Epic Polynesia: Cook Islands to Fiji

  • Trip Type: Expedition Cruise
  • 17 Days | Papeete to Lautoka
  • Group Size: Max 102

Expedition Details


From the verdant crags of Tahiti to the teeming reefs of Fiji, embark on a sweeping voyage to the western reaches of Polynesia, encountering tropical islands and reefs that few others will ever see. Immerse yourself in Aitutaki’s warm azure waters, and experience genuine Polynesian hospitality throughout Samoa. Visit the tiny island nation of Wallis and Futuna, and marvel at its impressively decorated cathedrals before diving into a sparkling lagoon. Learn new techniques for photographing colorful markets and friendly faces as you are welcomed into Fijian villages with traditional kava ceremonies.

Trip Highlights

  • Aboard the state-of-the-art National Geographic Orion, cruise between five Pacific Island groups.
  • Glide in Zodiacs through the narrow pass at Aitutaki, and swim in the island’s dazzling inner lagoon.
  • Marvel at elaborately decorated cathedrals in tiny Wallis and Futuna, a difficult-to-reach autonomous French territory.
  • Enjoy a special Fijian welcome at the village of Waitabu, and then see firsthand how locals created the country’s healthiest marine parks as you snorkel and dive the bordering reef.

Itinerary - 17 Days

Day 1 — Depart U.S.

Depart the U.S. on an overnight flight to Tahiti.

Day 2 — Papeete, French Polynesia

Arrive in Papeete, Tahiti, early this morning, check in to dayrooms, and take a brief tour of Tahiti before embarking National Geographic Orion.

Days 3, 4, & 5 — Tahaa/Raiatea/At Sea

Acclimate to Polynesia’s slower pace with a day on Tahaa, snorkeling, kayaking, and paddleboarding the lagoon and stroll the tiny island’s beaches. On adjacent Raiatea, visit Marae Taputapuatea, an important ceremonial site that served as the starting point for Polynesian seafarers heading for Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Hawaii, and New Zealand. Spend the morning exploring this site, then jump in the warm seas for a swim.

Days 6, 7, & 8 — Aitutaki, Cook Islands/At Sea

Renowned for its spectacular inner lagoon ringed with white sand, Aitutaki has been described as the perfect South Pacific island. In 1789, Captain William Bligh sailed here just before the mutiny aboard the ill-fated H.M.S. Bounty. Board Zodiacs to enter the lagoon via the pass on the western side of this volcanic atoll. Once ashore, step over sacred welcome stones to be greeted with a traditional Polynesian welcome of drumming and dancing. Explore the aquamarine waters of the lagoon and its surrounding reef and walk along palm-fringed white beaches. Meet the island’s friendly residents and experience traditional Polynesian food, culture, and hospitality on a visit to a village in the interior. Then enjoy life aboard National Geographic Orion as we spend two days sailing west toward Samoa.

Days 9 & 10 — Samoa

With its spectacular beaches and aqua lagoons, hidden waterfalls and lava-sculpted landscapes, Samoa captures the essence of the South Pacific. Hike through rain forests vibrant with flowers and birds, take a dip in a swimming hole, go snorkeling or diving on the reef, and soak up the languid rhythms of island life that drew Robert Louis Stevenson to these shores.

Days 11, 12, & 13 — At Sea/Exploring Wallis and Futuna

Another of France’s South Pacific territories, the tiny island group of Wallis and Futuna lies between Samoa and Fiji. Be on deck just after sunrise, as National Geographic Orion navigates the channel into the lagoon at Wallis Island, where we’ll anchor for the day. Visit the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, Mata-Utu, a stunning edifice built of blue volcanic stone chiseled and trimmed by hand, or the Church of St. Joseph, with its colorfully decorated interior. Later, snorkel, kayak, or paddleboard from one of the tiny islets offshore.

Days 14 & 15 — Exploring Fiji

Our first stop is Taveuni, Fiji’s third largest island, known as “The Garden Island” for its rich vegetation, which includes several species found nowhere else in the world. Enjoy a warm Fijian welcome at the village of Waitabu, and snorkel in one of the Pacific’s most successful community marine parks. Explore the waterfalls of nearby Bouma National Heritage Park, and dive nearby reefs.

Days 16 & 17 — Lautoka/Home

After breakfast, disembark in Lautoka on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu. Tour the western part of the island before transferring to the airport for your overnight flight home, or choose to extend your stay.
(Day 16: B, L)

Related Trips

Special Offer

Complimentary Airfare

Book by July 31, 2018 and receive complimentary round-trip international airfare from Los Angeles to Papeete and return from Nadi, or vice versa. We will also cover your bar tab on board and all tips for the crew. Book two or more South Pacific voyages aboard National Geographic Orion and save 10% on each expedition.

Offers are for new bookings only, may not be combined with other offers, and are subject to availability. Please call for details.

National Geographic Expert

Accompanying each expedition is a diverse team of experts — from naturalists to regional specialists — who will share their knowledge and insights on the wildlife, landscapes, and local culture. See one of the members of our extraordinary team below.

Michael Melford

Michael MelfordNational Geographic photographer Michael Melford has produced 18 feature stories and two covers for National Geographic magazine with an emphasis on wilderness, conservation, and the environment. He also has shot more than 30 stories for National Geographic Traveler, including nine covers. Some of Michael’s recent assignments have focused on Russia and North America’s national parks. He has produced photography for eight books for National Geographic, including three on Alaska. While photographing his favorite book, Treasures of Alaska, he spent four months traveling to every corner of the state. When not shooting for the Geographic, Michael enjoys giving seminars and workshops on photography and sharing both his love of nature and his extensive knowledge of his craft.

Michael will join the following departure:

May 24 - Jun 09, 2018


Lindblad/National Geographic Logo

This trip is offered in association with Lindblad Expeditions.


  • May 10 - 26, 2018
  • May 24 - Jun 09, 2018 REV

REV Indicates trip operates in reverse.

Expedition Cost

Category 1 $15,680
Category 2 $18,670
Category 3 $21,990
Category 4 $23,990
Category 5 $28,940
Category 6 $33,440
Solo Suite A $23,520
Solo Suite B $32,990

Prices are per person, double occupancy, except those marked solo, which are based on single occupancy.

International airfare to Papeete and return from Nadi, Fiji, or vice versa, is not included in the expedition cost.

View Ship/Deck Plan

Activity Level

Light or Moderate

Travelers can choose between a light or moderate activity level. For a light level of activity, they should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives on bumpy roads, or easy hikes.

For a moderate level, travelers should be prepared for multiple hours of physical activity (e.g. hiking, kayaking, biking) each day.

Click here for a description of all activity levels.