Turquoise water at Bora Bora island beach, Tahiti (French Polynesia) Vacations

10 Reasons to Visit Polynesia on South Pacific Vacations

If the frigid North American weather hasn’t given you enough reason to look to warmer climates for respite, the following reasons to visit tropical Polynesian islands will. South Pacific vacations are chock-full of gorgeous islands that let you escape from the rhythms and worries of workaday life and relax in paradise. If you’re a beach bum, they have gorgeous white-sand beaches ready to welcome you to afternoons of lazy idyll. If you are a nature lover, they offer lively ecosystems that you can explore by land and sea. If you are a people person, the islands of the South Pacific have some of the friendliest people the world over, people who are ecstatic to welcome you to their island and their lives.

As you can see, there are as many reasons to visit the South Pacific as there are lagoons and beaches in the stretch of islands from Fiji to Hawaii. However, in order to avoid writing a novel-length summary of the South Pacific’s appeal, we’ve limited our list of reasons to an even 10. The following are 10 reasons to experience South Pacific vacations.

1. The Beaches are Flat-Out Gorgeous

Have you ever gone on a beach vacation and been underwhelmed by the coral-filled beaches and scant amount of space afforded you alongside thousands of other vacationers? Luckily, you don’t have to worry about such annoyances on  South Pacific vacations. Fiji, the Cook Islands, and the Islands of Tahiti are renowned for their pristine, spacious beaches where you can relax without fear of someone rolling over onto you while sun tanning.

Regardless of destination in the South Pacific, you’ll find plenty of room to stretch your legs on warm, white sand beaches. In the Cooks, Titikaveka Beach on Rarotonga offers pristine white sands on the south of the island, while One Foot Island in the Aitutaki lagoon is considered one of the best untouched beaches in the world. As well, Matira Beach on Bora Bora offers a quiet bay where you can escape from the world. You’ll even find black-sand beaches in the South Pacific if you head to Point Venus Beach on Tahiti island or Punaluu on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Line of five coconut palm trees at Titikaveka beach in Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Line of five coconut palm trees at Titikaveka beach in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

2. The Lagoons are the Most Beautiful in the World

Move over beaches; the waters of the South Pacific islands are not to be outdone. On South Pacific vacations, especially in French Polynesia and the Cook Islands, you’ll find stunning lagoons that are the toast of the world. Aitutaki in the Cook Islands is widely considered one of the loveliest lagoons in the world. The lagoon has largely been spared the effects of tourism until recently and thus is a pristine stretch of crystal-clear waters surrounded by palm-fringed, white-sand beaches.

If you head to Fiji and the Islands of Tahiti, you’ll also find some incredible lagoons to explore and savour. Bora Bora’s lagoon is especially gorgeous, as much of the island surrounds the lagoon, making it the geographic centre of focus as well as the main tourist highlight.

Aerial View from Mount Otemanu and Bora Bora, Tahiti (French Polynesia)
Aerial View of Mount Otemanu and Bora Bora lagoon

3. Overwater Bungalows

There are few better ways to experience the lagoons of the South Pacific than to stay in an overwater bungalow. Certain resorts in Bora Bora, Tahiti, the Cook Islands, and even Fiji have overwater bungalows that let you stay in luxury rooms built on top of the crystal-clear waters of a lagoon. Aside from offering luxury amenities and total privacy, these overwater bungalows give you unfettered access to the lagoons. All you need do to enjoy the warm waters is to leave your front door and hop in!

There are few things as pampering as staying in an overwater bungalow. It’s a bit of an indulgence, but it’s an indulgence that’s worth every penny.

Intercontinental Bora Bora Overwater Bungalows, Tahiti
Overwater bungalows in Tahiti

4. Snorkel or Scuba Dive the Underwater World

Perhaps the only thing that’s better than to stay in an overwater bungalow above the lagoons on South Pacific vacations is to snorkel or scuba dive beneath the waves and discover these underwater worlds for yourself. There is more activity happening beneath the waves of the Islands of Tahiti, Fiji, and the Cook Islands than there is on the islands and in the towns. You could even say that the real life of the South Pacific is happening in the water and all the rest is just window dressing.

Snorkelling or scuba diving are your best ways to admire the colourful coral reefs of the lagoons and see the tiger sharks, green sea turtles, stingrays, and occasional dolphins that call the waters home. Whether you head to the Islands of Tahiti, the Cook Islands, or Fiji, you’ll find the waters bursting at the seams with life. In particular, the “Garden Island of Fiji,” Taveuni, is home to some of the best diving spots in the world. At Eel Reef, you can find the titular sea creatures against a backdrop of an incredible 30m-high wall of soft coral.

Coral reef off the coast of island of Taveuni, Fiji
Coral reef off the coast of island of Taveuni, Fiji

5. Verdant Inlands to Explore

All that being said about the underwater worlds of the islands, don’t make the mistake of thinking the islands themselves have nothing of interest on South Pacific vacations. The Cook Islands, Fiji, the Islands of Tahiti, and Hawaii are verdant destinations covered with tropical rainforests and some great historical highlights to uncover. In particular, the Islands of Tahiti have plenty to explore, from Mount Otemanu on Bora Bora to the vanilla plantations of Huahine, from the peaks of Mount Tohivea and Mount Rotui on Moorea to the Valley of Papenoo on Tahiti island. In the Cook Islands, you can ride a scooter along the coastal road of Rarotonga and visit the white coral churches that line the island and play an essential role in the local culture. Or you can discover inland watering holes that are perfect for a private swim or a jungle trail to wander down for a few hours.

Father and kids biking in Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Biking in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

6. The Locals are Impossibly Friendly

Lots of countries claim to have the friendliest people on the planet, but occasionally their friendliness is just politeness masking a leery indifference. As you’ll find, on South Pacific vacations, the locals are ecstatically, enthusiastically friendly. They are genuinely friendly and will make you feel at home to such an extent that most other destinations on earth pale in comparison.

There are few countries that make you feel as at home as the nations of the South Pacific. You’d think that these people would want to steal away their idyllic island nations from the rest of the world, but that’s not the case at all. Big smiles, friendly hugs, enthusiastic welcomes, and invitations to take part in island life are part and parcel of trips to the Islands of Tahiti, Fiji, and the Cook Islands. Expect to take part in family dinners, impromptu dances, and joyful feasts. Life in the South Pacific is good and the islanders want to share it with the world.

Bula greeting from Fijian man against the Blue Lagoon on Nanuya Lailai Island, Yasawa Islands, Fiji
Bula greeting from Fijian man

7. Great Traditional Food and Culture

As the Pacific Islanders are so enthusiastic about sharing their culture with others, it stands to reason that they have some great cultures to share. No matter which island nation you visit on South Pacific vacations, you’ll find delicious food and a fascinating culture with many centuries of history to explore.

In the Cook Islands, you can head to the Highland Paradise Cultural Centre to learn about the history of the islands’ culture and take part in some traditional cooking and artistry. In Hawaii, make sure to take part in a luau, a local feast hosted by a family that usually involves dancing, celebrating, and delicious food like roast pig and poke. On Tahiti island, you can get in touch with the daily life of locals and try delicious street food at Les Roulettes in Papeete, a series of food trucks that attract locals and tourists alike.

Part of the joy of getting to know Pacific Islanders is the opportunity to take part in their culture. Whether joining in a celebratory feast or journeying back in time to learn about the islands prior to European contact, your South Pacific vacations will be greatly improved by engaging with the local culture.

Highland Paradise Cultural Centre Tour, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Highland Paradise Cultural Centre tour, Rarotonga

8. Sunset Catamaran Cruises

There are few things as romantic as witnessing a sunset from the waters of the South Pacific aboard a luxury catamaran. The sunset is still stunning from the beach or the bar of a resort, but it cannot compare to how majestic it is to be on the ocean and have the failing sun blaze across the surface of the water and surround you in a wash of amber light. Sunset catamaran cruises are available in most destinations across the South Pacific, but cruises across the lagoons of Bora Bora or Aitutaki are especially magical.

Sunset in Bora Bora, Tahiti (French Polynesia)
Sunset in Bora Bora, Islands of Tahiti

9. Hotspot for Whale Watching

If you ever have the chance to go whale watching, take it! Luckily, many islands of the South Pacific intersect with the migration routes of humpback whales. When staying in Bora Bora or Tonga, you can head on day trips out to see the migrating humpback whales. If you’re extremely lucky, you might even be able to swim alongside these giant sea mammals. Regardless of whether you get the chance to swim with them, you can still see the migrating whales during July to October and watch them breach and drench your whale watching vessel in a mist of water from their blowhole.

Humpback Whale Watching in Tonga
Humpback whale watching in Tonga

10. Move to “Island Time:”

Life in the South Pacific islands seems to move to a different beat than the rest of the world. Actions are more deliberate. People pay less attention to clocks. The outside world is not an ever-present nuisance to bother you with news and gossip. This is called “Island Time” and it’s one of the great joys of a visit to the islands of Tahiti, Fiji, the Cook Islands, or the less populated islands of Hawaii.

Conrad Bora Bora - Spa Treatment, Tahiti (French Polynesia)
Enjoy a spa treatment, Tahiti

South Pacific vacations offers respite from the modern world. They offer a chance to put down the cellphone, avoid the commute, escape the winter jacket, and sink into the rhythms of nature and the quiet of the ocean. Jump head-first into a South Pacific vacation and experience all that these wonderful islands have to offer.

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Aren Bergstrom
Aren Bergstrom

Globetrotting Editor - You might say that Aren was destined to become a Globetrotter after his family took him to Germany two times before he was four. If that wasn’t enough, a term spent in Sweden as a young teenager and a trek across Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand confirmed that destiny. An independent writer, director, and film critic, Aren has travelled across Asia, Europe, and South America. His favourite travel experience was visiting the major cities of Japan’s largest island, Honshu, but his love for food, drink, and film will take him anywhere that boasts great art and culture.

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