French Polynesia is one of the Pacific’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s made up of 118 islands covering over 6,400 square kilometers. Soaring volcanic peaks, rugged cliffs, and emerald lagoons provide some of the South Pacific’s most spectacular scenery. These islands are where you find those picturesque bungalows on stilts over blue lagoons. It’s a tropical paradise. Due to their remoteness and their appeal to celebrities and honeymooners, the islands are an expensive destination to visit. It’s hard to travel here on a budget, but if you have the money, you won’t regret making the trip!
Top 5 Things to See and Do in French Polynesia
1. Go diving
2. Head to Tahiti
3. Explore Bora Bora
4. Go snorkeling
5. Relax on Mataiva
Other Things to See and Do
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1. See the diverse wildlife
Most of the wildlife here is found in the lagoons and surrounding waters as there are very few indigenous animals on land. Diving offers a great chance to check out the country’s underwater wildlife. On land, bird watchers will not be disappointed with sightings of kingfishers and rate Nuku Hiva pigeons among others.
2. Cycle the islands
Bike rentals are available almost everywhere and they are a great way to explore the islands. Expect to pay between 1,500-2,000 XPF per person (though many hostels and hotels have free bikes you can use).
3. Make a trip to Fatu Hiva
Fatu Hiva is the southernmost of the Marquesas Islands and is certainly the most isolated. The Bay of Virgins is often described as the most stunning bay in Polynesia. Sadly, there are no beaches on the island. Instead, you are met with the rugged beauty of the cliff edges, ravines, and jungles. The snorkeling and diving here is some of the best in the island chain.
4. Belvedere Lookout, Moorea
Situated on Moorea, Belvedere Lookout offers the sweeping views of the island and certainly warrants the hike up. A number of marae (traditional temples) are scattered in the area just off the main road leading up to the lookout.
5. Visit a Marae
Marae are Polynesian temples where people came to offer up gifts to the Gods. The most impressive is Taputapuatea on the island of Raiatea but fans of Polynesian archaeology will also enjoy a trip to the Opunohu Valley, which stretches from the head of Cook’s Bay up towards Belvédère on Moorea Island and has marae dotted all over the walking trail.
6. Go whale watching
June and July are peak whale watching months in the Austral Islands south of Tahiti. Pods of humpback whales swim to Rurutu and Tubuai from Antarctica to bear their young and this makes for one of the most spectacular sights you are likely to see on your travels. Expect to spend around 11,500 XPF per person. Tours generally last a few hours.
7. Visit Gauguin Museum
This museum is host to many reproductions of Paul Gauguin’s paintings. His colorful style brought fame to the islands and he lived out his last years here painting traditional life. Though not all the works are originals, if you haven’t seen a wide collection of his work this is a good place to start. Admission is 600 XPF for adults and 300 XPF for children.
8. Harrison Smith Botanical Gardens
These tropical gardens span over 135 hectares. There are hundreds of trees, shrubs, plants, flowers, and even lily ponds.It is located right next to the Gauguin Museum.
9. Head to Ua Pou
This dry desert island has oasis-like valleys filled with tropical fruit. There is enough to feed more than ten times the amount of the population. It is just south of Nuku Hiva and is noted as an island rich in culture and arts.
10. Learn about Polynesian History
Accessible from Puamau, Iipona is one of the best archaeological sites in French Polynesia. It’s known for its five impressive tiki figures, the tallest of which is about 10 feet high. Entrance to the site is around 400 XPF.