Oceania is a remote region, comprised of islands surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. It's home to 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. Or, you could just take it easy with a book in one hand and a cocktail in the other, and chill out on a secluded beach.
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).
Snorkeling should be a high priority on your trip to any nation of Oceania. Day trips out to offshore reefs from resort towns along the coast are possible all over the region. Or, bring/rent a mask and fins and see what you can see close to the shore. When looking for a snorkeling destination or an organized trip that will take you out for some snorkeling, look for marine reserves or places where boats and jetskis are prohibited. You will be able to see more marine life if the sea is not disturbed in this way, and it is likely to be healthier and more abundant.
Scuba Diving Trips
Crystal clear and comfortably warm, the waters of Oceania are perfect for diving. Most popular are the Solomon Islands, and for 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.
When diving in the Solomons, you have the choice of either staying at resorts along the coast, or on boats that travel between diving spots. When booking a tour, ask for the option that you would prefer.
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 the islands in Oceania. 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.
The best way to get the most out of surfing in Oceania is to join a guided tour, which will take you to several of the best breaks in the area. These can be customized to suit the number of people in your party and your budget, with both basic camps and more luxurious accommodation available in some places.
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 this 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. Chartering a yacht is the best way to do this. And while it doesn't come cheap, a more exotic experience can hardly be imagined.
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. All-inclusive multi-day kayaking trips are possible here, which take you around remote islands and find idyllic beaches on which to picnic and set up camp.
Hiking & Trekking Tours
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. Guided trekking and camping trips can
Planning Your Trip
Best Time to Visit Oceania
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.
What to Look for in a Tour
Given the remoteness of Oceania and the large distances between places, an organized tour will save you time and hassle.
The most important thing to consider when looking for a tour in Oceania is the activities covered. While each nation of Oceania has its own culture and history, it tends to be the natural beauty and outdoor adventure activities that draw visitors. Whether diving, surfing, or hiking, look for tours across the region that will take you to the best possible spots for your activity.
Another thing to look out for is the quality of accommodation offered. You might be perfectly happy camping on the beach during a kayaking trip, or staying in a basic beach shack while learning to surf. On the other hand, you may be more comfortable in a bungalow cantilevered out over the sea or on a luxury yacht (who wouldn't be!?) So, check the quality of the digs before signing up.
Average Tour Cost
Costs vary throughout the region, but in general, Oceania may be a bit more expensive than you expect, especially as it is comprised of developing nations. Scuba diving trips in Fiji range from about US$30 to US$60 per day, expect costs to be higher for multi-day, guided dives. At the other end of the scale, an all-inclusive, 11-day sea kayaking trip in Tonga can cost up to US$3000.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
Oceania is comprised of tropical islands, so it's wise to pack light summery clothes, especially breathable cottons. 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 taking a diving or kayaking tour, all necessary equipment will be provided by the operator. If you're traveling independently, packing your own mask and flippers will save you money if you want to do it a lot. 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.
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 countries 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.
Guided tours will usually transport you between islands if this is necessary for the activity, but this is within the nations of Oceania, rather than between them. Unless you have a lot of time and a largish budget for flights between the nations of Oceania, it makes sense to choose a country and explore within it. But this still leaves you with almost endless options! Fiji alone is comprised of around 330 islands, and Tonga 170.
Health & Safety
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, especially the capital Honiara, hase a poor reputation for safety and extra caution is advised here.
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. 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.