Why South Pacific islands should be on your travel bucket list
When it comes to an island-hopping cruise, there are few places in the world as beautiful as the South Pacific. Gorgeous specks of lush, verdant jungle fringed by golden sand sit in azure-blue waters filled with vibrant, electric tropical fish, and every island boasts its own unique, fascinating cultural heritage.
The South Pacific as a region is vast, and its islands are scattered from corner to corner. While photos of palm-edged beaches and mountainous island interiors might make it look like a series of interchangeable paradise islands, the reality is an incredible diversity of experiences, traditions, cuisines, and even landscapes.
A luxury cruise to Tahiti or a flight to the Cook Islands will offer very different vacations…but wherever you choose to explore in the South Pacific will guarantee an unforgettable trip. So if you are planning to pack your bags and explore the other side of the world, here are the best, most bucket list-worthy islands in the South Pacific.
Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
A magnificent blend of Polynesian culture and natural beauty with the New Zealand lifestyle, Rarotonga and the Cook Islands are stunning spots to visit. As with most of the islands in the South Pacific, the beaches here are out of this world, and if you did nothing else but lay on the sand and paddle in the ocean during your stay you would have a wonderful time. But Polynesian cuisine is exceptional, and comes with some stunning traditions and festivities, while the low-lying corals that surround the lagoons around Aitutaki offer some of the best snorkeling and diving experiences around. Add in the fascinating ancient stone temples that are dotted around the atoll and you have a truly spectacular trip!
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Tahiti and French Polynesia are probably the most well-known of all the South Pacific islands, and with good reason. Beloved by honeymooners and adventurers alike, this little slice of paradise is a truly special place to visit. Bora Bora is the most famous, and most beautiful of the French Polynesian islands, an exquisite combination of over-water bungalows, glittering shallow lagoons, and deep, green jungles that make it one of the most romantic places on the planet.
The Yasawa Islands, Fiji
Fiji is often underrated, flying under the radar in comparison to more heralded South Pacific spots, and this really only adds to its charm. While the main island is stunning and vibrant, the Yasawa Islands, an archipelago of thin, stretched-out islands careless strung out from the northwest tip of Viti Levu, are something else entirely. Almost entirely undeveloped, the Yasawas boast Fiji’s best beaches, and offer a unique opportunity to explore traditional Fijian culture, as they remain overwhelmingly inhabited by indigenous Fijian islanders.
Lifou, Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia
Remote, off-the-beaten-track, and almost entirely absent of the markers of traditional tourism, Lifou in the Loyalty Islands is the definition of heaven on Earth. Part of New Caledonia and located just a little way south of Fiji, Lifou feels (and is!) authentic, natural, and traditional, and offers as close to an unspoiled South Pacific experience as it is possible to find. Nature lovers will love the pristine environment, and the chance to see rare, exotic amphibians, insects, birds, and bats, as well as the chance to explore a working vanilla plantation, an absolute feast for the senses!
If your tastes tend towards outdoor adventure and excitement, then Vanuatu is the South Pacific island for you. From ominous volcanoes and wild jungle hikes to caves, waterfalls, and even underwater shipwreck dives, Vanuatu is full of adrenaline-packed adventure. But it’s not all rugged treks and death-defying experiences – due to the French colonial influence in Vanuatu, its cuisine is one of the most interesting and refined in the South Pacific, particularly for cheese lovers!
A vision of dramatic natural beauty, Upolu is one of the most breathtaking of the Samoan islands, and the perfect place to get up close and personal with nature. The author Robert Louis Stevenson fell in love with Samoa and retired here, living his last five years exploring the gorgeous highlands of Upolu, and when you see the sheer cliffs and stunning beaches of Aliepata you will quickly understand why!
Photo: Julius Silver