By Milly Gill
Product Manager at Travel Nation
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With five dreamy island groups, hundreds of perfect beaches, dozens of blue lagoons and a glut of gorgeous hotels, trying to decide which French Polynesian island is best for you can be a tricky business.
That’s where we come in. We can help make your holiday planning a little easier by explaining the best spots in French Polynesia for every kind of traveller. Whether you’re looking for high glamour, utter privacy or a taste of Tahitian culture, there’s the perfect island out there for you.
While each of the Islands of Tahiti has its own identity, they all complement one another. This is what makes island hopping in French Polynesia so special. I really don’t think you get a rounded experience of French Polynesia if you only visit one island. Bora Bora may be the most popular spot for tourists, but it’s very easy to add more islands to your trip. The more islands you visit, the more varied, beautiful and memorable your holiday will be.
Bora Bora is well known for its luxury hotels, and this is definitely the island for you if you are looking for a high-end experience. We love the overwater bungalows at the St. Regis. Settle back and watch the sunset behind Mount Otemanu before drifting off to sleep in your canopy bed – this truly is heaven.
Another great option is the Four Seasons, where you can stay in an overwater pool villa and take a relaxing soak between dips in the ocean. No matter where you’re staying, we can arrange a scenic helicopter flight or private beach dinner, topping off your trip in style. If you're looking for luxury, read our blog about how to choose your Bora Bora overwater bungalow.
Other ideas: Taha’a is home to Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa, with fabulous views across the water from its aptly named Bora Bora Overwater Suite.
Owned since the 1960s by Marlon Brando and his family, Tetiaroa has always had a VIP connection. Centuries ago, it was the hideaway of Tahitian royalty, and now this pristine island is home to just one extraordinary hotel. The Brando Resort is a luxurious and super-exclusive eco-hotel that makes the privacy and serenity of its guests a priority.
Just 30 miles northeast of Tahiti, Tetiaroa is an atoll composed of a dozen small islands surrounding a sparkling lagoon. Stay in a beach villa on the main island, and you’ll be able to get away from it all, relaxing on the sands or paddleboarding through the shimmering water. Regular guests include Barack Obama, Ellen DeGeneres and Leonardo DiCaprio, so if you’re searching for star treatment in a private paradise, you’ve found it!
Other ideas: The Tuamotu Islands (especially our favourites Tikehau, Fakarava and Rangiroa) are small and quiet enough to invoke that abandoned island feeling without the celebrity price tag. So, if you’re looking for a more affordable paradise, try the Tuamotus.
Moorea is one of the best islands in French Polynesia for snorkelling, thanks in large part to the nine ocean passes that draw cold water into the lagoon. The deep ocean water is rich in oxygen, which helps the corals grow brighter and more colourful than anywhere else.
Moorea is a great spot to snorkel with stingrays and blacktip reef sharks, who will gather around you, curious to see what’s happening as you jump into the lagoon with them. The barrier reef surrounding the lagoon keeps the water calm and relaxed, so it’s very safe for children to try snorkelling for the first time.
Other ideas: Huahine is also home to some beautiful snorkelling, especially if you take a full-day lagoon tour to all the best spots around the island.
The pristine lagoon of Fakarava is world-famous for having some of the best diving on the planet. A vast array of marine life makes its home here, including some fascinating rare and colourful species.
The islands around the edge of the lagoon are tiny but perfect. Think white beaches with small Tahitian guesthouses nestled in the foliage, narrow roads lined with hot pink bougainvillaea and white boats skimming across the water to drop divers into the transparent underwater world.
There are two major ocean passes feeding Fakarava’s lagoon – the Garuae Pass in the north and the Tumakohua Pass in the south. Tumakohua is home to an underwater valley named Shark’s Hole, where lemon and hammerhead sharks like to congregate.
Other ideas: Rangiroa is another island with a beautiful lagoon and top-quality diving. On top of that, you’ll also have the chance to swim with wild dolphins.
The mountainous island of Moorea is perfect for travellers who want to get out and explore a tropical island. Whether it’s hiking the Pass of the Three Coconuts, glass-bottom kayaking with rays and reef sharks swimming beneath you or zip-lining through the canopy, you’ll never run out of things to do here.
Quad bike through the hills, jet ski through the lagoon and finish your day with a sunset catamaran cruise – believe me, you’ll sleep well after a busy day in Moorea.
Other ideas: Huahine is another good option if you’re looking for a fun-filled stay in the Islands of Tahiti. Go quad biking, hiking or kitesurfing in this lush paradise.
South of Tahiti, you’ll find the Austral Islands, where legends and unique experiences await. Wild and rugged but still staggeringly beautiful, Rurutu is where hundreds of whales gather to mate and give birth in the clear waters of the Austral Archipelago. Every year between July and October, the whale-spotting is epic.
While you may not be able to stay in an overwater bungalow with 24-hour room service, Rurutu offers its visitors the chance to swim with humpback whales in the crystalline water. There’s no lagoon here, and the deepwater offshore tempts the whales to come very near to the island. On Rurutu, you can spend your evenings on the beach watching whales jump and splash in the swirling ocean.
Other ideas: Moorea is also a great place to spot whales. If you stay at the Hilton Moorea during the breeding season, you might even see whales breaching from the balcony of your overwater bungalow.
Life is calm and quiet on Tubuai; a lush and fertile island tucked away from the spotlight. Just 1.5 hours from Tahiti by air, Tubuai sits inside a blue lagoon, with coffee and orange trees growing along its mountainsides.
Spend your time kitesurfing, snorkelling amongst the colourful fish in the lagoon and hiking through the valleys. Here, you’ll stay in a family-run Tahitian guesthouse rather than a resort – it really is off the beaten track living. More temperate than the mainstream islands, it's a great place to combine with Bora Bora or Moorea.
Other ideas: The Marquesas Islands are the northernmost archipelago of French Polynesia. These are wild islands where dramatic landscapes combine with traditional culture, providing a fascinating insight into the Pacific Islands of old.
The small population of Nuku Hiva in the far northern Marquesas Islands are said to be the best craftsmen in the Pacific. They create beautiful art, carvings and tattoos that tell stories of their island.
The archaeological history of Nuku Hiva is fascinating, and the culture here has a distinctive difference to the rest of French Polynesia. The Marquesas have their very own language and local cuisine as well as a rich history of myths retold in songs and dances.
One of the best ways to visit the Marquesas Islands, including Nuku Hiva, is aboard the Aranui, a cargo and passenger ship that brings supplies to the island. It’s a beautiful way to experience one of the most remote areas of the Pacific and great value for money to boot.
Other ideas: Raiatea is believed by Polynesians to be sacred. It's home to Taputapuatea – a mythical archaeological site dating back to 1000 AD where locals would communicate with the gods.
The tiny atoll of Tikehau is a heavenly spot to spend your honeymoon. As soon as you touch down, you’re made to feel at home. Try living like a local at Ninamu Island, staying in a unique bungalow while enjoying sensational food and scarlet sunrises.
Alternatively, take the more upmarket option and stay at the Pearl Beach Resort. Nestled in a wild coconut grove, this beautiful hotel provides stunning overwater bungalows as well as the perfect seclusion for honeymoon bliss. Spend your days swimming with huge manta rays, looking for reef sharks and lazing on the pink sands of the blue lagoon – this is the ultimate Polynesian escape.
Other ideas: Huahine is one of the quietest of the Society Islands and staying at Le Mahana on the south coast will guarantee you romantic evenings with gorgeous sunsets.
French Polynesia has something to offer everyone and, thanks to an fantastic internal flight system, it’s easy to visit as many of these beautiful islands as you want. We can help you combine several islands into a fantastic island-hopping trip and put together all the arrangements for you. To get started, give us a call on 1273 320 580 or send us a quote request by email.
at Travel Nation
Senior Travel Consultant
at Travel Nation
at Travel Nation
Fresh out of high school, Milly left her home comforts behind and set off to work in a school in Thailand for a year. Whilst working in Thailand she managed to explore Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and China before uni. In the breaks from her English & American Literature degree she interned for Travel Nation, eventually joining our team in 2014. Milly is fascinated by wildlife and food and weaves these elements into both her own trips and those she plans for others. Her natural instinct for building fascinating trips that take you off the beaten track inform the trips she plans and she currently works as our Product Manager sourcing great hotels and itineraries for our customers.