New Zealand might be a long way from Europe or the US, but that does not matter when we have a tropical paradise in our backyard. Easily accessible by air, these beautiful destinations are close enough for a long weekend, but you will never want to leave!
All of these amazing Islands have beautiful beaches, warm inviting waters and locals that are welcoming and friendly.
Chill out in the Cook Islands
The Cook Islands are easy for Kiwis to travel to, as the currency is NZD. With 15 small islands sprinkled across an expanse of sparkling water, there are plenty of places to see. There are caves to explore, brilliantly coloured coral adorned with diverse sea life, and ‘The Needle’ to climb on the main Island of Rarotonga.
Of course, there is also long stretches of white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, friendly people, and an amazing selection of fresh fruit. Make sure to try Ika mata, the traditional fish dish similar to ceviche.
Frolic in the Fijian sun
An archipelago of more than 300 islands, Fiji is an affordable paradise. It has pure white pristine beaches, inland waterfalls, glorious sunsets, and warm and welcoming locals. Dive in the waters, relax, and read a book on the beach or explore their cultural heritage and food.
Fiji offers the ultimate in total relaxation; for a full luxury experience, head to Castaway Island.
Tahiti is part of French Polynesia. There are two parts to it, Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti. It has volcanoes to hike, majestic waterfalls hidden deep in the forest, and black sand beaches.
Learn to surf in Papara, go shopping in Papeete, and learn the local history at the museum in Puna’auia. Explore the culture, the colorful lives of gods and warriors, and the rich history of music and dance. Watch javelin throwing, canoe races, and stone lifting as a god-like show of strength and endurance.
Heavenly Huahine Island
This is a slightly more expensive French Polynesian island, but it is pretty incredible. An amazing eco-system of tropical animals; this Garden of Eden overflows with vibrant life. It has coconut plantations, banana groves, breadfruit trees, and never-ending fields of watermelon vines.
There are also amazing sacred temples dotted throughout the dense jungle, waiting for you to explore and unlock these hidden treasures.
Enchanting Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea has a cultural history unlike any other Pacific Island. It has over 700 native languages and 80% of the population live rurally with no modern conveniences. There are three volcanoes, large tracts of rainforests, and enticing waters filled with aquatic animals that are great for snorkelling. You can go trekking up in lonely mountain ranges to try to spot the elusive bird of paradise. Take a longboat down the Sepik River; watching the stilt houses glide by.
Attend a cultural festival. The Goroka Show is held in mid-September, and Mt. Hagen which takes place in the third weekend in August. Watch the local tribes in their huge feather headdresses, war paint, and grass skirts. There is traditional singing and dancing performances, most rarely seen outside their native villages.
Serene Solomon Islands
One hundred Islands dotted about in the Pacific make up this archipelago. Head to Bougainville Island to tramp up a volcano and observe relics left over from WWII. You can surf at Malaita.
A short 30 minute boat trip from Munda, Skull Island is where you can see the final resting place for vanquished warriors. There is also a shrine for skulls of Rendovan chiefs dating from the 1920’s.
If nature is your thing, Marovo Lagoon is a double-barrier enclosed lagoon. The hundred of tiny coconut-tree-laced islands are surrounded by coral, rich in marine life. Perfect for snorkelling, this will amaze and delight.
Something special in Samoa
With stunning coral reefs, clean and white beaches, and dense jungle, Samoa has a range of attractions for any tourist. Hang out with the giant underwater sea turtles and admire the unusual geographic highlights. Alofaaga Blowholes will surprise when waves are funnelled through lava tubes that result in huge dramatic explosions. If you are after more excitement, head to Papase’ea Sliding Rocks where waterfalls make great natural slides. In dry season these may not be safe enough to use, but it is still a great swimming spot.
Robert Louis Stevenson lived here for some time and is buried in Mt Vaea National Reserve. Follow the ‘Road of living hearts’ to his tomb.
To Sua Ocean Trench is a must-visit while here, an enormous trench with sheer walls that drop 20m to the incredibly azure waters. Do not skip swimming in this, clamber down the rickety ladder for this beautiful adventure.
Tonga truly is diverse, with something for everyone. While Kiwis know it best for rugby, there are beaches, animals, rainforests, and caves.
Head to ‘Eau, the oldest Island in Tonga. Steep hills, cliffs with stunning views, caves, sinkholes, arches, and all set amidst lush rainforest. Keep an eye out for koki, the ‘red shining parrot’.
If you are after blissful relaxation, Uoleva has nothing to do other than relax. From June to October, you can sometimes spot whales close to shore.
Stonehenge of the South Pacific, Ha’amonga ‘a Maui is a bit of a mystery. Three enormous stones form a gate. It weighs about 40 tonnes, so no one is sure how it was created. Legend has it that Maui emerged from the ocean, carrying the trilithon from Wallis Island.