French Polynesia

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French Polynesia

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.

Further Reading

Travel in Tahiti and French Polynesia: vital stats

  • Capital: Papeete (Tahiti)
  • Population of French Polynesia: 294,000
  • Language of French Polynesia: French is the official language, however Polynesian is widely spoken
  • Time of French Polynesia: GMT-10 (Tahiti)
  • International dialling code of French Polynesia: +689
  • Voltage of French Polynesia: 220V,60Hz
  • Visas of French Polynesia: Visa's for French Polynesia
  • French Polynesia travel advice: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

When to go to French Polynesia

French Polynesia’s rainy season runs from November to April. May to October is the best time to visit as it is less humid and rain is less frequent.


School holidays are often busy and expensive – book early if visiting at these times. 

French Polynesia international airports

Faa’a International Airport (PPT) on Tahiti

Getting around French Polynesia

Short flights are the quickest, easiest – and most expensive – way to get between islands. Plenty of boats and ferries run too.

On most islands, the best way to get around on land is via 'Le Truck', a reliable bus service. Taxis tend to be very expensive.

French Polynesia accommodation

You can pay top dollar for a luxury beach lodge or slob out in a woven beach shack for a fraction of the cost.


Food & drink in French Polynesia

The staple diet of most islanders is a mixture of starchy breadfruit, fish, fatty pork, coconut milk and a few vegetables. On special occasions, the whole lot is placed in a hole on top of burning coals, covered in banana leaves and then buried to cook for several hours.


Seafood is common, and may be curried or cooked in coconut milk. Pork is the preferred meat; chicken is often poor quality.


Coconut milk is the cheapest and most refreshing drink. Fresh fruit juice is delicious, but quite expensive.


The local beer, Hinano, is drunk everywhere.


Health & safety in French Polynesia

Take remedies for seasickness if you are prone and plan on island-hopping. Wear plenty of sun cream. Drink lots of purified water.

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