South Pacific Beaches Pictures
Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Rarotonga, Fiji, Easter Island
Picnics with stingrays on Moorea island in French Polynesia, the South Pacific.
Moorea Photos >>>
The South Pacific is etched into the traveler's sub-conscious as a series of glorious, sunny, relaxed palm-fringed beaches surrounded by kaleidoscopic fish, soft coral, sensual girls and muscular, tattooed guys.
And it was thus - in Gauguin's time a hundred years ago, but that perfect combination of Polynesia assets is very difficult to find these days unless you have a big wad and jet into a five star bubble. Even then you'd be missing out on both real local culture and the thrill of discovering your own private little South Sea paradise.
A typical black sand beach bordered by Tahiti's ring road on the south coast.
Tahiti Photos >>>
Tahiti is past its sell-by date, overbuilt and short of interest, both scenically or culturally.
Moorea lacks massive beaches but is nevertheless closer
to a tropical dream destination than Tahiti.
• Probably the most beautiful, well-sorted 'paradise' beaches in the South Pacific are on French Polynesia's Bora Bora, The Cook Island's Aitutaki, Tonga's Foa island (Ha'apai islands group) and Fiji's Yasawa Island. The best beaches tend to be encircled by upmarket resorts that may be quite a distance from backpacker lodgings, though if you scooter/cycle over there, wander in and use the beach staff are very unlikely to object, especially if you treat yourself to a cold beer occasionally and don't get rowdy.
• French Polynesia (e.g. Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora) is generally the most expensive area of the South Pacific, and, need we say, French speaking. The best beaches tend to be hogged by first class hotel resorts here too.
• Fiji and its many islands are the best value group of South Pacific islands, English speaking, not so far from Australia or New Zealand and well set up to look after backpackers and their needs. Again, beaches tend to be OK but not great though Fiji's Blue Lagoon is amazing.
• Culturally the most interesting easily-accessible island group is Fiji, though Rarotonga, Moorea and Samoa all have valid culture tours or shows.
Pricey but gorgeous just about summarises Bora Bora.
Bora Bora Photos >>>
Bora Bora, a short flight from Tahiti, is a stunning French Polynesian holiday spot in an amazing setting and sporting one of the world's best beaches, but it's costly to both get and stay there and is divorced from real life.
South Pacific's best scuba diving
Great scuba sights can be found in North Fiji's Somosomo Strait (speciality is soft coral and best visibility May-October), French Polynesia's Rangiroa atoll (a huge cluster of tiny islets northeast of Tahiti, hotels available, best December-March for sharks) and Tonga's Ha'apai (terrific caves and canyons) and Vava'u islands (May-October for humpback whales) Superb sailing too).
One of Rarotonga's best beaches, and not exactly busy. This is one of the Cook Islands.
Rarotonga Photos >>>
The Cook Islands
Rarotonga is a quiet, better value, English-speaking version of a French Polynesian island, 900 kms west of Tahiti and ringed by a fractured reef.
Some beaches are superb but others are covered with sharp coral rocks and impossible to use comfortably, particularly along the north east shore. Rarotonga has a fine variety of places to stay, but when booking your hotel it would be advisable to ask about the sand quality of nearby beaches.
Aitutaki, accessed by a pricey flight from Rarotonga, is the Bora Bora of the Cook Islands, a gorgeous 5 sq. mls (8 sq. kms) coral atoll necklaced by an azure lagoon and 21 talcum sand islets, 225 kms (140 mls) north of Rarotonga. The big action on Aitutaki involves either hiking to the top of 124 metre high Mount Maungapu for an overview of the area, snorkelling, fishing or scuba, with lunch served on one of the coconut tree shaded, white sand islands.
The most popular island in Aitutaki is touted as one of the world's best beaches, One Foot Island aka Tapuaetai, a 20 minute boat ride from the main island.
Although the flight here is pricey (several 50 min flights a day), accommodation is not too bad, ranging from the expensive Aitutaki Lagoon Resort to some reasonable guest houses and backpacker lodges.
Aitutaki, One Foot Island (aka Tapuaetai).
Some of the Cook Island's outer islands also have flights from Rarotonga so diehard adventure travellers could find places with few or no other visitors and isolated atolls. Accommodation of some sort - even with local people - is always available. These islands are among those that have flights:
Manihiki (north), aka the Island of Pearls, is one of the prettiest of the Cook's with a 4km wide lagoon - dotted with 40 islets - that provides top snorkelling, swimming and black pearls.
Pukapuka (north) is small, remote and has habits and customs similar to Samoa. Swimming and snorkelling are good.
Mangaia (the most southerly island) offers stunning rock formations and caves, so climbing, caving, interesting drives, biking and horse riding can be added to the usual snorkelling activities.
n.b. Rarotonga and Aitutaki are in the southern island group.
A typical, laid-backpacker beach resort on one of the Yasawa Islands in Fiji.
Fiji Photos >>>
Of all the South Pacific island groups Fiji is the one with the lowest prices and greatest variety of travel, activity, beaches and cheap accommodation options, so the most popular with budget-conscious backpackers and flashpackers (a term coined in New Zealand to mean low-level travellers who have a slightly more spending power and are ready to pay a bit extra for comfort or unusual experiences). Fiji is also English-speaking.
Easter Island is a different Pacific experience entirely, being even more expensive and time consuming to reach but scenically and culturally amazing, a really unique destination. And it has a pleasant beach too.
• traffic: these islands experience varying amounts of road noise on their limited roads; even Bora Bora suffers from scooter whine.
• tropical islands can see some cloud and rain on a regular basis due to the heat and humidity, so don't expect endless sunshine even in the dry season (May-Oct).
• the South Pacific has a some thieving from hotel rooms, even in good resorts.
• mosquitoes will always be on the prowl for fresh blood, though they're not normally malarial, so take precautions.
Pacific triangle map South Pacific Map
The best months generally are May - October. The South Pacific lies in the tropics so all islands are warm and humid year round. The dry season is climatically best, May to October, with less humidity, cloud cover, rain, wind, rough seas and seaweed on beaches. However, July and August get very crowded with visitors, especially Australians and Kiwis escaping winter back home.
Beware the November to April wet season. Don't believe travel agents who tell you it only rains for an hour a day. Not true! It may rain for an hour, it may rain for days on end, and even when it doesn't cloud cover could spoil the sunshine, winds make boating unpleasant, choppy water makes snorkelling water murky and beaches wear a coat of seaweed. Hurricane force winds (cyclones) may also occasionally make an appearance.
Moorea Photos >>>
Bora Bora >>>
Easter Island >>>