Oceania is a remote, watery region with some of the finest beaches in the world, as well as volcanoes, jungle, coral reefs and Pacific culture. Hiking, diving, surfing, sailing, kayaking, snorkeling and other water-based adventure activities are possible all around the region, with Oceania cruises being a great way to see several destinations in one trip. Even with all of the adventure activities though, the too-good-to-be-true tropical landscapes may tempt many travelers to simply sit back and enjoy paradise.
While New Zealand and sometimes Australia are considered to be part of the greater region of Oceania, this guide does not include those countries, as they have separate Go Overseas guides. This guide covers the smaller islands of the Pacific Ocean, and excludes Pacific Islands that belong to Asian countries (such as Indonesia and the Philippines) and Hawaii, which is part of the USA.
All of that water makes Oceania a dream for any traveler interested in aquatic sports (but don't worry, there are plenty of land-based activities too).
Palau offers something beyond the ordinary: in this Micronesian archipelago, you can visit Jellyfish Lake. Unlike their counterparts in Australia or elsewhere in the world, the jellyfish in Palau don’t sting, and there are millions of them at Jellyfish Lake. Getting there also requires an adventurous boat ride and a hike, making this an all-round unforgettable excursion.
If you swimming amongst jellyfish doesn't top your bucket list, more 'conventional' (but certainly not boring) snorkeling spots amid coral reefs are accessible everywhere else in Oceania.
Crystal clear and comfortably warm, the waters of Oceania are perfect for diving. Most popular are the Solomon Islands, and with good reason. The six major islands that make up this nation are dotted with dozens of sunken World War II warships, which divers love to explore for their eerie quality and abundance of sea life. Plus, dramatic underwater drop-offs make the experience of diving in the Solomon Islands even more thrilling.
Australia may get most of the credit for great surf spots, but it's surrounded by many more, and many of the world's greatest surf spots are said to be throughout these islands. The Samoan Islands—which are comprised of both Western Samoa and American Samoa—are particularly well-loved. This is because the waters are warm, the waves are big and the conditions are consistent year-round, especially between April and October.
French Polynesia is an ideal place to have the quintessential South Pacific paradise sailing experience. The islands of French Polynesia—also known as Tahiti, although it is actually just one of the islands—are spread out over an area roughly the size of Western Europe, meaning there is much to sail between. The blue waters, clear lagoons, abundant fish life and jagged volcanic peaks are highlights of sailing adventures in French Polynesia.
Anywhere with such beautiful reefs and calm waters is sure to promise great kayaking, and Fiji’s Kadavu Island is known as one of the best. Fiji is located in the middle of the equatorial current, meaning that the waters are warm and full of tropical fish. As well as the attraction of paddling in clear turquoise waters past white-sand beaches fringed by coconut palms, you can snorkel and fish directly from your kayak in Fiji.
If you need to dry out and spend some time on land, Oceania is also full of great hiking trails. The islands are volcanic, so there are plenty of pointed peaks to hike up or around. Tonga’s ‘Eua Island is a highlight, with steep rugged cliffs, caves, sinkholes and jungle. An added bonus of hiking in Oceania is that often you can cool off with a dip in the ocean afterwards.
One of the biggest challenges of traveling in Oceania is the large distance between islands, as the region is comprised of more ocean than land. Island hopping can get expensive, and long-distance boats or ferries between the islands of Oceania are rarely an option.
The simplest and most cost-effective way to travel to Oceania is to book a flight from Australia, New Zealand or the USA, and stick to one island nation. Sea connections between islands within a nation are more common than connections between nations.
When to Go
Oceania is tropical, which means warm weather year-round. The dry season is from May to October, and temperatures are a bit cooler then. The dry season is also the high season. Typhoons can hit during the wet season, November to April, when the islands experience much more rain.
Cost and Accommodation
Regardless of the local economies of each island nation, it is still more expensive to travel in Oceania than in similar regions, such as Southeast Asia.
In French Polynesia, Fiji, and the Cook Islands in particular, you will find high-end places to stay, as they are very popular destinations with French, Australian, and New Zealand travelers. But because these places are the most popular destinations in Oceania, it also means there is a wider variety of options, and some budget digs are available too.
Tourism is at different levels of development throughout the region, and this will affect costs. Nations such as the Solomon Islands don't see too many tourists, so accommodation is more basic, but you may feel like you have the beaches and jungles to yourself.
As for adventure activities, costs vary. Simple snorkeling or hiking day-trips can be quite cheap. If you take your own snorkel mask and flippers, you can snorkel independently in some places. Scuba diving trips in Fiji range from about US$30 to US$60. At the other end of the scale, an all-inclusive, 11-day sea kayaking trip in Tonga can cost up to US$3000.
What to Pack
Oceania is comprised of tropical islands, so it's wise to pack light summery clothes. If you're planning on hiking to the top of a volcano, a light jacket would be a good idea. Islands further from the Equator, such as the Cook Islands and Tonga, can get cooler, so don't neglect to bring something light to keep you warm in case of a chilly breeze.
Other packing essentials are bathing suits, insect repellent and sunscreen--the latter can be difficult to get a hold of in Oceania, or the options available may not be as extensive as you're used to back home.
If you're planning activities such as diving or kayaking, all necessary equipment will be provided by the operator. However, if you're a big snorkeler and know you'll want to do it a lot, packing your own mask and flippers will save you money. This way, you can explore from a beach (after checking local safety conditions) without needing to repeatedly rent equipment. And, in some more remote places, equipment isn't always available to rent.
This varies between nations. Beach and resort areas of some of the most popular places--Fiji, French Polynesia--are very safe, although you should always keep an eye on your valuables.
Capital cities and other large towns in Oceania have the highest crime rates, and mild caution should be taken in these places as you would in any city in a developing nation. The Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, especially the capitals Honiara and Port Moresby, have a poor reputation for safety and extra caution is advised in these places.
As a tropical region, mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and chikungunya virus are present in parts of Oceania. Dengue is widespread throughout the region, but malaria is only present in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, and chikungunya in New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea. The best precaution is to be vigilant about using insect repellent and mosquito nets.
It's also not advisable to drink the tap water, and to make sure everything you eat is well-cooked to prevent stomach upsets or more serious water and food-borne diseases from spreading.