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Pacific Beaches


Whitsunday Islands, [boat required, inexpensive accommodation possible]
The closest thing to the Caribbean in Australia, the Whitsunday's 74 islands have squeaky white beaches, turquoise water and pine clad hills. Seven islands host resort hotels of all kinds but with a common marine theme - fishing, sailing, whale watching, castaway picnics, you want it, they got it.
Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island tops Australia's 'Best Beaches' list, with 6km of powder sand, sandwiched between tropical forest and clear blue water.

There are no hotels or restaurants but plenty of cheap camping options on this island. A camping permit is needed, available from mainland Airlie Beach.
Most visitors are day-trippers from other islands [e.g. Hamilton]. Beware dangerous marine creatures, especially the jellies. Best: April - Nov. Jan-March gets some rain, December is hot and crowded. Scuba divers like Sept-Dec. See Australia Beaches.

The Cook Islands:
Aitutaki Island [English speaking, costly resorts and flights, including day trips], One Foot Island Beach

A beach paradise, along with other tiny neighbouring islands, Aitutaki and its turquoise lagoon is perfection. The sand is pristine white and the lagoon's warm, clear water is packed with tropical fish and interesting coral.
There are no high rise hotels in Aitukaki. Get there by flying to Rarotonga with Air New Zealand, then another flight on to Aitutaki.
Roratonga [English speaking, the boss island in the group, with prices ranging from cheap to costly], Aroa beach, crisp white, tree-fringed sand, clear water and some half-dead coral clusters in a lagoon that is host to some colourful fish.

Beware! Roratonga was hit by a hurricane in 2004 damaging beaches on the east side of the island [But not Aroa]. Famous Muri beach is less attractive now, tho' still OK, but some beaches disappeared completely, so if booking guest houses via the internet, check recent photos!
Best: April-June, Sept, Oct. Dry June-Aug [winter, so water can get a little chilly and there are lots of visitors]. Wet Dec-March, though it's warm and most days see some sunshine.

Yasawa Island [English speaking, costly]
The Yasawas is a chain of islands running just northwest of Nadi, the main island of Fiji. There are loads of coral sandy beaches merging into cobalt-blue water [in the right season!], sometimes used as the location for movies, including 'The Blue Lagoon'.
The very best beaches are at the northern tip of Yasawa Island. One stretch of sand there is known as Eight Months Beach since it's said to take that long to get sand off out from your hair! There is an expensive resort on Yasawa island that requires a short flight from Nadi or a trip on a Blue Lagoon Cruise ship.

Other Yasawa islands [English speaking but more importantly inexpensive!]: most of the Yasawas are too primitive for fancy resorts but host lots of reasonably priced backpacker resorts offering varied activities including pretty good snorkelling and scuba, sea kayaking, volleyball and small but OK beaches. Expect cold showers, mediocre inclusive food and less-than-perfect beaches [if you want fully manicured sand you'll have to go five star!].A fast catamaran water-bus, the Yasawa Flyer, does a daily run from Nadi up and down the Yasawa island chain, taking half an hour to reach the first island and four hours to get to the most northerly, though it doesn't go to Yasawa Island itself. It can get a little bumpy but isn't too bad.
The dry season is May-Oct but best Sept-Oct; wet and humid in Dec-Apr, worst Feb-Mar with steamy heat and not infrequent storms, clouds, high winds.

French Polynesia:
Bora Bora [French speaking, very costly], Matira Beach
Matira Beach is one of the best beaches in South Pacific, beginning at the famous resort Hotel Bora Bora, and going around the south of the island [Matira Point], then continuing 2 miles to the Club Med. There are a few more resorts along this beach. Because the island is in a middle of lagoon surrounded by coral reef, it has great beauty and the sea is gentle and warm like a bath tub. Bora Bora is the most popular destination in French Polynesia so it's touristy and you can't expect local culture there.
The best time to be there is in the cool, dry season May-Oct, but it's best to avoid July-Aug, the busiest time. There are two daily flights from/to Papeete [Tahiti].

Moorea [French speaking, quite expensive], Temae Beach
Moorea island, half an hour by fast boat from Tahiti, is all Tahiti should be - relaxed, one basic circular road fringed with massed tropical vegetation, no town, no dead cars and no rough black sand beaches. A ring of protective coral reef makes snorkelling, kayaking, lunching with stingrays or a zillion other watersports experiences superb, though apart from the big international resorts beaches tend to be small.Temae Beach is huge and beautiful with views of Tahiti - though the Sofitel resort was redeveloping part of it 2005 - 2006.

The Rock Islands
The Rock Islands in Palau are famed for their curious and beautiful coral rock formations and great beaches. The water is warm all year, and underwater life is copious and colourful, so Palau is popular with divers as well as snorkelers.You can also experience magical snorkelling in the middle of massed clouds of [harmless] jellyfish in Jellyfish Lake at Mecherchar Island, central Rock Islands.
You reach Palau from Guam. Best February/March. Worst June - August; typhoons occasionally visit around this time.

Samoa [Western]:
Lefaga Beaches and Aleipata Beach
The best beach in the Lefaga area is called Return to Paradise Beach, because it's the location of the film 'Return to Paradise' starring Gary Cooper in 1953. This is still one of the most gorgeous beaches in the South Pacific. Aleipata Beach on the eastern end of the island is another one, a white sandy paradise with a view of 4 small offshore islands - you can see American Samoa on the horizon on a clear day.
As part of the National Eco-tourism Program, you can stay with village families which have an English speaker as a guide and a cook. Best June-Sept. Wet Nov-Apr.

American Samoa:
South coast of Ofu Island
Ofu is one of the Manu'a Islands, a part of the National Park of American Samoa, and has the most dramatic and beautiful landscape in the group - a 2.5 mile beach with pure white sand and coconut trees overlooked by a volcano. Because locals believe it is haunted, there are few people there.
It's an exquisite snorkelling spot, with over 300 species of fish and 150 of coral. There's also an array of prehistoric Samoan artefacts behind the beach at the To'aga Site.
Best June-Sept. Wet Nov-Apr. A 40 minute flight from Pago Pago.

Ha'apai islands, Foa island, Ha'apai Beach
The Ha'apai group of islands have some lovely beaches, but the finest of all is the one in front of a hotel called Sandy Beach Resort. You can enjoy a view of the active volcano on Tafuna island from this crescent shaped beach on a clear day. The best time to be there is cool and dry period, July-Sept. Cyclones are possible in Nov-April, and Dec-March is very hot and humid. There are daily flights and a weekly ferry service from Nuku'alofa, Tongtapu.


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