When you think of the islands of the South Pacific in your mind, what comes to mind are probably images of crystal clear waters, palm trees, white sand beaches, and bright sunny days. This alluring area is home to some of the world’s most breathtaking islands, each of which is a unique tropical paradise.
Samoa, the Cook Islands, and French Polynesia are just a few examples of the many Polynesian islands that boast crystal clear lagoons, teeming fish populations in coral reefs, and powdery white sand beaches.
Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and New Caledonia are just some of the Melanesian island chains that share a similar natural beauty but also their own unique cultures. Above and below the waves, Palau is a landscaper’s dream, and mysterious places like Easter Island draw visitors with their rich cultural and archeological histories.
Best Places to Visit in the South Pacific
Our list of the best islands in the South Pacific will help you plan a vacation to remember, whether you’re looking for a tropical paradise in Fiji or an eco-tourism hotspot in Australia.
1. Fijian island of Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Bora Bora, the crown jewel of the South Pacific, is a verdant island encircled by a brilliant turquoise lagoon. You can see the lush peaks of Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia protruding from the water as if they are reaching out to you with open arms.
There are both land and sea adventures to be had here. The lagoon and its motus can be explored by boat, with many tours offering the chance to go snorkeling with sharks and rays, and there is a network of trails leading up the jungle hills from which you can get a great view of the area. A dash of French flair in the form of delicious cuisine and secluded spas is the icing on the cake.
2. Cook Islands, Aitutaki
Aitutaki is a crown jewel that presides over one of the most stunning lagoons in the South Pacific. They are located between French Polynesia and Samoa and have strong ties to New Zealand.
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Approximately 45 minutes by plane will take you to Aitutaki from Rarotonga, the most popular island in the chain and home to the international airport.
3. Fiji’s Mamanuca Islands
The Mamanucas are among Fiji’s most desirable islands due to their stunning shores, calm waters, and abundant sunshine. It only takes a short boat ride to reach the world-class surf break known as Cloud Break, which is located just off the coast of these 20 tropical wonders, where coral reefs shimmer in the clear waters.
Cast Away and Survivor Fiji were both filmed on islands in this chain, so if you enjoyed those films and want to see similar landscapes in real life, you should come here. As an added bonus, you can experience the famous Fijian hospitality.
One of the South Pacific’s best-kept secrets is the island nation of Samoa. The heart of Polynesia, this island is pristine, unspoiled, and breathtakingly beautiful. Find this beautiful group of 10 tropical islands about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii on a map of the South Pacific.
Samoa’s dramatic rock islands and sharp peaks were born out of a volcanic uprising. Waterfalls cascade down rocky cliff faces, and coral reefs line the shores of the islands.
5. The Solomon Islands
Are you curious about the South Pacific’s history, before the arrival of tourists and the construction of luxurious high-rise hotels? Make travel arrangements to the Solomon Islands. This idyllic chain of nearly a thousand islands is an ecotourist’s dream and only a three-hour flight from Brisbane, Australia.
Located in the South Pacific between Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands are home to a wide variety of exciting activities. Take a snorkeling trip to a reef with a rainbow of tropical fish.
Malaita and Tagovave have waves that are perfect for surfers. Try your luck at reeling in a mahi mahi or a trevally of epic proportions. Explore the sunken ships of World War 2 by diving beneath them. Paddle across glistening lagoons or through crocodile-infested mangroves on an eco-tour.
For good reason, Palau is frequently ranked among the best places to go scuba diving in the world. The 500 or so islands of Palau are a geological marvel, rising out of the ocean like a jumble of jungle blobs; below their crystal clear turquoise waters is a veritable fish-filled paradise.
Adventurers can swim with turtles, sharks, sea snakes, giant clams, and rays among the brilliantly colored hard and soft corals. The Ngemelis Wall, also known as Big Drop-Off, is widely considered to be one of the best wall dives in the world, and Palau is famous for its WWII wreck diving.
7. Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu
Espiritu Santo, or “Santo” as it is more commonly known, is the largest island of Vanuatu and a popular destination for tourists and explorers. Top draws include shipwrecks, coral reefs, and gorgeous beaches, with jungle-based adventures a close second.
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The white sands and clear waters of Champagne Beach make it a popular destination for tourists. Here, divers and snorkelers can enjoy exploring lush coral reefs and historical wrecks like the World War II-era SS President Coolidge.
8. Australia’s Lord Howe Island
One of the many allures of Lord Howe Island is that it is peaceful and unspoiled because of the fact that it is on the World Heritage list. This ring of towering sea cliffs and tiny islets, once a part of a volcano, can be found about 660 kilometers off the north coast of New South Wales in Australia.
9. New Caledonia’s Isle of Pines
This New Caledonian island, the southernmost, was given its name by Captain Cook for the thin pine trees that line its pristine beaches. It is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in this French overseas collectivity.
Pine trees line the shores of the idyllic bays on the Isle of Pines (Île des Pins), which feature powdery white sand beaches and crystal clear blue waters. Cute rock islets topped with lush vegetation stand out in the distance, adding to the natural beauty.
10. Chile’s Easter Island (Rapa Nui)
Easter Island (Rapa Nui in Polynesian, Isla de Pascua in Spanish) is one of the world’s most remote inhabited islands, and it is also one of the most beautiful. Despite being Chilean territory, this popular ecotourism destination can be found 3,700 kilometers away in the southeastern Pacific Ocean and retains a strong sense of its Polynesian heritage.
The island’s scenery consists mainly of the grassy summits of dormant volcanoes set against a background of dazzlingly blue water. Many of the island’s archeological and natural attractions, such as caves, volcanoes, hiking trails, ceremonial sites, and some of the island’s 887 moai, its most famous attraction, can be found within the boundaries of Rapa Nui National Park, which is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The islands of the South Pacific are more than just a collection of idyllic tropical paradises, as their rich histories and cultures gradually unfold before visitors’ eyes.
Tourists can go scuba diving to explore shipwrecks and coral reefs, hike to breathtaking viewpoints, feast on seafood freshly caught from pristine waters, and gain insight into a culture that has endured for centuries and is sure to warm the traveler’s heart. There’s no shortage of exciting destinations in the South Pacific, but here are ten of the best.