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French Polynesia

French Polynesia travel guide

The names Tahiti, Bora Bora and Rangiroa conjure images of blissful paradise – golden sands, blue lagoons, swaying palms. A fairly accurate summation, as it happens. With striking mountains and wildlife too, French Polynesia has the lot.

The five island groups of French Polynesia (comprising 118 islands and atolls) total only 3,827 sq km in land mass, but are spread across an area of the Pacific that is the size of Western Europe. The islands are mixed, but beautiful, whether they're rugged dots rising high out of the blue waters or low-lying atolls with white sand and stunning coral reefs.

You can just lounge in a hammock with a cool cocktail, but the islands also offer exceptional diving, surfing and sailing, plus plenty of hiking and climbing in luscious mountains.

Wanderlust recommends

  1. Don a snorkel – Much of French Polynesia offers great snorkelling. Enlist a guide to take you to shark and humpback areas (humpbacks swim by Rurutu August-November) or simply float about gawping at a range of technicolour fish (Rangiroa has some great spots).
  2. Get lost on Moorea – The jungles here are filled with hidden waterfalls and interesting old ruins, just waiting to be discovered.
  3. Find a remote spot – Not all French Polynesian islands are equal – some are more developed than others. The small island of Maupiti is perfect for those wanting a secluded beach-break – lush, lowly populated and untouched by tourism.
  4. Chill out on Huahine – Lie on the beach and watch life go slowly by on this lovely, laidback backpacker-friendly island, popular with surfers and the budget conscious.
  5. Watch Tahitian dancers – Not just for tourists, dance performances are an important part of Polynesian culture. Catch a show: a whirl of bright costumes, brighter flowers and traditional music.

Wanderlust tips for French Polynesia

Everything that is imported into remote French Polynesia is rather pricey – and pretty much everything is imported. Take the essentials with you, including sun cream, your own snorkel and mask, and a raincoat.

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