Fly south towards the Tropic of Capricorn to find the blustery Austral Archipelago, where it’s cool enough to grow peaches yet warm enough for bananas, coconut palms and turquoise, coral-laden lagoons. On these outrageously fertile islands, you’ll find some of the most authentic Polynesian culture in all of French Polynesia. Best of all, they are wonderfully varied, from the limestone caverns of Rurutu and the Bora Bora–like lagoon of Raivavae to the windy bays of Tubuai and the alluring coastline of Rimatara.

What you shouldn't expect, though, is a thriving nightlife. These are quiet islands. There are no resorts, just a smattering of welcoming family-run guesthouses where visitors can sample delicious local-style meals and genuinely interact with their hosts.