Inspiration Destinations Fiji Getting Specific About the South Pacific: How to Choose Your Island

Getting Specific About the South Pacific: How to Choose Your Island

The Yasawa Islands, with their majestic peaks and sugar white sand beaches, are among the best places to stay in Fiji.

Torn between Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, New Caledonia or the Cook Islands? Take a deep dive into which South Pacific paradise will suit you best.

The South Pacific's allure is only matched by its size, spread across 28 million square kilometres from the northern tip of Australia to the edges of Hawaii. These tiny coral and volcanic-stone dots in the big blue are home to fascinating people and culture: look beyond the postcard-perfect scenery and the diversity of each region unfolds, with each cherishing its own traditions, languages and cuisine.

From New Caledonia's French elegance to Samoa's pristine rainforests, read on for the island that's right for you.

Fiji: excellent for families

Sheraton Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island, a resort in Fiji in the South Pacific.
Sheraton Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island, Fiji.

Fiji's enduringly popular for a reason and in turn is well equipped for tourism. If you’re on the hunt for an idyllic tropical haven for both young and old, this sun-kissed playground stands out from the rest with its exceptional kids' clubs and nanny services.

Fiji is one of few places in the world where you can snorkel alongside giant manta rays in the wild. Visit the Yasawa Islands and Kadavu from May to October and you too can glide alongside one of the world’s most majestic creatures. If you’re looking for a unique experience, skip the resort’s luxury spa and lather yourself in mud at the Sabeto Hot Pools located in Nadi. Cleanse your skin in this natural wonder, then back it up with a tranquil dip in one of the natural pools.

The rainforests, reefs and remote villages are where you can get to know Fijian culture, or see nothing but your own footsteps in the lap of castaway luxury.

Vanuatu: hiking, adventure & volcanic scenery

Those with a yen for dramatic scenery and curious travellers that tend towards unusual, immersive experiences will be bewitched by Vanuatu. More raw than tourist-friendly Fiji, Vanuatu is all about exploration, with hiking, shipwrecks and sprawling jungle to encounter.

Just a 10-minute drive from Port Villa, delve into the history of Ekasup Village to hear about tales of cannibalism in Vanuatu’s recent past. Venture to Tanna to stand in awe of the mighty Mount Yasur, Earth's most accessible active volcano. The mountain is best visited with a tour group, as there are no safety barriers when you edge towards the cindered lip of the volcano.

For the intrepid traveller, there’s more to discover in this natural realm. Trace the journey from bean to cup on a tour of a coffee plantation, or explore Tanna’s thermal springs, where friendly locals harness the natural warmth to cook up an afternoon snack. Far removed from typical tourist hubs, this Pacific Island enchants with its effervescent shores, ancient heritage and rugged archipelago of 80 isles.

Samoa: surfing & natural wonders

To Sua Ocean Trench, Upolu, Samoa. Source: Shutterstock.

For the real taste of Pacific Island life, away from mega resorts and showy attractions, discover lush Samoa. The pace of life moves even slower here than on other isles in the region with just a handful of luxurious resorts, allowing the islands to retain their unspoiled charm.

The intense natural beauty of this country, with breathtaking coastal formations and colossal lava tubes, owes its existence to volcanic explosions. One of the most photogenic spots created by an eruption is To Sua Ocean Trench, an enchanting waterhole draped in bright greenery. Or witness nature’s power at the Alofaaga Blowhole, which shoots water into the air as the mighty waves crash.

The iridescent seas, jade jungles and crystal-clear lagoons have been an inspiration to many travellers. The author Robert Louis Stevenson, taken by the sharp mountains, fertile valleys, and rainforests of Upolu, such as those in O Le Pupu-pue National Park, spent his final years on a hill overlooking Apia. To really immerse yourself in the emerald rainforest, you can cross the 40m high treetop canopy walkway at Savai’I’s Falealupo Rainforest Reserve.

New Caledonia: cultural melting pot & foodie paradise

Saint Josef Cathedral and Moselle Bay, Noumea, New Caledonia. Source: Shutterstock

While its white sands and palm trees may seem a world away from Europe, New Caledonia is a French overseas territory, with a unique blend of Melanesian and French culture. This mix of cultural influences results in a bounty of culinary delights and fine French fare, from divine pastries and succulent seafood to freshly plucked tropical fruits. Those partial to retail therapy will also enjoy très chic clothing and Parisian luxuries including perfume, jewellery and footwear.  

Its scenery matches its culture in spades, with thatched abodes that jut out over the bluest waters, a backdrop of untamed mountains, cascading falls and emerald rainforests. Base yourself at Grand Terre, the third-largest Pacific Island, which holds the world’s second-largest double-barrier coral reef (after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef).

Cook Islands: remote serenity & beautiful beaches

Looking for paradise lagoons and white-sand beaches where you might not even spot another person? Venture off-grid to the Cook Islands.

The volcanic Rarotonga, known fondly as ‘Raro’, puts you under a spell with its tapestry of rugged terrain embraced by pristine beaches. Thanks to the lagoon encircling the island, there’s an abundance of water-based activities. Find yourself paddleboarding on crystalline waters, or weave through forested mountains along the Cross Island Track to be rewarded with a sunlit oasis at Muri Beach. 

Underneath the waves, you’ll be met with a menagerie of marine life that’s easily accessible for even the knee-high explorers in the family. Keep up with the community of green, hawksbill and loggerhead sea turtles that call the region home on a sea scooter safari, and try to catch the shadowy outline of eagle rays and reef sharks. 

Make sure to stay a few extra days to island-hop through Aitutaki’s pristine lagoon and get your passport stamped with the foot-shaped 'One Foot Island' stamp. Plus, at just under six hours from Sydney with direct flights, it’s never been easier to embrace a Cook Island adventure.

Ready to escape? Find your perfect escape here.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out Uncover New Caledonia: More Than Your Usual Island Paradise.

About Sarah Julian
Lover of live jazz and Pinot Noir, Sarah loves sewing together outfits for her next adventure – when she's not sewing together sentences.

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