Bask in crisp blue water brushing endless pristine beaches
and intimacy induced by seclusion.
The South Pacific encompasses Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia. The name Polynesia comes from the Greek words poly (many) and nesos (islands) and references the countries/territories of Hawaii, New Zealand, French Polynesia, Easter Island, the Cook Islands, Pitcairn, Tonga, American Samoa, Tuvalu and others.
Melanesia (mela means black) extends from the western end of the Pacific Ocean to the Arafura Sea and eastward to Fiji, encompassing most of the islands north and northeast of Australia, as well as the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji.
Micronesia lies between Hawaii and the Phillipines in the North Pacific, a conglomeration of thousands of small (micro) islands. Seven distinct entities comprise Micronesia, which include the U.S. Territory of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and Nauru, to name a few.
The sea is an intrinsic part of life for the people of the South Pacific. Culture, tradition and ancestry are key elements of life, as well, including ancient tattooing, dancing, carving, music and more. Each island and nation boast its own personality and unique culture, and when you visit, you are treated like family.
Tahiti is the main transit point to the other islands, and features beautiful waterfalls, rivers and archeological sites. Don't miss the colorful Marche de Papeete marketplace, full of flowers, fish, food, fruit, art and souvenirs.
Moorea, just 12 miles west of Tahiti, offers magnificent expanses of both white and black sand beaches, thanks to the area’s volcanic origins. On one side of the 51 sq. mile island is Cook’s Bay, on the other, Opunohu Bay. The lush, dramatic mountain rises contrast spectacularly with the translucent waters that surround the island.
Famed Mount Otemanu looms large in the sky while below, the lagoon shimmers in indescribable hues of blue and green. Hibiscus and palms sway in the warm breeze while fish; rays and sharks frolic nearby in the water. Could there be any more romantic place in the world?
Known as “the Garden Island” for its lush, dense foliage, Huahine is actually two islands: Huahine-Nui and Huahine-Iti (big Huahine and little Huahine). Connected by a bridge, both islands can be explored in a day’s time. It’s less touristy and populated than neighboring Moorea and affords visitors a more relaxing experience.
I have a passion for new places, new adventures, and all things travel. In the last four years I've visited over 15 countries, not including the various islands, cays and international waters I've traversed to get to those places. I adore domestic travel, as well, and look forward to my next trip--wherever that may be!
SOUTH PACIFIC / FRENCH POLYNESIA: A little further south and infinitely more private than many other tropical destinations, Tahiti and her islands are surprisingly accessible. A straight shot from LAX on Air Tahiti Nui delivers visitors to, pardon the cliché, paradise. What really sets French Polynesia apart is how much it feels like your own private island, and its beauty that simply defies description.
Touching down in Tahiti’s largest city, Papeete, the airport is filled with the fragrance of tiare, a type of gardenia and Tahiti’s national flower. Strung on leis encircling everyone’s necks, each arriving passenger receives this quaint island greeting. A welcome in any language is always sweet, but here, it seems, “maeva” is always offered with flowers, a smile and often with a fruity drink.
A quick flight to the island of Taha’a and a 30-minute private boat transfer is all it takes to arrive on the dock of our resort. Across the lagoon, the 48 overwater bungalows are strung together like pearls, standing serenely against the backdrop of swaying palm trees. Here, every view is spectacular – water in every shade of cerulean stretches endlessly. Few people may be out and about, snorkeling or swaying in a hammock, but this is not a typical honeymoon destination with maddening crowds everywhere. (Supposedly, Hawaii gets more visitors in 10 days than Tahiti does in an entire year.) If tranquility were a place, this would be it.
A short walk along the pontoon leads to Bungalow #3, which is, simply, an oasis. Natural light fills the room thanks to the generous glass patio doors and large picture window. The king-size bed, a veritable sanctuary itself, faces the window and overlooks stately Mount Otemanu on the island of Bora Bora. The room is decorated in a soothing palette of white and cream, which contrasts nicely with the rich honey color of the Tahitian pine floor and wall paneling. Sliding open the wood-carved doors behind the bed, the exquisitely appointed bathroom is complete with his and hers sinks, a slate-tiled shower, separate bathtub, and baskets full of plush towels and bath and body products. Further exploration reveals a private terrace with direct access to the lagoon and a glass-top coffee table at the foot of the bed that opens up directly to the lagoon below. Magnificent accommodations are an enjoyable luxury, but it’s the land and sea that make French Polynesia so amazing. Activities are plentiful on Taha’a, with snorkeling frequently taking top billing. It’s surprisingly easy to wade into the lagoon and enjoy the coral garden and the feeling of swimming in a huge aquarium with multi-colored coral, sea urchins, clams, and fish of all colors at your fingertips. Jet-skiing, canoe and kayak excursions, deep sea fishing and yacht cruises are just a few of the other water activities, while on land, the options are equally abundant: horse rides, hiking on nearby Taha’a or Raiatea, and 4x4 excursions. To get a closer look at what makes French Polynesia unique, a vanilla plantation is a must-see. Vanilla grows abundantly on the island and is the main source of income for a large number of residents. Black pearl farms are another enlightening day trip destination. A steady source of income and pride for locals, black pearls are indigenous only in the Tuamotu Islands of French Polynesia.
Weddings in French Polynesia have only just recently been legalized for international guests. However, celebrating them is one of French Polynesia’s specialties. For newlyweds, honeymooners, or just a couple in search of a spectacular way to be festive, enjoy a private meal on a motu, or islet. The couple will be wrapped in a white linen pareo and given a lush crown of leaves and flowers. After climbing down their terrace ladder into a dugout canoe, a staff member gently ferries them over to the motu for a feast and traditional Polynesian dancing. Highlights from the menu include poisson cru served in a coconut (a delicious blend of raw tuna, lemon and lime juice, tomatoes, onions and coconut milk – a Tahitian favorite) and a delectable individual wedding cake. Dancers perform to traditional Polynesian music. In true Polynesian fashion, tattoos cover one dancer from his face to his feet. His body is a storybook, telling a living history of his family, his life and his passions – especially the sea.
Vacationing can often be hard work, and relaxation gives way to a deeper feeling of rejuvenation at a spa. Always a part of traditional Polynesians’ medicine, philosophy of life, ancestral practices and customs, massages are offered in tandem with natural ingredients such as vanilla, tiare, sandalwood, coconut, pineapple and manoi oil, derived from coconuts.
With 118 islands in all, French Polynesia covers two million square miles of the South Pacific Ocean, which is roughly equal to an area as large as the continent of Europe. However, it’s easy to island-hop, either by boat or by plane, and a visit to French Polynesia would not be complete without a visit to Bora Bora. After boat transfer back to the Raiatea airport, it’s a simple 10-minute flight straight to the island. Fifteen resorts dot Bora Bora and at only 18 miles in circumference, it’s a bit busier than many other French Polynesian islands, but certainly no less beautiful.
Bora Bora has long been coveted as a premiere destination for diving and snorkeling thanks to the myriad creatures that thrive in its warm waters—waters that display varying shades of turquoise and aquamarine created by the protective “necklace” of coral that surrounds the island. During a snorkeling expedition, swimming with stingrays and sharks is not only suggested but encouraged, despite that nagging fight or flight reflex you may be feeling. Being one with nature has never felt more personal.
Even boating out of the lagoon provides aquatic surprises in spades. Witnessing spectacular manta rays moving gracefully along the ocean floor is an amazing encounter you just can’t get at Sea World. From guided hiking tours to parasailing, volleyball to bocce ball, SCUBA diving expeditions to glass-bottom boat rides, the resort offers more activities than anyone could possibly take part in during one vacation.
Nestled deeply in the South Pacific Ocean, French Polynesia is more than a destination; it’s an experience. It is tranquility, adventure and wonder all at once, a recognition of stillness in a world moving at a frenetic pace. And here, you can’t help but give yourself over to it.
A snorkeler's delight! Travel by motorized canoe through the pristine clear waters of Bora Bora and encounter some of the marine life; sharks, rays, turtles and schools of tropical colored fish. Enjoy a scrumptious picnic lunch while admiring the beautiful scenery, from dazzling white beaches to the majestic mountains that Bora Bora so splendidly affords.
Enjoy a two-hour tour around one of the most beautiful islands of Tahiti, Bora Bora. See all the points of interest, both scenic and historic. Begin on the East Coast of Bora Bora, and make your way around to the west coast by crossing over the isthmus of Taravao where the big island is joined to its peninsula. Your day will be filled with cultural, natural and historical sights.
Late in the afternoon when the sun is low on the horizon, enjoy a beautiful sunset aboard a motorized canoe at the famous Cook and Opunohu Bays of Moorea. To complete this romantic moment sip on a refreshing cocktail and allow the crew to take care of everything!
Discover the best of Papeete on this full-day 4WD safari adventure. You'll travel through almost impenetrable rainforest to discover some of the jewels of Tahiti. This is a rare opportunity to see the places where most tourists cannot gain access. Experience the untouched majestic beauty of Papeete and uncover archeological sites on this full-day jeep safari tour.
Tahiti is in the same time zone as Hawaii, two hours behind Pacific Standard Time (three hours behind PST during Daylight Saving Time). The average year-round temperature for Tahiti and her islands is 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Water temperatures average between 79-84 degrees, with less than a degree of variation from the surface down to a depth of 150 feet.
Tahiti entry requirements: U.S. and Canadian citizens need only a passport valid for six months after the return date and a round-trip ticket for entry. Citizens of other countries should consult the French Consulate for specific entry requirements.
Languages: French and Tahitian are the official languages, though English is widely spoken.
Currency: The French Pacific Franc (XPF) fluctuates with the euro. Hotels and financial institutions typically offer exchange services for a fee. The euro and major credit cards are also widely accepted.
The electric voltage in most hotels is 110 or 220 volts. Visitors should bring adapters.
As most hotels are accessible only by boat, transfers are required from the airport and pre-arranged prior to travel.
Fees apply for usage of public wi-fi or personal, in-room wi-fi use at the hotels. Expect that your Internet connection will be spotty at best--but relax. You are on vacation, after all!
Australia has three time zones and is calculated using Standard Time. Daylight Saving is observed in South Australia and the south-eastern regions. Australia's year-round temperature varies as does its climate, but for the most part Australia is desert or semi-arid. Australia is in the South Pacific, so their seasons are opposite ours (when it’s summer here it’s winter there). Because Australia is so tall top to bottom, it’s well into the tropics in the north (Queensland), boasts a cool temperate climate in the south (Tasmania), with a mostly Mediterranean climate (hot dry summers and cool wet winters) in between. The Australian summer is the best time to visit Tasmania, South Australia, and Victoria, while their winter is best for Queensland and the Northern Territory. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to see it all in one trip, travel during their late spring or late fall.
Australia entry requirements: You must have a valid U.S. passport and a visa to enter Australia. Most U.S. passport holders traveling to Australia for tourism or business purposes for less than 90 days can obtain an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). The ETA is an electronic label-free visa and can be obtained at the ETA website for a small service fee. Airlines and many travel agents in the United States are also able to apply for ETAs on behalf of travelers. If you overstay your ETA or any other visa, even for short periods, you may be subject to exclusion, detention, and removal by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). You can find more information about the ETA, other visas, and entry requirements from the Embassy of Australia at 1601 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036, via the Australian Visa Information Service at 905-280-1437 (toll charges to Canada apply) or their website.
Languages: While Australia has no "official" language, English is most widely spoken.
Currency: The Australian Dollar.
The electric voltage is 240V.
New Zealand has two time zones. The main islands use New Zealand Standard Time and the outlying Chatham Islands use Chatham Standard Time. Daylight Saving Time is observed during their summer months. New Zealand has mild temperatures, moderately high rainfall and lots of sunshine. Its climate is dominated by the mountains and the sea. New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, so their seasons are opposite ours (when it’s summer here it’s winter there). It has cool wet winters (so May through August will be cold and wet) and warm, mostly dry summers. High season is October through March, but April and September can offer gorgeous sunny days, as well.
New Zealand entry requirements: If you are a U.S. citizen, you are eligible for a visa waiver and do not need a visa for tourist stays of three months or less. Visit the Embassy of New Zealand for the most current visa information.
Languages: English is the most widely spoken language, but Maori and New Zealand Sign Language are the country's official languages.
Currency: The New Zealand Dollar.
The electric voltage is 230V.
As you plan your destination wedding, take time to thoroughly research the legal requirements to wed in your chosen destination. Some countries have residency requirements while others require a set amount of time between the filing of your application and the actual wedding ceremony. Below you'll find a list of questions you need to answer before you get too far down the planning path (in case any of the answers may force you to change your destination decision). Also, you'll find links to each country's tourism office, consulate or embassy, where you can find specific information regarding entry requirements, residency requirements, license fees and requirements, etc.
No matter where you go, both the bride and the groom should expect to bring the following:
Questions to consider:
Links to check out if you’re getting married in the South Pacific: