There’s no denying that the South Pacific is a dream destination, especially for couples seeking a romantic getaway and divers looking to explore some of the world’s clearest water. The region’s leading island nations -- French Polynesia (Tahiti), Fiji, and the Cook Islands -- as well as Australia and New Zealand, each deliver their own idyllic version of tropical bliss. But because paradise doesn’t come cheap, it pays to know how to find the best deal. Here, 12 ways to save.
Look for a package deal. The best way to save in the South Pacific is with a package deal that bundles your airfare (including inter-island flights), accommodation, transfers, some meals (typically breakfast and one or two lunches or dinners) and at least one excursion. These deals are popular, so start searching at least 5-6 months in advance to snag the best prices for your dates.
Book an Explorer Pass. If Tahiti, Australia, and New Zealand top your list, check out the Air Tahiti Nui 3 Country Explorer Pass, which lets you fly from Los Angeles to Papeete, Tahiti, and then to Auckland and Sydney (and back to LAX) for just a few hundred dollars more than a round-trip to Tahiti.
Watch for low-season promos. The South Pacific is warm and sunny year-round, but the islands do have a low season (December to March) when rain and occasional tropical storms do occur. Yes, there’s higher humidity and passing afternoon showers, but occupancy is lower so there are often air and accommodation deals. It is, however, high season (summer) in Australia and New Zealand.
Consider a cruise. For almost all-inclusive pricing (sometimes even airfare) and visits to 5-6 islands in a single week (or several countries in two or three weeks), check out cruises that sail the islands of Tahiti on round-trip itineraries from Papeete (Windstar and Paul Gauguin) or a combination of South Pacific island nations on itineraries from Hawaii or Australia (Princess, Holland America, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean).
Use your hotel rewards points. If you’re a member of a Starwood, Hilton, InterContinental, or Sofitel rewards program, you may be able to score a few free nights in paradise.
Book a garden or beach bungalow. Yes, the ultimate South Pacific fantasy is the overwater bungalow -- which you’ll find mostly in Tahiti, but also in Fiji and the Cook Islands -- but these sexy suites perched on stilts are priced at a premium (typically $400 to $900 per night on Bora Bora, $300-$500 on other islands). You’ll save $100-$250 per night by opting for a garden or beach bungalow, which are offered at most but not all resorts.
Search for rates that include breakfast—and then stretch breakfast into lunch. Order room-service for breakfast (first confirm that it’s included in your package) and you’ll typically receive enough food -- eggs, bacon, croissants, yogurt, fruit, cheese, and baguettes -- that you can wrap up half to store in your minibar until lunch; supplement with non-perishable snacks, such as dried fruit or protein bars, packed from home, and perfect for a picnic.
Eat lunch and/or dinner off property. Restaurant bills in the South Pacific are shocking, especially at resorts where breakfast can cost $50 per person. Luckily, many properties are located within a short walk of a local eatery with more realistic (but still not cheap) prices. At night, some restaurants will pick you up from your resort. Do a little online research and you can save big.
A resort’s bar menu can be a lite dinner option. Some resorts have a cocktail bar that serves small, more affordably priced sharable plates. If you’ve had a hearty lunch, these make a great light dinner.
Be smart about spirits. Buy bottles of wine or spirits at duty free at LAX to carry onboard your flight, and after arrival, stop at a grocery near your resort to pick up essentials (juice, water, local beer) to store in your bungalow and enjoy any time. Also, check if your resort has a happy hour offering two-for-one drinks or a cocktail of the day.
Plan for water transfers when possible. The nearer your destination island is to the international airport, the cheaper the transfer. Inter-island flights in Tahiti and Fiji can be $200-$400 per person one way, while a ferry or speedboat transfer is likely to be $25-$75. Moorea, for example, can be reached via a one-hour public ferry ride from Papeete, while several private island resorts in Fiji’s Mamanuca group are accessible via boat transfer.
Consider the Cook Islands. Not as famous or commercially developed, this 15-island nation -- Rarotonga and Aitutaki being the most accessible -- offers old-school Polynesian ambiance and prices that are about one-third cheaper than Tahiti.