The Pacific: Highlights

Highlights

Few areas of the world are as rewarding to visit as the South Pacific. Life is relaxed, and the tremendous variety of cultures and choice of things to see and do make this the sort of place you just keep coming back to. When you tire of beachlife you can go to the mountains; city and town visits can alternate with stays in rural areas. There's no overcrowding, and you don't have to hassle with vendors or be constantly on guard against thieves. It's relatively inexpensive, public transportation of all kinds is well developed, and you can easily sidestep the beaten tourist track and go native.

The South Pacific's distance from Europe and North America has saved it from becoming overrun, as Spain and the main Caribbean resorts are overrun. Only tiny New Zealand has the South Pacific in its backyard (Australians are more attracted to Bali and Thailand). Part of the higher amount you'll spend on airfare will come back to you in the form of lower everyday prices. The islanders themselves are the region's greatest attraction: you'll seldom make friends as fast as you do here.

Each Pacific country is unique. Give yourself as much time in the islands as you can, and try to get to at least three different countries to be able to put things in perspective. No matter how hard you travel, you'll always have lots left over to see next time.

Cook Islands

The Cook Islands has easygoing resort life on Rarotonga and Aitutaki, and unspoiled outer-island life everywhere else. Rarotonga resembles Moorea while Aitutaki has a lagoon like Bora Bora's. It's a great place to kick back and enjoy the good food, accommodations, entertainment, sporting activities, and local color at prices well below those of French Polynesia.

Easter Island

The archaeological heart of Polynesia, mysterious Rapa Nui is also a rewarding destination for hikers, surfers, and scuba divers. It's the sort of place you have to visit at least once in your life.

Fiji

Everyone likes Fiji, both for its excellent facilities and the fascinating variety of peoples and cultures. No other South Pacific destination can match the variety of things to see and do or places to go. There's exciting nightlife in the capital, Suva, old colonial towns such as Levuka and Savusavu, lush jungles and reefs on outer islands like Taveuni and Kadavu, and a long string of sunny resorts in the Mamanuca and Yasawa groups off western Viti Levu.

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French Polynesia

Islands like Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, and Bora Bora possess some of the most stirring scenery in the South Pacific, all of it easily accessible by sea or air. The electrifying Tahitian dancing is only the most visible aspect of a rich culture which combines well with the exquisite taste and style of the French. The world class shopping, restaurants, resorts, beaches, and attractions compensate for the higher cost of living.

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New Caledonia

New Caledonia is also a land of stirring contrasts. The capital, Nouméa, could have been lifted out of southern France, but on the east coast of the Grande Terre and on all the outer islands Melanesian culture predominates. The beaches of the Isle of Pines and Loyalty Islands are among the finest in the region.

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Samoa

Sultry Samoa is notable for its intact traditional life and vibrant Polynesian culture. Small villages of thatched oval fale ring the two main islands while countless waterfalls drop from the high verdant interiors. The capital, Apia, is a thriving South Seas metropolis with a bustling main market.

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Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands is perhaps the South Pacific's biggest surprise: friendly welcoming people, reasonable prices, and lots of things to do. It's a land of adventure seldom visited by foreign tourists. The Western Solomons excels for its scenery, diving, and culture.

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Tonga

Each of the three main island groups of Tonga has its own distinct character and Vava'u is an undiscovered pearl of the South Seas. Whalewatching, sailing, kayaking, fishing, scuba diving, and more await you at Vava'u. Tongatapu exhibits the symbols of the last ruling Polynesian dynasty, while Ha'apai is for the beach lover.

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Vanuatu

In Vanuatu you alternate between the polished capital and the unspoiled outer islands. Port Vila is the loveliest capital city in the South Pacific. Luganville on Espiritu Santo is a scuba diving destination, while Tanna offers an active volcano and intact traditional culture. This country is a meacute;lange unmatched anywhere in the world.