The Cook Islands lies halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, boasting an idyllic climate, endless adventure, romance and pure relaxation. And getting here is easy with flights on Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Air Tahiti as well as domestic flights between the islands with our national carrier Air Rarotonga.
Fifteen droplets of land cast across 2 million sq km of wild Pacific blue, the Cook Islands are simultaneously remote and accessible, modern and traditional.
With a strong cafe culture, a burgeoning organic and artisan food scene, and a handful of bar and clubs, Rarotonga lives confidently in the 21st century. But beyond the island’s tourist buzz and contemporary appearance is a robust culture, firmly anchored by traditional Polynesian values and steeped in oral history.
North of ‘Raro’, the sublime lagoon of Aitutaki is ringed with tiny deserted islands and is one of the Pacific’s most improbably scenic jewels. Venture further and robust Polynesian traditions emerge nearer the surface. Drink home brew at a traditional ‘Atiuan tumunu (bush-beer drinking club), explore the ancient makatea (raised coral cliffs) and taro fields of Mangaia, or swim in the underground cave pools of Mitiaro and Ma’uke. The remote Northern Group is a South Seas idyll experienced by a lucky few.
Set your internal clock to ‘Fiji time’: exploring the archipelago’s exquisite beaches, undersea marvels, lush interiors and fascinating culture shouldn’t be rushed. Dazzling sands, perfect palm trees and waters so blue they glow – Fiji’s beaches look airbrushed. While stunning stretches abound, it’s on the islands of the Mamanucas and Yasawas that you’ll find heavenly heavyweights. These beaches are the poster-child for paradise, luring thousands of visitors keen to discover their own South Sea idyll. The appeal of the islands stretches beyond holiday snaps; the reefs, bays and sublime sands have provided cinematic eye candy to films including Cast Away with Tom Hanks and 1980 teen-dream classic The Blue Lagoon.
Fiji’s calm seas belie the riot of life going on within. With seemingly endless stretches of intensely coloured reefs and more than 1500 species of fish and colossal creatures Fiji’s underwater world is worth the plunge. Seasoned divers and snorkellers will find plenty to excite them, while first-timers will be bubbling excited exclamations into their mouthpieces. Anywhere a fin flashes or coral waves, you’ll find a diving or snorkel day trip and there are excellent live-aboard journeys for those after a truly immersive experience.
New Caledonia's dazzling lagoon surrounds it with every hue of blue, green and turquoise. The light and the space simply delight your senses. By becoming a World Heritage site, the lagoon has helped bring the people together to celebrate and protect it, from village level through to government.
New Caledonia isn’t just a tropical playground. There’s a charming mix of French and Melanesian: warm hospitality sitting beside European elegance, gourmet food beneath palm trees, sand, resorts, and bungalows. Long gorgeous beaches are backed by cafes and bars, with horizons that display tiny islets to attract day trippers. Be lured into kayaks or microlights, rock climb, sail, dive into a world of corals, canyons, caves and shipwrecks, go whale watching or snorkelling, or relax on the warm sand of a deserted isle. Natural wonders and manmade delights are at your fingertips.
Towering mountain peaks, lush , fertile valleys, golden beaches, sparkling coral islands and some of the best diving locations in the world. Papua New Guinea is a country of wild beauty, of breathe taking landscapes and of fascinating flora and fauna.
Papua New Guinea is a country rich in natural resources but its wealth of tradition, beauty and history is unparalleled in the Pacific. From the magnificent beaches to the cool highlands, the world above water is equally fascinating. Take a breath of fresh, crisp mountain air 4,500 meters up at the base of Mount Wilhelm, the country’s highest peak.
Serene but spirited, wild yet well-manicured, hushed but birthed by volcanic explosions; stunning Samoa is a paradisaical paradox. Despite its intense natural beauty – all iridescent seas, jade jungles and crystal waterfalls – this is a humble place, devoid of mega-resorts and flashy attractions, but with welcomes as warm as the island sun.
Geographically and culturally, this small nation is considered the heart of Polynesia. Though the missionaries of the 1800s were enormously influential, the country has nevertheless clung to Fa’a Samoa (the Samoan Way), making it one of the most authentic and traditional of all Pacific societies: in some parts of the islands you’re more likely to see someone juggling fire than a house with walls.
Despite its isolation, Samoa offers accessible adventures. From the relative ruckus of Apia to the soul-stirring silence of Savai’i, you’ll find a paradise that is safe, sweet and easy to get around.
Forget what travelling the Pacific used to be like – around the Solomon Islands it's still that way. These islands are laid-back, welcoming and often surprisingly untouched. From WWII relics scattered in the jungle to leaf-hut villages where traditional culture is alive, there’s so much on offer. Then there’s the visual appeal, with scenery reminiscent of a Discovery Channel documentary: volcanic islands, croc-infested mangroves, huge lagoons, tropical islets and emerald forests.
Don’t expect white-sand beaches and ritzy resorts. With only a smattering of traditional guesthouses and comfortable hideaways, it’s tailor-made for ecotourists. For outdoorsy types, lots of action-packed experiences await: climb an extinct volcano, surf uncrowded waves, snorkel pristine reefs or kayak across a lagoon. Beneath the ocean’s surface, awesome WWII wrecks and dizzying drop-offs will enthrall divers. The best part is, there’ll be no crowds to mar the experience.
Tahiti. The word evokes visions of an island paradise, exotic days, romantic nights and South Sea adventure. The Islands of Tahiti exude a power of life that makes every experience in these islands unforgettable. The Tahitians’ call this power, Mana. And, you will feel it ripple up your spine the moment you step off the plane, and it will fill your soul, you will taste it and smell it in the air. Once you’ve experienced The Islands of Tahiti, it will flow through your veins forever. With 118 islands boasting high, rugged mountain peaks, coral reefs, turquoise-blue lagoons, white sand, palm-fringed beaches, and luxuriously intimate resorts, each island paradise has something for everyone.
Vanuatu is a Pacific island adventure far beyond any notions of cruise-ship ports and flashy resorts. Deserted beaches, ancient culture, remote and rugged islands and world-class diving are just a small part of the magnetism of this scattered 80-plus island archipelago.
Where else can you hike up a crater to stare down into a magma-filled active volcano then ashboard back down, snorkel in a blue hole and drink kava with the local village chief – all in the same day? The resorts and restaurants of Port Vila have little in common with traditional kastom (custom) village life in the outer islands, but it's contrasts like these that make Vanuatu a surprise and a challenge.
Vanuatu was slammed by Cyclone Pam in 2015, but the ni-Van people, resilient and laid-back as ever, take life in smiling strides.
It takes a little time, effort and a healthy sense of adventure to truly explore Vanuatu's islands, but it's worth every bit of it.
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