Otemanu Mountain, Beach, and Palm Trees, Bora Bora, Tahiti (French Polynesia)

Ultimate Guide to the Islands of French Polynesia

When you picture French Polynesia, what comes to mind? Surely you see colours – brilliant shades of blue, vibrant greens, a palette of oranges, and reds for sunsets. You may imagine jagged, lush mountains, crystal-clear waters, and overwater bungalows topped by palm fronds. Seeing islands like Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Moorea brings these fantastic images to life. The islands of French Polynesia are a veritable paradise.

Located in the South Pacific, the “overseas collectivity of the French Republic” is known for its mind-blowing lagoons, incredible luxury accommodation, and the legendary Tahiti and Bora Bora. While these two shining stars certainly deserve their reputation, many travellers overlook the fact that French Polynesia is composed of 118 islands and atolls, many of which offer fantastic sights and activities, often with fewer tourists and lower price points. If you’re contemplating a trip to French Polynesia, be sure to consider some of the lesser-known yet equally worthy destinations in this island paradise.

Beyond Bora Bora
Bora Bora is, without a doubt, one of the most renowned destinations in the world for honeymooners, luxury-seekers, and just lovers of, well, beauty – and for good reason. On any Bora Bora vacation visitors will find world-class resorts, some of which offer iconic overwater bungalows. There is also excellent snorkeling, diving, and other thrilling water activities, as well as sumptuous world-class spas.

Sunset On a Beach in Bora Bora, Tahiti
Sunset on a beach in Bora Bora

Tranquility in Taha’a
While Bora Bora definitely caters to couples looking for some quiet time and pampering in a stunning setting, there are many other islands in French Polynesia that can satisfy your taste for adventure. If you’re seeking a true retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life, you’ll find it in Taha’a. Part of the Society Islands (one of five groups of islands in French Polynesia), Taha’a is known for its sweet-smelling air, seclusion, and motu, or tiny islets that surround the island.

About 70-80% of the vanilla produced in French Polynesia is grown in Taha’a and the scent of vanilla permeates the air around you. What makes Taha’a even sweeter is the fact that it’s is only accessible by boat from its sister island, Raiatea, meaning you won’t be sharing the island with as many tourists. However, it’s not remote – Bora Bora is visible from Taha’a’s shores.

There are lots of enjoyable activities on Taha’a. Spend a half or full day on your own motu – snorkel, have a picnic, or just lay under a coconut tree. Explore the vanilla plantations and pearl farms, visit botanical gardens or a sea turtle preserve, or hike along one of the island’s beautiful trails.

Le Tahaa Beach Resort - Aerial, Tahiti
Aerial view of Le Taha’a Beach Resort

Rangiroa: A Water-Lover’s Paradise
The largest atoll in the Tuamotu archipelago, Rangiroa boasts a massive, gorgeous lagoon, endless snorkeling and swimming spots, and some of the world’s best dive sites.

One not-to-be-missed destination in Rangiroa is Île aux Récifs, in which you’ll find numerous “feo,” or coral outcrops dissected by channels and pools – perfect for swimming. There is also Lagon Bleu, made up of a string of coral reefs and motu which form a lagoon within a lagoon.

For accommodation, consider the Hotel Kia Ora Resort and Spa. Located on the lagoon side of the atoll surrounded by a coconut plantation, the hotel offers a variety of room types including overwater bungalows and beach-front bungalows with private jacuzzis. Watching the sunset over a sparkling lagoon, cocktail in hand, from your own private jacuzzi? Yes, please.

Rangiroa's Blue Lagoon
Rangiroa’s Blue Lagoon

Magical Moorea
Breathtaking, striking, unforgettable. These are just a few of the words used to describe Moorea on the internet. If you’re fortunate enough to see it with your own eyes, it may just leave you speechless.

Located only minutes from the island of Tahiti, Moorea offers something for every kind of traveller. One of the island’s major draws is the jaw-dropping lagoon. You can also swim in spectacular, clear waters with sharks, rays, and schools of fish. Active travellers can learn to kitesurf or go kayaking, horseback riding, or hiking. Simply relaxing on the beach or by the pool is, of course, always a great option. For luxe accommodation, consider the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa, the Sofitel Moorea La Ora, or the Moorea Pearl Resort and Spa, which offers beautiful overwater bungalows.

Young Couple Snorkeling in Moorea in Tahiti (French Polynesia)
Young couple snorkeling in Moorea

Take to the Seas
If you’re looking for something different or you’d just like to escape from land for a few days, a luxury cruise is a fantastic way to indulge yourself and see the islands of French Polynesia. Aboard the luxurious cruise boats there are various activities to take part in including snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, and more. If you’re planning a Bora Bora vacation or a trip to the other islands of French Polynesia, consider yourself very lucky. You’re in store for stunning scenery, world-class accommodation, and total relaxation. Enjoy!

Aranui 5 - Exterior, in the Bay of Virgins, Tahiti
Sail on the Aranui 5
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Bronwyn Hodge
Bronwyn Hodge

Idyllic Islands General Manager - Growing up in a family travel business, Bronwyn has been travelling from a very young age. Her favourite experience was 3 months spent backpacking through India and Southeast Asia. She counts many countries among her ‘favourites,’ but is especially fond of Australia for its lifestyle, Cambodia for its culture and resilience, and Japan for its contrasts. She holds the proud distinction of being Goway’s only former Bollywood star – having once starred in a Coke commercial in Mumbai.

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