When people think about French Polynesia, a tropical paradise comes to mind – but not all tropical paradises are the same. Do you dream of sunbathing on beautiful white sand beaches? Or SCUBA diving through magical underwater reefs? Perhaps catching a wave on the Tahitian surf is your idea of a good time? For some people the dream is hiking through lush jungles on remote islands, for others it’s learning the secrets of ancient Maori cultures. Whatever’s your definition of a tropical paradise, French Polynesia has it. But with 118 islands and atolls, stretching over 1,200 miles (2,000km), deciding where to go in French Polynesia can be overwhelming. If that’s how you’re feeling right now, you’ve come to the right place!
Photo copyright Daniel Chodusov
French Polynesia is divided into five groups of islands: the Society Islands Archipelago, the Tuamotu Archipelago; the Gambier Islands; the Marquesas Islands; and the Austral Islands. Knowing about each of the island groups can help you narrow down your search for the ultimate vacation getaway. In this post, we will take an in depth look into each one to help you make the decision that’s right for you.
Photo copyright dany13
The Society Islands are the most well-known islands in French Polynesia, and include Tahiti, Mo’orea, Bora Bora and many others. Tahiti was born when two volcanoes erupted and formed an island so large that it represents almost 30% of French Polynesia’s landmass and 68.7% of the population of all of French Polynesia. It is high and mountainous with surrounding coral reefs. On the island of Tahiti, you will find small towns dotting the parameter of the island and the cosmopolitan city of Papeete in the northwest. The population drops as elevation rises inland, bringing you majestic peaks like La Diàdeme, and a stunning thousand-foot waterfall. Tahiti’s quieter side, Tahiti Iti, is on the southeastern end of the island and is home to the world famous surfing wave, Teahupo’o. Surfers, kiteboarders, and swimmers dot the shore and add color to the exotic black sand beaches that ring the island.
Just off the coast of Tahiti is Mo’orea, a heart shaped island with two small, nearly symmetrical bays on the north shore. It is encircled by coral reefs which provide a tranquil refuge to a wide variety of exotic and iridescent fish. Bora Bora is a 12 mile-wide island group consisting of a main island surrounded by a lagoon and barrier reef. The center island is known for its towering volcanic spires which disappear into the clouds, adding a touch of mystery to the island’s remote beauty. Bora Bora is famous for its aqua-centric luxury resorts and overwater bungalows.
Photo copyright Alessandro Caproni
With their unparalleled beauty, the low-lying Tuamotus island chain is a scuba diver’s dream. Rather than volcanic activity, these island atolls relied on coral reefs to form. The heavenly lagoons are so precious and rare that many of them have their own unique ecosystems. In fact, the pristine Fakarava, is deemed a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Photo copyright Kyle Pearce
The Gambier islands is well off the beaten track and offer the perfect mix of cultural treasures and natural scenery. The mountains on the island of Mangareva rise above the surrounding lagoons and neighboring islands, in fact Polynesian mythology tells of the demi-god Maui lifting the island of Mangareva from the ocean floor. Famous for their pearl farms and historic churches from the 1800’s, travelers to the Gambier Islands get the sense that they have been transported back in time.
Photo copyright Mustad Marine
The fierce Marquesas Islands have the hottest and driest climate of all the island chains in French Polynesia. Surrounded by deep, navy colored sea and cold currents of the Pacific Ocean they’re not known for their beaches; but these wild, wonderful and barely populated islands are a dream destination for hikers. Not only are the Marquesas islands home to exotic species of bird and plant wildlife found nowhere else in the world, you will also have the opportunity to experience the rich Maori culture. Pick up a handmade pareo from the local markets of Nuku Hiva, or a protective tiki amulet made by the expert Maori craftsmen of Tahuata.
Photo copyright Montereydiver
The inhabitants of the Austral Islands are as friendly as they are artistic. Visit the colorful, picturesque villages to discover the craftsmanship of the islanders who make a living off of their hand-made goods. Plan your trip to the Austral Islands between August and October and you will see the mesmerizing humpback whales who migrate to the islands each year and frolic in the waters just offshore.
So what will it be?
With so much diversity and natural beauty, a trip to French Polynesia is sure to create memories that will last a lifetime. Hopefully this post has helped you narrow down your perfect French Polynesian destination. For those of you who have already decided where to go, or for those of you who are still needing help deciding, contact one of our French Polynesian travel experts for assistance. Their free, no-obligation help will bring you closer to making your dream vacation a reality, and as a bonus they have access to exclusive discounts to save you money on your trip.
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