Throughout the South Pacific islands there are exceptional day cruises around pristine lagoons where snorkelling amongst spinner dolphins, turtles and even humpback whales is not uncommon. On land, sightseeing tours explore lush tropical rain forests with secret waterfalls, or visit fascinating traditional villages on culture tours. There are no poisonous insects, no terrorism threats, few tropical diseases and a low crime rate. Welcome to paradise, welcome to the Beautiful South Pacific.
The clear, azure waters of the South Pacific make for some of the world's best water sports. Active holidays in the South Pacific are often based around the water, with scuba diving in Fiji, Vanuatu and French Polynesia ranking amongst best in the world and hair-raising surfing breaks over shallow coral reefs in Fiji and Samoa. Take a look at our exclusive destinations, many of which feature the best in South Pacific water sports.
There's not an awful lot of land activities for tourists to enjoy in the South Pacific other than visit the tropical rainforest or wander around a traditional village and watch a cultural show, which is especially unique in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. However, there are no fascinating temples to visit, few historic buildings to marvel at, little in the way of wildlife (except of course on the water which is covered in a separate chapter), and shopping is very tame. Sports is played at all levels, particularly rugby 7s, but not very well supported unless it is an international; and there are several great golf courses to enjoy in Fiji and Samoa.
If an active holiday is your thing, please read our destination specific recommendations below for more information about the various activities and tours in the South Pacific.
# 1 - Fiji
Fiji has pretty much every water sport opportunity. Throughout the islands are great reefs for scuba diving and snorkelling and there are exceptional surfing breaks in some areas. Most resorts have sea kayaks for exploring the lagoon and in the Mamanucas there are a plethora of motorised sports from jet ski adventures to parasailing and banana boat rides. If you prefer things to be quieter, head to the outer islands where you can rent a small sail boat to visit nearby islands.
Apart from golf and good shopping around Nadi, there's zip-lining and rafting along the Coral Coast and stunning rainforest protected by National Park's / Reserves in Taveuni. Head to the quirky Fiji Museum in Suva. Don't miss the stunning Navala Village on the main island with 200 traditional thatch houses.
# 2 - Vanuatu
Vanuatu has exceptional coral reefs for snorkellers and world war wrecks for scuba divers. There's also good kayaking around the islands and bays off the north west coast of Efate Island, notably around Lelepa Island, as well as in and around Aore Bay and the small islands offshore from Luganville in Espiritu Santo and these same bays are popular with yachties.
Vanuatu has some of the world's most accessible active volcanoes on Tanna, Ambryn and Ambae. It is also the best place to experience the diversity of Melanesian traditions with highlights including the land divers of Pentecost and the various cults and kastom villages on Tanna.
# 3 - French Polynesia
Like Fiji, you can do pretty much everything on the water in French Polynesia. Moorea has loads of water sports based out of Hauru Beach, whilst Bora Bora lagoon is a hive of activity on the water with small boats zipping back and forth with water skiers in tow, sail boats cruising the lagoon and parasailing from the lagoon beside Matira Beach.
Hikes to waterfalls on Moorea; WWII Guns on Bora Bora and some interesting archaeological sites in Huahine. If you are particularly interested in Archaeology and the traditional art of tattoos, then head to the remote Marquesas Group.
# 4 - Tonga
The myriad of islands that make up the three groups in Tonga are fantastic for sea kayaking with short hops between islands and sheltered bays to explore. The Vavau Group with its deep water channels and secluded bays with anchorages are the best place in the South Pacific for a sailing holiday.
Once the powerhouse of Polynesia, there are fascinating archaeological sites to visit including the trilithon on Tongatapu.
# 5 - New Caledonia
Anse Vata beach in Noumea and the two offshore Duck Island and Escapade Island Resort are the best place for water sports in New Caledonia. Kuto Bay in Isle of Pines is also good for sailing and kayaking.
The Cultural Centre outside of Noumea has an excellent collection of Melanesia art. Horse-riding, cave tours and river rafting are all available on Grand Terre.
# 6 - Samoa
Water sports in Samoa are somewhat limited compared to the other South Pacific destinations.The exception is surfing which is world class.
There are several pretty waterfalls on Upolu to explore as well as one of the largest single archaeological structures (star mounds) in Polynesia, although much of it is is buried and not greatly visible. Apia has some of the prettiest South Seas architecture and in the hills is the house where Robert Louis Stevenson spent his final years and is now a museum in honour of his life and the colonial era he lived in.
# 7 - Cook Islands
Most resorts on Rarotonga and Aitutaki have sea kayaks for guests to explore the lagoon. There are sail boats for rent at Muri Beach but otherwise no motorised watersports.
Cook Island churches are beautiful, especially on Sunday with a congregation in full song. The cross island hike on Rarotonga offers a good insight into the different stratospheres of tropical rainforest.