Tahiti - French Polynesia: what to do, what to see…

Follow Paul Gauguin to the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The five archipelagoes of French Polynesia contain 118 islands - 76 of them inhabited - and just as many landscapes, from volcanoes to coral reefs. The Society Islands, the Marquesas Islands, the Austral Islands, Tuamotu and Gambier are enough to inspire the most jaded traveler! Surfing, swimming, hiking, diving—find out where to begin here!

Not to miss sights in Tahiti and French Polynesia

The Taipivai Waterfall on Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Archipelago

Nuku Hiva, the second island of French Polynesia by size with 330 kilometers (205 miles) of coastline is large in attractions: grandiose landscapes, fairytale waterfalls (including Hakaui, the 3rd highest waterfall in the world), canyons, natural pools, majestic valleys and countless archaeological remains. All must-sees, by boat, on foot or on horseback!

The beach of Pointe Venus

North of Tahiti, Pointe Venus is named after Captain Cook, who went there to observe the passage of Venus in front of the sun in 1769. With its sublime black sand beach and lighthouse, the site has become a must for any stay in Tahiti.

The lagoon of Bora Bora

It's hard not to fall in love with Bora Bora. The coral reef that serves as a backdrop to the island's lagoon earned Bora Bora the nickname "Pearl of the Pacific". It is the most visited island of French Polynesia, for good reason!

The pink sand of Fakarava

Accessible only by boat, the pink sandbanks of Fakarava are located at the end of the atoll, facing Tetamanu. Curiosities of incredible beauty, the sandbars that bloom in all shades of rose are frequented by tourists and residents of Fakarava, who come to bathe and picnic here on Sundays.

Rangiroa, reef island in the Tuamotu

In Rangiroa, the second largest atoll in the world, the land and the sea are in perfect harmony. Around this necklace of islands in the Pacific, whales, manta rays, dolphins and sharks present an incredible spectacle. On land, the villages of Avatoru and Tiputa are lovely slices of life in the South Pacific.

The Rurutu Caves in the Austral Islands Archipelago

The cliffs and caves of the Austral Islands are legendary places——former burial sites, they are now used as points of observation for humpback whales. These gentle giants get together each year off the Austral Islands from August to October to give birth. The colorful and picturesque villages are ripe for visitors.

Maupiti in the Society Islands

Located 315 kilometers (195 miles) north-west of Tahiti and 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Bora Bora, Maupiti is a tiny (11 kilometer or 7 miles long) island, of magnificent landscapes, white sand beaches, and lively villages.

Manihi pearl farms in the Tuamotu Islands

Far from the modern world, Manihi is the cradle of the first pearl farm in Tahiti since 1965. The lagoon is still home to many farms, and a visit there is a truly unique experience. Come discover the work and the time needed to harvest the precious jewels.

The beaches of Tikehau in the Tuamotu Islands

The lagoon is encircled by a series of motu (reef islets) of white and pink sand, forming a natural swimming pool opening on the Tuheiava pass. Divers are captivated by the beauty and abundance of marine life: eagle rays, schools of barracudas and tuna, gray sharks, sea turtles and dolphins

The churches of Gambier Islands

The Gambier Islands are located 1600 kilometers (994 miles) southeast of Tahiti. A center of Catholicism in Polynesia, a large number of churches and convents stand, remains of the 19th century. Some are still active, such as the Saint-Michel church in Rikitea, where the altar is inlaid with iridescent mother-of-pearl.

Bora-Bora lagoon (External link)
The pink sand of Fakarava (External link)
Maupiti in the Society Islands (External link)

Things to do in Tahiti and French Polynesia

Falling asleep with the waves in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora

Streams of blue and green velvet (home to schools of colorful fish in coral gardens) line perfect beaches in Bora Bora. This view greets travelers from deck of the overwater bungalow of their luxury hotels, confirming that, yes, Bora Bora is the most beautiful island in the world.

Find enchantment in Huahine, one of the best kept secrets of Polynesia

Only 40 minutes by plane from Tahiti, Huahine is immediately enchanting, between lush forests and picturesque villages. There are only eight villages scattered around the island, keeping it one of the best kept secrets of the archipelago of Tahiti and its islands.

Browse at the Papeete market

The Capital Market is certainly one of the best places to experience Polynesian authenticity. "Mapuru a Paraïta" is the center of attraction of the city, perpetually buzzing every day from 6 AM to 6PM. This is your opportunity to stock up on local crafts such as tiare flower-flavored monoi oil or mother-of-pearl jewelry and savor tropical fruits.

Meet rays and dolphins during an incredible dive in the Marquesas

These islands are a paradise for divers of all levels to discover a rich marine fauna, with an impressive number of gray sharks, hammerhead sharks and even tiger sharks, not to mention dolphins, manta rays and vast schools of fish. The dives arount these parts are intact because this off-the-beaten-track destination attracts a limited number of divers.

Play Robinson Crusoe at Tikehau

Here, the 500 or so Tahitians from generations of fishermen live on seafood on this island, which they call "the home of a quiet world". Their lifestyle is enough to want start a new life as a castaway on Tikehau.

Spend an entire day on the beach in Bora Bora

According to Condé Nast Traveler (External link) , Matira Beach in Bora Bora is one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world. Note that the beach is public, so there is no need to stay in a 5-star resort to experience this paradise.

To gather on the UNESCO-rated sacred site of Marae de Taputapuatea

On the sacred island of Raiatea, the open temple of Taputapuātea represents a thousand years of traditions of Mao'hi culture. A political, ceremonial, funeral and religious center, it is dedicated to the god Oro; it is "the place where the world of the living crosses the world of the ancestors and the gods."

Live the holidays of July, Heiva i Tahiti, which celebrate the traditional Polynesian culture

A good way to soak up the Polynesian traditions is to attend the festivities of Heiva i Tahiti that have taken place every July for 100 years. Tahiti welcomes the singers and dancers of the different islands who adorn themselves with their most beautiful headdresses for singing contests, music recitals, dances and sports contests (javelin throwing, stone lifting and pirogue racing). It's a must-see for cultural visitors!

To follow in the footsteps of the first missionaries to Gambier Islands

Mangareva is renowned for its 19th century religious heritage built in coral—the newly converted missionaries and islanders built hundreds of religious buildings between 1840 and 1970. They dot the Rikitea, Akamaru, Aukena and Taravai islands of the Gambier Archipelago.

Watch whales at the front row in Rurutu in the Austral Islands

The cliffs and caves of the Austral Islands are legendary. These ancient funerary sites offer an ideal viewpoint to watch the humpback whales, who come to the Austral Islands from August to October of each year to give birth in the incredibly clear waters of Rurutu.

Papeete market (External link)
Marae of Taputapuatea (External link)

Getting to Tahiti