Introducing French Polynesia
Sculpted by sky-piercing, moss-green peaks and lined with vivid turquoise lagoons, sultry French Polynesia is a place to take it slow and experience warm, laid-back island chic.
Tahiti: just the word conjures up centuries’ worth of images: hibiscus flowers; svelte, bronzed dancers in grass skirts; a humid breeze over turquoise sea. The islands of French Polynesia became legends the minute the first European explorers reached their home shores with tales of a heaven on earth where the soil was fertile, life was simple, and sex was plentiful and guilt-free. While the lingering hype is outdated, French Polynesia is still about as dreamy as reality gets. The trees are still heavy with fruit, the mountains rise as majestically as ever and the lagoons are just as blue. Today, however, there are freeways, Christianity has instilled more conservative values and people work nine-to-five jobs. French Polynesia has not escaped the modern world but embraced it. True, it’s not the perfect, untainted paradise of explorer lore, but at least there’s a pretty fast internet connection.
While there are plenty of slim stretches of white-, pink- and black-sand beaches in French Polynesia, they are just pretty springboards into the real draw: the lagoons. Most high islands are surrounded by fringing reef that creates a protected swimming pool of the most intense hue of aqua imaginable. Coral atolls have this same calibre of lagoon minus the big clunky island in the middle. Fish, dolphins, rays, sharks, turtles and more inhabit these clear-water coral gardens that are as excellent for snorkelling as they are for diving and swimming. Surfers ride glassy wave faces at reef passes while kitesurfers and windsurfers fly across the water terrain with the trade winds.
To Luxe or Not to Luxe
Over-the-top indulgence has become French Polynesia’s – or more specifically Bora Bora’s – signature, and often overshadows what the rest of the country has to offer. Resorts on the ‘Pearl of the Pacific’ are a honeymooner’s dream, with private overwater bungalows, every luxury trapping and spectacular views of the island’s iconic, square-topped peak. But if this isn’t your cup of coconut water, or simply not in your budget, don’t let that dissuade you from visiting French Polynesia. Small, family-run hotels and bed and breakfasts offer a closer-to-the-culture experience at prices that require a financial output similar to what you’d need for a midrange trip to Europe.
Best places to stay in Tahiti & French Polynesia
Tahiti & French Polynesia travel guide
Sculpted with sky-piercing, moss-green peaks and vivid turquoise lagoons, sultry French Polynesia is a place to take it slow and experience warm, laid-back islands.
The calm before (and during) the holiday storm
If when people sing 'Oh ho, the mistletoe…' you hear 'uh oh, the stress and woe…', then you need an injection of calm this holiday season. Stress and anxiety can ruin yuletide festivities, but rest assured, there are ways to embrace the insanity – in fact, every global culture has methods of keeping cool in tense times.
South Pacific travel guide
The South Pacific isn't just a homogenous spread of palm trees and warm ocean - escape your resort and you'll find cultures and experiences as rich as coconut cream.
This probably isn’t the island whose photograph was on your holiday brochure.
The next food trends predicted by travel writers
Climb aboard the food trend train: what’s cool today will be passé tomorrow. New food trends arrive on the scene every year, whether you’re ready for them or not.
South Pacific phrasebook
OK, so you can get around on lots of the Pacific islands with just English or French, but pack a little of the local languages and you'll be able to go beyond the 'one umbrella or two?'. Covers Fijian, Hawaiian, Maori, Samoan, Tahitian, Tongan and more
Bora Bora Snorkel, Sharkfeeding and Lagoonarium Full-Day Tour including Picnic Lunch
A snorkeler's delight! Travel by motorized canoe through the pristine clear waters of Bora Bora and encounter some of the marine life; sharks, rays, turtles and schools of tropical colored fish. Enjoy a scrumptious picnic lunch while admiring the beautiful scenery, from dazzling white beaches to the majestic mountains that Bora Bora so splendidly affords.
Papeete Inner Island Full-Day Jeep Safari
Discover the best of Papeete on this full-day 4WD safari adventure. You'll travel through almost impenetrable rainforest to discover some of the jewels of Tahiti. This is a rare opportunity to see the places where most tourists cannot gain access. Experience the untouched majestic beauty of Papeete and uncover archeological sites on this full-day jeep safari tour.
How to choose a South Pacific island
The South Pacific confounds even the savviest map buffs with its splatter of dots spread across the world's biggest ocean. What you can't tell from a map, or even most tourist brochures is that these palm-laden pinpricks are as diverse as the region is vast.
Sights in French Polynesia
Activities in French Polynesia
Tours in French Polynesia
Restaurants in French Polynesia
Budget hotels & hostels
Guesthouses and B&Bs
Bora Bora) will seduce you into buying the Cadillac of paradises, the one loaded with all the luxury trappings you know you don't need but just can't live without.