French Polynesia

TRAVEL GUIDE

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Polynesie francaise has long been among the world’s more romantic destinations. Made up of 4,200 square km (1,622 square mi) of land spread over five archipelagoes that cover nearly 2.5 million square km of South Pacific Ocean, French Polynesia became a protectorate of France in 1847 and a colony in 1880. Today it is an "overseas country" or pays d’outre-mer of France and has a population of nearly 250,000, 83% of them Polynesian. The biggest concentration of people is in the capital, Papeete, where around 130,000 people live. It’s a place of overwhelming beauty—and of subtlety. Many wear the national flower, a species of gardenia (but sometimes any available flower) over one ear: wear it on the left if you are spoken for, on the right ear if you are not. Of course, you can't take this literally, and many souls would require flowers on both ears.

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Rangiroa

Rangiroa, or "Endless Sky" in Tahitian, is French Polynesia's largest atoll. A long, narrow grouping of 415 small motu strung together in a...

Huahine Nui

Huahine Nui contains the airport in the north and Fare, the port and main town, in the northwest; Maeva village, with numerous marae, is in...

Nuku Hiva

Author Herman Melville summed up Nuku Hiva as a "country that no description could fit the beauty." Melville deserted his ship, the whaler ...

Fakarava

Fakarava is oblong shaped and has an almost continuous string of reef and motu stretching for 40 km (25 mi) on its eastern edge. It's the second...

Hiva Oa

Isolated and wildly beautiful, Hiva Oa—known as the garden of the Marquesas—was the wild paradise that French artist Paul Gauguin escaped to...

Tikehau

Tikehau is one of the most beautiful of the Tuamotu atolls; it's an almost perfect oval of coral reef that encloses a brilliant blue lagoon...

Huahine Iti

Huahine Iti is quieter than its northern neighbor and has four small blink-and-you'll-miss-it villages: Maroe (north), Tefarerii (east), Parea...

Ua Huka

Arid and small, at approximately 78 square km (30 square mi), Ua Huka (which means "great house" in the Polynesian language) is home to around...

Raiatea

Known as the "Sacred Island," Raiatea is a fascinating haunt for archaeologists and historians as it's one of the islands in the Pacific where...

Manihi

Manihi is the least developed of the four main Tuamotu islands and at 520 km (325 mi) from Tahiti, the farthest away. It was first inhabited...

Tubuai

Life is quiet for the 2,000-some inhabitants of Tubuai, which is 644 km (400 mi) south of Tahiti. It's a mellow, subtropical island of approximately...

Tahaa

Located just north of Raiatea, and only a few minutes by shuttle boat, the fragrant scent of vanilla envelops Tahaa, giving it its nickname...

Maupiti

You could say Maupiti is a smaller version of Bora Bora—there's a main island sitting in a large lagoon surrounded by several motu that have...

Fatu Hiva

The southernmost island in the Marquesas archipelago, Fatu Hiva is also the most isolated. The island has high sheer cliffs, craggy slopes,...

Mangareva

Mangareva, with a population around 1,000, is the farthest island from Tahiti (1,033 mi away) and virtually the only inhabited one. It's certainly...

Tahiti

The name Tahiti conjures up dreamy images of idyllic islands floating in azure lagoons fringed by palm trees and white sandy beaches. But few...

Moorea

Moorea is called the "sister island" of Tahiti and its proximity—just 19 km (12 mi) away across the Sea of Moon—has assured a steady stream...

The Other Islands

Scattered around Tahiti are a number of island groups, mainly just specks of land in the vastness of the world's greatest ocean, but each a...

Tuamotu Archipelago

Tuamotu means "islands on the ocean's back," and some romantic observers liken them to the backs of surfacing whales. Each is comprised of hundreds...

Bora Bora with Maupiti

Chances are that if you were asked to draw your idea of a Pacific island, you might come up with a picture that looks pretty much like Bora...

Huahine

Although it lies between Moorea and Bora Bora, Huahine (pronounced Hu-a-hee-nee or Wha-hee-nee ) isn't on the tourist circuit just yet, but...

Rangiroa

Rangiroa, or "Endless Sky" in Tahitian, is French Polynesia's largest atoll. A long, narrow grouping of 415 small motu strung together in a...

Nuku Hiva

Author Herman Melville summed up Nuku Hiva as a "country that no description could fit the beauty." Melville deserted his ship, the whaler ...

Fakarava

Fakarava is oblong shaped and has an almost continuous string of reef and motu stretching for 40 km (25 mi) on its eastern edge. It's the second...

Hiva Oa

Isolated and wildly beautiful, Hiva Oa—known as the garden of the Marquesas—was the wild paradise that French artist Paul Gauguin escaped to...

Tikehau

Tikehau is one of the most beautiful of the Tuamotu atolls; it's an almost perfect oval of coral reef that encloses a brilliant blue lagoon...

Ua Huka

Arid and small, at approximately 78 square km (30 square mi), Ua Huka (which means "great house" in the Polynesian language) is home to around...

Raiatea

Known as the "Sacred Island," Raiatea is a fascinating haunt for archaeologists and historians as it's one of the islands in the Pacific where...

Manihi

Manihi is the least developed of the four main Tuamotu islands and at 520 km (325 mi) from Tahiti, the farthest away. It was first inhabited...

Tubuai

Life is quiet for the 2,000-some inhabitants of Tubuai, which is 644 km (400 mi) south of Tahiti. It's a mellow, subtropical island of approximately...

Tahaa

Located just north of Raiatea, and only a few minutes by shuttle boat, the fragrant scent of vanilla envelops Tahaa, giving it its nickname...

Fatu Hiva

The southernmost island in the Marquesas archipelago, Fatu Hiva is also the most isolated. The island has high sheer cliffs, craggy slopes,...

Mangareva

Mangareva, with a population around 1,000, is the farthest island from Tahiti (1,033 mi away) and virtually the only inhabited one. It's certainly...

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