One of the great things about living in New Zealand is that we’ve got a tropical playground virtually in our backyard. The Pacific islands have long been a top choice for Kiwi vacationers given that you can be lounging under palm trees in a matter of hours. Now, millions of travellers from around the globe have spoken out for TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice™ awards, and we can bring you the very best island picks to spend your well-earned holiday on.
10. Norfolk Island, Australia
A mere hour and a half flight from Auckland airport, this former British penal colony is now a prime tourist destination. The island itself is only 8km by 5km, so hiring a bike is a smart choice for getting around this idyllic spot. For those with an interest in history, this is the spot where many of the descendents of the Bounty mutineers settled after they outgrew Pitcairn Island – the locals still speak a patois that mixes Tahitian with the English of the mutineers.
9. Rarotonga, Cook Islands
This pick is probably no surprise – this lagoon encircled island is well known for its resorts, white sand beaches and coral reefs. One aspect of Raro that not enough people are aware of is its lush rainforests – it’s well worth taking a safari tour to explore the rich leafy environment. Conveniently, if you want to zip around the island on a moped, New Zealanders don’t have to get a Cook Islands licence but can use their Kiwi one for up to 6 months.
8. Lord Howe Island, Australia
If you’re wanting to visit Lord Howe during peak season, you’re going to have to book well ahead of time – the island is so tiny that only 400 tourists are allowed to be on the island at any one time. It’s worth planning ahead though for those wanting to really get away from it all. Hand feed kingfish, scuba dive in the lagoon or take a hike to the top of Mount Gower for spectacular views.
7. Vanua Levu, Fiji
This is one of Fiji’s better kept secrets. Vanua Levu is the perfect place to go if you’re looking for somewhere a little less touristy, with the opportunity to experience true local culture. Not to be missed are the hot springs that ring Savusavu, one of the two settlements on the islands. Leave the laptop behind and get back to a simpler way of life.
6. Efate, Vanuatu
Efate has everything you could want in a deluxe tropical destination. Secluded beaches, pristine diving spots, gourmet restaurants, world class accommodation… For the more adventurous, there’s abseiling, parasailing and jetskiing. If you’re after a taste of the local flavour, just wander down through the streets of the bustling Port Vila – make sure you don’t miss out on sampling the delicious street foods!
5. Mo’orea, French Polynesia
Just a short ferry trip from Pape’ete, the Tahitian capital, this popular honeymoon destination balances beautiful lagoons with scenic, bush covered hillsides. If you’re tired of lounging on the beach, try a whale watching tour or swim and play with dolphins in Moorea Dolphin Centre’s natural refuge. To get the best views of the island, take a hike (long or short, there’s plenty to choose from) along one of Mo’orea’s ridges.
4. Viti Levu, Fiji
Home to Fiji’s capital city, this is the pacific nation’s largest island. For diving enthusiasts and those who want to try a bit of windsurfing, head out to Nananu-i-Ra for the steady winds and breathtaking reef. Otherwise, Suva is well worth exploring – the fusion of Fijian and Indian heritages has produced a unique cultural milieu that is not to be missed.
3. Taveuni Island, Fiji
When it’s time to spoil yourself, it’s hard to go past Taveuni. A huge swathe of the island is a designated national park, meaning that it’s still in a pristine, almost prehistoric condition. Explore the rainforests, bathe beside breathtaking waterfalls or take the luxury resort option with white sand beaches and tropical gardens. This really is a little bit of paradise.
2. Aitutaki, Cook Islands
It’s only a 45 minute flight from Raro, and this remote island is well worth the trip. Most will come for the classically tropical lagoon and smooth white beaches but if you’re looking for something a little different, check out the incredbile coral-walled churches, or pop out to one of the other pristine (and much quieter) tiny islands in the lagoon.
1. Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Perhaps one of the most iconic features of Bora Bora is its over-the-water bungalows that extend on stilts over the water. For the brave souls among you, there’s manta ray dives and shark feeding while everyone else can enjoy the turquoise waters in a more sedate fashion. If you tire of the lagoons and beaches (unlikely!) try heading inland to check out WWII cannons.