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From the Publisher“Best for upscale facilities on the beaten tourist track.” (Wanderlust, April 2007)
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Our expert author has been covering these exotic islands for years, and he's personally checked out every hotel, every restaurant, every beach, and every activity he recommends. He gives you a feel for the islanders' way of life, and offers a wonderful introduction to the region's unique blend of cultures.
From Fiji to Tahiti and beyond, there are many islands and hundreds of accommodations to choose from, so Frommer's South Pacific compares all the options, helping you find the tropical getaway that's right for you. We've included web addresses for every hotel, so you can check out pictures as you make your decision. Rely on us for in-depth, honest reviews of lavish honeymoon resorts, intimate inns, simple bungalows, family-friendly motels, and more, with selections in every price category.
We'll point you to the loveliest secluded beaches, and send you to the best places for snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, deep-sea fishing, and more. You'll also get the latest trip-planning information, including tips on finding the best airfare or package deal.
Author Biography: Bill Goodwin was an award-winning newspaper reporter before becoming a legal counsel and speechwriter for two US senators, Sam Nunn of Georgia and the late Sam Ervin of North Carolina. In 1977 he sailed a 41-foot yacht from Annapolis, Maryland, to Tahiti; he then spent a year exploring French Polynesia and the rest of the South Pacific. Now based in Northern Virginia, he returns to paradise as often as possible. He is also the author of Frommer's Virginia and coauthor of Frommer's Florida and Frommer's Florida from $70 a Day.
|List of Maps||vii|
|What's New in the South Pacific||1|
|1||The Best of the South Pacific||5|
|1||The Most Beautiful Islands||5|
|2||The Best Beaches||7|
|3||The Best Honeymoon Destinations||8|
|4||The Best Family Vacations||11|
|5||The Best Cultural Experiences||11|
|6||The Best of the Old South Seas||12|
|7||The Best Dining Experiences||13|
|8||The Best Island Nights||15|
|9||The Best Buys||16|
|10||The Best Diving & Snorkeling||17|
|11||The Best Sailing||17|
|12||The Best Offbeat Travel Experiences||18|
|2||Planning Your Trip to the South Pacific||19|
|1||The Islands in Brief||19|
|3||Entry Requirements & Customs||25|
|5||When to Go||30|
|7||Health & Safety||33|
|Insects & Other Critters||35|
|8||Specialized Travel Resources||35|
|9||Planning Your Trip Online||39|
|Frommers.com: The Complete Travel Resource||40|
|10||Getting There & Getting Around||40|
|Internet Access in the Islands||41|
|How to Have an (Almost) First Class Experience in Coach||44|
|11||Packages for the Independent Traveler||47|
|Flying with Film & Video||50|
|12||The Active Traveler||50|
|13||Tips on Accommodations||52|
|Using Cellphones in the Islands||53|
|3||Introducing French Polynesia||60|
|1||French Polynesia Today||60|
|Sex & the Single Polynesian||70|
|5||Visitor Information & Entry Requirements||71|
|The CFP & the U.S. Dollar||74|
|7||When to Go--Climate, Holidays & Events||74|
|French Polynesia Calendar of Events||75|
|8||Getting There & Getting Around||76|
|9||Seeing the Islands by Cruise Ship & Yacht||80|
|Fast Facts: French Polynesia||84|
|1||Arriving & Getting Around||88|
|Fast Facts: Tahiti||93|
|Walking Tour: Papeete||98|
|The Moon & Six Million||105|
|3||Golf, Hiking & Watersports||107|
|5||Where to Stay||111|
|6||Where to Dine||114|
|Don't Miss Les Roulottes||115|
|Dining With a Belle View||117|
|A Very Indecent Dance||119|
|Fast Facts: Moorea||123|
|3||Dolphin-Watching, Hiking, Watersports & Other Outdoor Activities||130|
|5||Where to Stay||133|
|The Bali Hai Boys||134|
|6||Where to Dine||138|
|Fast Facts: Bora Bora||146|
|2||Exploring Bora Bora||146|
|3||Diving, Fishing & Watersports||148|
|5||Where to Stay||150|
|6||Where to Dine||156|
|7||Huahine & the Other Islands of French Polynesia||159|
|Fast Facts: Huahine||160|
|2||Raiatea & Tahaa||166|
|Fast Facts: Raiatea & Tahaa||167|
|Fast Facts: Rangiroa||173|
|8||The Cook Islands||179|
|1||The Cook Islands Today||179|
|All in the Family||184|
|5||Visitor Information & Entry Requirements||186|
|The New Zealand Dollar & the U.S. Dollar||187|
|7||When to Go||188|
|The Cook Islands Calendar of Events||189|
|8||Getting to Rarotonga & Getting Around||189|
|Fast Facts: Rarotonga||192|
|10||Fishing, Hiking, Diving & Other Outdoor Activities||201|
|11||Shopping on Rarotonga||203|
|12||Where to Stay on Rarotonga||205|
|13||Where to Dine on Rarotonga||211|
|Don't Miss an Island Night Feast||212|
|Food Stalls & the Best Burgers in Town||215|
|14||Island Nights on Rarotonga||216|
|Cook Islands Dancing||216|
|Fast Facts: Aitutaki||219|
|A Holy Meal||233|
|A Bowl of Grog||234|
|5||Planning Your Trip to Fiji||238|
|Staying at One of Fiji's Offshore Resorts||242|
|6||Visitor Information & Entry Requirements||244|
|The Fiji Dollar & the U.S. Dollar||246|
|8||When to Go||247|
|9||Getting There & Getting Around||248|
|Fast Facts: Fiji||253|
|Fast Facts: Nadi & Lautoka||259|
|The Dreaded Degei||263|
|A Side Trip to Lautoka||264|
|Don't Miss a Meke||276|
|2||Island Escapes from Nadi||280|
|3||Resorts Offshore from Nadi||282|
|4||The Coral Coast||292|
|Fast Facts: The Coral Coast||292|
|Fast Facts: Suva||305|
|Walking Tour: Suva||307|
|A Side Trip Back in Time to Levuka||316|
|7||Northern Viti Levu||320|
|Fast Facts: Savusavu||326|
|Fast Facts: Taveuni||335|
|3||Resorts Offshore from Taveuni||341|
|The Teller of Tales||348|
|3||The Samoan People||349|
|4||The Samoan Language||352|
|5||Visitor Information & Entry Requirements||353|
|The Samoan Tala & U.S. Dollar||355|
|7||When to Go||355|
|8||Getting There & Getting Around||356|
|Fast Facts: Samoa||360|
|9||Exploring Apia & the Rest of Upolu||363|
|10||Watersports, Golf & Other Outdoor Activities||371|
|12||Where to Stay on Upolu||373|
|Hot Dogs & Hamburgers||374|
|Beach Fales at Aleipata||377|
|13||Where to Dine in Apia||378|
|Don't Miss a Fiafia||379|
|14||Island Nights on Upolu||381|
|1||American Samoa Today||387|
|3||Visitor Information & Entry Requirements||389|
|5||When to Go||390|
|6||Getting There & Getting Around||390|
|Seeing American Samoa as a Day Trip from Apia||392|
|Fast Facts: American Samoa||392|
|7||Exploring American Samoa||395|
|8||National Park of American Samoa||399|
|9||Where to Stay||399|
|10||Where to Dine||400|
|14||The Kingdom of Tonga||402|
|What Day Is It?||409|
|5||Visitor Information & Entry Requirements||411|
|The Pa'anga & the U.S. Dollar||412|
|7||When to Go||413|
|8||Getting to Tonga & Getting Around||414|
|Fast Facts: Tonga||417|
|10||Island Excursions, Watersports & Other Outdoor Activities||425|
|11||Shopping on Tongatapu||427|
|12||Where to Stay on Tongatapu||428|
|13||Where to Dine on Tongatapu||432|
|Dine Like a Tongan||432|
|14||Island Nights on Tongatapu||434|
|Fast Facts: Vava'u||436|
|Appendix||The South Pacific in Depth||446|
|1||A Shared History||446|
|3||The Islands & the Sea||454|
|List of Maps|
|The South Pacific||20|
|The Society Islands & the Northern Tuamotus||61|
|Walking Tour: Papeete||95|
|The Fiji Islands||239|
|Viti Levu & Ovalau||261|
|Walking Tour: Suva||309|
|The Samoa Islands||359|
The magical names of Tahiti, Rarotonga, Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga have conjured up romantic images of an earthly paradise since European explorers brought home tales of their tropical splendor and uninhibited people more than two centuries ago. And with good reason, for these are some of the most beautiful islands in the world-if not the most beautiful. Here you can relax at remote resorts perched on some of most gorgeous beaches the planet has to offer. Offshore are some of the globe's most fabulous diving and spectacular snorkeling.
Picking the best of the South Pacific is no easy task. I cannot, for example, choose the most friendly island, for the people of Tahiti and French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa, American Samoa, and the Kingdom of Tonga are among the friendliest folks on earth. Their fabled history has provided fodder for famous books and films, their storied culture inspires hedonistic dreams, and their big smiles and genuine warmth are prime attractions everywhere in the South Pacific. Personally, I like all the islands and all the islanders, which further complicates my chore to no end.
In this chapter, I point out the best of the best-not necessarily to pass qualitative judgment, but to help you choose among many options. I list them here in the order in which they appear in the book.
Your choice of destination willdepend on why you are going to the islands. You can scuba dive to exhaustion or just sit on the beach with a trashy novel. You can share a 300-room hotel with package tourists or get away from it all at a tiny resort on a remote island. Even out there, you can be left alone with your lover or join your fellow guests at lively dinner parties. You can totally ignore the Pacific Islanders around you or enrich your own life by learning about theirs. You can listen to the day's events on CNN International or see what the South Seas were like a century ago. Those decisions are all yours.
For a preview of each South Pacific country, see "The Islands in Brief" in chapter 2.
1 The Most Beautiful Islands
"In the South Seas," Rupert Brooke wrote in 1914, "the Creator seems to have laid himself out to show what He can do." How right the poet was, for all across the South Pacific lie some of the world's most dramatically beautiful islands. In my opinion, the best of the lot have jagged mountain peaks plunging into aquamarine lagoons. Here are some that you see on the travel posters and in the brochures:
Moorea (French Polynesia): I think Moorea is the most beautiful island in the world. Nothing to my mind compares with its sawtooth ridges and the great dark-green hulk of Mount Rotui separating glorious Cook's and Opunohu bays. The view from Tahiti of Moorea's dinosaur-like skyline is unforgettable. See chapter 5.
Bora Bora (French Polynesia): The late James Michener thought that Bora Bora was the most beautiful island in the world. Although tourism has turned this gem into sort of an expensive South Seas Disneyland since Michener's day, development hasn't altered the incredible beauty of Bora Bora's basaltic tombstone towering over a lagoon ranging in color from yellow to deep blue. See chapter 6.
Rarotonga (Cook Islands): Only 32km (20 miles) around, the capital of the Cook Islands boasts the beauty of Tahiti-with hints of Moorea-but without the development and the high prices of French Polynesia. See chapter 8.
Aitutaki (Cook Islands): A junior version of Bora Bora, Aitutaki is one of the hottest South Pacific destinations. The main island sits at the apex of a shallow, colorful lagoon, which from the air looks like a turquoise carpet laid on the deep blue sea. See "Aitutaki" in chapter 8.
The Yasawa Islands (Fiji): Another hot destination of late, especially for backpackers, this chain of long, narrow islands off the northwest coast of Viti Levu, Fiji's main island, has some of the region's best beaches. Despite the inroads of tourism, however, mostly the Yasawas are populated by Fijians who live in traditional villages. See chapter 10.
Ovalau (Fiji): The sheer cliffs of Ovalau kept the town of Levuka from becoming Fiji's modern capital, but they create a dramatic backdrop to an old South Seas town little changed in the past century. Ovalau has no good beaches, which means it has no resorts to alter its landscape. See "A Side Trip Back in Time to Levuka" box in chapter 10.
Qamea and Matagi Islands (Fiji): These little jewels off the northern coast of Taveuni are lushly beautiful, with their shorelines either dropping precipitously into the calm surrounding waters or forming little bays with idyllic beaches. See "Resorts Offshore from Taveuni" in chapter 11.
Upolu (Samoa): Robert Louis Stevenson was so enraptured with Samoa that he spent the last five years of his life in the hills of Upolu. The well-weathered eastern part of the island is ruggedly beautiful, especially in Aliepata, where a cliff virtually drops down to one of the region's most spectacular beaches. See "Exploring Apia & the Rest of Upolu" in chapter 12.
Savai'i (Samoa): One of the largest Polynesian islands, this great volcanic shield slopes gently on its eastern side to a chain of gorgeous beaches. There are no towns on Savai'i, only traditional Samoan villages interspersed among rain forests, which adds to its unspoiled beauty. See "Savai'i" in chapter 12.
Tutuila (American Samoa): The only reason to go to American Samoa these days is to see the physical beauty of Tutuila and its magnificent harbor at Pago Pago. If you can ignore the tuna canneries and huge stacks of shipping containers, this island is right up there with Moorea. See chapter 13.
Vava'u (Tonga): One of the South Pacific's best yachting destinations, hilly Vava'u is shaped like a jellyfish, with small islands instead of tentacles trailing off into a quiet lagoon. Waterways cut into the center of the main island, creating the picturesque and perfectly protected Port of Refuge. See "Vava'u" in chapter 14.
2 The Best Beaches
Because all but a few South Pacific islands are surrounded by coral reefs, there are few surf beaches in the region. Tahiti has a few, but they all have heat-absorbing black volcanic sand. Otherwise, most islands (and all but a few resorts) have bathtublike lagoons that lap on coral sands draped by coconut palms. Fortunately for the environmentalists among us, some of the most spectacular beaches are on remote islands and are protected from development by the islanders' devotion to their cultures and villages' land rights. Here are a few that stand out from the many.
Temae Plage Publique (Moorea, French Polynesia): The northeastern coast of Moorea is fringed by a nearly uninterrupted stretch of white sand beach which commands a glorious view across a speckled lagoon to Tahiti sitting on the horizon across the Sea of the Moon. See "Exploring Moorea" in chapter 5.
Matira Beach (Bora Bora, French Polynesia): Beginning at the Hotel Bora Bora, this fine ribbon of sand stretches around skinny Matira Point, which forms the island's southern extremity, all the way to the Club Med. The eastern side has views of the sister islands of Raiatea and Tahaa. See "Exploring Bora Bora" in chapter 6.
Relais Mahana's beach (Huahine, French Polynesia): My favorite resort beach is at Relais Mahana, a small hotel near Huahine's south end. Trees grow along the white beach, which slopes into a lagoon deep enough for swimming at any tide. The resort's pier goes out to a giant coral head, a perfect and safe place to snorkel, and the lagoon here is protected from the trade winds, making it safe for sailing. See "Where to Stay on Huahine" in chapter 7.
Titikaveka Beach (Rarotonga, Cook Islands): On Rarotonga's southern coast, Titikaveka is blessed with palm trees draped over a long beach of brilliant white sand, and the lagoon here is the island's best for swimming and snorkeling. See "Exploring Rarotonga" in chapter 8.
Beach on One Foot Island (Aitutaki, Cook Islands): The sands on most beaches covered in this book are a tannish coral color, but on the islets surrounding Aitutaki, they are pure white, like talcum. Tiny One Foot Island has the best beach here, with part of it along a channel whose coral bottom is scoured clean by strong tidal currents, another running out to a sandbar known as Nude Island-a reference not to clothes but to a lack of vegetation. See "Exploring Aitutaki" in chapter 8.
Yasawa Island (Fiji): One of the most spectacular beaches I've ever seen is on the northern tip of Yasawa Island, northernmost of the gorgeous chain of the same name. This long expanse of deep sand is broken by a teapotlike rock outcrop, which also separates two Fijian villages, whose residents own this land. Blue Lagoon Cruises and oceangoing cruise ships stop here; otherwise, the Fijians keep it all to themselves. There are other good beaches on Yasawa, however, and two of them are at Yasawa Island Resort and Oarsman's Bay Lodge. See "Island Escapes from Nadi" and "Resorts Offshore from Nadi" in chapter 10.
Natadola Beach (The Coral Coast, Fiji): Fiji's main island of Viti Levu doesn't have the high-quality beaches found on the country's small islands, but Natadola is an exception. Until recently this long stretch was spared development, but a big resort is coming. See "The Coral Coast" in chapter 10.
Vatulele Island Resort beach (Vatulele Island, Fiji): Nearly a kilometer (1/2 mile) of deep white sand fronts the deluxe Vatulele Island Resort, off the south shore of Viti Levu, Fiji's main island. Guests can have dinner out on the beach or get a bird's-eye view from a private gazebo overlooking the sands. See "Where to Stay on Vatulele Island" in chapter 10.
Namenalala Island beaches (Namenalala Island, Fiji): Home to the charming Moody's Namena resort, the remote, dragon-shaped Namenalala has one large sandy strip with a deep lagoon plus three other small beaches tucked away in rocky coves. See "A Resort Off Savusavu" in chapter 11.
Horseshoe Bay (Matagi Island, Fiji): Home of one of the region's best-value resorts, Matagi is an extinct volcano whose crater fell away on one side and formed picturesque Horseshoe Bay. The half-moon beach at its head is one of the finest in the islands, but you will have to be on a yacht or a guest at Matangi Island Resort to enjoy it. See "Resorts Offshore from Taveuni" in chapter 11.
Aleipata Beach (Upolu, Samoa): On the eastern end of Upolu, a clifflike mountain forms a dramatic backdrop to the deep sands of Aleipata Beach, which faces a group of small islets offshore. On a clear day you can see American Samoa from here. See "Exploring Apia & the Rest of Upolu" in chapter 12.
Return to Paradise Beach (Upolu, Samoa): This idyllic stretch of white sand and black rocks overhung by coconut palms gets its name from Return to Paradise, the 1953 Gary Cooper movie that was filmed here. Surf actually pounds on the rocks. See "Exploring Apia & the Rest of Upolu" in chapter 12.
'Atata Island beach (Tonga): A gorgeous, wide beach wraps around the "tail" of tadpole-shaped 'Atata, off Tonga's capital of Nuku'alofa and home of Royal Sunset Island Resort. The narrow peninsula protects a colorful, coral-speckled lagoon on its western side. See "Where to Stay on Tongatapu" in chapter 14.
3 The Best Honeymoon Destinations
Whether you're on your honeymoon or not, the South Pacific is a marvelous place for romantic escapes. After all, romance and the islands have gone hand-in-hand since the bare-breasted young women of Tahiti gave rousing welcomes to the European explorers in the late 18th century.
I've never stayed anywhere as romantic as a thatch-roof bungalow built on stilts over a lagoon, with a glass panel in its floor for viewing fish swimming below you and steps leading from your front deck into the warm waters below. You'll find lots of these in French Polynesia-especially on Bora Bora, the South Pacific's most romantic (and expensive) honeymoon destination-and a handful more in the Cook Islands and in Samoa.
One caveat is in order: Most over-water bungalows are relatively close together, meaning that your honeymooning next-door neighbors will be within earshot if not eyeshot. ("It can be like watching an X-rated video," a hotel manager once confessed, "but without the video.") Therefore, if you're seeking a high degree of privacy and seclusion they won't be your best choice.
On the other hand, many of the South Pacific's small, relatively remote offshore resorts offer as much privacy as you are likely to desire. These little establishments would also fall into another category: The Best Places to Get Away from It All. They are so romantic that a friend of mine says her ideal wedding would be to rent an entire small resort in Fiji, take her wedding party with her, get married in Fijian costume beside the beach, and make the rest of her honeymoon a diving vacation. Most resorts covered in this book are well aware of such desires, and they offer wedding packages complete with traditional ceremony and costumes. Choose your resort, and then contact the management for details about their wedding packages.
Excerpted from Frommer's South Pacific by Bill Goodwin Excerpted by permission.
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