Things to do in Tahiti and French Polynesia

French Polynesia consists of more than 100 islands so it can be hard to know where to start exploring. Most trips begin in the capital, Papeete, which is situated on the island of Tahiti, home to more than 60 percent of French Polynesia's population and the country's main airport. Tahiti is one of the most popular islands with travellers, boasting vibrant markets and some famous surf spots as well as good infrastructure and pretty beaches.

Other famously attractive French Polynesian islands include Bora Bora, known for its beautiful luxury resorts and a favourite with honeymooners and celebrities; the lovely Moorea, which is conveniently close to Tahiti and celebrated for its sandy beaches and watersports; and Rangiroa, which is widely considered one of the best scuba diving and snorkelling destinations in the world.

Travellers might also want to investigate the various charms of islands such as Huahine, Raiatea, Taha'a, Wallis, Nuka Hiva, Tikehau, Fakarava, and Hiva Oa. The options are almost endless and natural beauty is guaranteed whichever island travellers visit.

Island hopping can prove expensive as the islands of French Polynesia are widely spread over about 1,600 square miles (4,160 sq km), which is one reason that many first-time travellers are more than content to explore Tahiti and nearby Moorea, which are connected by a regular ferry service. Cruises can be booked and cargo ships are often happy to transport travellers for a fee, but flying is still often the only practical option.

Rangiroa photo

Rangiroa

Part of the Tuamotu Archipelago, Rangiroa is one of the world's largest atolls. It is a ring of low land encircling a deep, crystal-clear turquoise lagoon, which is so vast that th…

Rangiroa

Part of the Tuamotu Archipelago, Rangiroa is one of the world's largest atolls. It is a ring of low land encircling a deep, crystal-clear turquoise lagoon, which is so vast that the whole island of Tahiti could fit inside. Located about an hour's flight from Tahiti, the island offers, among other things, world-class scuba diving. The water is so clear that visibility is estimated at least 150ft (46m) and the temperature delightfully hovers around 80°F (27°C) all year round. The stretch where the lagoon opens to the ocean, known as Tiputa Pass, is particularly rich in marine life and is recognised as one of the world's greatest shark dive locations.

Moorea photo

Moorea

Arguably the most dramatically beautiful of the French Polynesian islands, Moorea lies only a few miles northwest of Tahiti (10 minutes by air or under an hour by ferry from Papeet…

Moorea

Arguably the most dramatically beautiful of the French Polynesian islands, Moorea lies only a few miles northwest of Tahiti (10 minutes by air or under an hour by ferry from Papeete). This little tropical island gem is characterised by spectacular bays, white sandy beaches, and towering craggy volcanic peaks that form a jagged central spine, reflected in the surrounding crystal-surfaced lagoons. All sorts of water activities and excursions are offered on the island, as well as several land-based activities such as hikes and mountain safaris. A fun way to explore the island is to rent a scooter or bicycle.

Bora Bora photo

Bora Bora

Satellite pictures of the tiny island of Bora Bora, from hundreds of miles above the earth, show it to be almost glowing, its dark green centre surrounded by a coral necklace and a

Bora Bora

Satellite pictures of the tiny island of Bora Bora, from hundreds of miles above the earth, show it to be almost glowing, its dark green centre surrounded by a coral necklace and an iridescent aquamarine lagoon.

Little wonder that this is the dream destination for celebrities, honeymooners, and lovers who live in splendour in the island's luxurious spas and resorts, while enjoying privacy and anonymity on its magical secluded beaches.

The lagoon forms the centre of activities for holidaymakers, being the stage for numerous adventures, from shark-feeding excursions and swimming with giant turtles to scuba diving, snorkelling, jet-skiing, glass-bottom boat cruises, descending into the 'lagoonarium', kite-sailing, picnicking on a motu, and more. Bora Bora also offers plenty of cultural and historical attractions.

Send a link to this travel guide