traditional music, dance and history.
Tahiti is the biggest of French Polynesia’s archipelago and is one of the most visually spectacular. With volcanic peaks, the 985 feet Fautaua Waterfall and reefs for snorkelling, the colourful sites on Tahiti will lull you into a relaxed state of holiday bliss. Visit Rangiroa if you’re looking to get especially remote and as far away from the hustle and bustle of life as possible. Leave the mobiles at home, because you’ll want to switch off from the world while you’re in these stunning natural surrounds.
Tahiti suits: Lovers of nature will be fond of Tahiti, as will those looking for a bit of a technology detox.
If you want to spark your sense of adventure, then a trip to Vanuatu won’t go astray. Whether it’s the treehouse accommodation options on Tanna Island or snorkelling off the shipwrecks in Santo, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy while you’re here. For those who don’t mind the walk, a one-hour hike up to Mt Yasur Volcano is one for the the thrill seekers. Don’t forget your torch and something to cover your mouth and nose, because the volcano is active and the ash is ever-present. Nothing says adventure like a bit of ash in the eye!
Vanuatu suits: Travellers with a sense of adventure. Be delighted by the local hospitality while you’re here, too.
5. New Caledonia
New Caledonia is where a little bit of Parisian style mixes with the South Pacific culture. The island became a French colony in 1853 and remains French territory. The capital, Noumea, is a popular cruise port, so if you love your cruising then you’ll be happy to jump off the ship in this tropical piece of paradise. If you enjoy learning a bit of history while on holiday, then New Caledonia might surprise. Visit the 56-metre high Amedee Lighthouse, which was built in Paris and then erected on the island by French engineers in 1862. Other historical sites include the small chapel of Notre Dame de Lourdes built by Catholic missionaries in the 1850s and Fort Teremba which was once a prison used during New Caledonia’s time as a penal colony.
New Caledonia suits: History buffs as well as cruise lovers who are ready to learn a little about area while on holiday.
Have you visited the South Pacific? Let us know which islands you visited in the comments section below.