Polynesia is the most far-flung, easterly region of Oceania.
Countries and territories
Polynesia is comprised of the following island nations:
|Cook Islands |
Fifteen islands spread out over an Exclusive Economic Zone of 2,200,000 square kilometres
The eastern two thirds of this sprawling island nation fall within the scope of Polynesia. Remote and poor, the sun rises first here every day.
The largest raised coral atoll in the world, halfway between Tonga and the Cook Islands.
Two main volcanic islands with luxuriant vegetation, traditional culture and wonderful open-sided houses.
The so-called “Friendly islands” and a Kingdom. But traditional and modern cultures are now clashing.
One of the smallest countries in the world in terms of population and one of the world's least visited countries.
Polynesia includes smaller overseas territories of larger nations, including:
|American Samoa (USA) |
Much less touristy than neighbouring Samoa, American Samoa is perhaps one of the most beautiful parts of the Pacific
|Easter Island (Chile) |
An isolated island with amazing stone carvings.
|French Polynesia (France) |
Includes three islands with a strong claim to being the most beautiful island in the world, Bora Bora, Tahiti and Moorea, but also Mururoa where the French carried out nuclear tests until 1996.
|Hawaii (USA) |
A volcanic archipelago in the tropical Pacific, 2,300 mi (3,700 km) southwest of California (the nearest state), laid-back Hawaii is a vacation paradise.
|Pitcairn Islands (UK) |
Home to descendants of the Bounty mutineers, only for the most adventurous travellers.
|Tokelau (New Zealand) |
This small New Zealand territory sees next to no tourism
|Wallis and Futuna (France) |
And it includes the following tiny U.S. territories with no local populations, mainly used for scientific and military purposes:
|Baker and Howland Islands (USA) |
|Jarvis Island (USA) |
|Johnston Atoll (USA) |
|Midway Islands (USA) |
The liveliest of these territories (which isn't saying much), home to a few dozen government staff.
|Palmyra Atoll (USA) |
New Zealand is also often considered part of Polynesia both culturally and historically, however, Wikivoyage covers New Zealand under its own separate page.
- 1 Apia — principal city of Samoa
- 2 Funafuti — the capital of Tuvalu
- 3 Honolulu — the largest city of Hawaii
- 4 Pago Pago ー largest city of American Samoa
- 5 Papeete ㅡ largest city of French Polynesia.
- 6 Nukuʻalofa ㅡ the largest city and capital of Tonga
- 1 Aitutaki — the classic picture postcard of a palm tree fringed tropical island with turquoise waters, in the Cook Islands.
- 2 Atiu — a small island in the Cooks with caves, birds and bush beer
- 3 Bora Bora — the most beautiful lagoon of French Polynesia, but incredibly pricey.
- 4 'Eua — a small island in Tonga, home to some of the best rainforests in Polynesia
- 5 Hawaii Volcanoes National Park — home to 3 active volcanoes
- 6 Kiritimati — the largest coral atoll in the world and an off the beaten track destination
- 7 Moorea — budget alternative to Bora Bora with beautiful scenery.
- 8 Vava'u — group of more than 50 islands in Tonga, a common destination for yachters.
- 9 Savaii ㅡ the largest island in Polynesia outside of Hawaiʻi and New Zealand. Covered in dense tropical rainforest.
Polynesia comes from the Greek words "Poly" and "Nēsos" meaning "many islands".
Historically, Polynesia was famous for its seafaring traditions where people used canoes to navigate the seas by using stars and other signs that came from the ocean and sky. Polynesians are Austronesians, as are most Malays, Indonesians and Filipinos Their migration into the region started before 1000 BCE.
There are many indigenous Polynesian languages spoken, sometime known as the Oceanic languages, a branch of the Austronesian language family. Additionally English is widely spoken in Polynesia, French in much of the rest, and Spanish on Easter Island.
Compared to the rest of Polynesia, Hawaii has excellent connections from mainland North America plus many flights from East Asia. The southern parts usually have flights from New Zealand, Fiji and/or Australia. Easter Island is connected to mainland Chile and French Polynesia to Paris via Los Angeles.
Most travelers get around by plane here. The alternative is cruising on small craft.
There are a couple of world heritage sites in Polynesia:
- Rapa Nui National Park made up of the Easter Island with its famous monolithic statues (moai).
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii.
- Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument consisting of atolls northwest of Hawaii.
- The Phoenix Islands Protected Area in Kiribati, world's largest marine protected area.
- Henderson Island, the largest of the Pitcairn Islands, with many endangered bird species.
Take precautions against mosquito bites, as there have been outbreaks of dengue, chikungunya and Zika virus in the 2010s in the tropical countries.