The following lists are based on places I actually visited. If you know of a place that should be on this list but isn’t there…oh well. You will notice a big discrepancy between my top 10 and what you might find in the 1000 Places to See Before You Die. I swear the book was written by a committee of tourism boards….
Best Cities in the Pacific
- Noumea, New Caledonia – More sailboats in port here than the rest of the Pacific combined. They are there for a reason.
- Queenstown, New Zealand – The gateway to much of the South Island of NZ. A really great vibe being there. Low cost mixed with high-end shops.
- Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii – Lahaina is rather touristy. I stayed in a hostel that was very affordable, however. I met many people who just showed up and never left. Very laid back.
- Napier, NZ – The 1930’s meets the sea. The seaside was gorgeous. The only reason I went to Napier was from of a tip from one of the readers…..so please give me tips when I visit places.
Worst Cities in the Pacific
- Honiara, Solomon Islands – Armpit of the Pacific without question. Don’t step in the beteljuice spit on the ground. You can’t miss it….it’s red.
- Tarawa, Kiribati – Out of spite and because what I could see did look like a dump. Technically, Tarawa is the name of the atoll, but I’m not going to split hairs.
- Nadi, Fiji – Even though this is technically the city where the airport is, it is barely worth mention outside of the airport. If you want to stay somewhere, drive a few miles north of the airport to Latoka. Nadi itself is a dump.
- Majuro, Marshall Islands – To be fair, there is a big gap between this and Nadi. Majuro left sort of a neutral taste in my mouth, but it is the least of the neutral places.
Top Spots I’d recommend for Vacation
- Palau – Best diving I experienced in the Pacific. I will note however that I wasn’t able to dive in Chuuk (Truk) in Micronesia. I have heard excellent things from other divers.
- Pohnpei/Kosrae, FSM – These are the secrets of the Pacific. Hardly anyone goes there. The accommodations were excellent. Great diving. The ruins of Nan Modal are something to be seen.
- South Island, New Zealand – I can’t argue with people who would put NZ at number 1. There is so much to do and see on the south island that it almost should be in its own category from the rest of the Pacific. You can see thermal springs, volcanoes, fiords, the Southern Alps, and glaciers all within a few hours of each other.
- Yasawa Islands, Fiji – This is the top backpacker, low cost destination in the Pacific. NZ may get more, but this is much more affordable.
Most Over Hyped Tourist Destinations
- Tahiti, French Polynesia – $5 can of Diet Coke, not in a hotel. Nuff said…
- Waikiki Beach, Hawaii – I don’t know why people go here on vacation. It’s a beach in a city. That’s it.
- Guam – I do not know why Japanese find this so attractive. It isn’t bad, but….
Top Representative Animals of the Pacific
- Gecko – I saw geckos on every island without exception. Large ones, tiny ones, purple ones, yellow ones, greens ones, spotted ones. I drank beer one night in Samoa just watching geckos on the ceiling hunt bugs as they moved towards a light bulb.
- Stray dogs – every island had stray dogs. I made friends with four small puppies on Easter Island. They followed me for a mile till I ran into some other people walking, then they followed them.
- Chickens – You will see and hear chickens everywhere in the pacific. Unlike many animals, they were actually brought by the original settlers of the pacific.
- Sea Turtles – I was lucky in seeing turtles on about half of the islands I visited. You can come to the pacific and not see a turtle, but you will see geckos, dogs and chickens.
The Smell that will most remind me of the Pacific: burning garbage
Top 10 Things To See In The Pacific
- Milford Sound, NZ
- Easter Island
- Pohnpei and Nan Modal, FSM
- Big Island of Hawaii (Mona Kea, Kilaeua, South Point)
- Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers, NZ
- Coral Reefs of Fiji
- Mount Tongrirro/Rotorua/Taupo, NZ
- Lake Tenago, Rennell, Solomon Islands
- Blowholes on Savai’i, Samoa
Top Foods of the Pacific
- Canned Corned Beef and Instant Noodles – Most islands in the pacific aren’t even close to self sufficient in food. These two items are a big staple of of the diets, especially in the south pacific.
- Papaya and lime – I was served it everywhere and it is good. The limes in the region are small and round. You take a bit and squeeze it onto the papaya. I’ve also had homemade lime juice in Kosrae and it was very very good.
- Banana – Bananas grow everywhere. They are not the same bananas you buy in a store. They are smaller and if sold in stores usually go by the name “ladyfinger bananas”.
- Coconuts – You’d think this would be number one. Outside of Rennell, I wasn’t offered coconuts that often.
- Poisson Cru/Motou Iki – I only had this dish in Tahiti and Rarotonga, but I really liked it and have never heard of it outside this region. I’m probably going to try and make this myself on the road at some point.
Top Things I Dislike About The Pacific
- Music – The music everyone listens to seems to just be covers of popular music in local languages. There is some original stuff, but it is mostly crappy wedding band quality. I’m rather sick of it.
- Internet – The connection in most places sucks. Even when it was free or easily available, the connection was slow. This is something I just have to get used to.
- Cost – Much of the Pacific is more expensive than it would be if the same place were located on the middle of a continent. Even when services are cheap, goods are often expensive. You also have to fly everywhere. I expect my daily costs to start to decrease dramatically now that I’m out of realm of small island countries.
Most Influential Countries in the Region
- Australia/New Zealand – I put them together because I don’t know how to separate them. They get most of the immigration from the region. They are leaders in rugby. You see ANZ and Westpac banks everywhere. I was watching the ABC (Australian) news one night and they covered the elections in Nauru. I don’t think any other country bothered to do that.
- United States – US influence only extends to American Samoa and Micronesia. Much of this is a legacy from WWII and the fact that we have three territories in the pacific. Outside the former UN Trust Territories and American Samoa, our influence is small.
- France – French Polynesia and New Caledonia (and I assume Wallis and Futuna too, though I haven’t been there) really seem culturally separate from the rest of the region. They may share similar traditional customs, but the French have taken them on a very different path than the rest of the Pacific. No French territory in the pacific has become independent (well, Vanuatu sort of, but even then the French left kicking and screaming). I wonder if they will become less French if that happens in the next ten years…
- China/Taiwan – The few countries in the world who recognize Taiwan are mostly in the Pacific. China and Taiwan fight over them by giving them aid. Taiwan paid for the only jet owned by Our Airlines (formerly Air Nauru). China has an embassy far larger than would be expected in Samoa. I think China is pushing hard for increased influence in the south pacific and are doing it with money. Taiwan also tends to do the most illegal fishing in the waters of Pacific countries. Rarotonga had seized a Taiwanese boat while I was there. Their MO is to take boats near the end of their lives and send them to fish illegally. If they are caught, then they just abandon the boat.
Top Things Found In Front Yards
- Graves – All over the Pacific people had the tradition of buying relatives in the front yard. I’d often see people out front sitting on the graves of their parents. What I don’t get, is that there are only usually 2-4 graves in a yard, all of which tend to be people who died recently. I didn’t see any graveyards on most islands. I don’t know where the not recently dead are buried. I’d think they’d run out of front yard space pretty quick.
- Shipping Containers – One of the unsung miracles of the 20th century was the standardization of shipping. Modern shipping containers allow for cargo to be loaded and unloaded in a matter of hours off ships that would otherwise have taken days. You can also easily get containers onto trucks and trains. Many of the containers that go to the Pacific never leave the island. They end up as sheds or other structures. I saw several shipping containers being made into a store in Saipan. I saw one with patio doors in Palau. I think you could make a business out of instant shelters for disaster relief or onsite construction from shipping containers.
- Old cars – Like a roach motel, cars come to an island but they never leave. The cost of shipping worn out cars off an island aren’t worth they benefit. They simple just rust out
Top Ways of Driving
- On the Right – Guam, CNMI, FSM, RMI, Samoa, American Samoa, Palau, Hawaii, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Easter Island
- On the Left – Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand, Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Nauru,
- On the Right With Cars Designed To Drive On The Left – Korsae, Palau
Total Estimated Distance Traveled 42,065 miles (67,698 km) – This shocked me. I literally measured out each leg on Google Earth, including distance traveled by car when possible. If anything, the number is probably a bit lower than what I actually traveled.
4 thoughts on “Best and Worst of the Pacific”
Shipping containers are definitely being recognized in the planning field as a usable modular construction material. There are now at least a couple of container-based food/craft markets in NYC.
I’m glad NZ didn’t get mentioned on any of the bad lists :)
I don’t believe I’ve lived in the Pacific all my life and have only been to two of these places (NZ and Fiji). It’s often the way though! I’d certainly second the Yasawas as one of my favourite spots in Fiji.
Linda and I’d love to talk to you about the Pacific for indietravelpodcast.com – would you be interested?
My dad’s cousin hitchhiked to Hawaii (I think may have been a plan involved at some point in time) to visit his brother who was in the military. He never left. 30 years later he’s driving taxi and living in his van. That Hawaii is like the land of the lotus eater, ain’t it?
67,500km, that is crazy.
I wish I had some tips about Australia to give you, but I really can’t think of any. It’s weird how you can live in a country all your life and not know anything about it.
Short of the obvious ones – Uluru, Kakadu, Shark Bay, The Olgas, etc., I can’t think of anything. I’ll keep on it though.
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