How do you pick an island in a region with thousands of options? We select six islands with stand-out natural attractions.
Formed by a huge basaltic shield volcano, Samoa’s main island has plenty of nature-based adventures. Try the natural waterslides of Papase’ea Sliding Rocks (pictured); the turquoise water of the Sua Ocean Trench, a natural swimming pool surrounded by lush vegetation; or some of the region’s best surf spots. You can also visit Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson’s 400-acre estate at Vailima.
This French territory is better know to its western neighbour Australia and presents a fascinating mish-mash of landscapes that vary from turquoise lagoons and palm-fringed beaches to the aptly-named Isle of Pines; the west coast’s wide and grassy savannas covered with paperback trees and roamed by cowboys, to the Great South with its outback-like red earth, blue river and green hills.
Fiji’s third-largest island is known as its ‘Garden Island’ and is home to Fiji’s highest peak - the cloud-shrouded Mount Uluigalau. There’s also a dense jungle home to the elusive Kula, or orange dove, huge ferns and wild tropical flowers like the scarlet Tagimoucia which is unique to the island. Bouma National Heritage Park makes up more than a third of Taveuni and the marine park at Waitabu has some bucket-list dive sites.
This is the largest of the atolls in French Polynesia’s Tuamotu group of islands, and the second largest in the world. It’s so huge that it has the Blue Lagoon within its lagoon, where you can feed the circling sharks from the beach and wade between motus. Divers are drawn here by Avatoru Pass and Tiputa Pass, both of which produce currents that are ideal for drift diving or snorkelling and attract large schools of wild dolphins.
The Cook Islands’ second biggest island, Aitutaki, claims to have the world’s most beautiful lagoon and was the location for reality TV show, Shipwrecked. Just 45 minutes by air from its main island, Rarotonga, it’s a different world, with uninhabited motus you can visit by boat for snorkelling, fishing and beach barbeques and small villages with postcard-perfect churches built from coral and limestone.
Part of French Polynesia’s remote Marquesas archipelago, 932 miles northeast of Tahiti, this mystical island is home to various archeological sites. Hiva Oa was the home and inspiration for French painter Paul Gaugin and its lush, rugged coast is lined with black sand beaches and sharp cliffs diving into the Pacific Ocean. Don’t miss its moss-covered tiki statues (pictured) and unexplained ancient petroglyphs.