Fiji vs Rarotonga vs Samoa? All gorgeous locations for a holiday but how do you figure out which is the best island for you?
Living in New Zealand I am very fortunate to be so close to the picture perfect Pacific Islands. When I imagine my dream holiday I can’t help but think of somewhere warm with a beautiful beach and clear water. Being able to get this just a few hour’s flight away is pretty special.
If you are thinking about travelling to the islands I highly recommend you do! However, deciding which Pacific Island to visit can sometimes be a bit overwhelming.
Even though they may seem similar, trust me they aren’t. Each island is unique in one way or another and I have my reasons for travelling to each one of them depending on which island holiday you’re after.
- Fiji holiday
- Is Fiji part of the Cook Islands?
- Rarotonga holiday
- Samoa holiday
- Conclusion: Fiji vs Rarotonga vs Samoa
What to expect in Fiji
Fiji is one of the more touristy of the islands, which means it gets very busy! If you can, try and avoid the Australia and New Zealand school holidays when planning your trip to Fiji.
Prices for hotels and flights will usually be a bit cheaper outside of the holidays as well. Fiji is quite commercialised, especially the main island where you’ll fly into.
Denarau is located here and is where you’ll find all the flash resorts however if you want a true island holiday on one of the postcard-worthy beaches you’ll need to travel out to one of the smaller islands.
This tends to drive costs and travel time up however so do keep that in mind while planning your escape.
Travel here if…
You want to keep yourself busy with activities and day trips.
When deciding what activities you want to fill your day with you will not run out of things to do on your holiday in Fiji. Many of the resorts offer motorised and non-motorised toys for you to play with (some resorts charge extra).
Where to stay in Fiji
In Fiji there are lots of accommodation options. You are spoilt for choice when it comes to luxury resorts, most of which you will find located in Denarau Island or for a more romantic escape head out to one of the smaller islands.
You will land in Nadi Airport so a boat will need to take you out to these smaller islands. If you are staying in the Coral Coast or Denarau Island these are accessible by car.
If you would like to read more about my experience of staying in Denarau Island read my blog post here.
Is Fiji part of the Cook Islands?
No Fiji is no part of the Cook Islands. Fiji is located 2,000 km west of the Cook Islands so they are pretty different.
The Cook Islands consists of 15 small islands, the biggest and most well known being Rarotonga, followed by Aitutaki. They are politically linked to New Zealand and have a close relationship with the larger nation.
Don’t be surprised on your visit there if you only bump into Kiwis!
Is Fiji bigger than Rarotonga?
Yes, Fiji is much bigger. Rarotonga is a pretty small island nation, with no traffic lights and a bus service that either goes clockwise or antilock wise, you can drive round the whole island in about 45 minutes.
The population of Rarotonga is about 20,000 where as Fiji’s population is about 900,000.
In terms of land mass, Rarotonga is approximately 236 sq km and Fiji is approximately 18,274 sq km so that’s quite a bit bigger! Fiji also has a total of 300 islands so there is a ton to explore.
What to expect in Rarotonga
Despite it’s small size, Rarotonga is very well established and there are plenty of accommodation options. There isn’t a lot to do but it is so stunning you could lie on the beach all day taking in the beauty.
I’ve been to Rarotonga twice and I’m planning to go for a third time next year. There’s something about this island and the lovely locals that keeps you wanting more.
My Dad is even considering moving here and ditching the city life (fast forward 5 years and I can confirm that did not happen, but hey, the thought was there).
Travel here if…
You love to relax by the beach all day.
There isn’t a lot to see and do in Rarotonga, there aren’t a lot of natural attractions like Samoa or tourist activities like Fiji. Travel here if you really want to relax and are in need of a good break.
The locals are lovely and there are some great places to eat but it is a very small place. You can drive around the island in about 45min and the speed limit is 50km/h around most of the island.
You will really be on island time in Rarotonga!
Where to stay in Rarotonga
I travelled here with my family and we rented a house which is perfect if you want to escape the busy resorts. If you pick a place with kitchen facilities you also have the flexibility to cook some of your own meals.
However if a resort is more your style there are definitely plenty of options and these are scattered all round the island. From small luxury villas to large resort style hotels you can definitely find something to suit all budgets.
I would recommend staying in Muri beach. It’s quite central so you can walk along the beach and choose different places to go eat. You can also snorkel straight off the beach and if you feel more active there are kayaks to rent.
Best things to do in Rarotonga
1. Cross Island Walk
Of course you’re going to be doing a lot of swimming, a lot of sunbathing and a LOT of relaxing but if you feel like being a bit more adventurous you can take part in the Cross Island walk.
The walk will take you about 3-4 hours depending on breaks. It involves a step climb up to what is called ‘The Needle’ and you’ll be rewarded with a pretty spectacular view.
Go from North to South so that you get to reward yourself with a swim in the water at the end to cool off.
2. Go snorkelling
It wouldn’t be an island holiday without doing a bit of snorkelling. If you haven’t got your own snorkel gear you can hire some at Fruits of Rarotonga from Chantel’s Coincerge. Don’t worry if it looks like nobody is there, an honesty box will be out for you to leave some cash in.
The top spots for snorkelling around the island are:
- Fruits of Rarotonga
- Black Rock
- The Rarotongan (public beach access is available to the right of the hotel)
3. Book an Island Night show
Another must do when visiting Rarotonga! Going along to an island night is a great way to experience the culture and delicious local food.
Often these experiences come with a buffet dinner so it makes for a great night out. I would recommend Highland Paradise, it’s set in the hills and the view is breathtaking if you get a chance to see it during the day.
4. Swim with the turtles
Hands down one of the collect experiences I’ve had in Rarotonga is swimming with the turtles. Charlotte Piho tours are amazing and take great care of you while out in the water.
Rarotonga is surround by a lagoon which is mostly shallow, however there is a passage which plunges to some pretty great depths and this is where the turtles are found.
The currents in this passage can get strong at times so it’s important you only swim here with a guided tour. There are signs warning you of this as you need to be with experienced locals who know this part of the lagoon well.
A bit of snorkelling is recommended as then you can make the most of diving down to see the turtles.
What to expect in Samoa
There is no denying that Samoa is simply beautiful. The beaches are some of the best I have ever seen and there is so much to explore. Out of the three islands Samoa is the least established which can be really nice if you are looking to escape reality.
Don’t expect big flash resorts like you get in Fiji. Yes there are nice resorts but they are very expensive and there isn’t too many of them so a holiday in Samoa may look a little different to a holiday in Fiji from this perspective.
Travel here if…
You want to explore the islands natural attractions such as the To Sua Trench, Papetee Sliding Rocks and stunning waterfalls. The beautiful beaches will also take your breath away.
Samoa is stunning, there is so much beauty to be seen both in Savaii and Upolu. I loved this island and renting out a car most days allowed me to see as much of it as I possibly could in the time I was there. The highlight of this trip was seeing the famous To Sua Trench, you can read more about my experience here.
Where to stay in Samoa
During my Samoa holiday we spent half of our time staying in a beach fale. We wanted cheap accommodation and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to go back to basics and see how the locals live. You can stay in anything from very basic with no fan to a more ‘non-traditional’ beach fale.
Then the other have of the trip was spent in a resort, Saletoga Sands which was lovely. Buffet breakfasts are always my fave about resorts! It was in a gorgeous location, complete with a swimming pool.
The two places I stayed during my trip were:
Conclusion: Fiji vs Rarotonga vs Samoa
All of the islands are gorgeous and no matter which one you choose you aren’t really going to go wrong. It just depends what you want out of your holiday.
For pure relaxation plan a Rarotonga holiday, for adventure and luxury accommodation plan a Fiji holiday and for amazing natural attractions plan a Samoa holiday.
Hope you consider the islands for your next trip! They are certainly one of my favourite places to travel to!