French Polynesia

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French Polynesia is comprised of 118 islands – some world-famous, such as Bora Bora, and others relatively stealth, such as Fakarava – divided into three main groups: the well-touristed Society Islands (which include Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora and are located 10-45 minutes apart by air), the Tuamotu Atolls (small coral islets popular with divers and located 1-1.5 hours by air from Tahiti), and the remote and mysterious Marquesas (3.5 hours’ flight from Tahiti). Two other groups, the Australs and the Gambiers, have little tourism infrastructure.

French Polynesia Islands and Regions


This gateway island is considerably developed, with a lively port town, Papeete, that resembles a miniature tropical Marseilles. Most people arrive, stay overnight, and then head to Bora Bora or Moorea in the morning. See our Tahiti & Moorea Travel Guide.

Bora Bora

Unspeakably beautiful, with the most famous lagoon in the world, this photogenic island with its mesmerizing silhouette is almost entirely surrounded by skinny, sandy islets called motus – resorts are located both on the main island and on the motus. See our Bora Bora Travel Guide.


As beauty-blessed as its more glamorous sister Bora Bora, mountainous Moorea can be reached by either a short flight or a pleasant half-hour catamaran ride, both from Papeete. See our Tahiti & Moorea Travel Guide.


With less of a tourist infrastructure, figure-eight-shaped Huahine draws visitors who like to venture off the beaten path. A stroll around Fare, the port village, is worthwhile.

Raiatea & Taha'a

Despite its bustling port town of Uturoa, Raiatea has been overshadowed by Bora Bora, Moorea, and Tahiti, yet it provides the only gateway to Taha’a, which is best known for its vanilla production and the Relais & Chateaux resort, Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa.


This low-lying island chain of coral atolls, which includes Rangiroa, Manihi, Fakarava, and Tikehau, is distinct from the mountainous Society Islands (Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea, etc.) and is home to resorts set on small islets that barely break the water's surface.


Easily the most dramatic islands in French Polynesia, these lush, volcanic outposts with names like Nuka Hiva and Hiva Oa are pretty much untouched since the days of European exploration. There are several small resorts and cruise ships visit a dozen or so times a year.

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