The best South Pacific stopovers to add to your New Zealand vacation

Whether you’re heading to New Zealand or planning your route back home, you might like to add a stopover to one of the nearby South Pacific islands.

Each of these bucket-list locations provide an opportunity to soak up the sun, immerse in unique cultures and unwind.

A stopover is kind of like to vacations for the price of one – doesn’t that sound great?!

Tall palm trees looking towards the mountains of Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
Rarotonga in the Cook Islands is a popular Pacific Island to visit from New Zealand.

Our favourite South Pacific islands: Tack a tropical getaway onto your New Zealand vacation


Hawai’i is a perfect stopover to unwind before continuing your journey to Auckland, New Zealand – particularly if flying in or out of the continental US.

Enjoy the warm aloha spirit, dive into turquoise waters or hike up stunning volcanoes.

Or perhaps you’d prefer to experience a traditional luau, snorkel on tropical reefs with manta rays or sharks (both of which we highly recommend), or hit the outlet malls to find a bargain.

Stay put on Honolulu, O‘ahu if you’ve got limited time, or grab a domestic flight or hop on board a Hawaiian cruise to explore the other beautiful islands – perhaps Maui, Hawai’i (The Big Island), Kaua’i or Lāna’i?

Whatever you choose to do, this Pacific paradise, with its unique blend of relaxation and adventure, really does tick all the boxes.

Fly to/from Honolulu (HNL), Hawai’i, USA and:

  • Auckland (AKL), New Zealand on Air New Zealand and Hawaiian Airlines
  • Sydney (SYD), Australia on Jetstar, Qantas and Hawaiian Airlines
  • Tokyo (NRT), Japan on JAL, Korean Air, ANA, Viva Macau and Hawaiian Airlines
  • Seoul (ICN), South Korea on Korean Air, Asiana Airlines, Perimeter Aviation and Hawaiian Airlines
  • countless airports in the USA
  • and many more.


Fiji offers the perfect blend of adventure and relaxation.

From vibrant coral reefs to secluded sandy beaches, Fiji has it all – and with a wide range of islands and accommodations, you’ll find something to suit most budgets and preferences.

Whether you’re celebrating a special anniversary, engagement or honeymoon, or you’re travelling with young kids, Fiji is the perfect choice!

If you’re short on time, we recommend staying on Denarau Island (which is connected to the mainland by a short causeway) or Viti Levu (the main island of Fiji), near Nadi.

Or, if you have a little more time to spare, explore the beautiful Mamanuca and the Yasawa Islands from Denarau Marina, and see the unspoilt Fiji that you’ve dreamt of.

Fiji’s Nadi International Airport is a common stopover destination for flights to and from New Zealand, with a significant number of onwards flights available, making this another convenient route.

Airlines servicing this route include Air New Zealand and Fiji Airways.

Fly to/from Nadi (NAN), Fiji and:

  • Auckland (AKL), New Zealand on Air New Zealand and Fiji Airways
  • Brisbane (BNE), Australia on Virgin Australia and Fiji Airways
  • Canberra (CBR), Australia on Fiji Airways
  • Melbourne (MEL), Australia on Virgin Australia, Fiji Airways and Jetstar
  • Sydney (SYD), Australia on Virgin Australia, Fiji Airways, Jetstar and Qantas
  • Apia (APW), Samoa on Fiji Airways
  • Nuku’alofa (TBU), Tonga on Fiji Airways
  • Nouméa (NOU), New Caledonia on Fiji Airways and Aircalin
  • Honolulu (HNL), Hawai’i, USA on Fiji Airways
  • Los Angeles (LAX), California, USA on Fiji Airways
  • Hong Kong (HKG) on Fiji Airways
  • and many more.
Nathan Chant relaxing on a lounger in front of the adult's only pool at the Sofitel in Fiji.
Nathan relaxing at the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa on Denarau Island.

French Polynesia – Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moʻorea & more

French Polynesia is an archipelago in the South Pacific. Made up of 118 islands and atolls, including Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Mo’orea, it’s renowned for its striking natural beauty, including towering mountains, coral-fringed lagoons, and white-sand and black-sand beaches.

Though you’ll fly into Tahiti, it’s worth making the short trip to Moʻorea (which takes less an an hour by ferry), or heading further out to the picture-perfect Bora Bora.

If romance is the goal, it’s hard to go past French Polynesia – particularly the overwater bungalows.

But that’s not all these islands offer. You’ll also find vibrant and varied marine life there, offering unparalleled opportunities for snorkelling and diving.

Delicious local cuisine combines traditional Polynesian elements with French influences, always with a focus on fresh, local ingredients.

The food here is amongst the best in the South Pacific.

These islands combine natural beauty and cultural experiences, making them an ideal choice for a rewarding short-term vacation.

Plus, Faa’a International Airport is one of the best-connected airports on this list, making it a convenient (if fairly expensive) place to visit.

Fly to/from Papeete (PPT), Tahiti, French Polynesia and:

  • Auckland (AKL), New Zealand on Air New Zealand and Air Tahiti Nui
  • Rarotonga (RAR), Cook Islands on Air Tahiti and Air Rarotonga
  • Nadi (NAN), Fiji on Aircalin
  • Honolulu (HNL), Hawai’i, USA on Hawaiian Airlines
  • Los Angeles (LAX), California, USA on Air France, Delta and Air Tahiti Nui
  • San Francisco (SFO), California, USA on United and French Bee
  • Tokyo (NRT), Japan on Air Tahiti Nui
  • and many more.


Samoa’s lush landscapes and rich Polynesian culture make it an excellent stopover choice.

Locals enjoy a quiet pace of life, sharing authentic cultural experiences with those lucky enough to visit.

Apia’s Faleolo International Airport serves as the main gateway to Samoa.

From there, you can explore Upolu (the main island), Savai’i (which is easily accessed by ferry or plane) or one of the other smaller islands.

Hop on the local bus to explore Upolu, or hire an affordable car and drive around amazing spots including the To Sua Ocean Trench, Papase’ea Sliding Rocks, Piula (Fatumea) Cave Pool and the Palolo Deep Marine Reserve (which has amazing snorkelling right by the port – we were surprised too!)

Samoa also offers a range of accommodation, including affordable entry-level resorts.

And if you’re there on a Sunday, be sure to join a local church service. Doing so gives amazing insight into local culture – and the singing is just incredible!

Fly to/from Apia (APW), Samoa and:

  • Auckland (AKL), New Zealand on Air New Zealand
  • Brisbane (BNE), Australia on Qantas and Virgin Australia
  • Nadi (NAN), Fiji on Fiji Airways
  • Honolulu (HNL), Hawai’i, USA on Fiji Airways

Did you know? Samoa used to be known as Western Samoa. It is a different group of islands to American Samoa.

Vibrant blue water in the To Sua Ocean Trench, with a ladder reaching down.
The beautiful To Sua Ocean Trench in Samoa.

New Caledonia – The French Riviera of the South Pacific

If a touch of French charm in the South Pacific sounds good to you (and surely it does), New Caledonia is well-worth considering on your New Zealand stopover.

Whether you choose to base yourself in the vibrant city of Nouméa, explore other magical locations on Grande Terre (the main island which is almost 400 km long and 50 km wide), or head out to one of the many beautiful islands (like Île des Pins/Isle of Pines or Lifou), New Caledonia is sure to impress.

It has made a real impression on the members of South Pacific Travel Tips, where is it often listed as a favourite South Pacific destination.

When visiting, you’ll fly into Nouméa’s La Tontouta International Airport, but it’s important to note that the domestic airport is about an hour’s drive away.

If you plan to fly to another island in New Caledonia, you’ll need to allow time to transfer before your onwards flight.

However, if you’re short on time, we recommend booking accommodation on Grande Terre, with day trips to the outer islands if you’re keen to see them.

Air New Zealand and Aircalin operate flights to New Caledonia from New Zealand, with a number of other international flights to connect you via Australia, other South Pacific Islands and a few key locations in Asia.

Fly to/from Nouméa (NOU), New Caledonia and:

  • Auckland (AKL), New Zealand on Air New Zealand and Aircalin
  • Brisbane (BNE), Australia on Qantas and Aircalin
  • Sydney (SYD), Australia on Qantas and Aircalin
  • Melbourne (MEL), Australia on Aircalin
  • Nadi (NAN), Fiji on Fiji Airways and Aircalin
  • Papeete (PPT), Tahiti on Aircalin
  • Port Vila (VLI), Vanuatu on Air Vanuatu and Aircalin
  • Singapore (SIN) on Aircalin
  • Tokyo (NRT), Japan on Aircalin

Cook Islands

The Cook Islands offer the chance to step off the well-worn tourist track.

A favourite of many New Zealanders, Rarotonga (the main island in the Cook Islands) and nearby Aitutaki (a favourite for those looking for serious romance) are hard to go past.

Hire a scooter or affordable car, or use the local bus to get around Rarotonga. Check out the popular markets in town and the Muri night markets, snorkel on the beautiful reef (opposite the Fruits of Rarotonga sign), swim with turtles, ride mud buggies or try local delicacies at a local restaurant.

Four people standing, covered in mud after riding the buggies in Rarotonga.
The Chants, covered in mud after riding the buggies in Rarotonga.

Like the other islands on this list, we recommend staying on the main island if you have limited time to spend in the Cooks – there’s plenty to do there, and you’ll save money by avoiding an additional flight.

But, if you’re looking for that dream South Pacific destination, it’s hard to go past Aitutaki!

Travelling here is convenient too – you’ll quickly be issued a visitor visa on arrival and, as they use New Zealand dollars (NZD), there’s no need to organise another currency.

Air New Zealand and Jetstar both provide direct services between New Zealand and the Cook Islands, with a few onwards connections to Australia and other parts of the Pacific.

Fly to/from Rarotonga (RAR), Cook Islands and:

  • Auckland (AKL), New Zealand on Air New Zealand and Jetstar
  • Sydney (SYD), Australia on Jetstar
  • Papeete (PPT), Tahiti on Air Tahiti and Air Rarotonga
  • Honolulu (HNL), Hawai’i, USA on Hawaiian Airlines


With beautiful sandy beaches and authentic island culture, Tonga provides a memorable stopover.

We particularly recommend visiting during the annual humpback whale migration from June and to October, when it’s possible to swim in the wild with these gentle giants.

Tongatapu (the main island) is also home to the Mapu ‘A Vaea blowholes, Anahulu Cave and the Talamahu Markets – all of which can be accessed using an affordable rental car.

If there on a Sunday, you’ll find most tourist attractions (and flights) halt, but it’s a great opportunity to catch a boat over to Pangaimotu Island for lunch and snorkelling by an old shipwreck.

Tonga is quieter and less set-up for tourists than the other South Pacific islands on this list, but it’s still a wonderful getaway.

Airlines servicing the Tongatapu route, from Fuaʻamotu International Airport, are more limited than other islands on this list, but onward connections are still available through Sydney and Nadi (where additional flights are easily accessed).

Fly to/from Nuku’alofa (TBU), Tonga and:

  • Auckland (AKL), New Zealand on Air New Zealand
  • Nadi (NAN), Fiji on Fiji Airways
  • Sydney (SYD), Australia on Qantas
Sarah Chant, swimming in a wetsuit with humpback whales in Tonga.
Me swimming with humpback whales in Tonga!

Should I add a South Pacific stopover vacation on the way to/from New Zealand?


  • Stop off in a tropical location, often at no extra charge.
  • Enjoy a different climate on your trip.
  • Experience a different culture.
  • Save money on paying for a second set of flights in the future.


  • You’ll have less time in New Zealand – and you might need it to make your NZ itinerary work.
  • Seasons in the islands can be different – the best time for you to visit NZ might not be good in the South Pacific.
  • Getting out to the best islands can require extra time/money.

New Zealand is a long way from most countries, but a stopover can be a convenient and affordable way to not only break up a long flight, but give you two vacations for the price of one.

We highly recommend you extend your travels with a stopover on one of these gorgeous South Pacific islands.

Which of these islands appeal to you?

Which have you already visited!

Tell us all about it in our free South Pacific Travel Tips Facebook group!

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