For intrepid travelers, the remote is often the most rewarding. Perhaps no place portrays this better than the isolated isles and atolls of the vast and storied Pacific Ocean. Where else could one watch schools of tropical fish swirl around the fuselage of a sunken World War II plane? Or venture to an emerald island brimming with waterfalls and rare flora and fauna? Here, in the convergence of natural beauty and gripping history—or unsolved mystery in the case of Easter Island’s colossal stone moai—singular moments abound. And one thing is certain: while exploring each of these unspoiled wonders and cultural curiosities, the modern world will be but a distant memory.
Canoeing the Riri Blue Hole Grotto
Paddling the crystal-clear waters of the Riri River, it’s easy to see how Vanuatu's Espiritu Santo inspired James A. Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific. A soundtrack of birdsong accompanies your dugout canoe past shores bursting with tropical flora until the river bottom, once totally visible, drops away into the breathtaking Riri Blue Hole. Like a gem of glittering topaz embedded in the surrounding jungle, its pure freshwater flows through layers of underground limestone, saturated with minerals to conjure a blue so vivid you might wonder who’s managed to Photoshop your vision.
Shipwreck Diving Historic World War II Sites
During World War II, Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon was a major Japanese stronghold until an American air attack in February 1944 reduced a dozen warships to a ghostly underwater graveyard. In the atoll’s calm, barrier reef–sheltered waters, these horrors of war have been softened by the sea for nearly 80 years. Divers will discover the rusted remains of ships and a slew of scattered cargo, from Zero fighter aircrafts and tanks down to gas masks and dinnerware. Much of it is largely intact, dressed in an eerie decoupage of corals, anemones, and sponges as the ocean begins to claim them as her own.
Exploring the Garden Island of Taveuni
Taveuni is one of Fiji's (and possibly even the world's!) most beautiful and diverse islands. The fertile volcanic soil here makes the perfect medium for its dense virgin rainforests, rich with flower, fern, and palm species found nowhere else on Earth. Bouma National Heritage Park protects nearly 80% of the land, harboring an abundance of dazzling waterfalls, wild orchids, and colorful birds like the kula (collared lory), endemic silktail, and the rare orange fruit dove. Off shore, the scenery below the surface is equally exquisite. In Waitabu’s community-run marine park, snorkel or dive the healthy reefs to spot sea turtles, tropical fish, and even giant clams, a symbol of the area’s commitment to restorative biodiversity.
Unpacking the History of Norfolk Island
With dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches, and groves of slender Norfolk Island pines, this tiny South Pacific idyll is a natural paradise—albeit one with a troubling past. Its capital, Kingston, is one of 11 UNESCO-designated Australian Convict Sites. Beginning in 1788, Britain’s worst offenders were exiled, imprisoned, and subjected to forced labor to help build the penal colony through 1814 and again from 1825-1855. It was then inhabited by Pitcairn Islanders, descendants of the infamous HMS Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian captives. Their culture and language—a fusion of 18th-century English and Tahitian—continue to thrive, and many convict-constructed Georgian buildings are still in use by parliament, museums, and more.
Walking Among the Legendary Easter Island Moai
More than 2,000 miles off the Chilean coast, Easter Island (Rapa Nui) is the most remote inhabited land on the planet. The landscape is moody, with rocky lava fields and windswept grasslands. Calderas serve as the only source of freshwater. And the stoic stares of 900-some moai statues stand watch over it all, the enigmatic legacy of a collapsed Polynesian society. Petroglyphs, burial sites, and intricately carved ceremonial altars offer hints to the purpose of these massive megaliths and archeologists have traced 95% of them back to the Rano Raraku quarry. Yet, with no trace of written history, who did the carving and transporting—and why—remains a mystery. The lucky few who come ashore here to visit can make their own conclusions.