South Pacific Escapes
It’s time you had some of the best island experiences on earth. By Rina Chandarana
New Zealand, Hawaii, Easter Island, Tahiti and so many of the South Pacific islands have offered inspiration and escape for centuries. Brimming with natural beauty, the islands are home to ancient cultures and a soulful way of life that is deeply connected to the rhythms of the world’s vastest ocean. There are plenty of reasons to lose yourself in these island idylls.
The biggest French Polynesian island delivers surreal sunsets with silhouettes of swaying palms and peaked islets against a pink and purple-streaked sky. It may be a dot in the vast Pacific, but its natural beauty and cultural contributions are boundless. Enjoy a delicious dinner with the sizzling sunset backdrop as traditional Tahitian dancers shake their hips in frilly skirts and elaborate headpieces. Their coordinated dance performances are energetic and accompanied by fast drum beats.
The Marquesas are just about as far-flung as you can get with barely a footprint on their white sand beaches, lush jungles and clear, calm lagoons. Once you arrive, you will feel like you have discovered paradise. Jump into a 4-wheel-drive vehicle and explore the winding coast before visiting an archaeological site in Puamau on the tip of Hiva Oa where unique Tiki statues were unearthed. Takai is the tallest known Polynesian stone.
There aren’t many places that feel as completely detached from the rest of the planet as Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, as it is known. The inhabited island, with a population under 6,000 is one of the most isolated in the world. The allure of seeing the massive stone statues, called moai, draws adventure seekers to this remote spot. Some of the moai stand 32 feet tall, and there are at least 900 of them scattered around the island. Explore the archaeological and anthropological sites and enjoy a picnic in the shadow of the looming figures.
Pro Tip! Plan ahead to go to Easter Island in February when the Tapati Festival recreates ancient royal traditions. - Catherine Brown, Designer
When the Polynesians arrived in Hawaii, they brought their food, medicines and tradition of making leis. Learn how to make these wreaths of flowers and vines often given to visitors as a symbol of peace and greeting.
There’s a serene feeling among the lofty trees near Tane Mahuta, God of the Forest, a giant kauri tree estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years old. Cape Regina, the northernmost tip of New Zealand’s North Island is considered a spiritual place for the Maori who believe that it’s where the spirits of the dead enter the underworld. Feel immersed in Maori culture in the Te Whakearewarewa Thermal Valley of Rotorua, a wonderland of gushing waters, steaming vents, boiling mud pools and spectacular geysers. Follow a Treetops Lodge & Estate chef on a Maori food trail followed by a delicious lunch.