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As you read this article, it is currently 84°F in Tahiti, the water temperature is 80°F and you're probably thinking how quickly can you get your suitcase packed.

The islands of the South Pacific makes a sensational beach destination or a great halfway stop-off point between the US and Australia or New Zealand. Although many people may associate the islands of Tahiti, Fiji, Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu with Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, you don't have to be either to enjoy these tropical paradises.

Air Tahiti Nui (tel. 877/824-4846; www.airtahitinui-usa.com) is an airline definitely worth considering for your jaunt south of the equator. Their special Toru fare is an almost too good to be true -- $998 from Los Angeles to Sydney or $1,298 from New York to Sydney, before taxes. That in itself sounds pretty damn good, except that for those prices, Air Tahiti will throw in free stopovers in Tahiti and Auckland (New Zealand) so you can visit three countries for the price of one. It also means that you can laze on the beach in Tahiti, go skiing and wine-tasting in New Zealand and still manage to see the sights of Sydney in one trip. The Toru fare is valid for departures from July 1 to September 30, 2005 with a minimum stay of seven-days and a maximum of one month.

Haven't got enough time to make it all the way down under? -- No problem. Air Tahiti Nui recently introduced its decadent $1,000 weekends from New York. Leave the hustle and bustle of New York on a Thursday, fly to Papeete and return on a Sunday with a maximum stay of four-days permitted. This deal is valid from July 7 to December 15, 2005 with all bookings required by June 30, 2005. Unfortunately, no wait listing, changes or extensions permitted. Taxes are additional.

Air Tahiti Nui also offers a number of airfare and accommodation packages in association with various travel companies. Tahiti Vacations (tel. 800/803-6359) brings you the "Moorea Escapade" for $1,099 plus taxes per person. It includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles on Air Tahiti Nui, five-nights accommodation in Moorea at the Hotel Kaveka in a lanai bungalow, hotel taxes, airport and ferry transfers. Additional nights and optional sightseeing packages are available. Islands in the Sun (tel. 800/828-6877) offers their "Breathtaking Bora Bora" package, which includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles to Papeete, five nights on the island of Bora Bora at Le Maitai Polynesia in an ocean view room, room tax, inter-island air transport and transfers. Optional upgrades to beach bungalows are available from $139 per person. Ask for special offer ITXJB1 when making your booking.

Discover the Pacific with Polynesian Airlines' (www.polynesianairlines.com) Polypass, which allows you to design your own itinerary and take up to 45-days to explore the South Pacific. Sample Itineraries available using the Polypass:

  • Los Angeles -- Honolulu -- Apia -- Sydney -- Apia -- Honolulu -- San Francisco

  • Los Angeles -- Papeete -- Auckland -- Sydney -- Apia -- Honolulu -- LA
  • Honolulu -- Apia -- Pago Pago -- Apia -- Nadi -- Apia -- Tonga -- Auckland -- Sydney -- Apia -- Honolulu

    Polypass prices start from $1,099 from Honolulu, $1,349 from the west coast in low season and $1,699 in peak season. For a child, the costs begin at $825, $975 and $1,195 respectively. Infants pay $250, $400 or $620. The west coast is defined as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Oakland, Santa Ana or Las Vegas. The pass is valid throughout the year, except December and January.

    Polynesian Airline's vacation packages include one to Western Samoa starting at $945 per person plus taxes from Honolulu. It features round-trip airfare to Apia, transfers and seven-nights accommodation at Hotel Kitano Tusitala (www.kitano.ws). From the west coast, the price goes up to $1,500 in low season and strangely $85 less during peak season.

    Fiji and her 333 islands are only an overnight 10-hour, non-stop flight from Los Angeles on Air Pacific (tel. 800/227-4446; www.airpacificusa.com/alldeals). With five flights per week, check the Air Pacific website for special Bula fares and deals to Fiji. They currently have a special $1,070 plus taxes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles to Tongatapu, Tonga via Fiji. You can also travel to Vanuatu from $965 per person plus $190 in taxes, or for $1,055 plus $200 in taxes to Christchurch or Auckland New Zealand. For $1,080 plus $240 in taxes visit Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or Canberra via Fiji. All these deals are for travel from now until August 26, 2005 with two-weeks advance purchase required. All bookings must be completed by August 5, 2005.

    Jet About Vacations (www.jetabouttahitivacations.com) has a special Escape to "Bora Bora" package -- six-nights from $1,599 per person from Los Angeles or $1,859 flying non-stop from New York. The deal includes round-trip economy class airfare from Los Angeles/New York to Papeete flying Air Tahiti Nui, inter-island flights from Papeete to Bora Bora, land transfers, one-night at the Radisson Plaza Resort Tahiti and five-nights at the Novotel Bora Bora in a garden room. Taxes of approximately $125 are additional.

    Experience the Fiji Islands from $999 per person (tel. 800/348-8151; www.jetaboutfijivacations.com). At press time, the $999 "Tabua Sands Serenade" package includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles to Nadi on Air Pacific, transfers and hotel taxes, five-nights at Tabua Sands Resort, Coral Coast in an ocean view Bure and continental breakfast daily.

    The $1,199 "Coral Coast's Hideaway" package includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles to Nadi on Air Pacific, all transfers and hotel taxes, and five-nights accommodation at the Hideaway Resort, Coral Resort in a Frangipani Bure. Valid for travel from June 20 through September 5, 2005. Price is per person based on double occupancy for a minimum five-night stay. Package is based on Monday departures or add $35 for a Thursday to Sunday departure. US/foreign taxes of approximately $92, including September 11th Security Fee, are additional.