Oh yes it’s cold, it’s windy and sometimes it’s rainy too. Perhaps that’s why all your friends are showing off about jetting away to warmer climates to beat their winter blues. Although, if you see one more Facebook post in which your mates are snapped sipping tropical cocktails or dressed in togs and sucking in their stomachs (they’re using filters for sure), you’ll scream. It won’t be surprising either, if you’ve been thinking about joining them and bragging about your own tropical getaway. So why not think about sending yourself off to one these little slices of paradise?
The Cook Islands
Flying time from Auckland: 4h 35m
There are 15 islands in the Cooks with the largest being Rarotonga, where it’s all about lazing by pools, swimming in crystal blue waters or reading on loungers on soft sand beaches. Famous for white coral churches, and popular for diving and fishing, while on land there are plenty of hikes, cycle tours and boat trips for those who want a bit of action on their vacation. Walk up to Te Rua Nanga (The Needle) or visit the super serene Maire Nui Botanical Gardens, both of which make a pleasant alternative to the beach. Hire a scooter or a bicycle, and don’t forget to check out the markets for souvenirs, you can never have too many sarongs or black pearls. And to make life extra easy, in the Cook Islands you don’t even need to change money, because alongside the Cook Island dollar, the New Zealand dollar is also accepted as official currency.
The Republic of Vanuatu
Flying time from Auckland: 3h 31m
Vanuatu is one of my favourite tropical destinations – perhaps it’s the French influence, or the active volcano on the island of Tanna, or maybe the presence of dugong, a kind of herbivorous marine mammal also known as the ‘sea cow’. With the mandatory palm-fringed, white-sand beaches, the crystal blue waters surrounding the 80 or so islands teem with aquatic life. If you feel like keeping things simple, just check into a hotel on the main island of Efate, with the most popular excursions being day trips to the Mele Cascades or snorkelling at Hideaway. And be sure to take a cruise on the sailing ketch Coongoola, their daytrips include a visit to a turtle sanctuary, snorkelling and a beach picnic.
Further afield, Tanna Island is home to a live volcano, and you won’t believe your eyes when you take a tour there at night because it’s just electrifying to get so close to nature’s fireworks. Or if diving floats your boat, take a jaunt to the island of Espirito Santo where coral reefs are home to numerous curiosities left over from World War II. And the combination of Melanesian and French lifestyles are blended to great effect – because not only is Vanuatu a Pacific paradise, you can also be sure of a darn fine coffee and croissant.
Flying time from Auckland: 3h 10m
Combining the cultures of Melanesia, India and China, Fiji is a melting pot of cultures and, as a result, some wonderful fusion cuisine. Ideal for family holidays or adults seeking R&R, there are 333 islands, of which 110 are permanently populated, and visitors can choose to rest their heads in luxury resorts or little huts on secluded beaches. For most people, the highlights of Fiji are maritime – snorkeling, sailing, fishing, surfing and beach combing and it’s not too hard to get off the beaten track.
Famous for its rugged landscape and serene blue lagoons, there are also plenty of adventures to be had including mountain climbing, zip-lining, caving and abseiling. Another enormously popular outing is the Garden of the Sleeping Giant and Sabeto Mud Baths Tour where you can soak in a mineral-rich mud pool before rinsing off in a thermal hot spring, said to have all sorts of magical healing qualities. And who doesn’t want to come back from their getaway feeling magically restored?
A photo posted by Beth Cole (@bethcole_16) on
Flying time from Auckland: 2h 35m
Like a Pacific Paris, New Caledonia is another happy marriage between French and Polynesian cultures. It is as pleasant for lazing around as it is for getting out and about in the big wide world. The colours of the sky, and the sea and the jungle will blow your mind – you definitely won’t need to use a filter on this scenery. Golf, surfing sailing, hiking, hunting and fishing are all popular activities for the busy body, but the absolute highlight of this region is the snorkeling and diving. So don’t pass up the opportunity to snorkel in the fish rich waters of La Piscine Naturelle.
The markets are also staggering and you’ll never find fresher, cheaper and tastier fish than that which you can pick up in Noumea – happily there are plenty of self-catering accommodation options in New Caledonia. And while you can also purchase genuine island trinkets at the various markets, you can also visit boutiques selling luxury items straight from Paris, so be sure to have your credit card handy.
And don’t forget to play it safe because it’s also time to think about travel insurance in the face of unexpected loss or illness. So be sure to investigate Worldcare’s low-cost, high-quality travel insurance options for your getaway to the friendly Pacific islands.
Travel Writer and Worldcare Blogger
Elisabeth has what is known in the trade as a ‘portfolio career’. Upon discovering that law school wasn’t really her bag, she completed a degree in theatre and film at Victoria University, followed by a diploma in acting from The NZ Drama School: Toi Whaakari. After a couple of years playing Shortland Street’s notorious villain, the evil Nurse Carla, she became a breakfast radio host which required a lot less make up and marginally less bloodshed. From the late 90s wanderlust took over and she spent the subsequent decade travelling the world, taking on all manner of odd jobs during which time she discovered that her vocation was writing. Today Elisabeth writes about travel and leisure, arts and culture; she is also a regular contributor to Radio NZ National and an award-winning playwright.