Best Regions for Kids
With family-oriented resorts on mellow beaches, interesting culture (Fijian and Indo-Fijian) and magical interior landscapes, Fiji is our top pick for families.
There's lots of roomy accommodation in Tonga, and plenty of things to keep kids entertained (caves, snorkels, boats, lagoons...). The food isn't spicy, and Tongans love kids!
Volcanoes and cannibal caves may lure you away from Vanuatu's idyllic coasts. European-tinged Port Vila is a very family-friendly capital.
- Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
Beyond the beach there's fruit smoothies aplenty, and activities from lagoon tours and snorkelling to gentle backroad cycling and exploring Rarotonga's reefs on a semi-submersible boat.
- New Caledonia
An aquarium, a cultural centre and cool critters (fruit bats!) – great fun when you need a break from the beach.
What to Pack
There are a few sweeping kiddie generalisations that can ease your South Pacific passage. One essential is sunscreen (expensive on many islands), plus insect repellent and rain gear. BYO kid-size snorkelling gear, too.
At flashy resorts there may be organised kids' activities as part of the deal. Some hotels and resorts have no-children policies; others let kids stay for free – check when you're booking.
Note that child-rearing is often a communal responsibility here – you might find your toddler on the hip of a motherly eight-year-old, or see your older kids absorbed into games with local children.
Babies & Toddlers
A folding pushchair is handy, despite scrappy (or non-existent) footpaths. Strap-on baby carriers are a better idea for hiking or exploring archaeological sites.
Public baby-change facilities are rare: bring a portable change mat and disinfectant handwash gel. Disposable nappies (diapers) and powdered milk (formula) are available from pharmacies and supermarkets in many large towns, but they can be expensive. Don't expect high-chairs anywhere beyond the fancy resorts.
A lightweight mosquito net to drape over your toddler's cot is also a good idea.
Help middle-sized kids get more out of their South Seas experience: pack binoculars to zoom in on wildlife, surfers etc; a camera to inject some fun into ‘boring’ grown-up sights and walks; and field guides to island flora and fauna ('Is that a red shining parrot or a kingfisher?').
Getting teenagers to attempt some local language is a sure-fire way to shake off sullenness: pick up Lonely Planet's South Pacific Phrasebook. A dogeared copy of Mutiny on the Bounty or the funny The Sex Lives of Cannibals will keep them in the here-and-now.
Pack teen-sized masks, snorkels and flippers if your 16-year-olds aren't as big as you are.
South Pacific for Kids
Few regions in the world are as family friendly as the South Pacific. With endless sunshine, boundless beaches and swimming and snorkelling on tap, there’s plenty to keep kids engaged. Family is profoundly important and children are cherished in island cultures – your kids can expect plenty of cheek-tweaking attention!
Diving, Snorkelling & Swimming Toddlers will be happy on a soft beach with a hermit crab to hassle. Anywhere with a shallow, sandy bottom is great for learning to swim, while seasoned swimmers can cruise the lagoons. Many dive centres offer introductory PADI courses for kids; see www.padi.com.
Wildlife-Watching Whale- and dolphin-watching is big business hereabouts; see Whale-Watching Ethics to help you make an informed decision on participation. There are also sea turtles and myriad birds to spy, plus saltwater crocodiles in the Solomons and Vanuatu. Fruit bats (flying foxes) hang around everywhere east of the Cook Islands; and the further east you travel, the more interesting the reptile life becomes.
Surfing It can be hard to rent a board on many islands, but some hotels keep them for guest use. Boogie boards are often sold in local shops; if you can, buy one and make a local kid’s year by leaving it with them when you leave! Hit the beach breaks with little kids; reef-breaking monsters are for experienced wave hounds only.
Hiking & Adventure Over-eights will love tropical island interiors, studded with waterfalls with icy pools, dark caves, lakes and – on Vanuatu, Tonga and American Samoa – active volcanoes!
Archaeology Many ancient sites in the South Pacific aren't cordoned-off: you can climb on almost anything, but apply common sense and be respectful.The surrounding jungles often hold other discoveries, like wild passionfruit and huge banyan trees.
Horse Riding & Cycling All-ages trail rides through hills and plantations is an option in the larger South Pacific countries. Bicycles can be rented on most islands; kid-sized bicycles are harder to find (check gears and brakes are working, too).
Most visiting kids will happily munch on South Pacific fish, fruit, chicken and coconut. Many urban eateries offer kid-pleasers (hamburgers, fried rice), while unfamiliar local foods are generally soft, un-spicy and inoffensive (taro, kumara, breadfruit). Baby supplies are available in most places...and when all else fails, there's ice cream!
It’s normal for whole families to party together here: teens are welcome at any sort of local dance or show. Nightclubs in places like Pape’ete and Suva also swarm with high-schoolers. Be warned, though – the booze flows (among other substances) and the vibe can sometimes be rather 'meat-market'.
- Fiji Swimming, baby turtles and mini-golf at Treasure Island Resort.
- Tonga Snorkelling and watching the surfers at Ha'atafu Beach.
- Cook Islands Snorkelling in the shallow marine reserve waters off Rarotonga's south coast.
- Samoa Bigger kids will adore staying in traditional open-air fale right on the beach.
- Fiji Sliding down rock chutes at Waitavala Water Slide or going nose-to-beak with rare birds at Kula Eco Park.
- Tonga Birdwatching and butterfly-spotting on jungle walks at ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden.
- Samoa Ogling the amazing saltwater sprays at the Alofaaga Blowholes and exploring the eerie lava fields of northern Savai’i.