French Polynesia Islands Guide 2023
French Polynesia islands - which one to choose for your next vacation in 2023? Here is our review with recommended activities, landmarks and other essencial information!
French Polynesia Island - Bora Bora
Bora Bora, a small South Pacific French Polynesia island,is located northwest of its' sister island Tahiti. Surrounded by sand-fringed islets, soft and blindingly white sand and sparkling turquoise waters, it sure is a traveller's paradise, especially when it comes to scuba diving. Not only is Bora Bora perfect for enjoying some of your favourite activities, it also plays an important part in being one of the most popular luxury destinations in the world packed with world-class hotels and resorts, exclusive bungalows and VIP villas.
Bora Bora, a romantic French Polynesia island, may seem like worlds away, but this incredible splendor is reachable from anywhere in the world. Just be prepared to spend more hours than usual on a plane and between the airports. The welcoming unrivalled beauty of this island will blow your mind and will make your fatigue from travelling disappear.
Bora Bora, the jewel of the south seas, has got a lot of what's missing in many other vacation destination places. It is acclaimed as the most popular and by far one of the best honeymoon places, where newlyweds and their guests will be treated like royalty and will feel like they have made the ultimate escape to the tropical retreat.
Getting to Bora Bora is relatively easy. Although you should expect some extra hours of travel time, once you land on the local soil of French Polynesia you will be caught off guard with its exquisite natural beauty, dreamy sunsets, emerald waters and flawless coastlines. The only international airport in French Polynesia is located in Papeete on Tahiti, the other French Polynesia island, and is called Faa'a International Airport. Flight time between Tahiti and Bora Bora is relatively short at approximately 45 minutes and there are 4-6 daily flights available for your convenience. Direct as well as connecting flights to French Polynesia are available from several points in the world such as Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, Auckland, Easter Island and Honolulu. All of these international flights arrive in Papeete, after which you may either take an inter-island flight to Bora Bora or begin your island-hopping adventure.
Weather in Bora Bora is the same as in the rest of the country. And although there is a high and a low season, the weather stays fairly enjoyable throughout the year. Expect to see a difference of 2-3 degrees between the peak and the low seasons, but generally the weather is nice and hot during the winter months at 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) and by the time May hits the French Polynesia islands, the weather cools down to 27-28 degrees Celsius (80-82 degrees Fahrenheit). Although hurricanes are not a danger in French Polynesia, expect to see some heavy rainfall during the end of the summer and fall months. Bora Bora can be enjoyed throughout the entire year, so start looking for best deals and be on your way.
Bora Bora is a secluded, quiet French Polynesia island, and the inevitable love affair you feel will begin before you touch down on the local soil. Once your plane starts to descent, grab a camera and snap a few shots of the iconic Mount Otemanu with its highest peak at 727 meters (2,385 feet). The mountain is surrounded by coral reefs and offers an amazing scenic view to capture. The west side of Bora Bora is wrapped by a lagoon in which smaller islands such as Toopua and Toopua Iti protect the harbour that is frequented by yachtsmen.Mount Otemanu
The island's name in Tahitian language is PoraPora, meaning "First Born". Tourism is Bora Bora's main economic activity and the primary export items are vanilla, fish, pearls, mother-of-pearl shells and copra. There are no poisonous insects or snakes in Bora Bora and you can sleep on the beach without worrying about a snake bite or attack from other animals/insects. Although you are in no danger when it comes to snakes, centipedes or other unwelcome insects be sure to watch out for the annoying mosquitoes and apply bug repellant spray during the evening hours.
Immerse yourself in the luxury of Bora Bora's most magnificent and fancy hotels and resorts boasting with gracious service, fine dining and superb on-site amenities. Rooms, suites and separate huts have all the necessary appliances and provide an ideal romantic getaway while overlooking the ocean.
Bora Bora has become one of the most popular destinations in the world thanks to its overwater bungalows that lavishly float on the water. Some of them even have a glass floor, perfect for observing the lagoon life below. Although Bora Bora's prices are at the top of the pyramid compared to other tropical destinations, you can still score a few good deals on airfare and accommodations if you travel during the low season. Budget-planners will have a choice between small inns, family-owned hotels or guesthouses that are much more affordable yet still provide signature service, amenities, pristine beaches as well as off-site tours and activities.
Although most resorts and hotels in Bora Bora are built on their own tiny islands and are accessible by a boat transfer only, you will hardly want to leave your bungalow or a resort. Whether you are enjoying the amazing panoramic views, lounging on your own private deck, receiving room service on a canoe or indulging in a rejuvenating spa treatment, your time will pass in total privacy and pleasure. No matter where your choice of accommodation will lead you, you will vacation in an opulent luxury on this gorgeous French Polynesia island.
Another wonderful thing about staying in Bora Bora is that you can enjoy an enormous variety of activities as well as stay inactive and enjoy the sun-rays on the beach. Since water is a way of life on this French Polynesia island, various amazingly fun water sport activities are available to engage in.
Lagoons in Bora Bora offer incredible experiences in snorkeling, parasailing, scuba diving, boat cruising, paddle boarding, deep sea fishing, kite surfing, jet skiing and sailing. For a more breathtaking experience, visit the Bora Bora Lagoonarium, located on the east side on the private motu (island). The waters in the Lagoonarium are pleasantly warm and quite shallow, allowing families with kids to enjoy their outings here as well. You may watch the marine life right from the shore, or those who are more courageous can swim with the turtles and rays enjoying the underwater marine life. Local guides can show you an array of colourful fish and teach you a few interesting facts about the Lagoonarium itself.
Join a professional hike to Mount Pahia or Mount Otemanu but be careful on the sudden turns, rough and rocky spots and cliffs that can be dangerous. Taking a hike alone might not be a good idea but travelling with a group of other tourists accompanied by a knowledgeable tour guide will help you fully enjoy the day out on this French Polynesia island.
Stargazing and helicopter tours are also at your service. Here you will enjoy the magnificent surrounding views from up above as well as contemplate on the stars magically appearing and disapearing right before your eyes. Stargazing tours can consist of no more than 12 people and are done quietly. Such tour might not be a fun activity for the small children, so once you arrive there, choose a quiet spot and let the enjoyment of the night begin.
Faanui Bay will be attractive to anybody interested in its historic facts about the remains of the US Army Naval Base that were built in 1942, while Matira Beach offers a unique opportunity to enjoy the clearest tropical blue seas, the most beautiful beach and brilliantly colored coral reefs and coral walls below the waters. You may always combine this beach experience with one of the 4WD and Off-Road Adventures. After a good rejuvenating swim you may circle the French Polynesia island on a set of wheels.
Those that come to Bora Bora, do not come here for city life. Enjoying the seclusion and privacy even in the largest towns on the island is sure to give your vacation a positive boost. Vaitape is the largest city in Bora Bora. Although it is relatively small and consists of only a few blocks within the entire town, it has a beautifully designed Church, a couple of restaurants, a grocery store, a car rental shop, and several souvenir shops along with roadside stands with food and souvenir items. Aside from shopping and touring the island you may also take a few local excursions or take part in water activities. Take a load of pictures, it is an adventure to remember!
A couple of other best things to do in Bora Bora that you definitely would want to try is snorkeling in the Coral Gardens as well as visiting a motu (a small islet surrounded by the sapphire-blue waters of the lagoon). Once you discover the underwater life of the Coral Gardens you will wish you have come here sooner. Visiting a Motu is another great thing to do in Bora Bora; however, they are all privately owned, so if you are looking to spend a few hours picnicking on one, arrange an official tour to bring you there by boat.
Whatever inspires you to visit Bora Bora, your experience will exceed even the highest expectations. Love, live and travel to the most spectacular secluded paradise offering more than just a perfect vacation!
French Polynesia island - Moorea
Moorea, a South Pacific French Polynesia island, is another traveller's paradise full of jagged volcanic mountains, magnificent beaches, world-class resorts and scenically striking small islands wrapped by the sparkling turquoise waters of the lagoons. Despite Moorea's popularity, this small island has managed to maintain its' small island feel full of the relaxed vibe and welcoming spirit. Moorea is easily accessible by a ferry or a plane from Papeete and serves as a geographical marvel with its' proper location surrounded by mysterious local beauty, privacy yet offering great entertainment.
Moorea, a colourful, flowered and radiant French Polynesia island, is also voted as one of the top honeymoon destinations in French Polynesia, second to Bora Bora with 8 mountain peaks, luscious rainforests and the opulent beauty of endless coastlines.
There is definitely an adventure waiting to happen when you visit Moorea, so pack a couple of comfortable footwear items, a lot of sunscreen, water and be on your way to the exclusive island discoveries. Many tattoo artists, carvers, jewellers and painters live in Moorea. While enjoying the indescribable views, they also find an incredible source of inspiration in the surreal beauty of Moorea.
What you will find impressive when staying in Moorea is its graciously standing mountains. With 8 summits featuring a magnificent ancient volcanic crater which has now become a lush valley, the areas are ideal for hiking, horseback riding, sightseeing or even exploring the area on a 4-wheeler. Mt. Rotui, for example, overlooks the picturesque Opunohu Bay that offers the most mesmerizing views of Mount Tohiea and lets you completely revitalize on its stunning flawless beaches.
At about 207 square km (80 square miles) Moorea's population (as of 2017) is no more than 16,000 residents. Moorea is not your average urban center but rather has multiple small, simple villages such as PaoPao and Haapiti that are located along the island's underdeveloped shores. If you are on the adventure circling this French Polynesia island solo without a tour guide, stop at some of these homey villages to taste the natural, locally grown or hand-made Polynesian products such as mango and passion fruits jams, pineapple and coconut-flavoured liqueurs and other fresh-from-the-farm delicacies.
Moorea, a truly magical French Polynesia island has lovely beaches, most stunning panoramas in the South Pacific and vast and fabulously lush interior including the Opunohu Valley, located within the Opunohu Bay, filled with every tropical plant and fruit ever imaginable. It is a true haven for divers who love to discover a variety of coral reefs and colourful eco-system under the heavenly waters of Moorea.
Moorea is one of the best French Polynesia islands for adventure and activities both on land and the water. Not only ideal for honemooners but for families with kids. Many resorts and hotels offer kid friendly programs on their premises, kidss clubs and a number of amenities suitable for children any age.
A number of lodging opportunities are available throughout the island. You may choose between world-class hotels and resorts, over-the-water bungalows, accommodation that attracts many tourists and visitors alike, family-run inns tucked away in privacy and offering fantastically breathtaking island views, boutique properties and private guesthouses known as pensions. This diverse selection of fancy places to stay during your vacation all offer impeccable service, fine dining opportunities, fun and engaging water sport activities, tours, excursions and other things to do. And if you are looking for a more unusual way to vacation on a French Polynesia island, you may also spread out a tent and enjoy the intimacy of Moorea all on your own.
Weather in Moorea is hot throughout the entire year. June to October is considered a high season with temperatures clocking in at 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), while the low season from November to May offers slightly lower numbers at 27-28 degrees Celsius (80-82 degrees Fahrenheit). Hurricanes are not something to be afraid of if you are touring in the high season; however, June through October is considered a rainy season, so expect a few rainfalls during this time.
There are so many amazing things to do while staying in Moorea, we are afraid even 14 days of vacation might not be enough. But if you do come to the French Polynesia island of Moorea, dare to stop at some of the most popular places to enjoy lagoon excursions such as jetskiing, snorkeling, ray feeding and of course a picnic on one of the motus graciously hugged by the lagoon. While scuba diving or snorkeling, you might encounter stingrays, sharks and marine turtles.
August through October is a whale mating season, so we highly recommend taking a whale watching tour. Moorea Dolphin Center will also offer you an incredible experience with swimming and interacting with the dolphins. Remember to take a few close-up shots, you will thank yourself that you did.
You will also find a variety of hiking trails perfect for any type of hiker. Whether you are a casual walker, an intermediate or an advanced hiker, the mountain paths will lead you to the most amazing places offering the best panoramic views of the French Polynesia island. Do not forget to pack a water bottle, you sure will want to quench your thirst after an intensive hiking trip.
Discovering Moorea by land is also a perfect thing to do during your vacation. You will uncover the quaint villages located on the waterfront near the powder-white sand beaches as well as abundant pineapple plantations. It's super easy to rent a vehicle and drive around the island for more discoveries. This will allow you to see a lot of local landmarks in the comfort of your own car at your own pace. You may also explore the scenic hillsides by renting out 4WD, ATV or a jeep. But if you prefer touring by foot, the option is always available.
Roadster rentals are a great way to explore the French Polynesia island at your own speed. You will have a selection of vehicles to choose from including F16 with 600ccs and a mini-jeep that have removable roofs ideal for soaking up the sun and the tropical breeze during your ride. This activity might sound extreme, but you will be delighted once you tour the island and gather a lot of unforgettable sightseeing experience.
If you enjoy history and gorgeous local vastnesses, visit Opunohu Bay in Moorea, a simply breathtaking bay praised by all visitors. It is a straight, somewhat narrow bay that stretches 3 kilometres ahead where a numerous amount of sailboats enter the bay daily. If you are staying in one of the nearby villas, you will definitely be able to observe dolphins, playfully swimming in the waters of the bay. To grasp the best of the bay's water, take a Kayak tour early in the morning. The waters of the bay resemble an undisturbed lake, allowing you to relax in peace and quiet.
Once you reach Opunohu Bay you will be able to see Mt. Tohivea, Moorea's highest mountain located just south. Opunohu Bay is famous among the tourists, some of them come here to experience the history behind this popular landmark, where Captain Cook's historical settlements of his search for fruit trees back in 1777 are found, while others pass the bay to go directly to Papetoai situated to the west of the bay that is perfect for all your shopping needs.
Opunohu Bay is located about 32 km (20 miles) from Papeete, the country's capital, and it is easily reachable if you either land in Moorea's domestic airport (also known as Temae Airport due to its' location near the local Temae village) or arrive in Moorea by a ferry. Flight time between Papeete and Moorea is no more than 10 minutes and flights conveniently depart every half hour. If you are arriving in Moorea by a way of a ferry, that normally takes 40 minutes one way, you would be driving westbound towards Opunohu Bay for the best experience.
The iconic viewpoint of Belvedere Overlook is a definite attraction to visit on this French Polynesia island. Contemplate and enjoy the sweeping views of two of Moorea's massive side-by-side bays-Cook Bay and Opunohu Bay. Magical Mountain, one of the 8 voluminous peaks offers a grand view of the entire island, many motus, Tahiti and the massive surrounding peaks Like Mt. Rotui as well as the highest point of a mountain ever found on the island of Moorea - Mt. Tohivea.
Afareaitu Waterfalls, a significant landmark in Moorea is a must visit attraction during your vacation. Afareaitu Waterfalls are accessed through a 20-30 minute relaxing hike through the lush jungle landscape and serve as an ideal place to swim and rejuvenate in the clearest waters of the falls.
Temae Beach is a great spot for surfers, snorkelers and regular swimmers. The soft and blindingly white sand, the warm tropical sunrays and the pleasant breeze will make you want to fall asleep for hours. This area is also frequented by kitesurfers, so once awake you may watch these sportsmen bravely cut through the waves. Since a resort is located nearby, this beach might not be as relaxing for those seeking total seclusion. But if you do not mind a few other tourists sharing the beach with you, then let the local surroundings dip you in the world of tropical ambiance and euphoria.
For the active travellers, a hiking to the Three-Coconuts Pass is also there for discover. It is one of the most popular hiking trails overlooking the sweeping views of the most famous Moorea's landmarks such as Opunohu Valley, Opunohu Bay, Mount Tohivea, Cook's Bay, Mount Rotui and other French Polynesia island's major mountain peaks. This is not an easy hike, so be ready to experience heat, humidity, sudden cliffs as well as understanding the unique route markers. However, when you reach the top, it will be a truly rewarding experience.
Tiki Village will offer you a more cultural and ancient Tahitian experience. Here you will be able to see how to make heis (flower crowns), learn about Tahitian tattooing, carving and much more. You will also be offered an amazing opportunity to watch the traditional Polynesian dance as well as have a feast sampling some of the finest local specialties.
For more water fun and interesting discoveries visit Moorea's Lagoonarium located on a small island called Motu Ahi. An array of colourful fish, sea turtles, rays and much more will make your day at the Lagoonarium very memorable.
Moorea portrays the unique Polynesian charm and ambiance, and once you step your foot on the French Polynesia island you will discover the unmatched world of enchantment where it is undeniably easy to capture the island's beauty and serenity.
French Polynesia island - Tahiti
Tahiti is the largest island in French Polynesia. It prides itself with beautiful lagoons, black-sand beaches and 2 extinct volcanoes. Tahiti is divided into 2 regions, the western section named Tahiti Nui that is considered the largest out of the two and the eastern peninsula called Tahiti Iti. Tahiti Nui is also highly populated especially in the areas close to the capital Papeete. Tahiti Iti was and continues to be isolated, and its southeastern part is only accessible by either a boat or by foot. Tourists that do decide to travel here will be amazed at the main road that cuts between the local mountainous prairies and the sea. This is one of the most romantic spots for adventurous couples to enjoy the tunes of the nature, scenic and winding roads, lush rainforests, rivers, waterfalls and total tropical tranquility.
The French Polynesia island of Tahiti is located 4,400 kilometres (2,734 miles) south of Hawaii and 7,900 km (4,908 miles) from Chile. It was formed from volcanic activity making it mountainous surrounded with coral reefs and luscious vegetation. Tahiti, that was previously known as Otaheite, had a population of 189,517 inhabitants as of 2017 census, making this island the most populous region in French Polynesia.
Getting to Tahiti could not be easier, as all visitors that arrive in French Polynesia land in the capital’s airport namely Fa'a'a International Airport located only 5 km (3 miles) southwest from Papeete. All international flights land in Papeete’s airport while local airlines carry flights to other island domestically. Flights to Tahiti are available from various parts of the world, including Los Angeles, New York, Honolulu (Hawaii), Aukland, Easter Island or Santiago. For passengers coming from other corners of the world will need to take transfers in the United States or New Zealand to fly direct.
It is easy to get to Tahiti but even easier to get around the island as city buses are available for tourists’ convenience. Fares are very inexpensive and service is always reliable and fast. Although public transportation is available, scooters and rental vehicles still take the lead in touring around the island. Rental cars are an amazing choice to see the French Polynesia island at your own speed, but if you decide to rent a scooter, be prepared to know the road rules, as sudden turns, other drivers or poor visibility at night that can cause an accident.
The official languages of Tahiti are French and Tahitian. And even though French is always used in schools, government operations and business dealings, at home, local residents prefer to communicate in their native Polynesian language-Tahitian. English is also spoken on the island, but only in the tourist concentrated areas such as resorts, hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. Although a lot of visitors to the French Polynesia island are French, all staff members in the tourist regions of Tahiti understand and speak English for the accommodation of their English-speaking guests. People in Tahiti are the most hospitable and friendly people you would ever come across. Always willing to give a helping hand or just provide some valuable information about Tahiti.
The predominant religion in Tahiti is Christianity; however, about 30% of local residents belong to various religious Roman Catholic groups. There are other religious faiths that are practiced here, but they consist of a very small percentage of residents.
There are many world wonders to see while staying in Tahiti. Papenoo River, for example, located on the north side of Tahiti is a gorgeously flowing river, 32 km (20 miles) long and 10 foot (3 meters) wide. The river collects snow melting from the nearby Mont Orohena. As it flows north it collects more and more snow melt, and by the time it reaches the Tahiti Freeway, it becomes a 20 foot (6 meters) wide river.
Fautaua Valley is another mesmerizing spot to enjoy on the French Polynesia island of Tahiti. Located near the capital city of Papeete, this waterfall flows down the mountainside into a shallow bathing pool called Loti Bain. Fautaua Valley is considered as 28th highest waterfall in the entire world. The falls are accessible by tourists as well as hikers, but if you are seriously considering the trip, you will be required to obtain an access permit. Hikes normally take 3-6 hours, depending on the route you take, so pack plenty of water, comfortable shoes, sunscreen and a hat, you will be glad you did. After an intensive hike to the falls, relax by the waters and enjoy the surreal beauty of the surrounding nature.
Tahiti’s vibrant and multicultural capital city Papeete is located on the northwest coast of the island. Papeete is the centre for all government, political, industrial, commercial, financial services and media gatherings.
Downtown municipal market Le Marche is a very exciting place to purchase all things Tahiti is famous for including monoi oil, colourful pareos and vanilla beans. Just around the corner at Le Centre Vaima is the famous Robert Wan Pearl Museum. Finding real pearls is rare nowdays, as most pearls are cultured. So if you plan on bringing home some of the most stunning Tahitian black pearls, Le Centre Vaima is the perfect place to start your search for this type of jewels.
To breathe in the local atmosphere, head over to the Vai'ete Square. After the sunset, this waterfront promenade comes to life. Here you are able to sample all kinds of traditional and international dishes such as Chinese food, steak frites, French Crepes and other fresh delicacies.
Some of the most popular historical landmarks that every tourist will be eager to visit он тчис French Polynesia island are the Harrison Smith Botanical Gardens, the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands and the house of James Normal Hall. You may visit these magnificent places either by taking a guided tour or explore the island at your own speed by renting a vehicle or hiring one of the locals to show you around.
Beyond the city’s busy life, Tahiti, a scenic island also offers lush landscapes and the most breathtaking waterfalls. We suggest to leave the developed and highly inhabited areas behind and explore the long hiking trails, secluded powder-white sand beaches and the clearest, turquoise waters.
Whether you arrive to Tahiti for business or pleasure you will find an array of the most luxurious accommodation options to make your stay on the French Polynesia island exceptional. A symbol of romance and private retreat, the dreamy overwater bungalows perched over blue lagoons provide a top-notch experience for couples, families with kids and groups of friends. Nothing can be more charming than enjoying your time in a thatched hut, built on stilts over water. Some of these overwater bungalows have glass bottom floors, so you are able to contemplate on the beautiful marine life right from the comfort of your room.
Although overwater bungalows are a huge hit in Tahiti, most resorts offer their guests options of shore-side or garden bungalows as well. These type of huts are slightly less expensive in price yet still surround you with the most beautiful local nature.
If you long for a more secluded vacation, small inns, room rentals and small resorts located on the remote parts of Tahiti are all at your service. Although French Polynesia is viewed as one of the most expensive places in the world for a perfect getaway, if you scroll past the luxurious, first-class resorts you will be able to find lodging more suitable for your budget. Keep in mind, that even though you might save a buck or two on the room, these places do not provide meals and/or amenities. If you plan on touring the island, it is a good idea to rent a car and explore the famous landmarks either on your own or with a tour guide. Some of the less upscale hotels still offer marvellous service, on-site amenities, plunge pools and long terraces perfect for night or morning walks.
Once you land in Tahiti you will experience a totally different world of euphoria. Together with total relaxation there are a variety of things to do to keep you busy during your sunny, tropical getaway. Jeep Safari Tours are a great way to travel through the island. These trips are all accompanied by a tour guide and will give you a great perspective on the famous landmarks within the island. Water activities such as Dolphin and Whale Watching, Sunset Cruises, Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, jetskiing, surfing and Paddleboarding are all available for the tourists to enjoy.
Arahoho Blowhole is another example of the local landmark. While having a picnic you can see the fresh, clear water splashing from a hole. For a little bit of history, visit Point Venus, located along the northern coastlines of the French Polynesia island. Definitely pay a visit to Maraa Grotto. Surrounded by lush tropical landscapes, this grotto is great for enjoying a day out. Punaauia Beach is a perfect choice for those wanting to enjoy some of the water sports along with a little lounge on the while sand beach. To'ota Square, a place for all of the local cultural gatherings serves as the hot spot among locals for gatherings, chatting, watching concerts and festivals.
Visiting Tomb of King Pomare V will give you a great insight on how the French Polynesia island of Tahiti originated while Cathedrale de L'Immaculee a breathtaking historic architecture will allow you to admire the indescribable artwork on the Cathedral’s walls and ceiling.
How much time you decide to spend in Tahiti is totally up to you, but definitely give yourself that unique chance to see and experience everything the island has to offer, beyond the view from the plane. We guarantee the memories you get from your Tahitian trip will last you a lifetime.