Palm trees by the lagoon on One Foot Island in the Cook Islands
travel guide

The South Pacific Islands: a first timer's guide

With white, sandy beaches, turquoise lagoons and scattered palm trees, the Pacific Islands look like paradise. Dotted around the South Pacific, these islands are small and untouched.

A holiday in the Pacific Islands is all about relaxing, switching off from everyday life, and enjoying the simple pleasures of a tropical island - exotic fruit, warm weather, beautiful lagoons and fresh fish. These holidays are less about adventure or luxury and more about simply experiencing some of the most beautiful places in the world.

Many of the islands (with the notable exception of Fiji) are relatively underdeveloped, with few large hotel brands there. While the Pacific Islands have a strong tourism industry, it's mostly targeted at New Zealanders and Australians

Green foliage by the lagoon in Fiji's Yasawa Islands

How to get there

Getting to the Pacific Islands is definitely the most convenient from New Zealand. Flights to each island leave multiple times a week. There are also regular flights from Australia, while Fiji has a weekly flight from LA, and the Cook Islands has a connection to Canada.

Travelling between the South Pacific Islands is more complicated than you would think, with routes changing on a frequent basis. Saying that, Tonga generally has good connections to Fiji and Samoa, and you can usually fly from French Polynesia to the other South Pacific Islands. It is best checking before you go.

Note: Many of these islands have closed their borders due to the coronavirus pandemic. This section will be updated once borders re-open and flights resume.

When to visit

The Pacific Islands have a distinct wet and dry season. The dry season runs from April to October and is the most popular time to visit the islands. This is for two reasons: the weather is great, and it's winter in New Zealand and Australia, where many tourists come from.

A white, sandy beach on Aitutaki

The humidity is greatly reduced during the winter months, and the cyclone season has passed. You are also more likely to see humpback whales between June and October. On the other hand, there'll be more visitors and prices are a bit higher.

Travelling to the Pacific Islands during the low season is entirely possible. Just keep in mind that it'll probably be rain during your stay, it will be hot and humid and some activities may be closed, especially if you visit outside of the Christmas school holidays. It's also cyclone season, so there is the possibility of high winds and torrential rain, although generally rainfall is light and there's still long patches of sunshine.


With resorts, kids' clubs and activities for all ages, Fiji is a popular family holiday destination. Fiji is more developed than the other islands and there are a number of brand-name resorts here. These are particularly clustered on Denarau Island, a resort development on the Western side of Viti Levu, Fiji's main island - before booking just keep in mind that there isn't a natural beach in Denarau.

A long beach in the Yasawa Islands, Fiji

Just a short boat ride from Denarau, you'll find the Mamanuca Islands, complete with beautiful beaches, excellent snorkelling and tall palm trees. There are a number of resorts on these islands, ranging from family-friendly with kids' clubs and childcare services, through to adult-only resorts for romantic getaways. The Cloud 9 surf breaks are easily accessible for a day trip - go for the surf or just to relax in the on-water bar. Just keep in mind that food and accommodation in Fiji isn't cheap.

If you're interested in scuba diving in Fiji or want to experience Fiji without mass tourism, the stunning Yasawa Islands are a bit further from Viti Levu. The Yasawas are less convenient to visit, but there are regular local sea plane flights. Accommodation here is a bit more rustic, but the views are spectacular and you can enjoy the untouched scenery. Backpackers are well catered for, and there are a couple of resorts if you want a touch more luxury.

The Cook Islands

A territory of New Zealand, the Cook Islanders are just a couple of hours' flight from Auckland. Rarotonga, the largest island, is particularly popular with New Zealanders, and there are a number of small resorts on the island. With calm lagoons, long beaches and friendly locals, Rarotonga is a great place for a family holiday. It's also possible to rent a house near the beach and self-cater during your stay. The Cook Islands also uses the New Zealand dollar.

Colourful kayaks at Muri Lagoon in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.

For a more secluded getaway, Aitutaki, about an hour's flight from Rarotonga, is the perfect destination. A favourite with honeymooners, Aitutaki is simply stunning. White sandy beaches are studded with palm trees and the scenery is like a postcard come to life.

The island is tiny and there are a number of resorts, mostly catering for couples. There are a couple of cheaper options, but they're a lot harder to track down.

In terms of activities, the lagoon cruise is a must, stopping at various deserted islands and including a fish lunch. One Foot Island is a favourite stop, with an old post office, shady trees and a small reef for snorkelling. Aitutaki is a remarkably beautiful place and is the perfect spot for relaxing on the beach with a cocktail and a good book.


Less developed than Fiji or the Cook Islands, your holiday in Tonga is likely to include simple accommodation, friendly people and beautiful surroundings. There are a number of locally owned and run accommodation options, which are generally clean, simple and often absolute beachfront.

Beach on Atata Island in Tonga

Tonga is a more affordable destination, but service isn't always up to international standards, so don't expect luxury service. However, the surroundings are stunning, people are helpful and welcoming, and it's easier to get a sense of the local culture than on some other islands.

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Roxanne de Bruyn

Author - Roxanne de Bruyn

Roxanne is the founder and editor of Faraway Worlds. She is a freelance writer and guidebook author and has written for several travel publications, including Lonely Planet and The Culture Trip. With a background in communications, she has studied ancient history, comparative religion and international development, and has a particular interest in sustainable tourism.

Originally from South Africa, Roxanne has travelled widely and loves learning the stories of the places she visits. She enjoys cooking, dance and yoga, and usually travels with her husband and young son. She is based in New Zealand.

Last Updated 29 June 2022

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