Polynesian Passage

  • 2 weeks or more

Explore French Polynesia’s myriad welcoming cultures as well as its natural beauty. Start with a day or more on Tahiti, where you can take an island tour or hire a car to explore Marché de Pape’ete (Pape’ete Market) and the waterfalls, roadside caves and hidden beaches around the island. At night, catch a dance performance at one of the resorts or (if it’s a Friday or Saturday) go out for a wild night in Pape’ete.

Next get on a plane to Ra’iatea to see the impressive Marae Taputapuatea, one of the most important spiritual sites of ancient Polynesia. Hike up the Temehani Plateau in search of the tiare apetahi, one of the world’s rarest flowers. Dive or snorkel the lagoon and be sure to take a picnic tour out to one of the island’s fringing white-sand islets or kayak up Faaroa River, the only navigable river in French Polynesia. From here, take a short flight to Bora Bora to snorkel the lagoon, swoon at the island’s square silhouette and live la vida jet set for a day or two. Then take a flight to Rangiroa, the largest coral atoll in the country. Dive with sharks, live in your swimsuit and quench your thirst with coconuts. Don’t miss a tour of the immense lagoon to see pink-sand beaches and the surreally beautiful Lagon Bleu (Blue Lagoon), a lagoon within a lagoon. At sunset, watch dolphins frolic in Tiputa Pass.

Change cultures entirely when you fly on to the Marquesas (via Tahiti). Travelling here is like stepping back in time. You’ll start in Nuku Hiva, where you can hike across windswept ridges into ancient volcanic craters before checking out the island’s array of eerie archaeological sites, including Hikokua, Kamuihei and Tahakia. Take a plane to follow Paul Gauguin’s trail to Hiva Oa to see the artist’s tomb at Calvaire Cemetery and visit the Espace Culturel Paul Gauguin. Don’t miss the giant stone tiki (sacred statues) at Iipona and several other ancient sites on the island. Alternatively, you could visit all of the Marquesas Islands by taking the Aranui cargo ship for one of the world’s most unique cruises focusing on culture and archaeology.