Wanderlust readers' tips on the South Pacific

From shipwreck beach bars and buzzy local markets, Wanderlust readers share their in-the-know recommendations on the isles of the South Pacific

3 mins

Cook Islands

Raratonga (Shutterstock)

Raratonga (Shutterstock)

“If you are lucky enough to visit Rarotonga, then take a guided bike tour with Storytellers Eco Cycle & Walking Tours. They will show you behind-the-scenes rural life and you will sample local fruit, learn about local history and culture, and have a great lunch of regional produce; all this with the help of a knowledgeable and friendly guide.”

- Paul Rathbone

“A must-visit is the Shipwreck Hut beach bar at Aro’a Beachside Inn for great sunsets, homemade food and cocktails served in jam jars.”

- Susan Marshall

“The Mooring Fish Cafe on Rarotonga serves the freshest fish dishes. You can watch fishermen cutting up a fresh catch from your table.”

- Clare Forster


Lalomanu beach (Shutterstock)

Lalomanu beach (Shutterstock)

“Stay in the beach huts on Lalomanu beach and wake to an amazing sunrise and the sound of the Pacific Ocean. Sunbathe on a tree trunk and dine in the perfect view of the beachfront.”

- Ryan Gillingwater


Kava (Shutterstock)

Kava (Shutterstock)

“While in Vanuatu, watch out for the kava, a strange drink made out of pepper root – it’s the strongest in the Pacific. If you’ve tried the kava in Fiji, you’re probably wondering what all the fuss is about, but that lulls you into a false sense of security. ‘Yeah, yeah, I’ve done this before,’ I thought. ‘I’m ready.’ Only I wasn’t. Down in one, stone the crows! Where are my legs? It really is the strongest in the Pacific.”

- Guy Bristow


Snorkel among coral in Fiji (Shutterstock)

Snorkel among coral in Fiji (Shutterstock)

“For some fun shopping in Fiji, look for stores called Jack’s of Fiji – I went crazy over its beautiful swimwear and swim accessories. Downtown Nadi has two buildings right across from each other. Artisans are sometimes on-site to decorate a T-shirt, draw or paint.”

- Esther Perica

“Nadi, Fiji’s tourist centre, is the gateway to the Yasawas, a 20-island archipelago famous for its white sand beaches, turquoise water and coral reefs. The Yasawas were the setting for The Blue Lagoon film.”

- Shelly Gillespie

“The island of Taveuni is so beautiful for walks. The trees, wildlife and coastline are amazing. We encountered hidden waterfalls and little villages and some of the most beautiful beaches we have ever encountered.”

- Emma Jones

“Visit the municipal market in Suva, the capital of Fiji. There are fruit and vegetables of all colours, shapes and sizes – and all have prices clearly marked. Watch out for the barrow boys delivering cassava, they don’t let anyone get in their way – they are like the Formula 1 of couriers!”

- Sally Kershaw

“Visit Garden of the Sleeping Giant, a beautiful botanical garden donated by Raymond Burr from the TV series Ironside. The hot mud pools are a must; the thermal mineral spring is good for all ailments and for bones. The local massage under a canopy is so intense, you don’t know whether to laugh or cry!”

- Sabrina Storey

“Tanoa International Hotel is a fabulous hotel not far from the airport. It is of a very high standard; the staff are wonderful and the food is superb. All for a very reasonable price. We stopped there a couple of nights on arrival in Fiji and prior to our departure from Fiji. Fellow travellers in our group who stayed at other hotels did not fare as well as we did.”

- Sue Ellis

“Fiji has good tailors for quickly made-to-measure suits; I had one made.”

- Leslie Evans

“Go to Bouma National Heritage Park on Taveuni Island for snorkelling, walking, waterfalls and wildlife.”

- Joanne Halliday

“If you get to Suva, visit the museum and Colo-I-Suva Forest Park; both will give you a taste of Fiji.”

- David Johnson


Humpback whales in Tonga (Shutterstock)

Humpback whales in Tonga (Shutterstock)

“Pods of humpback whales can be seen off Vava’u Island from summer (July) to autumn (October). You can also go scuba diving, kayaking, sailing and bicycling all year round.”

- Lisa Grabham

“We found a wonderful local shop called the Ukulele Hut. The manager was a total joy and played us a song composed by their late queen on his ukulele... a magical experience! We loved our whole time there thanks to the lovely, friendly locals.”

- Pam Smith

Papua New Guinea

“Papua New Guinea is tricky to do independently. We found Pym who runs a small local tour company and the Travellers’ Hut in Mount Hagen. We went to Papua New Guinea wanting to spend two days at the Goroka Show. With Pym we also got to visit his own village, Paiya, and to spend the day with many villagers who were dressed in their tribal finery at a local tribal festival. Plus we got to share their mumu lunch!”

- Gill Campbell

“Snorkel in the lagoon by Oro Bay and feed the fish in the natural aquarium.”

- Paul Evans

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