Have you ever wanted to get way, way - and perhaps even one extra 'way' - off the beaten path? The vast Pacific ocean presents no shortage of opportunities for those seeking isolation. If you don't know your aft from your starboard, these five island nations are about as far as you can go - no sailboat required.
Forget palm-fringed beaches - there aren't any on Niue. Instead, strap on a mask and explore underwater landscapes including tunnels, an under-island cave system, reefs frequented by sea turtles and tangles of sea snakes at Snake Gully. Swim with spinner dolphins year-round or with humpback whales from May to October.
On land the island boasts and extensive and stunning cave system, trails though tropical forests to hilltops or secluded reef and some rugged, jungle mountain bike riding.
Getting there: Air New Zealand (www.airnewzealand.com) flights currently depart once a week from Auckland and an additional weekly flight is planned starting in April 2013. You'll want to hire a car to get around.
Stay: From the recently refurbished hilltop Matavai Resort to several smaller 'motels' (which are mostly self-contained cottages in magnificent settings) and guesthouses, there's a lodging option for every budget.
Yarrr. If you've dreamed of a pirate adventure, Pitcairn Island, the hideout of the famous Bounty mutineers and now the last British South Pacific colony, is for you. Today the island's population hovers around 55 and nearly everyone can trace their ancestry to one of the original mutineers.
Pitcairn's windswept, 4.5 square kilometer surface is steep and hilly and there is only one beach on the island, Down Rope, that's grey sand and fronted by rocky pools. There's a sweeping sea view from almost everywhere but the adventure is more about the people you meet and their history. Brenda Christian may take you fishing, Jay and Carol Warren are happy to teach folks about the local flora and more of the Christian family run Christian's Cafe, the island's only restaurant and the place to be on Friday nights.
Getting there: Pitcairn Travel (www.pitcairntravel.pn) runs semi-monthly trips on the MV Claymore to/from Mangareva in French Polynesia for US$5000 return (you stay on the island for three days on a return ticket). You'll have to fly first to Papeete, Tahiti and then onward to Mangareva (available on Air Tahiti - www.airtahiti.com).
About 10 cruise ships make scheduled stops at Pitcairn each year, bringing guests onto the island for day trips. If the sea is too rough however guests won't be able to visit the island and will only get a view of it from deck.
Stay: Pitcairn Travel will help organize lodging with one of the island's residents, including meals.
It's predicted that all three of Tokelau's low-lying, coral atolls will be made uninhabitable by rising turquoise sea by the end of this century (due to climate change). Many of the islanders have emigrated but those who have stayed have developed a ground-breaking solar energy program that now sufficiently powers the small country. Kinship is incredibly important and society works on inati, a system of sharing where resources are divided between families according to need.
Activities include getting involved with local fishing, snorkelling or diving the spectacular lagoons, pitching a tent on a remote beach for a true castaway experience or getting your groove on at the community disco.
Getting there: Supply ships from Apia, Samoa depart around every 12 days and cost NZ$286-528 round-trip depending on the class.
Stay: Reservations for the boat and for accommodation in one of the handful of small hotels must be made in advance via the Tokelau Apia Liaison Office (www.tokelau.org.nz). This is also where you'll need to apply for your NZ$20 visitor's permit.
Tuvalu is another remote atoll nation threatened by rising sea levels. The idyllic white sand, blue water and palm-filled setting of the capital village of Fongafale is also the cramped 2.8 square kilometer home to some 4500 people and waste management is serious issue.
Get out of town to explore the five pristine islets of the Fanafuti Conservation Area to live out your desert island fantasies. Otherwise experience traditional life on a remote islet like Funafala or get back to the main village for a rocking fatele, a competitive dance and music session that builds and rises to explosive proportions.
Getting there: Fiji Airways (www.fijiairways.com) flies to Tuvalu once a week from Suva, Fiji while Pacific Sun (www.airpacific.com) flies the same route twice per week. A few cargo ships ply the waters between Tuvalu and Fiji (the trip takes about four days) but schedules are irregular. Try Pacific Agencies (email@example.com) and Williams & Goslings (www.wgfiji.com.fj) both in Fiji.
Stay: There are about half a dozen places to stay in Tuvalu and details can be found at www.timelesstuvalu.com.
Wallis and Futuna are two very different Polynesian islands under the same blanket of French colonialism. The capital island Wallis traces its ancestry to Tonga while the more isolated Futuna has Samoan roots. Wallis is a relatively flat, stocky island dotted with ancient Tongan forts and crater lakes; the pretty rolling hills of Futuna are covered in flower-filled jungles that tumble to white beaches and elaborate coast-side churches.
Aside from being technically a part of France, the two islands also share a dislike of tourism that has left their cultures intact and their names virtually unheard of outside of the region. If you go, don't expect tourist services or helpful locals - this is a place where you have to be self-motivated to get out and see things and work hard to make friends.
Getting there: Aircalin (www.aircalin.com) flies to/from Noumea, New Caledonia to Wallis three times per week. About 10 flights per week link Futuna with Wallis.
Stay: Both islands have a handful of hotels that mostly cater to visiting French functionaries and none of them are cheap (prices start around US$100). Renting a car is the only means of getting around.
Celeste Brash is the coordinating author of Lonely Planet’s South Pacific, 5th ed. Celeste spent five years on a remote Pacific atoll, 10 more on Tahiti, and has travelled extensively throughout the Pacific (among other parts of the world) for Lonely Planet.