The Pacific Islands are so much more than a group of islands. In fact, by some estimates there are as many as 30,000 islands that make up the grouping. The islands, which are located south of the Tropic of Cancer, are comprised of three major groups: Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia. Each of these distinct groups is noteworthy and unique. No trip through the Pacific Islands would be complete without at least one stop at each of the three groups.
Polynesia may very well contain the most famous of the Pacific Islands. Located within this grouping are New Zealand, Rotuma, The Hawaiian Islands, Midway Islands, American Samoa, Samoa, Tuvalu, Tonga, The Cook Islands and many more. Polynesia means, in fact, many islands. It is the largest of the three island groupings.
Melanesia, which means black islands, is also popular. Islands such as New Guinea (the largest of all the Pacific Islands), New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands and Fiji.
The “Small Islands,” or Micronesia, is full of many small islands, some of which are actually north of the equator. Islands in this group include Guam, Marianas, Wake Island, the Marshall Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia.
It is interesting to note that many of the islands are defined not by their own physical nature but by the archipelago they are a part of. Others use their political alliances to define them. Languages, of which many are similar, are distinct to the region and rely heavily on the glottal stop. Very few of the Pacific Island languages are written.
In some cases, the Pacific Islands are referred to as “Oceania” This definition is somewhat misleading as “Oceania” also includes the Malay Archipelago and Australasia. The Pacific Islands are a unique region of the world. Its many islands have created just as many cultures, traditions and languages.