Pacific islands guide: How to choose the right island for you

Sun, sea and sand calling? We reveal which South Pacific country is the perfect destination for you.

COOK ISLANDS

Who it suits Families love the Cook Islands – it's safe, the locals love your kids and there are plenty of activities. It's also a favourite for honeymooners.

Best attractions The lagoon on Aitutaki is one of the world's most revered – take boat tours across it, stopping at uninhabited islands. The high volcanic mountains of Rarotonga make for epic cross-island hikes and Muri Lagoon on Rarotonga contains four uninhabited islands set on a lagoon ideal for kayaking and sailing.

Keep in mind These are tiny islands. Even the biggest, Rarotonga, takes just 40 minutes to circumnavigate by car. But you won't believe how much there is to do in such small spaces.

Value for money The Cook Islands offer good bang for your buck: high-end resorts aren't cheap, but those seeking a budget holiday have a wide choice of holiday homes. Meals are moderately priced and beers cost about $6. Rarotonga looks like a mini Tahiti, it just doesn't charge like one.

Why it's the best part of the Pacific You won't find more gregarious locals anywhere. While the islands have all the physical attributes of a dreamy South Seas escape, it's the fun to be had on Rarotonga that sets it apart. Take a sunset bar crawl and you won't meet more charismatic locals or more interesting expats. cookislands.travel

VANUATU

 Anelghowhat, Vanuatu

Anelghowhat, Vanuatu Photo: Getty Images

Who it suits Those with a zest for adventure. But with its impressive collection of romantic retreats, couples will love the place too. Families are also well catered for.

Best attractions Stand on the rim of Mount Yasur, one of the planet's most accessible live volcanoes, on the island of Tanna; dive fabulous shipwrecks on the island of Santos; sip cocktails at retreats around Havannah Harbour.

Keep in mind You are going "off-grid" for much of your time in Vanuatu, so don't expect fast Wi-Fi everywhere you go. And when you ask guides and taxi drivers how much further you have to travel, 15 minutes is the token response no matter how long or far.

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Value for money Expect to pay low prices for everything unless you're staying in a luxurious resort. Even then, costs are still lower than Fiji.

Why it's the best part of the Pacific Vanuatu is made up of 83 islands, some of which receive almost no tourists at all. This means you can observe local life as it always was and see nature untouched by the Western world. But there's also a range of sophisticated attractions and classy retreats. vanuatu.travel/au/

FIJI

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Photo Fiji Tourism
The Yasawa Islands are some of Fiji's most pristine and deserted - pic Yasawa Island Resort & Spa

Yasawa Island Resort & Spa.

Who it suits Everyone from adventurous backpackers to those seeking private island hideaways.

Best attractions The 20 or so secluded islands of the Yasawa Group; the planet's best surf along the southern reef of the Mamanuca Islands; waterfalls in national parks beside sandy beaches on the garden isle, Taveuni; river adventures in the hinterland of Viti Levu's Coral Coast.

Keep in mind When someone says they're going to Fiji, they're likely referring to the main island, Viti Levu, where the majority of tourists stay and three-quarters of the population live. But that's only the beginning of your options: go beyond.

Value for money Four- and five-star resorts charge what you'd expect to pay at their equivalents in Australia. But because the tourism industry is so established, there are cheaper options such as home stays and bungalows.

Why it's the best part of the Pacific The diversity of experiences on offer. There are 333 islands, so your Fijian holiday will probably be completely different to your neighbour's. fiji.travel

SAMOA

Samoa's To Sua ocean trench is a swimmer’s delight.

Samoa's To Sua ocean trench is a swimmer’s delight. Photo: Getty Images

Who it suits Those who don't need everything in the one place. Families will love the simplicity of its lifestyle, and couples will relish the privacy.

Best attractions The waterfall circuit on Upolu's south coast; one of the world's top-rated beaches at Lalomanu; and perfect, uncrowded surf breaks.

Keep in mind The speed limit is set at a leisurely 40 km/h on most of Samoa's two main islands, so don't expect to get anywhere fast. And these are the Pacific's sleepiest people, so you might as well join the afternoon siestas.

Value for money Your money will go a long way. There are a handful of high-end resorts, but most restaurants and cafes don't charge much more than you'd pay in Bali.

Why it's the best part of the Pacific This is the region's best-kept secret, and it epitomises the South Pacific. There are waterfalls round every corner and beaches that give Hawaii a run for its money. And while it's the most traditional of all Polynesian countries, you can also stay in some luxurious five-star retreats. samoa.travel

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