Because all but a few South Pacific islands are surrounded by coral reefs, there are few surf beaches. Tahiti has a few, but they all have heat-absorbing black volcanic sand. Otherwise, most islands (and all but a few resorts) have bathtublike lagoons that lap on coral sands draped by palms. Fortunately for the environmentalists among us, some of the most spectacular beaches are on remote islands and are protected from development by the islanders' devotion to their cultures and villages' land rights. Here are a few that stand out:
- The Yasawa Islands (Fiji): This gorgeous chain of islands off northwest Fiji has some of the best beaches I've ever seen. One on Yasawa Island, northernmost in the chain, is a long expanse of deep sand broken by a teapotlike rock outcrop, which also separates two Fijian villages. There are other great beaches at Yasawa Island Resort, Oarsmans Bay Lodge, and Nanuya Island Resort.
- Horseshoe Bay (Matagi Island, Fiji): Home of one of the region's best resorts, Matagi is an extinct volcano whose crater fell away on one side and formed picturesque Horseshoe Bay. The half-moon beach at its head is one of the finest in the islands.
- Temae Plage Publique (Moorea, French Polynesia): The northeastern coast of Moorea is fringed by a stretch of white-sand beach, which commands a glorious view across a speckled lagoon to Tahiti, sitting on the horizon across the Sea of the Moon.
- Matira Beach (Bora Bora, French Polynesia): Beginning at the Hotel Bora Bora, this fine ribbon of sand stretches around Matira Point, which forms the island's southern extremity, all the way to the Club Med. The eastern side has views of the islands of Raiatea and Tahaa.
- Avea Beach (Huahine, French Polynesia): My favorite resort beach is at Relais Mahana, a small hotel on Auea Bay near Huahine's southern end. Trees grow along the beach, which slopes into a lagoon deep enough for swimming at any tide. It's a perfect and safe place to snorkel, and the lagoon here is protected from the trade winds, making it safe for sailing.
- Titikaveka Beach (Rarotonga, Cook Islands): On Rarotonga's southern coast, Titikaveka is blessed with palm trees draped over a long beach of brilliant white sand, and the lagoon here is the island's best for swimming and snorkeling.
- One Foot Island (Aitutaki, Cook Islands): The sands on the islets surrounding Aitutaki gleam pure white, like talcum. Tiny One Foot Island has the best beach here, with part of it along a channel whose coral bottom is scoured clean by strong tidal currents. Another stretch runs out to a sandbar known as Nude Island -- a reference not to clothes but to a lack of vegetation.
- Lalomanu Beach (Upolu, Samoa): On the southeastern corner of Upolu, a clifflike mountain forms a dramatic backdrop to the deep sands of Lolomanu Beach, which faces a group of small islets offshore. This is a great place to stay in an open-air beach fale.
- Return to Paradise Beach (Upolu, Samoa): This idyllic stretch of white sand and black rocks overhung by coconut palms gets its name from Return to Paradise, the 1953 Gary Cooper movie filmed here.
- Manase Beach (Savai'i, Samoa): The long stretch of white sand fronting Manase village on the north shore of Savai'i is another extraordinary place to spend a night in an open-air beach fale.
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.