Think of French Polynesia and lush mountains, hibiscus flowers and swaying palms probably come to mind. This natural treasure trove of more than 100 islands – including Bora Bora and Tahiti – is the epitome of a tropical paradise. Here’s a handful of reasons why you should book a sailing vacation to see these South Pacific islands in all their natural glory.
Discover French Polynesia from the water by booking an eight-day sailing adventure with Culture Trip, where you’ll get to snorkel with dazzling tropical fish and visit centuries-old temples on Huahine.
Tropical temperatures, sunshine and cooling trade winds make for glorious weather for both sailing and exploring on a French Polynesia tour. At this latitude, it’s summer year-round, though it is important to note that there is both a wet season and dry season. From May to October, temperatures average out around 81F (27C), while the period from November to April can see heights of 95F (35C) with a few short-lived tropical showers. The scent of vanilla and tropical flowers are your reward for any downpour.
From migrating whales to protected sharks, the French Polynesian waters are known for their exceptional biodiversity. Within the 5m sqkm (2m sqmi) of ocean, there are over 1,000 species of fish, 21 species of shark and 176 species of coral. Nesting turtles make their way to the beaches here to lay their eggs, plus it’s a gathering point for bottlenose, spinner and rough-toothed dolphins. If you’re lucky, you might catch a giant manta ray gliding through a lagoon, ready to be groomed by cleaner fish.
Grab your sunshade and beach towel. The best French Polynesia islands boast a rainbow array of beaches – from pale pink to volcanic black sand – as well as remote coral atolls. You’ll easily find a piece of paradise all to yourself beneath coconut-laden palms. One of our favourites is Motu Iriru, loved by visitors and locals alike, where islanders gather on the weekend to catch fish, cook dinner and while away the afternoon.
As beautiful as the beaches are, the real draw is the wealth of lagoons. Fringe coral reefs and islets create natural swimming pools of shallow waters, surrounding most of the islands in the region. Imagine looking through a glass window, right down to the sea bed; these calm waters are nature’s aquarium and dazzle with every spectrum shade of blue. Linger by them, swim through them or head beneath the surface to watch tropical fish gather around the reef.
Seafaring Polynesians have an innate, spiritual connection to the islands. Head to Raiatea, considered the spiritual heart of ancient Polynesia. You’ll find centuries-old sites, including Marae Taputapuatea, where ceremonies used to be held. Imagine what it was like to hear the pounding of the drums and Maohi (indigenous Polynesians) communing with the gods at these sacred spots.
Surfing is part of the DNA of these islands. Locals have been charging down waves here for centuries. Nowadays, thousands flock to the legendary Teahupo’o break on Tahiti between May and October to watch pro surfers take on one of the most powerful waves on the planet. Watch in awe from the shoreline – or find a mellower spot to try wave riding for yourself. Papara, Papenoo and Taapuna are ideal for novices.
Head down to the deep blue, where the sound of breaking bubbles is the only thing to interrupt the otherworldly communion with flitting fish and looming humpbacks (if you’re lucky). Dolphins, rays, sharks, turtles and more inhabit these warm tropical waters and coral gardens. It’s a haven for scuba diving, as well as snorkelling.
Like spiking teeth rising from the ocean, the jagged peaks of the islands jut towards the sky. Paraglide over the moss-green slopes on Tahiti, one of the best French Polynesian islands, or take the slow route by hiking the lush contours around the Papenoo Valley or up Mount Aorai. The views over halo lagoons and across forest canopies are worth it alone.