French Polynesia is one of those places that people dream when they think of Paradise. With vast lagoons fifty shades (or more!) of blue, luxurious overwater bungalows and sprawling technicolor coral reefs, it is no doubt that French Polynesia is often chosen as a honeymoon destination, or as the ideal place for that 'once in a lifetime' kind of adventure.  Yet, where should one go when visiting French Polynesia? Most people will be flying into Papeete, the largest airport in the region - and then? French Polynesia is made up of more than 100 islands, 67 of which are inhabited, and they extend over a territory of over 2000 km. Yes, that's right - a territory half the size of Europe. 

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Getting to French Polynesia might be a hassle, as flying to Papeete can take over 30 hours from Europe, regardless of whether you fly via Australia or via the US. But once you get to the islands of French Polynesia... you'll truly be in heaven. This is the ideal place to discover on a sailing adventure, to spend time away from it all, sinking your toes in the sand of a deserted beach, or reclining on the deck of your private charter with a drink in hand and a spectacular Polynesian sunset unfolding all around you.  Here we've listed our 12 favorite islands in French Polynesia, perfect for a honeymoon, a sailing adventure, a dive cruise - or even just to spend some time away from it all, dancing from island to island exploring your ideal French Polynesia itinerary. 


Let's start with one of the best islands in French Polynesia to get off the beaten track - Huahine. This is the perfect place to escape the glitz and Westernized atmosphere of places like Papeete and Bora Bora, and to explore slow island life and Polynesian culture. On top of that, Huahine also has some archaeological sites - the island was once home to royal families, and remains of their ancient temples and palaces can still be found. Huahine is also the ideal place to discover nature - there are endless white sand beaches, hidden turquoise coves, and the opportunity to see blue-eyed eels, worshipped by the locals. Divers and surfers will also love Huahine! 

Bora Bora

Bora Bora may be slightly overdeveloped, but its charm cannot be denied. The island became a tourist destination after American soldiers stationed there in World War 2 returned to their homeland with stories of its beautiful lagoon - tourism development started shortly thereafter, turning this once-secluded French Polynesia island into the best honeymoon destination in the Pacific.  Luxury is the main drawcard of Bora Bora - the famous overwater bungalow where first invented on this French Polynesia island, and nowadays there are dozens of 5-star resorts. Whether you're exploring French Polynesia on your honeymoon or just for fun, don't miss a day or two doing absolutely nothing in a Bora Bora overwater bungalow!


French Polynesia islands are not just about the beaches and water-based adventures - their interior sometimes offers wonderful adventures! Raiatea is the perfect example of this - it is known as the most sacred island in French Polynesia and is home to Marae Taputapuatea, the best-preserved historical site in the area, full of temples and religious artifacts, and also part of the UNESCO heritage list. If you want to learn more about Polynesian culture and history, this island is a must visit.  The interiors of Raiatea also offer great hiking opportunities - you can explore the rainforest in looking for its three waterfalls, or head to the highlands to find the tiare apetahi, a rare Polynesian flower that only grows in Raiatea, on the extinct volcano Mount Temehani.


Bora Bora may be famous for its luxury, but Tahaa is just downright extravagant, the ideal place to feel like a king and queen surrounded by beautiful nature. If your budget can stretch far enough, a night on a Tahaa overwater bungalow will indeed be an experience to remember! Most people just access Tahaa for a day trip from its sister island Raiatea, to visit its white beaches and lagoons, or to explore its vanilla plantations - 80% of vanilla produced in French Polynesia comes from Tahaa. Make sure you indulge in a meal on one of Tahaa or Raiatea's restaurants, to sample it straight from the source!


This island is at the top of all divers' wishlists - Rangiroa is the second biggest atoll in the world, so big that you can fit the whole of Tahiti island inside its lagoon. Looking like a huge necklace floating in the ocean, the Rangiroa lagoon is home to spectacular dive sites where it is possible to spot tiger, silvertip and hammerhead sharks, as well as turtles and dolphins. Rangiroa is also the wine hotspot of French Polynesia - did you even know that Polynesian wine existed? Vines are planted all around the lagoon, surrounded by coconut groves, and they are hand-harvested and brought to Rangiroa's winery by boat. 


Tahiti is French Polynesia's best-known island, home to its capital Papeete and to 70% of the population of the entire territory. Papeete will be the first port of entry for the majority of travelers, but most people will try to get away from it as quickly as possible - after all, you didn't come to French Polynesia to see city life, did you? However, we recommend spending a couple of days to explore Tahiti. Papeete is an interesting city, with a thriving street food culture and a unique atmosphere. The interior of Tahiti is rarely visited but it offers incredible hiking opportunities - you can climb the famous Mount Aorai over a two day period, or just head into the rainforest to look for waterfalls if you prefer something less challenging!


If you only have a few days to spare and want to look for a secluded French Polynesia island, Moorea is a great option - it's only 30 minutes away from Tahiti, and its heart shape and laidback cham make it perfect for honeymooners. Moorea is amazing to explore - you can hike in the morning, exploring the island's interiors, wandering around villages or coffee plantations, and spend time lazying on the beach in the afternoon.  Divers and snorkelers will also love Moorea - dolphins, reef sharks and manta rays often come to visit, making this French Polynesia island ideal for underwater adventures!


Nature lovers, look no further! This island has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO to protect its delicate ecosystem, and overwater bungalows are also banned to make sure the island remains pristine. The island is only home to 400 people, and most of them are involved in UNESCO conservation efforts.  There are many things to do in Fakarava - the diving is world class, with lemon, whitecap and hammerhead sharks often spotted in the lagoon, and snorkeling can also reveal amazing surprises. The island is extremely laidback, and it's easy to explore independently on foot or by bike looking for deserted beaches where you can pretend to be a castaway. One tip - try to find Fakarava's pink beach to make your Instagram followers very jealous!

Hiva Oa

This island is part of the Marquesas, one of the four island groups of French Polynesia. The Marquesas Islands are one of the best places in French Polynesia to go for those that want to be immersed in local culture - places like Hiva Oa have won over the heart of many travellers, including the famous painter Paul Gauguin.  Hiva Oa may not be as picture-perfect as other French Polynesia islands, but its charm lies in its ruggedness. It's the ideal island to explore on foot, dirt bike, horseback or 4x4, looking for beaches with no one else in sight and waves crashing on the shore, marveling at the huge tiki statues and meeting locals.

Fatu Hiva

Nowadays, many people have a tattoo - but have you ever stopped to consider where the word 'tattoo' comes from? It comes from Polynesia, and the best tattoo artists of the French Polynesia islands are found in Fatu Hiva! Captain James Cook brought the Polynesian art form to the West after his visit to the Marquesas Islands, that include Fatu Hiva. Polynesian tattoos traditionally depict scenes of local mythology, and on Fatu Hiva it is still possible to see villagers covered in tattoos from head to toe. Similarly to Hiva Oa, Fatu Hiva is a destination for adventurers, a place to leave 5 star hotels behind and jump into the wild side of French Polynesia, a place of waves, jungles and millenary cultures. 


The Gambier Islands, of which Mangareva is part, are also known as 'the islands at the end of the world' - after all, they are over a thousand miles from Tahiti. Mangareva is linked to Tahiti by once-weekly flights - you won't find many tourists in this corner of the world, and you'll have its stunning beaches and forests all to yourself! Besides relaxing on the beach and enjoying slow island life, things to do in Mangareva include visiting the neo-Gothic St. Michael's Cathedral, constructed in 1848 in the village of Rikitea and made of fired limestone inlaid with mother of pearl, visiting stone ruins and climbing Mount Duff, from where you can get amazing scenic views of the island. 


Many French Polynesia visitors will look at you funny if you say you're planning to visit Tetiaroa, but if you say 'Marlon Brando Island', they'll know perfectly what you mean! The famous actor purchased the island after visiting in 1960 while filming the movie "Mutiny on the Bounty" and falling in love with French Polynesian lifestyle. The island now houses the super-luxury Brando Resort, making use of innovative eco-technologies like coconut fuel, solar power and deep-ocean water cooling. The lucky guests can just relax in their private bungalow or explore the island, learning about its past when it was one of the favorite holiday location for Polynesian royals.

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French Polynesia