Diving, Snorkelling & Wildlife-Watching
Been searching for the world’s most intense shade of aqua? What’s below the surface is even more spectacular: sharks, coral gardens, turtles, rays, dolphins, humpback whales, clouds of fish...
- Tiputa Pass, Rangiroa It’s shark week! Or more like shark century. This is French Polynesia’s fauna-heavy diving capital.
- Manta Point, Maupiti A manta-ray cleaning station makes sightings likely, but human crowds are rare.
- Rurutu Spot humpbacks breaching near your boat.
- Mo’orea Dolphins, whales, stingrays and sharks all star in a particularly stunning lagoon.
- Fakarava Dive in a Unesco biosphere reserve in and around the country’s second largest lagoon.
- Motu Tau Tau,Taha'a Some of the best coral gardens for snorkelling in the high islands.
Live la vie en bleu while lounging lagoon- or poolside with exotic cocktails, soaking in tropical flower–filled baths or getting your muscles soothed with hot volcanic stones.
- The Brando, Tahiti On stunning, deserted Tetiaroa atoll, offers the highest level of eco-opulence.
- St Regis Resort, Bora Bora Overwater-bungalow bliss and a full-throttle celebrity magnet.
- Le Taha’a Private Island & Spa, Taha’a Offers glamour, luxe and views of Bora Bora minus the hype.
- Sofitel Ia Ora Moorea Beach Resort, Mo'orea Chic decadence and chock-full of activities.
- Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort, Tikehau Get your spa treatments in a remote paradise worthy of an adventure novel.
- Kia Ora Resort & Spa, Rangiroa Lets you lounge near town or whisks you to a Crusoe-chic private island.
History & Archaeology
Spirituality has always been paramount to Polynesian people and the historical vestiges you’ll find in the islands are testament to this. Stone temples and Europe-worthy churches are highlights.
- Marae Taputapuatea, Ra’iatea Arguably the most important ancient Polynesian place of worship in the world.
- Opunohu Valley, Mo’orea Tumbled remains of archery platforms, dwellings and temples wend up a jungle hill.
- Cathedral & Churches, Gambier Archipelago In the 1880s, Father Honoré Laval led islanders to build coral block churches that seat thousands.
- Kamuihei & Tahakia & Teiipoka, Nuku Hiva Villages of stone rubble shaded by grand banyan trees.
- Iipona, Hiva Oa Five impressive stone tiki dominate this well-preserved site.
- Maeva, Huahine Walk along the lagoon and up the hill through the remains of this ancient village.
Hiking & Walking
Imagine waterfalls tumbling down fern-carpeted basalt cliffs, wild passionfruit vines draped over beach hibiscus trees, and dark caves, each with an ancient legend. Choose from short walks through botanical gardens to multiday treks far from the modern world.
- Te Pari & Fenua Aihere, Tahiti Coastal trail of waterfalls, caves, petroglyphs and leaping dolphins.
- Vaipahi Spring Gardens, Tahiti Stroll the waterfall gardens or trek up the hill through chestnut trees.
- Opunohu Valley Loop, Mo’orea From a lush valley, through archaeological sites to one of the most spectacular viewpoints in the country.
- Temehani Plateau, Ra’iatea Hike this high plateau in search of the tiare apetahi, one of the planet’s most rarest flowers.
- Nuku Hiva An island with a myriad spectacular treks along ridges, into waterfall valleys and along the coast.
- Papenoo Valley, Tahiti Delve into the deep, lush interior of Tahiti with archaeological remains and myriad trails.
Art, Music & Dance
Hips that move like rippling water, men dancing in palm-leaf loincloths and percussion that stirs the primordial soul are reason enough to visit French Polynesia. Upping the ante are woodcarvings, basketry, local paintings and tattoo ink on bronzed skin.
- Heiva, Tahiti The country’s biggest festival of dance, song and traditional sports. It’s also celebrated countrywide.
- Marama Tattoo Marquesan designs are the most popular, but you’ll find talented tattoo artists throughout the islands.
- Marche de Pape'ete Find everything from woven hats to pearl jewellery and bright pareu (sarong-style garment).
- ’Ua Huka The wood-carving capital, although you can pick up finely worked pieces in most tourist areas.
- Jean & Nadine Oberlin, Hiva Oa Marquesan tapa with a modern twist.
French Polynesia is home to svelte strips of white, pink and black sand that act as launching pads into the lagoons. Think intimate, palm-lined and pretty rather than flat or expansive.
- Matira Beach, Bora Bora Chic enough for designer bikinis but laid-back and spacious enough to bring the kids.
- Temae, Mo’orea An exceptionally wide white-sand beach fronted by a turquoise swimming pool of ocean.
- Jardin de Corail, Huahine An easy-access yet empty white beach with fantastic snorkelling.
- Pink Sand Beach, Fakarava Sparkling pink sands contrast with intense blue water.
- Blue Lagoon, Rangiroa One of the most beautiful beach and blue-water spots in the world.
- Plage de Taharuu, Tahiti Beautiful black sand and fun surf.
Surfing & Kitesurfing
The land of monster reef-breaking Teahupoo barrels also has softer beach waves, perfect for beginners; kitesurfers will also find plenty of stretches of windy lagoon. Whatever your level, all you need are the guts to get out there.
Teahupoo, Tahiti The big one, the one you’ve seen photos of that made you gasp. Watch the pros surf it in August during the Billabong Pro.
Papara, Tahiti A very powerful wave that breaks on sand consistently most of the year.
Haapiti, Mo’orea The star of Mo’orea surf spots with powerful, deep waves over sand.
Mo’orea’s Lagoon Kitesurfers should fly their gear on the tradewind-catching lagoon in front of Temae or the Beachcomber Intercontinental Resort.
Tubuai The windiest lagoon in the country offers an obstacle-free course of pure kitesurfing thrills – but you’ll need your own gear.
Getting Off the Beaten Path
With 118 islands and more than 68% of the country’s population on Tahiti, it’s not hard to go ‘Crusoe’ in French Polynesia. Or, if you want company, head to small isles where Polynesian culture still reigns and welcomes are warm.
- Ahe A coral atoll of nesting sea birds, pearl farms, lovely lodging and few visitors.
- Raivavae Rivals Bora Bora for beauty but has retained its taro farming and pandanus-weaving culture as well as its isolation.
- The Gambier Archipelago A stunning archipelago surrounded by a single lagoon and graced with eerie deserted churches.
- ’Ua Huka Gorge on mangoes, visit woodcarving studios and explore the hills on horseback – all with the locals.
- Taha’a Quietly sitting in the middle of the busy Society Islands, the wooded ‘Vanilla Island’ is one of the most laid-back places on the planet.
- Tahiti Iti The quiet side of Tahiti has a surprising range of great lodging and restaurants.
Great Food & Drink
Relish local ingredients (fish, taro, fruits) prepared every which way. Try savoury vanilla sauces, Chinese specialities, gratins and some 1001 ways to eat coconut.
- Roulottes Mobile food vans (found country-wide) serve the cheapest eats and offer the most local atmosphere.
- Plage de Maui, Tahiti Try the seafood and local veggies steamed in a banana leaf while admiring the aqua lagoon.
- Chez Tara, Huahine Traditional Tahitian food plus seafood dishes with a French twist.
- Restaurant Matira Beach, Bora Bora Beachside restaurant with million-dollar views; French dishes, local ingredients and Japanese specialities.
- Distillery Huahine Passion, Huahine Fruits so exotic you've never heard of them (plus all the well-known favourites) distilled into fantastic liquors.
- Snack Mahana, Moorea Fresh, big portions, smiling Polynesian service, plastic tables and a lagoon view.
See how they’re made and buy them producer-direct at pearl farms in the Tuamotus or on Taha’a and Huahine