Polynesia is made up of about a thousand islands of all sizes scattered over the Pacific Ocean – even if you visited one island per day, it would still take years to explore all the interesting nooks and crannies of this remote part of Oceania. Although the islands are split among a handful of nations, many of the islands are so small that few people (save for geography buffs and Polynesians) have even heard of them. Some of the most popular travel destinations on the planet are located in Polynesia, but for every Bora Bora or Oahu there are hundreds of other islands that are much less famous, but equally wonderful. Here are 5 Polynesian islands to see before you die, even if you don’t manage to visit all of them.
The island nation of Kiribati is spread over a whopping 3.5 million square kilometers in the Pacific, but the country’s land is really tiny, only about 810 square kilometers. And the biggest part of the land is in Kirimati, the largest atoll of Kiribati, and the largest coral atoll in the world. Kirimati (also known as Christmas Island) is a famous sports fishing destination, but more adventurous pursuits like surfing and wildlife watching are also very popular among visitors to the island.
Mangaia, Cook Islands
The southernmost of the Cook Islands is thought to be the oldest island in the Pacific, and despite getting quite a few visitors, the island is still surrounded by an aura of mystery. There isn’t much to do in Mangaia, except to explore the island and admire its scenic beauty. Climb to the highest point of the island (Rangimotia) to get a bird’s eye view of the area, take a swim in Lake Tiriara, and visit the small villages.
The island country of Niue is one of the most isolated and interesting places in Polynesia, that doesn’t quite resemble any of its neighbors. From a distance, the island looks like a round sponge – surrounded by steep cliffs riddles with caves, holes and crevices. You won’t find any infintely stretching, wide sandy beaches in Niue, but you’ll find isolated coves without a single soul in sight.
Tonga’s largest island is also home to most of the country’s population, and a bustling tourist hub. If you’re visiting Tonga, you can’t avoid spending some time in Tongatapu even if you tried. The island is a colorful patchwork of plantations, small villages, and long sandy beaches. There is plenty to see in Tongatapu, even if the surrounding islands have fancier resorts. Visit ancient tombs, blowholes and some great snorkeling spots.
Although Savaii is the largest island in Samoa, it is also the least developed, and seen by many as the most ‘authentic’ part of the country. Savaii is one of the largest islands in Polynesia, but large portions of it are uninhabited. So if you like wide open spaces with many natural wonders and nary a city in sight, Savaii is the place for you.