French Polynesia is an essential destination for a truly bucket list vacation. While Tahiti and Bora Bora are perhaps the most well-known in the region, there are over 100 islands in total, many still untouched and unspoiled, and all are a result of Mother Nature’s often volcanic personality. Those who visit have the opportunity to enjoy spectacular mountain vistas, pristine beaches, lush tropical landscapes, and stunning coral reefs.
Visitors arrive by sea or air, with flights from Los Angeles that are just a little over eight hours. Major airlines serving the Faa’a International Airport include Air Tahiti Nui, Air France, Hawaiian Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta. Other islands and atolls can be reached through the domestic airline, Air Tahiti, as well as local ferries or helicopter.
Temperatures average 80 degrees, with cooling trade winds. Summer is December-March, with temperatures ranging between 77-95 degrees. It is also the rainy season, averaging about 13 inches of rain in January. The dry season is April-October, with plentiful sunshine and temperatures ranging from 70-80 degrees. Humidity can be high, so travelers are advised to pack light-weight, breathable clothing.
With so many islands to explore, visitors to the region might consider a mix of barefoot luxury that includes some of the more well-known islands, along with the inclusion of some of the more remote and relaxed settings, each with a unique charm capturing the mystique and majestry of this remarkable culture.
Photos provided by Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort
Romantics will celebrate this volcanic island’s lush tropical slopes. The valleys of Mount Otemanu blossom with pungent hibiscus, while palm-covered reef islets formed by broken coral and sand circle the illuminated lagoon.
Where to stay: The Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort boasts traditionally designed rooms and villas including the iconic overwater bungalows, as well as spacious garden pool villas and beach suites. Bora Bora does have several more internationally recognized resorts, but “The Pearl” goes out of its way to make guests feel welcome and appreciated. The spa is lovely and authentic, honoring the natural beauty of its surroundings, rather than imposing an aesthetic on the island’s indigenous beauty.
Must do activity: The perfect marriage of Bora Bora’s ability to offer romance and adventure is a two-hour sunset cruise aboard the Okeanos Pearl, a solar-powered catamaran. This is the ultimate in luxury meets the eco-friendly cruising experience.
Best Jet Ski Tour: Moana Adventure Tours offers the best variety of Jet Ski rentals. Explore on your own or follow a professional guide around the island’s picturesque bays and inlets.
Photos provided by Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa
Taha’a is recognized by chefs worldwide as the home of the best vanilla. The island is blanketed with lush mountains and valleys, turquoise lagoons, and numerous motu islets.
Where to stay: The Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa is an example of true barefoot luxury. The resort boasts outstanding dining options as well as 5-star Polynesian suites and villas built around the existing vegetation, allowing guests the opportunity to explore beneath a canopy of mature tree-lined grounds, accented with a host of tropical flora. Facilities include three restaurants, two bars, a Tahitian pearl jewelry shop, fitness center, and full-service spa.
Must do activity: Spend the perfect day on a customized, day-long catamaran tour with Tahiti Yacht Charter company. *Note: Cruises can be customized for larger groups.
Immerse Yourself: Take a combination tour with Terainui Tours for a land and lagoon excursion that includes snorkeling, swimming with rays and sharks, and an island picnic.
Photos provided by Hotel Kia Ora Resort & Spa
Rangiroa is hailed as one of the world’s greatest destinations for scuba diving, and the world’s second largest atoll. This sparsely-populated island has black pearl farms, coral churches, craft centers, and a few intriguing shops operated by locals.
Where to stay: The only luxury hotel, Kia Ora Resort & Spa, offers outstanding service boasting 60 guest “rooms” which are actually independent cottages. With a mix of local and French cuisine including Rangiroa honey and Rangiroa Wine, notably the world’s only wine grown on an atoll, allows even the most discerning palettes to find gastronomic joy in every meal.
Must do activity: With Top Dive Shop on the property, guests have access to some of the most gracious and accomplished guides on any of the islands. Dive packages can be customized to include action-packed and exhilarating adventures for the more robust traveler or focused on leisurely explorations of the extensive sea life including dolphins, marlin, grey and hammerhead sharks, and manta rays. Everyone should consider a Drift Dive package allowing for guided encounters while the gentle current carries one along for an effortless and leisurely exploration of a spectacular underwater world.
Defined by endless stretches of blue skies, green peaks and the nearly unearthly beauty of its vivid turquoise lagoons, as shy as she is sensual, French Polynesia is the perfect place to slow down and enjoy warm, barefoot luxury like no other place in the world.