5 islands in French Polynesia to visit in 2022

Msimply mention that you plan to visit French Polynesia, and you are likely to apply Oh and aah. The landscape of the entire island chain is the stuff of dreams (and screensavers) with jagged volcanic peaks, calm seas in shades of turquoise and cobalt, white sandy beaches and crystal clear lagoon waters with tropical fish and rays.

But with 118 islands and atolls scattered across five different archipelagos (67 of which are inhabited) in the South Pacific Ocean, French Polynesia offers unique pockets of paradise for every type of traveler. From the international hub of Tahiti and other popular Society Islands to the remote shores of Tikehau, we’ll delve into the distinct landscapes and personalities of five French Polynesian islands you should visit.

Tahiti

Best for: a lively cultural experience including art, shopping and food

No matter where you are coming from, your international flight to French Polynesia will likely land at the airport in Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia on the northwest coast of Tahiti. The island is the economic and cultural center of the country and the most populated; it is home to more than two-thirds of the population.

Compared to the other islands, Tahiti is bustling and industrialized. Yes, you will encounter traffic here. Expect large hotels with the nameplates of global brands.

Visitors will find specific pleasures in Tahiti: Art lovers will make pilgrimages to the island for its Gauguin museum and its historic connection to the painter Paul Gauguin, who escaped the bustle of Europe for these shores . (Gaugin, it should be noted, made his works through the problematic prism of colonialism and also had predatory sex with young Tahitian girls.) Shoppers will appreciate the municipal market – Le Marché – which dates back to the 1800s, a central place to mark Tahitian produce and produce just one block from the waterfront. Don’t miss a stop at Papeete’s food trucks, or trailersWho appointment in Vaiete Square, serving large portions in a lively atmosphere of residents and visitors.

Where to stay

Omati Lodge

This boarding house offers a collection of self-contained villas with private pools and well-equipped kitchens. The Tahitian family behind the property built most of it with their own hands, favoring wood, roof shingles, and locally crafted decor items for a graceful Polynesian vibe. The villas are all nestled in a lush garden with sea views and natural ventilation from the trade winds.

Book now: From $170 per night, omati-lodge.com

Intercontinental Tahiti

Whether you’re on an overnight stopover or extending your stay in Tahiti, the Intercontinental is a well-located and long-established choice: it’s just over a mile from the airport and shopping. from the city. A 60-acre tropical garden surrounded by the sea and infinity pools offers views of nearby Moorea.

Book now: From $231 per night, expedia.com

Mo'orea is full of mountain views but is wonderfully short of international resorts.

Moorea

Best for: breathtaking views and vast outdoor adventures amidst dramatic mountain peaks

Moorea is easily accessible compared to the other islands of the volcanic archipelago known as the Society Islands: Reach Moorea by a short ferry ride (about 40 minutes) from Tahiti. Although only 10 nautical miles away, they are very far apart. The island is known for its spectacular mountain and lagoon views and breathtaking beauty. Here you will find craggy volcanic peaks hovering above the lagoon waters in all shades of blue.

Moorea maintains a relaxed atmosphere with a small island feel and fewer internationally branded resorts compared to islands such as Bora Bora. Come here for a wide range of outdoor activities and adventures. Many artists live on the island and various galleries present their works. Guides lead hiking, biking, and 4×4 tours through the mountain destination with stops to take in the postcard views of Opunohu Bay and Cook’s Bay.

Where to stay

Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa

This Hilton property is located between Mo’orea’s two bays, with a northern location that offers equally incredible sunrises and sunsets. Cling to an overwater bungalow, French Polynesia’s signature accommodation, or settle into garden bungalows, some with private pools.

Book now: From $411 per night, expedia.com

Bora Bora

Best for: lavish resorts from where visitors can view sparkling lagoons against the dramatic backdrop of Mount Otemanu amid warm hospitality

Even the name of this island evokes a once-in-a-lifetime magical and indulgent experience, and indeed honeymooners frequently choose Bora Bora as their destination. Located on a sleepy volcanic island surrounded by a crystal clear lagoon, Bora Bora is the island to visit if you are looking for luxury and luxury amidst a landscape of beach resorts prepared to cater to the most discerning and affluent guests. .

The tallest and most recognizable point is the jagged Mount Otemanu in the center of the 15 square mile island. Head out for the day on a boat in the lagoon to try a popular activity: swimming with sharks and rays that glide around you in shallow water.

Where to stay

Hotel Four Seasons Bora Bora

Located on the outer reef along the northeast side of the island, the resort features overwater villas (some with private pools), volcanic rock walls, and decorative mother-of-pearl accents. This honeymoon hotel is also family-friendly, with a kids’ club and a resident marine biologist on hand to take the whole family on an educational snorkeling excursion.

Book now: Starting at $1,132 per night, expedia.com

An afternoon view from one of Taha'a's overwater bungalows.

Taha’a

Best for: a less touristy environment where the snorkeling is stellar and the scent of vanilla pervades the air

The quiet island of Taha’a has no airport; you get there by boat or helicopter. As a result, this island with a handful of accommodations retains an understated charm and laid-back atmosphere. Idyllic beaches surround the island, which resembles the shape of a flower.

Nicknamed “the island of vanilla” because it produces most of the Tahitian vanilla, Taha’a has a fragrance that wafts on its breezes. A visit to a vanilla farm is a must; plantations dot the island. Pearl farming is also a long-standing tradition here.

But snorkelers will especially be delighted with the underwater beauty around Taha’a, which is easily seen in this less touristy environment: Visit the so-called Coral Garden by boat to observe the outrageous tropical fish and marine life . Here, you’ll see a colorful array of clownfish, lionfish, wrasse, butterflyfish, anemones, giant electric blue clams, and more.

Where to stay

The Taha’a

Taha’a by Pearl Resorts spans the private Motu Tautau islet, with views of Taha’a and Bora Bora. (It’s 15 minutes away by helicopter.) The intimate property, one of the few here, offers 58 suites and villas inspired by traditional Polynesian architecture. The property values ​​authenticity and an atmosphere in harmony with culture and nature.

Book now: From $861 per night, expedia.com

Tikehau

Best for: a distant escape with few other people or distractions from natural beauty and abundance of fish

Alone on our list outside of the Society Islands, Tikehau is heaven for visitors looking for an off-the-grid feel (albeit with Wi-Fi and phone access). Find pink and white sand on the beaches of Tikehau in this totally isolated atoll of the Tuamotu archipelago, remains of an ancient volcano. The small islands here form a lagoon which opens onto the ocean in a single pass.

About 500 residents live here. In the Tuamotu language (which has several thousand active speakers in the region), Tikehau means something like “peaceful landing”, an apt descriptor. Ditch your shoes when you come here and let the elements punctuate your plans.

In the long tradition of residents here, hit the water for leisure and lunch: Protected by a single passage, the lagoon here is famous for its waters abundant with fish, even by French Polynesian standards.

Where to stay

The Tikehau by Pearl Resorts

Located on one of the many pink sands Motus (islets) that make up the atoll, in the middle of the luxuriant vegetation of a wild coconut grove, this resort offers villas on the water and on the beach. There’s only one restaurant and bar, plus a spa (but you’ll likely spend most of your time on and in the water).

Book now: From $461 per night, expedia.com

>> Next: AFAR Guide to French Polynesia

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