Inspired Travel: French Polynesia's Pristine Atolls

by  Darren Murph | Jul 18, 2013
Tahiti / mvaligursky/iStock

Situated in the middle of the South Pacific ocean – roughly halfway between San Diego and Auckland – French Polynesia is one of those postcard-ready locales that truly seems like paradise. Its collection of islands includes Tahiti (perhaps the most well known), which boasts the country's only international airport. From there, however, a world of diversity awaits, as the crystal clear waters and overwater bungalows are actually located on its many out-islands and atolls.

When to go: Anytime. The truth is, French Polynesia's "dry" season spans April to October, and those months also happen to be the mildest in terms of humidity and temperature. You can expect routine highs in the 80s, and at least eight hours of sunshine each day. At night, you'll need little more than a light jacket; in fact, most find the evening breezes to be quite comfortable. That said, I've visited in February, and it rained only once during my whole trip. Temperatures were a bit hotter, but I enjoyed having more of the amenities (tennis courts, hiking trails, pools) to myself as fewer tourists go during the November to March time frame.

You'll need to book a flight into Faa'a International Airport (PPT), and from there, arrange a ferry to select nearby atolls. Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, and Bora Bora can be reached via ferry, with costs usually ranging from $25 to $80/person roundtrip depending on distance, while more secluded outposts such as Rangiroa and Tikehau require seaplane access. These individual hauls can easily top $250/person round-trip, but many lodging venues include transportation in the rate just to get you out there.

What to do: Most beachfront settings make it easy to relax, though French Polynesia's powdery beaches were seemingly built for R&R. Outside of that, each atoll offers its own various adventures: see pearl farms in the lagoons of Raiatea and Tahaa, or explore Tetiaroa's government-protected "Bird Island" sea bird sanctuary. On some of the larger islands, guests can rent "buggies" and drive around on their own, or even go horseback riding down the beach – both ideal ways to explore the local sights at your own pace.

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