Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Australia & the Pacific (
-   -   Our South Pacific trip - Cook Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu & New Caledonia (

giggleguts Aug 15th, 2010 08:21 PM

Our South Pacific trip - Cook Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu & New Caledonia
Hi everyone!

Just like to say thanks for help with our New Zealand trip earlier this year - we had a ball and I'll have to post a trip report for those interested!

We're off to the South Pacific next in early November:
6 nights in the Cook islands
4 nights in Fiji
3 nights in Vanuatu and
6 nights in New Caledonia

We've only booked our flights so far and love any comments on accommodation or activities you have!
We're debating on whether to island hop between places such as Aitutaki and Rarotonga in Cooks or whether day trips would suffice.

We love heaps of adventure, meeting the locals, snorkeling and lying on the beach! So any input would be wonderful :)

peterSale Aug 15th, 2010 09:58 PM

A day trip to Aitutaki will cover the highlights except for long sessions of lying on the beach. Raratonga is easy to get around with buses circling the island or you can easily hire a motor scooter. Six night will allow you to see most things. The Cultural village was great 15 years ago.

Vanuatu is very expensive on the scheme of things, especially food, so if you can getsome vouchers etc. do so. Cheapest way to travel is to hire a "taxi" for the day. Then you can stay for as long as you like at places. Take a snorkel/mask to the water fall as there are fishin the pool.

Four nights in Fiji will be fine. It is a sad country.There is little to see or do in Suva or Nadi unless you like shopping and Discos. The museum in Suva is very good if you are there. But not worth a special trip. Some oif the village tours are very good. If you are near Pacific Harbour go to the womens pottery in the nearby town. Great stuff fired on an open fire.

I haven't been to New Caledonia.

Bokhara2 Aug 16th, 2010 12:14 AM

I like Fiji, but I have friends there & have visited a few times, so probably have a different viewpoint.

On a recent trip, I rented a car & drove from the Coral Coast up to Ba. Went with friends to visit a traditional village & school and stayed overnight.

Next day, back via Suva, stopping here & there. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Viti Levu's small, easy to drive around and has a very interesting history. Plus sparkling clear waters & climate perfect for year-round swimming/snorkelling/diving.

Was in New Caledonia 2 years ago for a fortnight. Did a couple of day trips - one North & one South.
Only 3 other people and the owner/driver. Great days - local foods, plenty of time to explore & informative, flexible guide. The restored Fort & penetentiary farm at Teremba was a highlight of the Southern route.

Another day went sailing/diving to Amadee lighthouse, with friends. We had our own boat, but this will give you an idea

In & around Noumea, there's a hop on/hop off bus which is worthwhile. Plan to spend a couple of hours at The Tjibaou Cultural Centre (Kanak culture). It's closed on Mondays.

lizzylamb Aug 18th, 2010 01:50 AM

We are really interested in doing a south pacific trip but finding it difficult to go to the both cook islands and vanuatu due to having to fly back to auckland inbetween. Are you flying from island to island?? How much were your flights??

Thanks! :)
Oh and fiji is awesome. Go down to the coral coast if you only have 4 days.

giggleguts Aug 18th, 2010 07:36 AM

Thanks for your advice everyone :)

Has anyone been to see Mt Yasur Volcano in Tanna?
It's been mentioned to me by many that its not worth seeing unless you go in the evening.
Which might mean a night in Tanna to consider.
(I'm a big photography nut so you I have no trouble going out of my way if its worth it :P)

In Fiji we were looking at a few homestays for a night - so thanks Bokhara, that's great!

Lizzy, we're travelling from Melbourne so our flight plans are:

Melbourne to Rarotonga
Rarotonga to Nadi (via auckland)
Nadi to Port Vila
Port Vila to Noumea
Noumea to Melbourne.

All up the 5 flights were about $1500; the most expensive being to and from Australia (about 480AUD each)
Shop around, I went on - but have a look at local airlines too that webjet miss - we got the flight from Nadi to Vanuatu for $230AUD with Air Vanuatu.

Any accommodation recommendations - any style/price - would love to hear about them!

Cheers everyone!

peterSale Aug 18th, 2010 06:08 PM

Yasur on Tanna is fantastic no matter when you go. In the evening the glow of the lava is more noticeble and the bombs will be easier to see. What you get to see depends on the weather and the Volcano.

It is a 4WD trip to the Volcano Crater over some great landacpes. The walk up to the volcano lip is like walking up a sand dune. Loose but only a hundred yards or so(if that).

When we went the weather was overcast and steamy AND the volcano was not very active. Only a few small bombs every now and again. It was still a magical experience as you can feel the heat and hear the steam venting. The air is very gritty and you will come back covered in it.

The group who went the next night had a great report of larger explosions.

Tanna is very expensive even by Vanuatu standards as everything has to be imported. We spent two nights on the island.

It is well worth going as it is one of the few volcanoes you can get really close to and easily.

Cost and time will be your considerations. If you love volcanoes then you will not be disappointed. You will get good photographs. Whether you get Great photographs is up to the Gods.

peterSale Aug 18th, 2010 09:04 PM

I've just upload six photos to Flickr. They were scanned years ago from prints so are not of the best quality. But they will show you what you can expect to see, as opposed to the glossy travel brochures and post cards.

giggleguts Aug 18th, 2010 09:50 PM

Oh how fantastic! Thanks peter!
We've come across a few evening trips that are all inclusive with; flights, basic overnight accommodation w. breakfast and tour included for about 39,000VT. This sounds reasonable, but I will look into it further.

But like you said, it really is one of the only opportunities to see such a marvel so I hope we get to go.

peterSale Aug 19th, 2010 06:04 PM

Glad to help.

In ten years, you will still remember the experiences but will have forgotten the prices.

I regret not going back the second night. But that's the way life goes.

Diamantina Sep 7th, 2010 02:18 AM

Just returned from my third trip to New Caledonia.
Noumea is a lovely city, that is always being described as the Paris of the South Pacific, but I think it feels more like the Nice of the South Pacific, with its laid-back, casual feel, warm weather and seaside location that encourages a love for outdoor activity among its residents. Its architecture is modern and the city has a more interesting mix of people (mainly Melanesian, European, Polynesian, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese). I recommend staying at the Best Western Premier Promenade, preferably in a Deluxe Suite, which would be on the highest floors. Bring earplugs if you are an early to bed type, as you can sometimes hear the music from the restaurant below. These are apartments with full kitchens, washing machine, balconies with great sea views. Good location. Casa del Sole also offers apartments and fine views and is located right at Baie des Citrons, which is a great beach for swimming, calmer than Anse Vata. Casa del Sole is older. The Ramada also looks very nice, but not all the apartments have sea views. The Ramada also offers apartments. I think it is best to rent an apartment in Noumea as the price of dining out can really add up. the supermarkets offer reasonably priced products from France, such as French wine (we picked a terrific Provencal rose for $6). You can also pick up terrines, pates, and locally made baguettes, chevre and other cheeses.
In Noumea, see the National Aquarium, the Museum of New Caledonia (in the city center), Tjibaou Center (designed by famed Italian architect Renzo Piano, it is located at Baie de Tina). See:
I highly recommend a stay of at least two days in Île des Pins. Beautiful beaches, snorkeling and scuba diving. It is a stop for the cruise ships, though, so it can get busy at times (not nearly as busy as Noumea). From Noumea, you can fly to Ile des Pins or catch the Betico ferry.
The Loyalty Islands are also wonderful, but you would need more time.
If you are a birder, you might be interested in Parc Provincial de la Rivière Bleue, about an hour south of Noumea.
Here, you will see some of New Caledonia's rarest birds, like the Cagou and the Notou. I recommend you take a tour rather than drive yourself, as you will miss out on the importance of the park's fauna and flora.
I have also been to the Cook Islands (Rarotonga twice, Aitutaki once) and Vanuatu. I like them both. Vanuatu is very interesting. If you scuba dive, don't miss out on diving the wreck of the Coolidge near Luganville, on the island of Espiritu Santo. If you find yourself in Aitutaki on a Sunday, don't miss the church service, for the atmosphere and the beautiful voices.

Diamantina Sep 7th, 2010 02:23 AM

I forgot to mention that in New Caledonia, it helps to speak a little (or a lot) of French, though many people in shops and hotels speak English, as they get quite a few Australians, New Zealanders, and English-speaking Japanese tourists.
So if you don't speak French, don't forget your pocket dictionary.

Diamantina Sep 7th, 2010 02:25 AM

I find New Caledonia to be the priciest of all the South Pacific destinations I have been to, even more so than French Polynesia.

giggleguts Sep 9th, 2010 09:06 PM

Thanks everyone! I've been reading up on all the places we're travelling to and taking all your contributions onboard.

We're nearly booked and ready - we're just stuck on Fiji. We have alot of options and only 4 nights to fit everything in.. so we'd love your help there!
So far though, we have:

Rarotonga - 5 nights at Edgewater resort ( decided on a day trip to Aitutaki)

Fiji - 4 nights and 4 days - .....?

Port vila - Fatumaru Lodge

Tanna - Friendly Bungalows with evening volcano tour

Port Vila - Tradewinds Resort

Noumea - Hotel Le Lagon

Any comments on these places? Wouldn't mind hearing any horror stories either :P

But back to Fiji - We arrive at 10am on the Friday, spend 4 nights and leave early on the Tuesday morning.

If we had to pick the essential activities we'd like to do its; visiting a village & participating in a kava ceremony, meeting some locals and snorkelling. We're finding it difficult to get in contact with some homestay organisations which was our original plan.

We figure alot of this can be done at most resorts - many we're looking at are along the coral coast.

We did look at villages inland or up north - but don't think it's practical to spend our whole trip driving.
Should we just base ourselves somewhere?
Where would you reccommend?

We nearly booked here today - mainly because it's joined to a village - But not as traditional as others.

Bokhara2 - How many days did it take you to do the Fiji trip you mentioned earlier? That sounds perfect for us - a taste of everything. :)

giggleguts Sep 9th, 2010 09:08 PM

Oh and thankyou Diamantina,
Some great comments on New Caledonia - luckily I do know some French to get me through the day, but should probably brush up on it before we go :P

Diamantina Sep 10th, 2010 12:36 AM

You are welcome. Please do try and see Ile des Pins while you are in New Caledonia, even it is just a day trip (though an overnight trip would certainly be better). Noumea is a lovely city, but it would be a shame if this is all you saw of New Caledonia.
On Ile des Pins more affordable and more modest accommodation can be found at family-owned gîtes. The gîte Nataiwatch at Kunamera Bay has a great location, though I personally have never stayed there. I have stayed twice at Hotel Kou Bugny, but next time I would stay at the nearby, but much nicer (and unfortunately, pricier) Oure Tera Beach Resort. In Ile des Pins you are not likely to spend much time in the room, anyhow. The beaches and lagoons are beautiful and the snorkeling and scuba diving very fine.
Here are a couple of informative links:
Le Lagon is a nice place, but, as far as I know, the rooms do not offer water views--perhaps this does not matter to you. I enjoy getting up early and sipping my morning cup of tea while looking out at the sea from my balcony (this is something I can't do at home). I just checked and it seems Casa del Sole, which does offer sea views from all the rooms, only costs a little more than Le Lagon, though reports on Trip Advisor mention some noise problems from the clubs below at certain times. The Best Western Promenade has great views and is just around the corner from Le Lagon, but it cost quite a bit more, at least on Wotif.

Bokhara2 Sep 10th, 2010 11:21 PM

Hi GG, I only went for a couple of days - up to Ba & to the village on day one and next day back to the Coral Coast. It was probably about the right amount of time, although I may have spent another night had I not needed to be back for a party.
(It was that sort of a trip - friend's birthday bash extended over a few events)

You should brush up on your French for New Caledonia - they can be very French ;). Very interesting history and some of the public servants are on such a very lucerative package from the French Gov't. Gives real lustre to the term, sinecure.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to Ile des pins, but everyone says it's lovely.

Do have a look at the Cultural Centre - even if you just went for the architecture it would be worth the 10-15 mins bus trip. When I was there in May 08, they had a very interesting & extensive exhibition of indigenous art from all around the region.

magicaltomato1 Jan 9th, 2013 04:55 AM

Hi Giggleguts,

We are planning a trip this March for 2 weeks - have you got a trip report of could you give some advice?

We only have 2 weeks, so thinking of limiting it to Cook Islands (5 days), New Caledonia (5 days) and Fiji (4 days). Do you think this is the right split?

What were your favourite places to visit? I've visited Moorea before and loved it, so unsure if Cook Islands is similar to Tahiti and still worth travelling to, or to spend more time in New Caledonia and Fiji?

Tips much appreciated! Thanks

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:58 AM.