Sat in-between South America and Australia, the five archipelagoes of French Polynesia contain a collection of 118 islands that can be found in the South Pacific. The region includes the Society Islands, the Tuamotus, the Marquesas, the Gambiers and the Australs, and each has their own identity, culture and climate.
Unlike any other destination full of busy towns and villages packed with people, shops and museums, French Polynesia is a place of serenity, exotic natural beauty and peace- paradise is the only word for it. Expect to find gushing waterfalls, towering mountains, remote characterful villages, secluded bays and lagoons, white, black and pink sandy beaches and bright sapphire water from a trip to French Polynesia. Although each of the five archipelagoes offers something different, what they all have in common is a warm, laid-back atmosphere, and tropical scent of coconut and vanilla that wafts through the air making it a recognisable trait of the Polynesian islands. The region is also well known for its abundance of tropical marine life, to include reef sharks, manta rays, whales, dolphins and butterfly fish, as a result of the coral reefs that hug the island perimeters. You really will struggle to find somewhere more enchanting and breathtaking than French Polynesia.
Year-round, consistent trade winds and calm waters make French Polynesia the ideal sailing location for both novice and experienced sailors seeking adventure and remote natural beauty hotspots. A luxury yacht is the best way to island hop and see all this tropical region has to offer, and you might even catch a mahi-mahi or tuna along the way.
This sample itinerary will focus on your dream holiday in the Society Islands and is designed to help you get the most out of your stay in French Polynesia. More than you’ll be able to see in a week you are spoilt for choice:
Tahiti is the largest of the Society Islands and is also the best location for a party thanks to its vibrant nightlife, particularly in Papeete. This party vibe exists in stark contrast to the tranquil ambience on neighbouring islands, but makes for a nice change for an evening or two. Spend the night at a traditional Tahitian bar or bustling nightclub if you are looking to join the party while in French Polynesia. If it’s an amazing restaurant you want while in Papeete, Hei Restaurant is a must and is very popular with foodies. Papeete is the island’s capital and also one of the best spots across the Society Islands for shopping and getting your hands on some authentic Polynesian jewellery or pearls.
Tahiti is very well known for its cultivation of black pearls from the resident pearl farms. A popular activity on this island is a trip to one of the pearl farms to see how the pearls are harvested from the oysters. The black pearls are said to be very valuable and most visitors come away with a gorgeous souvenir.
Raiatea is the country’s capital and is surrounded by a number of tiny islands and coral reefs that are ideal for snorkelling and diving around. This island is a natural haven and is home to the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Marae Taputapuatea that can be found in Opoa Bay. Raiatea is not overcrowded by tourists and boasts a very calming aura that rubs off on all those who visit. The island is dominated by lush green landscapes that are framed by the “sacred isle” of mountains around the perimeter. If you are looking for a hike and breathtaking views, we would recommend a walk up the Tapioi Mountain.
A tranquil spot to drop anchor for lunch on board or a picnic on the beach is Motu Taoru. The beach’s coral reef is full of colourful fish, so you will want to get the flippers and snorkel out here. Alternatively, you might want to stop at Faaroa Bay. You will be able to take a tender or paddle board up the river Aopomau to Faaroa Bay to see some beautiful tropical flowers lining the banks and some exotic birds of paradise flying overhead, while the marine life swims below.
Along with Tahiti, Raiatea is a great place to visit if you are in search of the native black pearl. You will also be able to visit a pearl farm inside the lagoon and take a tour giving insight into how the black lipped oysters and their pearls are harvested. You will also be able to buy hand made pearl jewellery in the main village of Uturoa at the local market.
Raiatea and Taha’a share a lagoon and are surrounded by one large coral reef. What makes Taha’a distinctive is it’s production of vanilla, giving it the title “Vanilla Island”. Upon arrival here you will be hit by the intoxicating scent of vanilla, particularly if you visit one of the famous organic vanilla farms to see how vanilla is cultivated and why it is one of the most sought after flavours by chefs all over the world. The island actually produces and sources 80% of the world’s vanilla.
If you are looking to relax and take a dip in the azure waters, Apu Bay is on the south coast of Taha’a and is the perfect location for an afternoon of snorkelling or exploration on paddle boards or kayaks. The bay is very well protected, except in south winds, making it the ideal spot to drop anchor for a lunch or a cocktail- we would recommend that you drop anchor in the south of the bay for maximum enjoyment. Motu Ceyran is also a lovely spot for a relaxing swim in crystal clear water. Here you will be able to admire Huahine from the water that looks like a pregnant lady with long hair floating in the waves. Ha’amene Bay is another great location on the island to drop anchor over night. In the morning you might want to hike up one of the mountains for stunning sunrise views across the South Pacific. At the head of this bay you will be able to hike through the tropical forest over Mount Taira if you want to see more of the island.
The best village to visit on Taha’a is Tiva, marked from the water by the red church. A visit here will give you an insight into authentic Polynesian life. Raiatea Lodge is a lovely little restaurant on the island if you fancy dining ashore for some delicious local and high-quality French-Tahitian cuisine.
From Taha’a you might want to sail into the open water of the South Pacific to Motu To’opua, a small islet, and drop anchor here for glorious sunset views over dinner onboard. Motu To’opua is also a great place to swim with eagle rays in the ‘valley of eagle rays’.
Only 6 nautical miles from Motu To’opua, Bora Bora is the ultimate honeymoon location thanks to its heavenly beaches, crystal blue water and protective coral reef that brings an abundance of tropical wildlife. It is an unbelievable place and you have to see it to believe it! Bora Bora’s only town is Vaitape and this is where you will find local boutiques and jewellery shops. You will also find a selection of restaurants and bars in the village that serve great food and fruity cocktails if you fancied dining ashore one night. Bloody Mary’s restaurant has become a very popular dining location for visitors and is well known for its display of local produce so you can see what takes your fancy.
Have lunch and a swim or snorkel at the “Aquarium” at Point Paoaoa- a spot known for its abundance of marine life to include butterfly fish, clown fish and parrot fish. It is nice to just lay back and relax in the water here to take in your surroundings in front of the famous Mount Otemanu. You must get the yacht’s toys out here and explore more of the area by paddle board or snorkel and discover what’s under the water. Alternatively, Matira Beach is the place to be if you want to kick back and relax under a coconut tree and listen to the waves gently crash along the shore. This beach boasts unrivalled sunset views too! A hike up to Matira Point will reward you with incredible views over the glistening blue water and is the perfect way to stretch your legs after some sailing.
Just 25 miles from Bora Bora is Maupiti, a smaller version of Bora Bora. Development is restricted on this remote island, and it remains lowly populated, meaning it has been kept intact and much of it represents what it looked when the island was first discovered. This is the best place to zone out on a secluded beach.
If you closed your eyes to imagine the most dreamy fantasy of a tropical island, you would come up with Mo’orea. This is the island to get your pictures for instagram as one of the most photogenic of all the Polynesian islands; lush green landscapes, towering mountains, gushing waterfalls and azure water dominate on this island. The coral beaches and gardens provide the ideal location for some snorkelling and swimming, particularly in the Lagoonarium which is a protected area for sharks, turtles and rays. If you find yourself in Mo’orea between July and October you might spot some whales as this island is one of the most popular breeding grounds for the humpback whales. You might also want to navigate to Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay for some snorkelling and paddle boarding.
Moor at Papetoai and explore the picturesque and very typically Polynesian village. Papetoai is a very inviting village with a warm spirit and laid back vibe, much like the rest of the island. If you are feeling adventurous in Papetoai, Tiki Parc is a popular spot to visit for its outdoor activities, swing ropes, aerial bridges and particularly the zipline and its treetop views over Mo’orea. In the evening it is recommended to enjoy a delicious 3-course meal at Holy Steak House and wine bar. The restaurant can be found on a hilltop overlooking Mo’orea’s crystal clear lagoon and boasts a romantic ambience, particularly as the sun sets. Pork slow-cooked underground in a fire pit is a local tradition and is usually accompanied by some Polynesian dancing- if you get a chance to see this, you’ve hit the jackpot.
As a result of Mo’orea’s stunning landscapes, hiking is one of the most popular things to do on the island. The Pass of the Three Coconuts is one of the best walks on the island as it provides a trail along the volcanic funnel. At the top of this hike, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views over the ancient volcano. The Archaeological Trail and Pass of the Three Pines is another hike through a forest and the pineapple fields before the ancient archaeological sites. The hike ends at the Pass of The Three Pines that provides enchanting views of Cook’s Bay.
Huahine is packed with ancient historic sites and stone temples and has gained the name “Garden of Eden” because the island is a tropical jungle paradise. Fare is a charming and very mountainous Polynesian village, and the largest settlement on Huahine. Here you will find shops, restaurants and bars, and a very popular way of getting around the village is on horseback. After a day of adventure, a cold beverage at Huahine Shack is a must.
You might also want to cool off with a refreshing dip in the water at Bay d’Avea. It is a gorgeous place to drop anchor for lunch and a swim, especially at either the entrance of the bay or at the east end of the bay. If you wanted to dine ashore in the evening, The Mauari restaurant comes very highly recommended thanks to the great food, but also due to its prime location to watch the sun sink into the horizon. Huahine is actually split into two islands: Big Huahine and Little Huahine and they are connected by a bridge. Bay d’Avea can be found on the coast of Little Huahine and is one of the most stunning beaches in the whole of French Polynesia. Ana Iti beach is another dreamy beach and secret spot that is ideal for getting the yacht’s toys out and enjoying some time on the water. The beach itself boasts soft white sand, rolling hills and palm trees that provide a refreshing shaded area to relax in. The beach tends to be quiet as it is only accessible by boat, so expect some peace and quiet here.
You may also have heard the island of Tetiaroa referred to as Marlon Brando Island after he bought it following his part in Mutiny on the Bounty that was filmed here. This is a very luxurious and glamourous, yet remote island and there is something for everyone; relax in Varua Spa for the afternoon with a Tahitian sand body scrub and coconut wrap, or enjoy a game of tennis before cooling off in the refreshing turquoise water (refreshing but usually around 28 degrees celsius)- it is an exotic haven fit for royalty.
If you fancy dining ashore one evening, you must try the Michelin* restaurant Les Mutines which provides the ideal setting for an intimate meal of organic and locally sourced produce with a French twist.
If you are inspired by French Polynesia and want the trip of a lifetime on a luxury yacht in this enchanting destination, get in touch with Lizzie now to book your charter as well as a personalised itinerary.