For many, a trip to the South Pacific—dotted with over 20,000 total landmasses, large and small—is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Australia and New Zealand draw a lot of the attention, as well as vacationers, from their smaller neighbors, but it’s possible to add a Polynesian stop in Hawaii, Fiji, or Tahiti to a down under adventure. A stopover can help you maximize a long and expensive trip, as well as break up flight times, give you a chance to experience a different culture, and add a relaxing resort or water adventure option to your itinerary. Browse our top destinations and use our helpful tips below to plan the perfect getaway from your getaway.
Top Island Stopovers
Honolulu, O’ahu, Hawaii.
O’ahu—where Honolulu and Waikiki are—is the third largest Hawaiian island and has 75% of the state’s population. Honolulu is the perfect place to experience the state’s indigenous culture, the hundred years of immigration that resulted in today’s blended society and the tradition of aloha. The museums and historic . . . read more
Pacific Harbour, Viti Levu, Fiji.
The "Adventure Capital" of Fiji is a collection of resorts on both sides of Beqa Lagoon. Its 144 km (190 mi) of coral reef formed around an extinct volcano crater comprise one of the largest . . . read more
Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia.
The name Tahiti conjures up dreamy images of idyllic islands floating in azure lagoons fringed by palm trees and white sandy beaches. But few people realize that Tahiti is actually the heart . . . read more Recommended Fodor’s Video
Moorea, French Polynesia.
The draw is South Seas island charm and a relatively slow-paced life. Moorea is an eighth of the size of Tahiti but packs all the classic island features into its triangular shape. Cutting into the northern side . . . read more When to Go
In New Zealand, October through April are the best months to visit; the sun shines the longest from December through March. But, Fiji’s wet season (November through April) overlaps with this. Mix and match these destinations and you may get rained out of snorkeling and beach opportunities on Fiji.
Summer vacation in Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Fiji occurs from mid-December through February. Accommodations and car rentals are both scarce and expensive, as the locals tend to do their own island-hopping during these times. It’s high season in Hawaii, too, as mainlanders escape the Northern Hemisphere’s winter cold. It’s best to plan to travel to the South Pacific before or after the summer vacation.
Those who are interested in New World wine harvests can experience them first hand in Australia and New Zealand between February and April. Hawaii is your best bet for a stopover during this time, as French Polynesia and Fiji are in the midst of rainy season.
Be aware of differences in climate between your main destination and the island you choose to stop over on. If you plan to take advantage of Australia’s winter sport opportunities in July or August and then warm back up in Hawaii, you’ll be hitting the beach during the hottest time of the year, when temperatures reach into the nineties.
For a taste of authentic Polynesia, time your trip for a local festival. Almost all of the French Polynesian islands celebrate the month long folk festival, Heiva. Cultural performances and dance competition occur throughout July; drop in for the festivities as long as you don’t mind the extra crowds and scarcity of hotel rooms.
Year Round Timing
Consider how you react to jetlag when planning your trip. If you’re more likely feel groggy at the beginning of your trip, do your Polynesian jaunt first. Three or so days will give you the chance to acclimate to your new time zone, and you’ll be ready to go for the main event in a few days time.
Unless you want to add five or more days to your trip, plan on staying in or near the hub on your island of choice. Otherwise you’ll spend time traveling on small planes or ferries that you could be using to soak up the sun. For instance, after landing in Papeete, it’s a quick eight minute plane ride or thirty minute ferry to Moorea. Bora Bora, by contrast, is forty-five minutes away by air, and you land on a remote motu. A launch sails you to the main island where you transfer to your hotel.
Airlines based in your destinations will offer the best options for hopping from Hawaii, Fiji, or Tahiti to Australia and New Zealand and, at times, may have packages specifically geared toward this kind of itinerary. Check out the destinations and deals on the Web sites for companies like New Zealand Air, Quantas, Air Tahiti Nui, and Hawaiian Air.
Chronic overpacker (or just on a very long junket)? Consider packing a small bag for your mini holiday and storing your big suitcase at the airport. Less lugging will make ferry and hotel transfers that much easier. Just don’t forget your swim suit!
Photo Credits: Hawaii surfer by Bobby Schutz Photography / iStockphoto, Over water Bures at the LikiLiku Resort Courtesy Fiji Islands Travel Guide, Snorkeler with Butterfly Fish Courtesy of www.Tahiti-Tourisme.com, Cook’s Bay in Moorea by ksteffens / iStockphoto.