Looking for an amazing place to spend your Pacific island vacation? The islands of the Pacific are some of the most remote (and expensive) places to travel on Earth.
Undoubtedly, the idea of paradise island hopping is on many travelers’ bucket lists.
Stretching thousands of miles from the Hawaii to New Zealand, hundreds of tiny islands share many common traits, geography, and cultures.
We asked fellow travelers about their favorite Pacific island holidays. Here are some of theirs – and ours!
Table of Contents
The Hawaiian Archipelago is a chain of islands at the northernmost reach of Polynesian culture. These islands are some of the most visited tourist destinations of the Pacific Island nations.
It all starts from the capital and the biggest city of Honolulu, to the garden island of Molokai. Then onto resorts in Maui and Kona, and of course, rugged Hilo.
The Big Island of Hawai’i
The Big Island of Hawaii is the crown jewel of the archipelago. It towers more than 14,000 feet above sea level. Drive to the top of Mauna Kea, where you can experience ten of the world’s fourteen climates on your way up.
Our favorite part of the Big Island of Hawaii is Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Visitors start their day at the Park’s visitor’s center. There, they can learn more about the place and plan on some great hiking in Hawaii.
Don’t miss hiking through the field of hardened lava. It’s spectacular to witness the spot where glowing hot magma touches the Pacific Ocean.
The beaches on the Big Island is unique. Instead of the white sandy beach, you can find many of the black volcanic sand beaches throughout the island.
It’s a unique Pacific Island vacation adventure.
Contributed by Travel by A Sherrie Affair
An island exists in the cluster of the Hawaiian Islands that is primarily owned by Larry Ellison the founder of Oracle, Lanai. I call this island the best-kept secret in the Pacific Ocean.
As soon as you land on your commuter plane from one of the other islands or the ferry from Maui, you realize you have just reached a Pacific Island paradise.
There are only a few hotels to choose from on this island of 3,102 people. The most popular is the Four Seasons Resort Lanai located right next to the beautiful Hulopoe beach. Part of the beach remains private for Four Season guests.
There is also a Four Seasons located in Lanai city, The Lodge at Koele. This lodge was recently remodeled and open to guests.
Relaxation, hiking, whale watching, shipwreck beach, jeep excursions, horseback riding, water sports, helicopter tours, sailing and visiting the quaint little town of Lanai City are just some of the things to do on Lanai.
Being pampered with service and hospitality on the island of Lanai comes with your holiday.
The people are some of the most generous, friendly, and honest I have ever come across.
Contributed by Gypsy With A Day Job
Kauai, otherwise known as the garden isle, is truly paradise, and a unique example of Polynesian traditions. Kauai is a nature lover’s dream, chock full of rugged hiking trails, waterfalls, and beautiful beaches.
There are 11 miles of untouched coast, with cliffs recognizable from Jurassic Park. The NaPali Coast is stunning.
Boat tours skirt the coast, pointing out significant features and stopping for guests to snorkel. This offers a glimpse of the beautiful marine life. Kauai also has its own “grand canyon” known as Waimea Canyon, with a state park offering hiking, camping, and other amenities.
Luaus are a unique part of many Polynesian cultures, but nowhere are they more special than in Kauai. Legend says hula dancing originated on this island. The Kauai chief, Lohiau, danced before the goddess Pele on the Napali Coast, and the two fell passionately in love.
Hula dancing has been a part of the culture ever since. Today, it is an honor for dancers to perform in the sacred place, and free hula lessons are offered at several locations.
Our tip for a visit to Kauai: rent a moped and explore the island. With only one main road, the chances of losing your way are slim.
We also recommend the Banyan Harbor Resort in Lihue. This is the perfect place to truly relax and take in nature.
Easter Island is often overlooked as a South Pacific Island vacation destination, but it is closely-related to the rest of the Pacific Island nations.
The island, locally known as Rapa Nui, is famous for its unique Moai. This tiny island is littered with around 400 big head statues. You can visit the birthplace of the moai, Rano Raraku quarry, where all of these moais were carved, and subsequently abandoned.
There are many mysteries of Easter Island, mostly surrounding the ancient Rapanui people. They arrived on this island almost a thousand years ago, carrying with them the root of the Polynesian culture, as well as developing their own unique characteristics.
You can explore the Rapanui culture inside the humble Anthropological Easter Island Museum, located not far from the capital of Hanga Roa.
Easter Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Several projects and commissions have restored many important sites arounf the island. Don’t miss the Highlights of Easter Island: Ahu Tahai, Ahu Tongariki, Rano Kau, and the Orongo Village.
Definitely consider Easter Island as one of yourSouth Pacific Island vacation destinations.
Read more here: 6 Things to Know While Planning An Easter Island Visit.
The Cook Islands are often referred to as the heart of the Polynesian culture. Geographically, they are located in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean Islands nations.
The chain of islands that forms the Cook Islands are only accessible with domestic flights.
Rarotonga is the major island of Cook Islands, and most likely you will start your journey here. There is plenty to do on the island, starting with applying for your own Cook Islands Drivers License.
Then, try a do-it-yourself Cook Islands food tour while you explore the island to discover hidden gems.
It is also possible to do backpacking on Rarotonga – even if you’re on a budget!
Contributed by Travellers Archive
What comes to your mind when you think of paradise? Well, for me it’s Aitutaki, a small islet of the Cook Islands. It’s super far away from the rest of the world and truly unbelievable.
Most visitors fly here from the Cook’s main island of Rarotonga.
A small plane will get you right to Aitutaki. From here, you mostly get on a traditional Vaka, which is the Maoris’ word for canoe. Then you’ll enter paradise.
The entire lagoon surrounding Aitutaki is full of turquoise and crystal clear water and small islands that seem to be completely unreal.
Jump into the warm water and simply enjoy the colourful corals.
Also, there is a tiny island called One Foot Island, which is home to the smallest post office in the world. If you brought your passport, you can get a stamp.
It will always remind you of that one day when you entered paradise.
French Polynesia is one of the most elite destinations in the world. It is a favorite destination for honeymooners, and many of these island paradises are home to exclusive hotels and resorts.
Contributed by Mona Corona
The French Polynesian island of Bora Bora is easily one of the most beautiful places on earth, and exudes paradise and relaxation in every sense of the word.
Image waking up in your own private bungalow surrounded by the turquoise lagoon waters. From your deck, you are able to jump right into the Pacific Ocean for a morning swim.
Bora Bora is home to some of the most magnificent coral reefs in the world, so if you enjoy scuba diving or snorkeling, this is one of the best waters to witness all the incredible species of flora and fauna that exist in the Bora Bora lagoon.
Spend the rest of your days relaxing by the beach, doing water sports and activities, or being pampered at the spa. End your day by watching the breathtaking sunset against the stunning backdrop of the auspicious Mt. Otenamu.
Some bungalows even come with a private infinity pool or hot tub, which makes for an ideal spot to watch the sunset from with a glass of wine in hand.
Finally, let the gentle sounds of the waves rock you to sleep as you get a rejuvenating rest, and wake up feeling refreshed for another perfect day in paradise.
Contributed by Lifestyle Fifty
Arriving by sea our ship dropped anchor in Moorea just offshore at Opunohu Bay and the first impression was of a lush and dramatic island.
Rising from the ocean, its jagged volcanic peaks soaring above emerald vegetation, Moorea seemed to us like paradise.
Once ashore we went on a fantastic half-day photographic 4 x 4 tour with Eyes of Moorea and explored some of the island’s beautiful look outs, and off the beaten track scenery.
You might decide to rent a car to tour the island, and if you do make sure to drive through the Opunohu Valley where you’ll find old Polynesian temples hidden in jungle-like surrounds.
Or drive along gravel tracks through pineapple plantations and gaze up at Mount Rotui, a spectacular jagged peak which soars up from the surrounding forests.
We drove up a rugged and very steep road through a forest to a lookout named Magic Mountain. Arriving at the top we were rewarded with a 180-degree view across the island taking in protected blue lagoons, the coral reef, and some amazing-looking five star hotel bungalows jutting out into the ocean.
Yup, we really thought we’d found paradise on French Polynesia.
Contributed by Out Chasing Stars
We traveled to Fakarava on our sailboat in 2016. Fakarava, in French Polynesia’s Tuamotu island group, is one of the most beautiful islands we’ve been to. It’s one of the bigger atolls, at 23 km by 55 km, but the only land is a narrow strip on the eastern half of the atoll.
Away from the Marriotts and Hiltons, the only accommodations are small pensions – guest houses.
The biggest attraction here is what lies under the water. Diving and snorkeling year-round are incredible. The south pass of Fakarava is a popular hang out to see sharks, most commonly blacktip sharks. The pass itself has a sandy bottom, with walls on either side, packed with pristine coral, which stretches out thickly in both directions.
Miraculously, these sharks spend all year here waiting for the annual grouper spawning that happens in July.
Outside of the water, visit the pearl farms that create the famous Tahitian pearls. The tour will show you how the oysters are farmed and the pearl implanted and harvested.
In Rotoava, the main village, there’s a stunning church. The interior is painted blue, with traditional Polynesian shell decorations throughout.
Tonga makes a splash during the 2016 Summer Olympics opening ceremony. Pita Taufatofua, a taekwondo athlete, proudly carries his nation flag. He is shirtless and his muscular body glistens with oil while wearing Tonga’s national costume.
He repeats the event in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics opening ceremony. This time in South Korea’s frigid temperatures.
Either way, he puts Tonga in the map for the rest of the world to see.
The Kingdom of Tonga is the only nation in all of the Pacific Ocean Islands never colonized by Europeans. For that reason, Tonga retains one of the most authentic Polynesian cultures in the South Pacific Islands.
The infrastructure of Tonga not as developed as other Pacific Islands. Although you can find good deals to fly to the capital Nuku’alofa from Australia or New Zealand, domestic flights within Tonga are still very expensive.
As a scuba diver, I’m looking forward to diving the Tongan blue waters. If you’re lucky, you can even witness a huge whale migration swimming by.
The Samoan Islands
The Samoan Islands form part of Polynesia in the South Pacific. The islands are home to one of the largest Polynesian populations in the world. Samoa is an independent nation to the west.
American Samoa, in the east, is an unincorporated territory of the United States.
These Pacific island nations are split by the International Date Line.
Contributed by The Wandering Linguist
This island nation is a pure paradise, with lush greenery and stunning beaches in every corner. The traditional culture is alive and thriving, with the majority of the population belonging to small community villages.
The iconic To Sua trench is a breathtaking natural wonder, and Lalomanu beach is by far one of the best beaches I’ve seen in my life. For more details about things to see and do, check out my post about how to spend a week in Samoa.
There are so many opportunities to experience the local lifestyle and understand the unique culture, which is truly fascinating. But the main reason I recommend Samoa is for its sheer beauty.
I mean, there are so many natural wonders that it would be hard to find anywhere else in the world (especially condensed in such a small space).
Samoa also has many beautiful resorts. Return to Paradise beach resort is my personal favourite, as the beach is absolutely stunning. Aside from that, they have several restaurants/bars and organise daily activities for guests.
Contributed by Once in A Lifetime Journey
American Samoa is the farthest you can get from mainland United States while still remaining in the country. Although it is a part of the US, it is officially an unincorporated territory.
Its citizens hold US passports, but they are not US citizens and cannot vote. An oddity that only applies here.
Just east of the International Date Line, the islands are also the last place the sun sets every day. It’s also the only part of the US to lie below the Equator.
A vacation in American Samoa is sure to bring you many great experiences.
American Samoa is one of the hardest places to reach. You can only get there from Hawaii or Samoa. Unlike other parts of the Pacific, its ties to the US means that some of what we would consider “modernity” has arrived.
There are two MacDonald’s and pick up trucks everywhere. The traditional way of life you can find in Samoa is no longer prevalent here. However, the traditions and heritage have been maintained.
Tourism infrastructure is not really developed. Most of the activities are related to exploring its magnificent nature. The National Park of American Samoa is one of the nicest parks in the US.
It’smade of both rainforest and a rich marine ecosystem. You can explore the park on the many marked trails and even stay at a network of local homestays.
American Samoa is made of a few islands. The majority of the main island of Tutuila is volcanic. That means there aren’t as many white-sand beaches as in other parts of the Pacific.
For the South Pacific beach experience, head over to Ofu and Tau islands, via a weekly flight from the capital of Pago Pago.
Contributed by Wild Junket
Located in the western corner of the Pacific Ocean, Palau is an archipelago nation in the Federated States of Micronesia. Hundreds of world-class dive sites sprinkle the area along with patchworks of untouched forests. The most famous attraction in Palau is Jellyfish Lake.
This marine lake is home to thousands of golden jellyfish that have evolved over the years to become stingless.
In the week that I spent exploring Palau, I kayaked the Rock Islands, plunged to the depth of its reefs and swam with sharks and turtles. After that, it was back on land to explore the historical side of Palau, and eventually, get down and dirty on a wild ATV ride.
For a nature-lover like myself, Palau provided the perfect mix of adventure and outdoor fun.
Contributed by Why You Wander
Last Christmas I went on a South Pacific cruise and Mare and Noumea were two places I visited in New Caledonia. Of course, Maré was my favorite.
Maré Island is the second-largest of the Loyalty Islands in New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. Exceptionally serene, this island is for those who love adventure, but in a peaceful and sustainable fashion.
How to Reach Mare: Cruise lines, Flights & Ferry are the modes of transport to reach Mare. Cruises are more popular, with P&O and Carnival Cruises having multiple trips all around the year.
Accommodation: Since most of the visitors are daytime visitors, there are not many accommodation options on the island. Nenhgone Village Hotel is one of the reasonable ones.
Getting Around: Rental cars & motorbikes are the best way to go around, of course, next to traveling with locals in their vehicle shares.
What to See: A 45 minute walk from the Tadine Bay will take you to the beautiful natural aquarium. It has crystal clear water with an abundance of colorful fishes.
Around 10 km away from Tadine Bay, you’ll find beautiful Yedjele beach. This beach has got great vibes. Snorkeling, swimming, local shops selling barbeque & clothes, all with Kanak music playing in the background!
Bone hole/Sinkhole (vertical cave hollowed out in the limestone rocks) is another popular attraction.
After gaining popularity as an international tourist destination back in early 2000s after the Lord of the Rings series, New Zealand has come into its own.
New Zealand is deep in the southwest corner of the Pacific Ocean Islands region. Its famous Maori culture has a deeply-rooted connection with the other Polynesian cultures throughout the Pacific.
Napier (North Island)
Contributed by Travel Kiwis
Napier is a beautiful city on the east coast of the north island of New Zealand. The city is famous for its art deco architecture rebuilt following the 1931 earthquake.
It’s also well known for the Maori legend of Pania. As you stroll along the Marine Parade of Napier, you will come across the beautiful statue of Pania of the Reef.
This statue shows her beauty, but also her sadness.
Pania of the Reef is a legend of Maori mythology. While there are a few variations to the myth, the legend tells of Pania who lived with the sea people.
One day while ashore drinking from the spring at the base of the Hukarere cliff, she met and fell in love with Karitoki, a Maori Chieftain.
Pania married Karitoki, but could not resist the call of the sea people luring her back. She swam out to meet them. But when she tried to return to Karitoki, the sea people surrounded her.
They transformed Pania into a reef lying beyond the Napier breakwater.
Pania never returned to Karitoki. The statue of Pania of the Reef was unveiled in 1954.
Wellington (North Island)
Contributed by Travel Kiwis
The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (known as Te Papa) is the country’s national museum located in Wellington. When looking to learn more about the culture of the Tangata Whenua (people of the land), Te Papa should be high on your list when visiting Wellington.
The exhibition of Mana Whenua is a permanent exhibition of the indigenous people of New Zealand. It’s here you can experience life on a marae (meeting ground) starting at the meeting house.
This beautiful structure showcases the story of New Zealand over the last 200 years through carvings.
Step inside the whare (house) to observe the life of the Maori of weaving, gardening, carving and hunting. Make sure you take a look at the beautiful Pounamu (greenstone).
They are carved as Tikis worn around your neck or carved as a Mere, a teardrop weapon.
The most impressive display is the Waka, a large wooden canoe. The waka brought the Maori to New Zealand and helped them navigate the rivers and lakes for hunting and war.
Te Papa is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm (except Christmas Day).
Rotorua (North Island)
Contributed by World Trip Diaries
When in New Zealand, don’t miss a visit to one of the Maori villages. Rotorua has many that are open to the public (they’re mostly paid, though) and great!
We visited Te Puia and had the chance to see the thermal waters, geysers, bubbling mud, and colorful ponds, of course, but also a glimpse at the Maori culture.
We saw people weaving flax leaves, carving Maori style, and had access to a beautiful Maori presentation with music, games, and introduction to their lifestyle and history.
If you want to dig deeper, you can even try a hangi. A hangi is a meal cooked in a buried oven, the traditional Maori style, cooked with the heat of the thermal waters of the region!
Also, pay a visit to The Buried Village of Te Wairoa. It has loads of historical artifacts and stories of the people from the time when the volcano Mount Tarawera erupted!
Though in Rotorua, try to stay a bit away from the thermal waters, as the smell isn’t very nice.
You will, though, need a car to get around. For more on Visiting Te Puia Rotorua with Kids
Contributed by 2 Aussie Travellers
Norfolk Island is a South Pacific island located approximately halfway between Australia and New Zealand. It’s the diversity on this small sub-tropical island that makes it a unique choice for visitors looking for a South Pacific island holiday with a difference.
There’s a gorgeous turquoise lagoon for sheltered snorkelling, rugged, dramatic coastline, and an extensive National Park area for hiking.
You’ll find some fascinating history here, too. It’s one of 11 sites that make up the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Australian Convict Sites. Subsequently, it became home to descendants from the mutiny on the Bounty.
The island food scene has strongly embraced the locavore or local food movement. This creates some innovative and delicious results. For those who enjoy a game of golf, the island offers beautifully maintained greens overlooking the ocean.
It’s possibly the only golf course in the world situated within a historic World Heritage site.
There’s a range of places to stay to suit your budget but we found the Broad Leaf Villas a good choice, our self-contained unit came with a rental car to explore all reaches of the island and a mobile phone in case you ran into any problems.
More on Things to do on Norfolk Island
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Pacific Island Vacation Destinations
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Halef moved from Indonesia to the US nearly two decades ago to go to college here. He hasn’t looked back. He’s been to over forty countries and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. He’s a Landscape Architect in Atlanta, GA.