The Pacific Ocean’s south-central part houses French Polynesia, a French collectivity with five archipelagos consisting of nearly 130 islands. This vast number of islands means so much to see and experience, whether you’ve planned a romantic getaway or you’re after an unforgettable time with aquatic life.
If you’re spending your next holiday in French Polynesia, here are 10 islands that deserve a spot on your must-visit list.
The Society Islands
This French Polynesian archipelago hosts top destinations Tahiti and Bora Bora. But it also has hidden gems like Moorea, Huahine, and Raiatea (where Bora Bora is located).
Waterfalls concealed by shady mountains, eye-catching black sand beaches, hidden blue lagoons, and a blend of traditional and modern island life — you can experience them all with Tahiti Holiday Package.
For a closer look at how this top destination lives the urban life, settle in its capital, Papeete. Make your way to Papeete Market and take in the scent of ripe fruit, tiare flowers, and vanilla, then snag goods ranging from stacks of produce to monoi oils. But Papeete’s unique urban experience doesn’t stop there. Sunset beckons you towards the food trucks that breathe life into the Tahiti island shoreline, offering freshly cooked, piping-hot crepes and grilled seafood.
After basking in Papeete’s distinct energy, feed your wanderlust with a road trip around Tahiti’s other islands. Notable destinations include Teahupo’o, a surfer’s paradise on the southwest coast, and the Monoï Road, lined with tiare flower plantations, perfumeries, and other historic sites.
A mention of this top destination brings sugar sand beaches, radiant blue waters, and a trademark silhouette to mind. But they’re not the only attractions awaiting visitors.
Thrill-seekers will love snorkelling for manta ray sightings, ATV (all-terrain vehicle) tours of World War II cannons, and kayaking, which can spark conversation during an intimate candlelit dinner. And if you’re seeking other interesting destinations, travel to the lagoon and its surrounding areas via a Polynesian pirogue (canoe). A cultural lagoon tour will also take you to a motu, a small islet near Bora Bora, and shed light on medicinal plants native to the island.
Our next destination is a half-hour catamaran ferry ride away from the buzzing Papeete. A short travel time means you’ll easily be able to visit Moorea’s emerald-like peaks, sugar sand beaches, and blue lagoon.
Upon arrival, kick back and marvel at the island’s natural beauty from a white sand beach, or head to Belvedere Lookout for a better view. You can also explore papaya, coconut, and pineapple plantations lining Moorea’s serene areas. People have regarded the island’s pineapples as the sweetest fruits they’ve ever tasted, but you’ll have to savour them to believe this statement.
Raring to go underwater? Plunge into the lagoon and get up close and personal with humpback whales. July to early November is the best time to see these mighty yet peaceful creatures and their babies. But if humpback whale sightings are elusive, encounters with sea turtles, reef sharks, multicoloured reef fish, and other aquatic residents await you. You can then cap off your day with a Polynesian cultural show featuring Tahitian drumming and dancing.
Want to go beyond Tahiti’s main island? Book a flight to Huahine, a destination 40 minutes away from Papeete. It’s a remote island with tropical fruit plantations, coconut groves, archaeological ruins, and natives who see visitors as long-lost family.
For unique experiences within Huahine, start at rivers with blue-eyed eels. They’ll give you a chance to feed these sacred creatures mackerel. Moreover, Huahine’s home to marae, prehistoric ceremonial sites where travellers can feel an intense sense of spirit called mana. While exploring these revered attractions, you’ll learn how important Polynesian ceremonial activities are to natives.
Additionally, Huahine has a lagoon abundant with reef sharks, pink whip stingrays, and coral bommies (a column-like outcrop of a coral reef). You shouldn’t miss a swim here if you’re up for some underwater fun.
Deepwater bays and many attractive and safe moorings make this Society Island a top destination for yacht owners and enthusiasts. But, if you’re travelling to Raiatea in ways other than yacht rides, impressive pensions are ideal accommodations. Opoa Beach Hotel is a good place to stay during your trip, with nine bungalows facing a beautiful beach southeast of Raiatea. You can also settle in a sheltered motu, like Motu Nao Nao, which houses three bungalows.
As for things to do in Raiatea, must-do activities include kayaking along the palm-lined and lovely Faaroa River. Faaroa is the only river you can cruise on within French Polynesia. And to view scenery beyond Raiatea, add an 11-mile hike to Mount Temehani to your must-do list.
75 atolls make up the Tuamotus, including Rangiroa, Tikehau, and Fakarava.
An hour-long flight from Papeete takes you to this donut-shaped destination known as French Polynesia’s largest atoll and the world’s second-largest atoll. After landing in Rangiroa’s small, thatched-roof airport, check in at one of its many nearby accommodations. Visitors seeking beachfront villas and overwater bungalows flock to hotels like Mai Tai Rangiroa and Hotel Kia Ora Resort and Spa.
Aquatic adventures await visitors in this vast atoll. If you’re serious about scuba diving, schedule a trip to Tiputa Pass with Rangiroa Diving Centre. Snorkelers can also partner with the centre to swim beside dolphins that cross along Rangiroa’s oceans.
A journey to this atoll’s Blue Lagoon is another must-do. Tereva Tana e Vahine will accompany you on an hour’s boat ride to this secluded home for energetic baby sharks. After your arrival, fill your tummy with seafood on the sand, then snorkel with mighty reef and lemon sharks.
Staying in stunning Tikehau, Jacques Cousteau’s pick for the world’s fishiest atoll, means you’ve moved away from Tuamotu’s other parts. A plunge into this island’s waters echoes Cousteau’s statement as vibrant fish, cheeky puffers, barracuda, and some curious white-tip reef sharks greet you. And if you’re lucky, you may come face-to-face with hammerhead and tiger sharks swimming along Tikehau. A word of advice, though: The atoll only has little room and a few dive shops, so early booking is crucial.
Additionally, we recommend including Rangiroa in your Tikehau itinerary. A plane ride between these destinations takes just 20 minutes.
Sharks mainly draw travellers to Tuamotu’s second-largest atoll. Fakarava has two major passes: Tumakohua in the south and Garuae in the north. While they’re perfect for divers, you’ll want to head to the south pass for shark sightings. An estimated 250 to 700 grey sharks roam around Tumakohua, all unbaited.
Apart from shark encounters, Fakarava also offers other experiences. Start with a crash course on the atoll’s medicinal plants and a low-tide walk on its ocean offered by Enoha Pater. You can even visit Havaiki Lodge’s black pearl farm and pier, where nurse sharks flock.
The Marquesas Islands
Two volcanic archipelagos comprise the Marquesas, a destination lying northeast of Tahiti. You’ll find the following destinations within these islands.
Cloud-topped mountains, a hilly coast with tranquil coves, and unexplored paths to ancient ceremonial sites will greet you while roaming Nuku Hiva. But the island offers more than just these remarkable sights.
Take courage and dive in with scalloped hammerhead sharks, or shop until you drop at the handicraft market. Distinct wood, stone, and bone sculptures make great souvenirs. And if you’re after sweeping views of Nuku Hiva’s atmospheric coast or pristine beaches, go on a road trip.
Over the years, Hiva Oa has inspired local and foreign artists. Atuona is where creative minds can get their creative juices flowing, with an art centre spotlighting uniquely attractive pieces. Visit the centre and see detailed handicrafts made from tapa (painted tree bark), ornate sculptures, and hand-painted pareau (Tahitian fabric).
Another attraction is the Paul Gauguin Museum, where replicas of his most popular artworks are displayed. It even guides visitors through the artist’s conflict-riddled history with Hiva Oa.
Furthermore, the island has the most tikis (a wood or stone image of a Polynesian supernatural power) across French Polynesia. These figures include:
- The Smiling Tiki, which you can seek out on wheels or with a local guide
- The five huge stone tikis guarding the sacred Ma’ae Iipona
- The Tiki Takaii, the most popular and biggest tiki located near Puama’u
Spend Your Next Holiday On a French Polynesian Island
French Polynesia has over a hundred islands, providing many choices for a holiday destination. If you’re seeking the perfect place to spend a much-deserved break, bookmark our list and choose your next destination based on our picks.