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"In the South Seas," Rupert Brooke wrote in 1914, "the Creator seems to have laid himself out to show what He can do." How right the poet was, for all across the South Pacific lie some of the world's most dramatically beautiful islands. In my opinion, the best of the lot have jagged mountain peaks plunging into aquamarine lagoons. All these islands are beautiful, but I think the following stand out from the pack.

  • Monuriki: Tom Hanks spent a lot time filming Castaway on lovely Monuriki, one of the westernmost of the Mamanuca Islands. A rocky central mountain drops down to the beach where Hanks figured out how to pry open a coconut.

  • Yasawa: This long, narrow island off the northwest coast of Viti Levu has several of Fiji's best beaches scattered among its rolling hills. It's also home to Yasawa Island Resort and Spa, one of Fiji's best offshore hotels.

  • Waya: Near the southern end of the Yasawa chain, Waya Island is one of the few in Fiji with the combination of cliffs and sheer basaltic peaks I find so appealing in the Pacific islands.

  • Beqa: Off Viti Levu's southern coast, Beqa has no roads cutting through its hills. Lovely Malumu Bay, one of Fiji's more scenic spots, nearly bisects Beqa, and it's all surrounded by the magnificent Beqa Lagoon.

  • Kadavu: About 60km (37 miles) long and just 14km (8 1/2 miles) across at its widest point, Kadavu is Fiji's unspoiled nature preserve. Native birds and other wildlife live in abundance on Kadavu, given the absence of mongooses, iguanas, myna birds, and other introduced predators. The Great Astrolabe Reef provides great diving off the eastern and southern shores.

  • Ovalau: The sheer cliffs of Ovalau kept the town of Levuka from becoming Fiji's modern capital, but they create a dramatic backdrop to an old South Seas town little changed in the past century. Ovalau has no good beaches, which means no resorts alter its landscape.

  • Savusavu: Savusavu isn't an island but almost seems like it, since it sits on a peninsula separated from the main part of Vanua Levu by spectacular, mountain-surrounded Savusavu Bay, which is so large the U.S. Navy considered hiding the Pacific fleet there during World War II.

  • Qamea and Matagi: These little jewels off the northern coast of Taveuni are lushly beautiful, with their shorelines either dropping precipitously into the calm surrounding waters or forming little bays with idyllic beaches.

  • Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.