The Polynesian triangle stretches across the Pacific from New Zealand to Easter Island and north to Hawaii.
The Polynesian countries and territories included on our South Pacific map are French Polynesia, Pitcairn, Easter Island, the Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga, American Samoa, Samoa, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna, and Tuvalu.
South Pacific travel focuses on vacation islands like Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Rapa Nui, Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Tongatapu, Vavau, Tutuila, Upolu, and Savaii.
The name Polynesia comes from the Greek words poly (many) and nesos (islands). The term was originally coined by Charles de Brosses in 1756 and applied to all the Pacific Ocean islands. The present restricted use was proposed by Dumont d'Urville in 1831.
The tall, golden-skinned peoples of this vast region speak closely related languages developed from a single mother tongue. Robert Louis Stevenson called them "God's best, at least God's sweetest work."
Melanesia curves down from New Guinea to the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and Fiji.
While in Polynesia small coral islands and atolls are mixed with soaring volcanoes, in Melanesia the main islands are much larger, many of them remnants of a sunken continent.
Dumont d'Urville coined the name from melas (black) and nesos (islands) on account of the predominant skin color of the regions diverse peoples.
Melanesia is a region of striking contrasts, from thoroughly French Noumea, capital of the overseas French territory of New Caledonia, to Vanuatu's capital Port Vila where France, Britain, and Melanesia mix, and Honiara on Guadalcanal, a famous World War Two battleground.
Fiji is almost considered part of Melanesia, though the Polynesian element there is strong. South Pacific cruise ships frequently call at vibrant cities and dazzling beaches on these colorful islands.
Micronesia lies between Hawaii and the Philippines in the North Pacific. Dumont d'Urville named it for its mikros (small) nesos (islands), literally thousands of which make up the Marshall, Caroline, Mariana, and Gilbert groups.
Micronesia is broken down into seven distinct entities, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Territory of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of Kiribati, and Nauru.
The most popular air travel route through the region features stops on Majuro, Kwajalein, Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Guam, Saipan, Yap, and Koror.
These islands have been heavily impacted by outsiders, first German and Japanese colonialists prior to the world wars, then as trusts or associates of the United States. Kiribati is a former British colony.
It's an intriguing region to visit, though difficult to combine with South Pacific travel.
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