The South Pacific islands continue to develop at a rapid pace, with more resorts and restaurants being added all the time.
Here's a recap of the major changes since I prepared the previous edition of Frommer's South Pacific. Much of this information originally appeared on my website, www.billgoodwin.com, where I post updates as soon as they happen.
Planning Your Trip
Air New Zealand has stopped flying its historic "Coral Route" between Tahiti, the Cook Islands, and Fiji. Air Tahiti, French Polynesia's domestic carrier, flies between Tahiti and Rarotonga, but there is no more east-west shortcut between Fiji and the Cooks.
Air New Zealand now goes nonstop between Los Angeles and Rarotonga, but no longer flies its own planes from Los Angeles to Tahiti and Fiji. Instead, it code-shares these routes with Air Tahiti Nui and Air Pacific, respectively.
Formerly nonstop, Air Tahiti Nui flights from New York's JFK International Airport now stop in Los Angeles to and from Papeete.
I spent nearly 2 months in Fiji researching this guide and saw little evidence of the coup that deposed the elected government on December 5, 2006. From a traveler's viewpoint, everything was operating normally.
Air Pacific has taken over Sun Air and is flying within Fiji as Pacific Sun airlines. They share reservation offices.
Fiji's first overwater bungalows are at the upscale, spa-equipped Likuliku Lagoon Resort, on Malolo Island off Nadi (tel. 672-0978; www.likulikulagoon.com). Exquisitely designed in Fijian style, its 10 overwater and 36 beachfront bures are in a half-moon bay on the western side of Malolo Island. Only couples need apply.
Denarau Island has two new hotels: The Fiji Beach Resort and Spa Managed by Hilton (tel. 675-6800; www.hilton.com), and the Radisson Resort Fiji (tel. 675-1246; www.radisson.com/fiji). The Radisson's swimming pool complex is outstanding.
Budget-minded travelers have a new choices on Wailoaloa Beach: Smugglers Cove Beach Resort & Hotel (tel. 672-6578; www.smugglersbeachfiji.com), has rooms equipped with TVs, phones, and other modern amenities.
The Yasawa Islands continue to develop with the addition of Navutu Stars Resort in the Yasawa Islands (tel. 664-0553; www.navutustarsfiji), a nine-unit property with a swimming pool, spa, and yoga retreat; and Nanuya Island Resort (tel. 666-6322; www.nanuyafiji.com), beside one of the best beaches in Fiji.
In Pacific Harbour, the backpacker-oriented Tsulu Beach Bunkhouse (tel. 345-0065; www.tsulu.com) has opened as part of the Arts Village (www.artsvillage.com), offering inexpensive apartments, rooms, and a dormitory. Nearby, The Uprising Beach Resort (tel. 345-2200; www.uprisingbeachresort.com) is on the beach and has a 24-bunk "treehouse" dorm as well as 12 spacious bungalows.
Tahiti & French Polynesia
Princess Cruises www.princesscruises.com) will be operating the Tahitian Princess on 7- and 10-night cruises in French Polynesia only until late 2009. Its identical sister ship, the Pacific Princess, may cruise in French Polynesia thereafter (check the line's website for more information).
The 170-passenger tall ship Star Flyer makes 7- 10- and 11-day cruises from Papeete through the Society and Tuamotu islands. It's operated by Star Clippers (tel. 800/442-0552; www.starclippers.com).
In Papeete, the Musée de la Perle Robert Wan (Robert Wan Pearl Museum) has moved to Boulevard Pomare at rue l'Aarthémise, opposite the Eglise Evangélique. Admission is free.
The modern Tahiti Airport Motel (tel. 50.40.00; www.tahitiairportmotel.com) overlooks the runways of Tahiti-Faaa International Airport. The 42 air-conditioned units are minimally decorated but have TVs, phones, fridges, wireless Internet access, and private bathrooms.
Fare Suisse (tel. 42.00.30; www.fare-suisse.com) is a four-room guesthouse on rue des Poilus Tahitiens, in the Paofai neighborhood, and is within walking distance of the Papeete waterfront.
In a 126-year-old house about 6 blocks inland from the Moorea Ferry docks, the Teamo Hostel, on rue du Pont-Neuf (tel. 42.00.35; email@example.com), has added TVs and air conditioners to its rooms and dorms.
The Jack Nicklaus-designed Moorea Green Pearl Golf Club, at Temae near the airport (tel. 56.27.32; www.mooreagolf-resort.com), is French Polynesia's second course.
The Sofitel Moorea Beach Resort (tel. 800/763-4835; www.accorhotels.com), formerly the Sofitel Ia Ora Moorea, has been extensively renovated and is now the top choice on Tahiti's sister isle.
Among the super-luxurious amenities at the St. Regis Resort Bora Bora (tel. 800/782-9488 or 60-33-96; www.starwoodspacollection.com) is a 13,000-square-foot spa on its own islet. The 100 super-luxe guest quarters range from house-size bungalows to the Royal Estate, where Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban spent their honeymoon.
Almost over the top is the InterContinental Resort and Thalasso Spa Bora Bora (tel. 800/327-0200 or 60-49-00; www.boraboraspa.intercontinental.com). The entire resort is the world's first to be air-conditioned using cold seawater pumped from 2,500 feet down in the ocean. The saltwater is reheated for the spa's unique treatments, some dispensed in over-water rooms with glass floors for fish-viewing. The wedding chapel is also over the lagoon.
On Huahine, you may think you're staying at a tented safari camp in Kenya if you opt for the Fare Ie (tel. 60.63.77; www.tahitisafari.com). It has well-equipped tents perched beside a beach north of Fare, Huahine's main town, and near Parea, on the island's southern end.
Relais Mahana (www.relaismahana.com) has reopened after nearly $4 million in renovations.
In the Tuamotu Archipelago, the charming Relais Royal Tikehau (tel. 96.23.37; www.royaltikehau.pf) has four rooms and seven bungalows on a small islet near the main island.
Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
The luxurious Reflections on Rarotonga and Rumours of Romance have merged into Rumours of Romance Luxury Villas & Spa (tel. 22-551; www.rumours-rarotonga.com). As the name implies, it now has a spa.
The Little Polynesian (tel. 24-280; www.littlepolynesian.com) has reopened after a massive renovation added a swimming pool, outdoor restaurant, and 10 spacious beachside bungalows.
Joining Rarotonga's upscale bungalows are six luxurious units at Sea Change Villas, on the south coast (tel. 22-532; www.sea-change-rarotonga.com). There's no restaurant, but the Salt Water Cafe is nearby.
Rarotonga Backpackers (tel. 21-590; www.rarotongabackpackers.com) has added four cottages, eight rooms, a dormitory, and a swimming pool beside the beach on the west coast.
The 18-hole Le Penina Golf Course (tel. 770-4653) wraps around Aggie Grey's Lagoon, Beach Resort & Spa.
On the western tip of Upolu Island, Le Vasa Resort (tel. 46-028; www.levasaresort.com) has 11 comfortable bungalows plus a swimming pool and a small, but picturesque, beach.
Coconuts Beach Club has changed its name to Coconuts Beach Club Resort & Spa following installation of a full-service spa. The resort also has remodeled its over-water bungalows, expanding them by 20% and adding shaded areas to their decks.
On Savai'i, Kuki and Sara Retzlaff have rebuilt their Le Lagoto Beach Resort into a terrific boutique hotel. Most of their 12 units are in Samoan-style fales, with intricately lashed ceilings. An infinity pool augments the fine beach.
The Sadie Thompson Inn and Sadie's by the Sea now have a joint website: www.sadieshotels.com. Sadie's by the Sea (tel. 633-5900) was part of the old Rainmaker Hotel until recently. It's the only American Samoan hotel on a beach.
The Kingdom of Tonga
King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV died in September 2006 at age 88. His son, King George Topou V, assumed the throne.
Downtown Nuku'alofa is open to the public after a pro-democracy demonstration turned into a riot in November 2006. The rubble has been cleaned up, leaving several vacant downtown blocks.
Domestic air travel, which has been in a state of flux, with only Airlines Tonga flying from Tongatapu to Hapai'i and Vava'u (through a local partnership with Teta Tours; tel. 676/23-690 or 24-506; www.tetatourstonga.to). The situation has stabilized a bit with the arrival of Chathams Pacific -- The Friendly Islands Airline (tel. 28-000; www.chathamspacific.com), which began operating in April 2008. Its one-way fares from Tongatapu are T$278 (US$139; £70) to Vava'u and T$173 (US$87; £43) to Ha'apai.
The International Dateline Hotel (www.datelinehotel.com) has renovated the rooms in its two original wings. Despite super-hard beds in the old wings, it is once again worthy of consideration.
Beachside accommodation is available on Tongatapu at White Sands (tel. 878-9383; www.whitesandstonga.com), on the west coast.
Up in Vava'u, the English-owned Reef Resort has four bungalows out on an island in the magnificent lagoon (tel. 47-156; www.reefresortvavau.com), while the Mystic Sands Beachfront Bungalows (tel. 59-323; www.mysticsands.net) provides cottages for travelers of moderate means.
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.