Best Pacific Islands

You may have to trek a bit to reach the hundreds of island nations that comprise the South Pacific, but for many, the journey is well worth the effort. In this vast area, you'll discover unspoiled beaches, impressive historical sites and a laid-back atmosphere ideal for a relaxing getaway. But with so many islands within Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia to choose from, deciding which remote paradise to prioritize may be a challenge – that's where we come in. To determine the best Pacific Islands, U.S. News considered user votes and expert opinions, plus factors like diversity of attractions, accessibility and affordability. Use these recommendations to plan your next vacation, and cast your vote below to have a say in next year's list. (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)

SUMMARY

Best Pacific Islands

  • Bora Bora
  • Tahiti
  • Fiji
  • Moorea
  • Cook Islands
  • American Samoa
  • Solomon Islands
  • New Caledonia
  • Niue
  • Samoa
  • Papua New Guinea
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    Bora Bora

    #1 in Best Pacific Islands

    This French Polynesian island is the perfect place to go if you're looking to reconnect with nature, dial up the romance and pamper yourself while on vacation. In Bora Bora, you'll find overwater bungalows and luxurious spas made for honeymooners, plus a beautiful turquoise lagoon and lush Mount Otemanu to explore. For an overview of the island and an adrenaline rush, sign up for a four-wheel-drive excursion or a boat tour that includes a shark and stingray feeding. Then, head to Matira Beach or your resort's private stretch of sand to relax as you watch the sun set.

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    Tahiti

    #2 in Best Pacific Islands

    Tahiti's international airport and variety of big-city amenities (think: diverse restaurants, exciting cultural events and abundant five-star resorts) make it a natural choice for a South Pacific vacation. But don't let the French Polynesian island's hustle and bustle fool you: Tahiti also boasts plenty of gushing waterfalls, towering mountains and breathtaking beaches to set the scene for your island getaway. Start your visit checking out the markets, boutiques and nightlife venues in Papeete (Tahiti's capital city) before escaping to one of the island's jaw-dropping natural wonders. Can't-miss spots include Fautaua Waterfall, the Vaipahi Gardens and Papenoo Beach.

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    Fiji

    #3 in Best Pacific Islands

    Head to one or more of Fiji's 333 islands if you appreciate cultural activities and attractions as much as you enjoy spending time outdoors. In Suva, the capital city, you can participate in a traditional kava ceremony (which involves drinking a yaqona root-based drink with mild sedative properties), watch a firewalking festival and visit the Fiji Museum. Meanwhile, Fiji's smaller destinations – including the Yasawa Islands and Taveuni – feature stunning beaches, coral gardens and rainforests waiting to be explored. When you tire of sunbathing, snorkeling or hiking, retreat to a rustic bungalow, a trendy boutique hotel or a luxe five-star resort.

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    Moorea

    #4 in Best Pacific Islands

    Newlyweds who want to see a lesser-known side of French Polynesia should consider honeymooning on Moorea. This smaller island features the same kind of striking natural wonders and romantic accommodations couples will find on Bora Bora, but with a more relaxed atmosphere and lower price tags. What's more, Moorea only sits 10 miles away from Tahiti, making it easy to reach from French Polynesia's main international airport. Once travelers arrive on the island, they'll discover eight towering mountains and two beautiful bays, plus several noteworthy attractions, including a lagoonarium, the Moorea Dolphin Center and Temae Beach.

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    Cook Islands

    #5 in Best Pacific Islands

    Despite its small size, this group of 15 atolls and islands offers something for everyone. Popular activities range from snorkeling excursions and hikes to waterfalls to village tours. The striking white sand beaches on Rarotonga and Aitutaki also can't be missed. After exploring, savor local staples like lka mata (marinated raw fish) and poke (a pudding-like dish made with tropical fruit) at a market. Meanwhile, make sure to attend an island night celebration, which combines traditional dancing with an umukai (a buffet-style feast). Because the Cook Islands are associated with New Zealand, visitors can easily fly here from Auckland.

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    American Samoa

    #6 in Best Pacific Islands

    Though you'll need a passport to visit this U.S. territory, you'll enjoy the convenience of paying for accommodations, food, excursions and other trip essentials with U.S. dollars. This benefit plus American Samoa's rich culture and ample attractions make the island a superb option for a South Pacific vacation. Base yourself in Pago Pago (the country's capital) on Tutuila Island to enjoy proximity to the international airport and can't-miss sights like Two Dollar Beach and the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center. Also save time for snorkeling and trekking the World War II Heritage Trail in the National Park of American Samoa.

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    Solomon Islands

    #7 in Best Pacific Islands

    Thanks to its abundance of untouched natural wonders and lack of traditional accommodations, the Solomon Islands are an ideal destination for ecotourists. Visitors can explore dense jungles, surf uncrowded waves and even climb a dormant volcano. The country was also a battle site during World War II, so history buffs will find historic relics like abandoned tanks and amphibious vehicles scattered throughout the islands. But perhaps the most unique sights are those found in the islands' surrounding waters. Divers from around the world flock here to see the Solomon Islands' sunken WWII seaplanes, submarines and oil tankers.

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    New Caledonia

    #8 in Best Pacific Islands

    If you're dreaming of a tropical paradise that offers a welcoming atmosphere and a touch of European flair, travel to New Caledonia. In this multi-island French territory, which is located off of Australia's northeastern coast, you'll discover friendly locals, beautiful beaches and gourmet cuisine featuring both classic French dishes and regional specialties. But the island's main draw is its UNESCO World Heritage-listed lagoons. Encircled by the world's second-longest barrier reef, the six marine clusters that form this protected site boast top-notch spots for snorkeling and diving, including underwater trails, caves and shipwrecks.

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    Niue

    #9 in Best Pacific Islands

    Plan a retreat to this tiny island to relax and reconnect with nature. Niue's small size and remote location mean you'll rarely see other tourists while checking out its limestone caves and natural pools. Plus, Niue provides countless opportunities for land- and water-based adventures. Go scuba diving, hike to jaw-dropping rock formations or spend an evening stargazing (the island is a designated International Dark Sky Sanctuary). Niue is also one of the only places in the world where you can swim with wild humpback whales, so time your visit during the whales' annual migration, which occurs from July to October.

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    Samoa

    #10 in Best Pacific Islands

    Water lovers, ecotourists and culture hounds will all love visiting tranquil Samoa. Here, you'll find breathtaking natural wonders like the To-Sua ocean trench (a giant swimming hole), the Alofaaga Blowholes and the Sopoaga and Papapapaitai waterfalls. Additionally, Samoa offers an array of cultural attractions, including the Samoa Cultural Village (with traditional tattooing and tapa cloth-making demonstrations) and the Museum of Samoa (a former German school that houses various historical artifacts). Once you've gotten your fill of sightseeing, head to a local market for fresh produce or seafood before retiring to a fale (a rustic beachfront accommodation) for the night.

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    Papua New Guinea

    #11 in Best Pacific Islands

    Papua New Guinea's lack of infrastructure – including electricity and paved roads – outside of Port Moresby, its capital city, makes it a more challenging destination to visit than others on this list. However, the country's excellent water sports opportunities and diverse wildlife regularly draw travelers. Must-do activities here include diving to submerged WWII fighter planes, surfing top-notch waves and looking for unique birds like the rare fire-maned bowerbird. Papua New Guinea is also where some of the world's oldest cultures can be found, so visitors should consider arriving in August or September when a variety of celebratory festivals take place.

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