South Pacific Island Hopping: First Timers Guide to Travelling Around These Islands

The South Pacific is known for its white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and luscious fora and fauna. Made up of numerous islands and nations, the South Pacific offers something for everyone. If you are keen to explore the diverse landscapes, cultures, and experiences of the South Pacific then island hopping is a great way to do so.

Planning your island-hopping adventure

Before jetting off to paradise it is worth creating a travel itinerary based on what kind of experience, budget, activities, and length of time you are looking for. Below we suggest a range of stopovers to take on your island-hopping adventure that allows you to explore a range of popular islands in the South Pacific. It is important to plan ahead when booking transportation as there are a variety of ways to travel around the islands from domestic flights to ferries and charter boats.

Stop 1: Fiji 🇫🇯

First stop on this island-hopping adventure is the idyllic island of Fiji. Flying into Nadi international airport, Denarau island will be the first stop to kick off your Fijian adventure. Just a 20-minute ride to the manmade island, Denarau is a hub for luxurious five-star resorts. Here you enjoy pure luxury with spas, golden sandy beaches, 18-hole golf courses and high-end resorts. If you are looking to island hop on a budget then do not sweat, there are plenty of other options in Fiji that allow you to explore the island and all it has to offer.  

Why not take a trip to the Mamanuca Islands, one of the many islands scattered across the Fiji archipelago? So picturesque that they have starred in the infamous movie Castaway, the Mamanucas are a chain of 20 islands close to Nadi. If you are coming from Denaura then you can take a catamaran ferry from port Denarua to your chosen Mamanuca Island. We recommend spending a few days here to take in the tranquillity of the islands and get a true feel for island life. You can also zoom around the Islands by jet ski where you can cover a range of islands and spend a few hours snorkelling, relaxing on the beach and exploring caves.  

Finally, we recommend spending a few days at the Yasawa Islands where you can enjoy its stunning natural attractions such as the blue lagoon, vibrant coral reefs and Sawa-i-Lau caves. The caves are steeped in mystery at the heart of the Yasawa Islands and and are the perfect daytrip destination. We also recommend seeing the islands by high-speed catamaran. Here you cruise around the islands for the day whilst taking in the breath-taking scenery.  

Recommended length of stay: 1- 2 weeks

Stop 2: Samoa 🇼🇸

Fly to the capital of Samoa, Apia where you will begin to explore the island and all it has to offer. Made up of an archipelago of 10 islands, Samoa consists of two main islands: Upolu and Savai’i. Starting in Upolu, the home to Samoa’s historical capital city of Apia there is an abundance to see and do. The island is flanked with unspoiled white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters. With a variety of resorts, hotels and fales, it is important to book far in advance to secure accommodation on the small island. To get the true island experience we recommend staying in a traditional fale which are usually located on the beach. Here you will experience true Samoan living with thatched roofs and no walls, being close to the ocean and living the laidback island life.  

During your time in Upolu we recommend visiting the Samoa cultural village where you can immerse yourself in true Samoan culture. Here you will learn many new skills like dancing, cooking, arts and crafts. It is guaranteed to be a truly authentic island experience. It is also worth visiting the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum which is steeped in Polynesian history.  

When exploring Upolu’s natural beauty, the iconic To Sua Ocean Trench is a must. This giant swimming hole is a truly unique spot in Samoa where you can submerge yourself in 30 metres of natural salt water, surrounded by tropical paradise. For beaches we recommend Lalomanu Beach, an idyllic spot filled with beach fales and views of Samoa’s outer islands. If you are also looking for unique swimming experiences, then add the Piula Cave Pool and Papaseea Sliding Rocks to your agenda.  

Once you have fully explored Upolu, you can spend a few days on the island of Savai’i. You can travel here via ferry but make sure to book if you are travelling by car as it gets busy. Once you arrive on the island, you can drive 20 minutes to Afu A’au Waterfall where you can plunge into the freshwater falls. Heading North to Saleaula lava Field, you can witness the remains of five villages that were covered in molten lava from the 1905-1911 Mt Matavanu eruption. South of the Island leads you to Alofa’aga Blow Holes, where you can watch locals throwing coconuts into these roaring lava tubes. So, make sure to add Samoa to your pacific island-hopping adventure with plenty to see and do, the main attraction is that it is less developed for tourism so you can be a local for the week.  

Recommended length of stay: 10 days

Stop 3: Tahiti 🇵🇫

The next stop on your island-hopping adventure will lead you to the stunning island of Tahiti, the largest island in French Polynesia. Here you can start by exploring Papeete for the day, the capital of Tahiti. Make sure to check out one of the oldest attractions on the island, the local market. Considered the heart of the city, here you can delve into the islands fresh produce from fresh fish caught daily to handcrafted products. If you are interested to explore more of Papeete and its attractions make sure to leave enough time so you can explore the rest of the island.  

If you are keen to make the most of your stopover in Tahiti then we recommend taking a full day tour. During this tour you will cover array of highlights of the stunning island including taking a visit to the Maraa Grotto. This surreal spot is a place where you can immerse yourself in freshwater pools, small caves and explore what the Grotto has to offer. You will also visit iconic landmarks such as Point Venus, a peninsula on the North coast of Tahiti that has been visited by famous explores like Captain James Cook. This historic landmark is filled with history and includes black sandy beaches and a lighthouse.  

If you think you have seen Tahiti after your around the island tour, then think again. We recommend taking a safari expedition by four-wheel drive. This excursion takes you into the heart of Tahiti’s mountainous interior and its crater. You will have knowledgeable local guides giving you information about Tahiti’s eco-tourism.  

Finally, if you are keen to explore the nearby island of Moorea, you can take a ferry or plane ride to the island. Here you can take a range of different tours taking you around the island and exploring its stunning landscapes. A highlight to the island is Belvedere Lookout and pineapple plantations so be sure to add this to your Tahiti itinerary.  

Recommended length of stay: 1 week

Stop 4: Bora Bora 🇵🇫

The next part of your journey will lead you to the surreal island of Bora Bora. A ferry or short flight from Tahiti will lead you to crystal clear waters, overwater bungalows and luxury resorts. Here there will be plenty of opportunities to enjoy water activities including scuba diving, snorkelling and jet skiing. It is important to note Bora Bora is more on the expensive side as it is harder to get to. However, there are several guesthouses and hotels for under $150 per night and even a hostel for $30 a night. So, depending on your budget and the experience you are looking for it is possible to do Bora Bora on a budget but overall, the accommodation is aimed at the luxury market.  

With the island mainly for beaching and swimming why not try a snorkelling safari where you will get the change to explore Bora Bora’s aquamarine life. Highlights include swimming with reef sharks and stingrays and in general exploring Bora Bora’s underwater life. There are a variety of tours to take around the island including jet ski adventures, sunset boat cruises, helicopter rides and full day lagoon tours. So, depending on how advetorutous you are, make sure to plan your tour in advance so you can enjoy the wonder Bora Bora has to offer.

Recommended length of stay: 1 week
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South Pacific  — Facts before you go

🗣️ Languages

There are hundreds of languages spoken in the South Pacific including English, French, Spanish, Dutch as well as numerous indigenous languages like Samoan, Maori, Tahitian and may more.

☀️ Climate

The weather of the South Pacific varies from tropical to subtropical, with warm temperatures year-round in many areas. The region can be affected by tropical cyclones during certain times of the year.

🏝️ Geography

The South Pacific refers to the region encompassing thousands of islands and nations scattered across the southern Pacific Ocean. It includes countries like Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and many others.

💸 Economy

The economies of South Pacific countries vary widely, with some relying heavily on tourism, agriculture, fishing, and natural resource extraction. International aid and remittances from expatriates also play significant roles in many economies.

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Nicole Gruss
April 19, 2024

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