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5 best islands to visit in French Polynesia

When you say “French Polynesia”, most people immediately think of the iconic Bora Bora. But this archipelago is made up of 117 other islands, each with its own unique beauty. In this blog, we’ll take a look at 5 of French Polynesia’s best islands to visit on your next trip abroad.

1. Raiatea

Known as the “Sacred Island,” Raiatea holds a special place in Polynesian history and mythology. Nestled within the Society Islands, Raiatea was the cultural and religious centre of ancient Polynesia. Remnants of temples (known as marae) and stone structures are a testament to their historical and cultural significance. Visitors can explore these sacred sites, gaining insight into the island’s cultural heritage.

Raiatea embraces its Polynesian roots, offering visitors opportunities to engage with local traditions. Traditional dance performances, artisan markets, and the warm hospitality of the locals provide an authentic glimpse into Raiatea’s vibrant culture. Visitors are invited to participate in cultural activities, fostering a deeper connection with the island’s traditions.

Raiatea is easily accessible by air from Tahiti, making it a convenient starting point for exploring the Society Islands. Once on the island, visitors can navigate its beauty by boat, car, or even on a guided tour. Raiatea’s compact size allows for a comprehensive exploration of its attractions, ensuring that every corner reveals a new facet of its charm.

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2. Taha’a

Also known as the “Vanilla Island”, Taha’a is located just a short boat ride away from its sister island, Raiatea. and is renowned for its lush landscapes, fragrant vanilla plantations, and serene, unspoiled beauty.

What makes Taha’a truly unique is its culinary scene. Influenced by its prized vanilla, many local dishes often incorporate the island’s signature spice, offering visitors a unique and flavorful gastronomic experience. From vanilla-infused seafood to delightful desserts, the local cuisine reflects the island’s agricultural richness.

Many of the island’s resorts provide exclusive access to the lagoon and showcase breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. Staying in an overwater bungalow allows guests to wake up to the gentle lapping of the lagoon against their doorstep.

While Taha’a is not as widely known as some of the more popular islands in French Polynesia, its seclusion adds to the charm.

Visitors can get to the Vanilla Island by taking a short flight to Raiatea and then a boat transfer. Taha’a has a laid-back atmosphere and unhurried pace that makes it an ideal destination for those seeking a tranquil and intimate escape.

3. Fakarava

Just a short flight away from Tahiti, Fakarava is a hidden paradise in the Tuamotu Archipelago. This island is an expansive coral atoll, offering breathtaking landscapes that seamlessly blend turquoise lagoons and palm-fringed islets.

Fakarava is renowned for its incredible underwater world – and its UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status is a testament to its rich marine biodiversity. The Garuae Pass, one of the largest passes in the world, is a hotspot for thrilling diving adventures.

But the island doesn’t just boast vibrant underwater scenes. Its shores are adorned with secluded soft, pink sandy beaches. These stretches offer a perfect setting for relaxation and quiet contemplation.

Accommodations in Fakarava range from charming guesthouses to luxurious overwater bungalows, providing a variety of options to suit different preferences and budgets.

Accessing Fakarava is relatively straightforward. A short flight from Tahiti brings you to this remote atoll, where you can then explore its wonders by foot, bicycle, or boat. The journey to Fakarava becomes part of the adventure, adding to the sense of discovery that awaits.

4. Huahine

Huahine is often referred to as the “Garden of Eden” for its unspoiled natural beauty. This location is actually made up of two main islands, Huahine Nui and Huahine Iti. The Garden of Edene destination offers a harmonious blend of emerald-green peaks, crystal-clear lagoons, and stretches of white sand beaches.

Huahine is iconic for its pearl farms. These farms primarily specialize in cultivating black pearls, known for their rarity and unique beauty. Also known as Tahitian pearls, these beauties come in various shades ranging from silver-gray to peacock green and are highly coveted in the global market.

Visitors can witness the entire pearl cultivation process. This includes the delicate art of grafting, where technicians carefully implant a nucleus into the oyster, stimulating the formation of a pearl. The oysters are then nurtured and monitored until the pearls are ready for harvesting.

From the inviting warmth of family-run guesthouses to the sheer opulence of overwater bungalows, Huahine’s lodging options are as diverse as the island itself, ensuring a stay that aligns seamlessly with your preferences and budget.

Huahine can be easily accessed by taking a short flight from Tahiti, making it easy to access. Here exploration is best done at a leisurely pace, whether by bicycle, scooter, or on a guided tour. The intimate size of this location ensures that each corner reveals a new facet of its natural wonders.

5. Tahiti

Also known as the “Queen of the Pacific,” Tahiti is the largest and most well-known island in French Polynesia. Situated in the South Pacific Ocean, Tahiti isn’t just a destination; it’s the cultural and economic hub for the entire French Polynesian archipelago.

The island is characterized by lush mountains, volcanic peaks, and a stunning coastline. Mount Orohena, the highest peak in French Polynesia, adds to the dramatic and picturesque landscapes.

Tahiti boasts beautiful black sand beaches, such as La Plage de Maui and Pointe Venus, where visitors can relax and enjoy the tropical surroundings. The island is also adorned with spectacular waterfalls, including the Faarumai Waterfalls and the three-tiered Vaipahi Waterfalls, providing opportunities for refreshing dips and scenic hikes.

From luxury resorts to cozy guesthouses, Tahiti provides a range of accommodation options. Overwater bungalows, a symbol of tropical luxury, are a popular choice for those seeking a truly immersive experience in the crystal-clear lagoons

As the gateway to French Polynesia, Tahiti’s Faa’a International Airport serves as a major transportation hub for international flights. From Tahiti, travellers can easily access other islands within the archipelago via domestic flights or ferries.

Let us know in the comments which island you plan on visiting first.

Efrat Sagi-Ofir

Efrat Sagi-Ofir is CRO & Founder of Air Doctor. Air Doctor is a startup that connects travelers to a global network of 20,000 local medical doctors through an easy-to-use app, to receive appropriate medical care from anywhere in the world. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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    1. Hi Jim,

      Thanks so much for reading (and leaving a comment). I’m so glad you had the chance to learn about the other lesser-known gems in this stunning island group. :)

  1. We’ve got this dream of kicking off our retirement with a round the world trip when we retire mid 2025. French Polynesia could well be on our itinerary after reading this.

    1. Hi Sarah!

      Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment.
      Thrilled to hear this post inspired your travel bucket list! :)

  2. Vanilla’s been on some journey. Once upon a time it simply meant “plain”. I doubt that the vanilla ice creams that I had as a boy had ever been near a vanilla pod.

    Now it’s become a prized culinary ingredient. I read that there are times when vanilla is more expensive per gram than silver.

    1. Hi Gary,

      Wow, that’s fascinating! I had no idea that it sometimes costs more than silver.
      Definitely a good reason to head to the island.

  3. Let’s hope that Raiatea clings on to its history and keeps its reputation as the Sacred Island. The more the people mix with the temptations of the modern world it gets harder.

    1. Hi Bob

      That’s so true.
      This is a key reason sustainable tourism is so important.
      The preservation of culture is paramount.

  4. I had no idea that French Polynesia was made up of that many islands. Time to do some research on the other 113 islands beyond the best known ones. Could we have another post on “5 more French Polynesian Islands” please?

    1. Hi Suzy,

      Thanks so much for leaving a comment.
      So glad you enjoyed the post! I’ll definitely consider doing another post. :)

  5. Not sure if this is the place to do it but I’m commenting about the invitation for luxury travel writers. Which is good news.

    What I like about A Luxury Travel Blog is the variety of the posts. I’ve dipped into some other travel blogs and they are all the same style. And when there’s only one blogger there’s only so much of the world that they can cover.

    As far as I’m concerned – the more writers the better..

    1. Hi Steph,

      Thanks so much for leaving this comment. :)

      I love being part of A Luxury Travel Blog’s community – so many passionate, inspirational people who are eager to share travel tips and interesting tales of their travels.

  6. I’ve never been lucky enough to travel to the South Pacific but is there any where more synonymous with paradise than the French Polynesian Islands? They’re on my travel hit list!!

    1. Hi Shane,

      Thanks so much for leaving a comment.
      And couldn’t agree with you more – it is a paradise on earth. :)

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