Delectable, unusual and surprising describe well the assortment of foodie adventures available in the South Pacific. Be prepared for some powerful ingredients and traditional techniques across these island chains as well as New Zealand.
Enjoy a meal cooked in a traditional underground oven heated by hot stones. Called a Hangi in New Zealand, Umu in the Cook Islands and Lovo in Fiji, it’s a very effective cooking method for flavorful and tender meat cooked with root vegetables. Pork and chicken are popular in the islands while lamb is favored in New Zealand. Music and dance often accompany the meal for a true cultural experience.
Always a good place to start, food markets show you local culinary life in action with displays of spices, herbs, produce, seafood and meat. At the central market in Papeete Tahiti, colorful flowers enhance the scene. Purchase a traditional floral crown made on the spot. You’ll want to pick up high quality Tahitian vanilla here too. Stalls with handicrafts, clothes and jewelry add to this authentic experience.
Romantic dinners in unusual locations are the norm in the South Pacific, notably in Fiji where resorts go out of their way to please. A private table for two on the beach lit by lanterns and candles is al fresco dining at its best. Dining at a table in a lagoon is another favorite. Wade to your table and watch fish swim around your feet while enjoying your meal. Unique and memorable island experiences!
Renowned for its wine regions and culinary diversity, New Zealand is an excellent choice for vacations focusing on food and wine. Visit the country’s premier wine regions, dine in fine restaurants and enjoy local delicacies while staying in some of New Zealand’s unique lodges, like a deluxe treehouse and remote retreats.
The traditional ceremonial drink of Fiji is kava, made from pepper plant root mixed with water. It is served in a communal coconut shell at a Yaqona or Kava Ceremony. Take part in a ceremony at a village or at your resort for an exciting Fijian experience. Rhythmic chant and clapping accompanies the ceremony as you sit in a circle and share the drink. The Fijians call kava’s powerful effect relaxing.
Looking across the turquoise lagoon from your luxurious overwater bungalow, you see breakfast on its was in an approaching outrigger canoe. Two South Pacific Islanders in traditional dress wish you good morning as they deliver breakfast to your patio island-style. Relax and enjoy a full breakfast and fresh fruit in the tranquil and peaceful lagoon setting. This is one sublime South Pacific experience you won’t want to miss!
At food stalls and restaurants, watch for local specialties being cooked up. These authentic encounters may feature Laplap, the national dish of Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, a hearty pudding made from grated vegetables or cooked bananas. In Tahiti look for Poisson cru or ia ota; raw fish and diced vegetables soaked in coconut milk and marinated with lime juice.
Tie on your apron and get to know the food and wine specialties of New Zealand. Try Seafood School at the Auckland Fish Market; The 3-Course Kiwi Culinary Experience (seafood lamb and a parfait) in Northland; the Wild Food Cooking School, Rotorua to forage for native flavorings and learn from Maori chefs; and the award winning Akaroa Cooking School for a complete learning, eating and drinking experience.
Always a highlight, food festivals are a fun way to catch up with local cuisine and New Caledonia is a foodie paradise in this department! There’s the Gastronomy Festival with a fusion of French and Melanesian cuisine; the Bancoule Worm Festival celebrating the favorite insect, eaten raw or sautéed with pastis or butter, as well as cheese, coffee, vanilla, beef and seafood festivals throughout the year.
Delight your taste buds while discovering the local food scene on guided tours. Land tours from your hotel or shore excursions from your cruise ship that focus on cuisine introduce you to local favorites and may include a cooking class. Some cultural and sight-seeing tours include a traditional meal for lunch as a local gastronomic experience while exploring the island.
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