With 118 distinctive islands and hundreds of islets to explore, French Polynesia is full of crystal clear lagoons, white sand beaches, pristine reefs, and thriving marine life. Whether you’re a thrill seeker or a day tripper, here are some of the best ways to enjoy a true paradise.
Sail the waters on a luxury yacht
With a Tahiti Yacht Charter captain and first mate at your service, your bespoke day catamaran tour begins with an early morning pickup at your hotel. Once on board, sail through the transparent blue lagoon waters along the lush mountains of Taha’a. Speed off to the very edge of the reef with the captain in a tender or enjoy a guided snorkel tour through pristine coral gardens with views of Bora Bora. Lounging on board, it’s easy to lose count of the idyllic islets that ring the lagoon. Perfect for beginner sailors, catamarans are steady and don’t rock nearly as much as sailboats. And if you want to explore a black pearl farm or vanilla plantation, just ask your captain.
Tahiti Yacht Charter, Apooiti Marina, Uturoa, Raiatea, French Polynesia, +689 40 66 28 80
Explore the area on a jet ski
InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa’s jet ski tours are a great way to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Not to mention, the island views from the lagoon are almost surreal. No matter your level, after a safety briefing, jump on your jet ski for a guided tour around Puna’auia and Faa’a under the dramatic backdrop of Tahiti’s sister island of Mo’orea. Your exact itinerary is always dependent on weather conditions, but a tour favorite is Fisherman’s Bay where you’ll see dolphins and swim through an open water “aquarium” among coral gardens.
Experience Polynesian heritage
How often is a sandy beach next to a UNESCO World Heritage site? The Taputapuātea marae in Raiatea is a religious sacred space that dates back to AD1000 and is one of the most important heritage sites in Polynesian culture. The marae is a testament to Polynesia’s history as expert navigators and modern sailors still make the pilgrimage to Taputapuātea. Explore its open grounds, being mindful not to walk over the sacred stones. Then relax, sunbathe or snorkel on its adjacent white sand beach.
Encounter local marine life
A short boat ride along the island’s lush east coast with Moorea Water Games from their pier at the Hotel Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort brings you to the tiny protected island of Motu Ahi, where you’ll find the Lagoonarium. It’s an open water environment where you’ll see blacktip reef sharks, and stingrays, while hundreds of colorful lagoon fish gather to be fed in their natural habitat in front of you. Safe even for beginner snorkelers, it’s a thrill to be surrounded by such an abundance of marine life.
Tour the lagoon islets
Not every ocean adventure has to be a heart-racing experience. Oviri’s Blue Lagoon excursion in Rangiroa is a relaxing day trip exploring private islets. This all-day adventure begins with a one-hour boat ride from the Kia Ora Resort & Spa. After relaxing on sugar-white sand beaches beside a nursery of shy baby blacktip sharks, a delicious barbecue lunch is served. On the ride back, you can snorkel with lemon sharks and drift snorkel in the stunning Avatoru Pass above a thriving coral garden.
Oviri Excursions, BP 198, 98775 Avatoru, Rangiroa, French Polynesia, +689 40 96 05 87
Dive at one of the globe’s top sites
TOPDIVE takes experienced dive enthusiasts to “shoot” the Tiputa Pass three times a day. Depending on the direction and strength of the current, you’ll experience an entirely different but always exhilarating dive. Said to be one of the top 10 dive sites in the world, you’ll see dolphins, massive schools of large fish, manta rays, eagle rays, gray reef sharks, hammerheads and the occasional whale. Non-divers can also drift snorkel over the pass and be safely picked up in a boat inside the lagoon.
Rent a bicycle and beach hop
Not all islands in French Polynesia are mountainous. Some are perfectly flat from tip-to-tip, like Rangiroa and Fakarava, and make for a leisurely bike ride. Go on an adventure outside your hotel and rub elbows with some of the friendliest locals on the planet. Bicycles can be rented from most resorts at a modest rate, meaning you can easily check out nearby beaches, picnic, shop, and explore the island’s charming village life at your own leisure.
Try an underwater experience with a difference
The only tour of its kind in French Polynesia, a multilingual guide takes you on a stunning journey through a vibrant reef in calm, turquoise lagoon water. You meet at the Moorea Water Games dock for a quick boat ride to the far side of the reef while being briefed on how to use marine-sensitive sea scooters and snorkel equipment. No matter your swimming ability or the strength of the current, sea scooters allow for easy and safe access to all areas of the reef where you’ll see large schools of tropical fish, stingrays, shy reef sharks, and sometimes even swim with dolphins.
Hone your scuba skills
A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the island of Fakarava has world-class scuba diving where enthusiasts from all over the globe make the trip to its famous South Pass. Marine life is so abundant that schools of fish appear to be brightly colored clouds. TOPDIVE guides small groups of divers to see a “wall” of hundreds of sharks. Depending upon the season, thousands of groupers gather in the South Pass to spawn. Not for novice divers, the South Pass is highly technical with strong tidal currents.
Soak up the local atmosphere on Teahupo’o
Teahupo’o is a great place to watch the world’s best surfers tackle some of the most dangerous waves around. Home of the Billabong Pro Tahiti annual surf competition, you can watch the competition from the beach or brave a boat offshore. For all its fame, Teahupo’o hasn’t lost its authentic vibe as colorful roosters freely roam the beach and Tahitians often gather to jam on their ukuleles.