French Polynesia Travel Guide
French Polynesia is vast. The main island of Tahiti, offshore Moorea and the iconic Bora Bora are all part of the Society Islands and this group is where the majority of the population is found; and in places, heaves with tourists. The Tuamotu Group is the only other mainstream tourist destination but the majority of visitors come here to dive the huge atolls of Fakarava and Rangiroa. The shallow lagoons are also known for its multi-million dollar black pearl farming. Then there's the northern Marquesas, an adventure's paradise, made famous by artist Paul Gauguin, And the even more remote Gambier and Austral groups which are seldom visited by travellers.
Tahiti is the main island with the international airport just south of Papeete, the capital town. Papeete has a pretty harbour, colourful market and some excellent restaurants and night-life. Visit Tahiti to see beautiful waterfalls, the black pearl museum, to shop in the atmospheric markets, play a round of golf, or swim off the remarkable black sand beach at Pointe Venus. There's also world class surfing around Tahiti-Iti, the eastern part of the island which is draped in wonderful rainforest with some great hiking trails.
Moorea lies off the west coast of Tahiti, but is less busy and budget travellers may want to base themselves here instead of the main island – the sea crossing takes less than an hour, and there are plenty of lookouts, sights to see and tours to enjoy including some excellent Jeep safaris.
Bora Bora is, by many people's standards, the most spectacular island in the South Pacific – but with it has come over-commercialisation which takes some of the shine off it. Visit Bora to snorkel with sharks and stingrays, take a helicopter ride over the island, have a massage on the beach and see if you're sharing your resort with any A-list celebrities.
Other Society Islands
There are many other stunning islands to visit in the Society Islands where you can experience the traditional Polynesian attitude to life. Maupiti is a mini-version of Bora Bora, slightly less dramatic, a little more remote and with hardly any tourists. Maupiti also has some interesting archaeological sites and some surfing breaks. Raiatea is particularly relaxed – visit here to see the river, and get around by scooter. Huahine has very little tourist infrastructure, but is arguably the best island to enjoy as nature intended.