When office dwellers daydream about escaping to paradise, they often picture the South Pacific—a clear blue ocean, straw-roofed hut, undisturbed beach, and tropical drink. It all sounds so good.
You may be among these daydreamers, and you may even be quickly adding “South Pacific” to your travel bucket list.
But where should you go? Or, in the short term, to where should you allow your mind to wander?
Well, you can’t go wrong. It does depend on where your interests lie, though. Check out these nine South Pacific destinations, sorted by activity.
For scuba diving or snorkeling:
Namena Marine Reserve – Fiji
Find serenity and adventure at the edge of the world in Fiji. The Daku Resort specializes in providing all-encompassing experiences for travelers that include sea and beachside activities, including yoga, while the Namena Marine Reserve is one of the great aquatic wonders of the world. The stretch of ocean between the main Fijian islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu features remarkable biodiversity, thanks to environmental protection.
Rock Islands Southern Lagoon – Palau
The Rock Islands Southern Lagoon, with its hundreds of lush, emerald peaks and impossibly turquoise waters, was abandoned by civilization in the 18th century. Today, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is a popular scuba and snorkeling destination due to its stunning natural beauty and marine phenomena. Jellyfish Lake, one of about 70 within the lagoon, is home to the unique golden jellyfish, which has lost its stinging power over time as a result of the lack of natural predators in the area. Tourists can snorkel among the jellyfish, with tours offered from Koror.
Port Vila – Vanuatu
Vanuatu’s lively capital, Port Vila, is the perfect home base to launch your South Pacific adventure. Explore the culture of the country through the city’s many markets, restaurants, and museums. Then book trips to the surrounding waters, translucent and filled with spectacular marine life. For a romantic getaway, Iririki Island offers a wide range of activities to go along with your stay in paradise.
For relaxing on the beach:
Atata Island – Tonga
A pleasant, 20-minute boat ride from Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu, Atata Island is shaped like a gourd, with one long beach wrapping around the skinny portion. You’ll find the Royal Sunset Resort fit with typical amenities…just in an out-of-this-world setting. Unwind with a drink on the beach or admire the ocean from the outdoor pool.
Aitutaki – Cook Islands
Aitutaki has somehow earned an international reputation as home to the “Most Beautiful Lagoon in the World” while remaining understated. It’s a relaxed atmosphere—then again, how could it not be?—that welcomes travelers to its pristine beaches. There are plenty of resorts to choose from, ranging from the upscale, like the Aitutaki Private Island Resort, to the affordable, like the Kuru Club. Each is mere steps from the open ocean.
Norfolk Island – Australia
The 15-square-mile island, an Australian property north of New Zealand and south of New Caledonia, has an interesting history. It was home to a ruthless British penal settlement, and then essentially gifted to descendants of mutineers, who settled in the South Pacific. Their blend of Old English and Tahitian is still spoken to this day. Culture aside, Norfolk Island’s undisturbed beaches provide a serene getaway, with pine forests covering the cliffs above. Visitors can also hike, fish, or snorkel during their stay.
For discovering hidden gems:
This atoll at the edge of Oceania, and close, comparatively speaking, to Hawaii, has something for everyone. The quaint beachside lodges give visitors a taste of paradise, with aquatic adventures readily available—world-class fishing, snorkeling, and surfing, to mention three. History buffs might also be interested in Kiribati’s World War II legacy: It was an important battleground in the Pacific Theater. Kiribati, Kiritimati Island in particular, is also an important breeding ground and sanctuary for a number of seabirds. As a result, a bird-watching tour is a must here.
Lord Howe Island – Australia
Lord Howe Island is isolated by geography and policy. It sits in the Tasman Sea, some 700 kilometers northeast of Sydney, and only 400 visitors are allowed on the island at any one time. Because of this, an unspoiled natural environment remains, with sea and land adventures available. Ned’s Beach, on the north end of the island, is popular for its snorkeling and coral reef.
With lush green jungles covering a volcanic landscape, Samoa is as beautiful a country as there is in the world. Somehow, it remains a less popular destination than its South Pacific neighbors like Fiji and Bora Bora. That’s good for you! Stay at a typical open beach hut or a modern resort and enjoy a wide variety of activities: scuba-diving, snorkeling, jungle tours, hiking, and more. Head there for a romantic getaway, or bring the whole family!