|Currency: Change Franc Pacifique (XPF)||Eco-Lodges|
|Size: 4,167 km² / 1,609 mi²||Favorite Restaurants|
|Landscape: atolls, lagoons, beaches, mountains, rainforest||Eco Tour Operators|
|Activities: hiking, diving, snorkeling, wildlife watching, swimming, surfing, sailing|
Although most people think only of Tahiti and Bora Bora, French Polynesia is five separate regions encompassing 118 islands and atolls that cover an area as large as Europe. Rough beauty and cragged mountains await visitors in the remote Marquesas Islands, whereas the Tuamotus consist of flat atolls and attract mainly divers. The little visited Gambier Islands and Austral Islands are very different to the popular Society Islands, which include Bora Bora and the main island of Tahiti. But there’s one thing they all have in common — the friendliest people on Earth who are proud of their heritage and keep traditions and their native language alive!
TOP SPOTS IN FRENCH POLYNESIA
The biggest and most well-known island in French Polynesia, Tahiti is often neglected by visitors and only used as a gateway to the more undeveloped islands and atolls here. However the learned traveler knows that Tahiti has lots to offer, including bustling markets, world-class surfing, metropolitan culture and cuisine and unique natural attraction that are either not found or not accessible on the other islands.
- Tahiti's mountainous interior is filled with rivers, lakes, waterfalls and lush green rainforest
- On his Tahiti safari the owner of Tahiti Discovery Teiva takes you on a 4WD adventure into the heart of Tahiti
- Teahupoo beach is on Tahiti Iti's western shore and hosts a world-famous surf competition every year
- Teahupoo is a small village which comes alive when the waves get big and surfers flock to it from all over the world once a year
- The Municipal Market in Papeete offers arts, crafts and local produce
- Papeete is the capital city of Tahiti and like many other cities in the world: crowded and far from pretty
- A typical Tahitian evening feast at one of the countless roulottes aka food trucks sprouting out of the city's parking lots at night
Moorea, just next door to Tahiti, features a stunning landscape of steep, jagged mountain ridges, dense green foliage and a dazzling cerulean lagoon. Enjoy an incredible view of the island’s north coast from Belvedere Lookout, explore ancient temple ruins in the jungle, or visit small, local settlements. You can snorkel in the lagoon with cuddly stingrays or small black-tip reef sharks, or scuba dive just outside the reef with turtles, Napoleon wrasses and much larger sharks. And for those wanting to relax, there are a number of beaches to choose from. Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to try the super sweet, locally grown pineapple!
- Jagged mountains decorate Moorea's interior
- Temae beach is one of the two main public beaches and a favorite hangout for locals
- The northern coast of Moorea is home to big high-end resorts and their overwater bungalows
- The warm and crystal clean lagoon of Moorea invites snorkelers to get up close with curious stingrays as well as small and harmless black-tip reef sharks
- Outside the lagoon of Moorea, divers encounter largers sharks than inside the lagoon. Besides black-tip reef sharks, there are also gray reef sharks and lemon sharks around.
- View of Opunohu Bay, Mount Rotui and Cook Bay from Belvedere Lookout
- Hard to find, visitors to the waterfalls of Moorea should get good, local advice (and make sure it rained before, to see the water flowing)
- Moorea produces a super sweet pineapple that is mainly grown along the rugged road called "Route d'Ananas"
- Impressive historic religious sites, so-called maraes, can be found in the jungle next to the Belvedere Road on Moorea
Formerly a vacation place for the royal family of Tahiti, this small atoll that encompasses 12 pristine islands is absolutely breathtaking. Purchased by the late Marlon Brando in the 1960s after he filmed the Mutiny on the Bounty, it remains largely untouched. A birdlover’s paradise, you can also find the elusive coconut crab (large and strong enough to take off a finger if provoked) and whales passing by in season. Home to one of the last pristine old growth island forests in French Polynesia, you’ll also find countless empty sand beaches and a lagoon so blue you’ll have to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming.
- Aerial view of Tetiaroa
- Driftwood in the lagoon of Tetiaroa with its unbelievable hues of blue
- Thanks to the little development on the Tetiaroa, birds like this Frigate bird love the atoll
- Booby baby sitting in the low branches of trees on Motu Reiono
- The island of Reiono showcases one of the last few pristine rainforests in French Polynesia
- The elusive and super strong coconut crab can be found on Motu Reiono of Tetiaroa
- Tumi, Marlon Brando's grand daughter and Eric taking a mud bath at Motu Oroatera
- Tumi Brando is a typical Polynesian beauty
In contrast to the glitz and glamour you find on some of the more developed islands, only pure natural raw beauty awaits visitors in Huahine. Relatively void of large mega resorts, here you can get a taste of Polynesian life unspoiled by foreign influence. Whether you explore many ancient religious sites, get up close to sacred blue-eyed eels, find out how the locals still use ancient fish traps or just enjoy the simple life, this is a great island for those looking for a break from the tourist trail. Other options include a visit to a pearl farm or relaxing day on a deserted beach hunting for shells. Those looking for adventure (and danger) can grab a board and join the locals a surfing session out on the reef.
- View of Huahine's east coast
- The beach at Pointe Manua in the North of Huahine is a heaven for beachcombers
- Human sacrifices took place at Huahine Iti's most important religious site, Marae Anini, at least until the 19th century
- Sacred blue-eyed eels live in the river that runs through the village of Faie on Huahine
- Baie Bourayne is a deep inlet on Huahine's west coast
- The ancient fish straps built from stone are still in use at the village of Maeva in the north of Huahine Nui
- There is only one farm on Huahine which cultivates and sells the famous Tahitian black pearl, and it sits in the center of the lagoon near the village of Faie
- Dare-devil surfers heading out to Araara Pass which offers a dangerous reef break
The second largest of the Society Islands, Raiatea is mainly visited by vacationing sailors picking up their charter boats to explore Raiatea and the neighboring islands of Tahaa, Bora Bora and Huahine. That being said, this mountainous island has some pretty amazing attractions. Dive a 100-year-old wooden ship, explore the only navigable river in French Polynesia, or hike up the steep interior to find “crackling” flowers that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Or, enjoy a little downtime and kick back on one of the island’s white-sand-beach motus after snorkeling an oyster bed learning how this region produces some of the world’s best “black” pearls.
- The Apooiti Marina on Raiatea's north coast is home to sailboat charter operations Sunsail and Tahiti Yacht Charters
- Raiatea does not have countless of little motus aka islets, but the ones it's got are gorgeous; surrounded by sand beaches and covered in swaying palm trees
- The fadin light paints a colorful sky during rainy season in Raiatea
- Faaroa River, the only navigable river in French Polynesia will awaken the explorer in you
- The entrance to Faaroa River is lined by mangroves and palm trees
- Many locals use outrigger canoes to get around the island and love to cruise the wake of sailboats
- Most of the Raiatean population lives on the islands north coast. The steep interior is undeveloped and invites hikers to explore.
- After rain, the steep mountains of Raiatea are covered in countless, temporary waterfalls
- The famous Tahitian black pearl used to be cultivated all around Raiatea, but now there is only one farm left
- A steep, undeveloped interior awaits those daring to venture inland on Raiatea
- In the south of Raiatea one can find a temple complex with one of the most important maraes in the whole of Polynesia
- Encounterin dolphins is very common in the lagoon surrounding Raiatea
Tahaa is one of the best kept secrets in the whole of French Polynesia. Overlooked by many, if you can only visit one place in this region, this should be your first choice. You’ll find fragrant plantations with real Tahitian vanilla and a pearl farm that cultivates its pearls in the lagoon. A traditional tattoo artist can give you a memory of a lifetime, and a local restaurant offers a unique Polynesian evening with local dishes cooked in an earthen oven, authentic local music and plenty of dancing. When it’s time to relax from all this sensory overload, you can hang out on one of the countless deserted motus or snorkel one of the best coral gardens in the region.
- One of countless desert islets surrounding the lagoon of Tahaa
- Champon Pearl Farm has the biggest selection of loose pearls we've seen in French Polynesia
- Tahaa's coral garden is the best in French Polynesia for snorklers and offers myriads of fish and colorful coral
- Le Ficus restaurant offers its guests traditional food cooked in an earth oven and authentic Polynesian music and dancing
- The tattoo artist Tavita makes body art the traditional way with carved boar bones and nut ink
- Tahaa is French Polynesia's major vanilla producer and visitors can experience a plantation, its unique smell and the final products at La Vallée de la Vanille
- Tahaa offers undoubtedly the best view of Bora Bora
Hearing the words “Bora Bora” often conjures up images of overwater bungalows, blue lagoons and, well, paradise. All true; but the island offers much more, even for those adventurous types. Take a wild ride up a crazy rutted mountain road to visit huge cannons that were installed here during WWII and catch an amazing view of the island and surrounding lagoon, grab a guide and hike the lush interior and iconic volcanic peaks that are the center piece of this island paradise, try your luck and dive for your own pearls at a local pearl farm, snorkel with sting rays and black tip sharks or dive with manta rays and sea turtles.
- The main island of Bora Bora
- Aerial view of Bora Bora shows how shallow some parts of the lagoon are
- The best beaches on Bora Bora can be found on the motus aka islets along the coral reef ring
- Inside the lagoon of Bora Bora snorkelers can swim with stingrays and black-tip reef sharks
- Colorful fish, plenty of hard coral and sharks can be seen when diving around Bora Bora's outer reef
- Toopua dive site in the lagoon offers spectactular encounters with eagle rays that dance in the current
- Black-tip reef shark are ubiquitous in the waters of Bora Bora and French Polynesia in general, both inside and outside the lagoons
- Elusive manta rays can be found off Pointe Tuiahora on Bora Bora's east coast
- Seven of the original eight cannons from world war II can still be found in strategic points on Bora Bora
- Mont Popoti lookout offers one of the best vistas on the island
- The neighboring island of Tahaa offers some great views of nearby Bora Bora
- For those that don't just want to buy a pearl in a store, but find their own, The Farm on Bora Bora has a special offer
- Micha's pearl catch of the day after diving at The Farm of the Bora Pearl Company
- Decisions, decisions at The Farm on Bora Bora ... which oyster carries the most beautiful pearl?
- The moment of truth: a grafter opens up the chosen oyster at The Farm and uncovers the pearl within
- Micha's uncovered jewel of the sea in all its glory at The Farm on Bora Bora
If you would like to totally relax and unwind, look no further than the atoll of Tikehau. This is the perfect place for those looking to explore countless (sometimes pink) beaches. If you dive, you have found heaven on Earth. The lagoon offers unique manta ray encounters and the only pass in this magnificent atoll will thrill you with healthy, beautiful, colorful hard coral and amazing marine wildlife, such as turtles, stone fish, moray eels and huge schools of fish and sharks.
- An aerial view of Tikehau's small motus aka islets on top of the coral ring that forms the atoll
- Mostly deserted, the palm-lined beaches on Tikehau invite visitors to unwind and relax
- Tikehau has numerous pink sand beaches along it's southwestern edge
- Tikehau offers world class diving which includes regular shark encounters
- The waters around Tikehau beam with fish and schools can reach huge sizes
- The only major settlement, Tuherahera village is home to most of the only 500 inhabitants of Tikehau
One of the world’s largest atolls, Rangiroa is not more than a ring of coral reef islets covered in a thin veneer of sand and palm trees. If you look closer, you’ll see the stunning beauty of its beaches and the laid-back lifestyle of its small population that occupies only two of the more than 400 islands here. If you snorkel or dive, you’ll enter a magical world underwater. Beautiful hard coral and big fish including plenty of sharks of numerous species make every underwater exploration an adventure, especially in the two passes that feed and drain the lagoon. No surprise Rangiroa is touted as one of the best dive sites in the world.
- The Blue Lagoon of Rangiroa is a lagoon in a lagoon that impresses with countless hues of blue and sandy beaches lined with swaying palm trees
- One of two major passes on Rangiroa, Tiputa welcomes visitors arriving by ship with an unbelievable array of blues
- Healthy hard coral covers Tiputa Reef, which is a prime diving alternative when the current in the pass doesn't allow for diving through it
- Even when diving at great depth, the crystal clear waters around Rangiroa let the sun come through
- Different varieties of sharks, dolphins, napolean wrasses, manta rays and barracudas frequent the dive sites of Rangiroa
- Only two of Rangiroa's over 400 islets are populated, but even these are very quiet
- Kids playing at the boat dock after their schoolboat dropped them off
- Local guys training in the evening for their next outrigger canoe competition
The world’s third biggest atoll, Fakarava is a haven for beach bums and divers. The former will find countless deserted beaches with fine, white sand and swaying palm trees, whereas the latter will be amazed by the wonders of the underwater world here. Diving the passes will treat you to dozens of gray, white tip, black tip and elusive hammerhead sharks, as well as incredible coral gardens, huge schools of fish and manta rays.
- On Fakarava, countless islands with sandy beaches and swaying palm trees circle the third largest lagoon of the world
- World famous dive sites attract underwater enthusiasts to Fakarava
- Longfin bannerfish are just one of the huge variety of species one can find in the waters of Fakarava
- The hard coral in Fakarava is in great condition and offers exciting dives even when the bigger fish take a break
- Jean-Michel Cousteau, the son of the inventor of recreational diving Jacques Cousteau, loves the variety of marine flora and fauna in Fakarava