French Polynesia

French Polynesia includes more than 100 islands in the South Pacific and stretches for more than 2,000 km. Divided into the Austral, Gambier, Marquesas, La Sociedad and Tuamotu archipelagos, they are known for their coral-lined lagoons and their bungalow hotels on the sea.

Characteristics of the islands include black and white sand beaches, mountains, uneven fields, towering waterfalls, and turquoise lagoons. Sultry French Polynesia is a place to take it slow and experience warm, laid-back island culture.

Culture & History

French Polynesia is a French overseas country. Although it has its own government, it depends on France despite being between Oceania and America. Its inhabitants have European citizenship and can participate in European elections.

Tahiti: just the word conjures up centuries’ worth of images: hibiscus flowers; bronzed dancers in grass skirts; a humid breeze over the turquoise sea. The islands of French Polynesia became legends the minute the first European explorers reached their home shores with tales of a heaven on earth where the soil was fertile, life was simple and lust was guilt-free.

The tamure is the traditional dance and contemporary music is the kaina porinetia, which is danced by all the villagers. His dances have an erotic and provocative charge. When the missionaries arrived in Polynesia, they were very surprised by these dances, especially the timorodee and the upaupa couple dance. Her clothing stands out for being in vibrant colors and accompanied by a typical accessory, the intertwined flower necklace.


Traditional cuisine is a balanced mix of French, Chinese and Polynesian influences: béchamel, soy sauce or coconut milk are just as present.

Fish from the open sea (tuna, bonito, wahoo, swordfish and dolphinfish) and lagoon fish (parrotfish, horse mackerel and pike) stand out in traditional cuisine. The poisson cru (raw fish in coconut milk) is the most popular local dish, although fish is also served grilled, fried, or cooked.

Maa Tahiti, a traditional Tahitian stew, is a consistent mix of starchy yam and uru (breadfruit), raw or cooked fish, pork fat, coconut milk, and a few vegetables. On special occasions, the whole is prepared with care and placed in a himaa (cooking hole) where a layer of stones and banana leaves separate the food from the embers.

Urban Experience

An incredible tourist option is to walk through Papeete, the capital of Polynesia, where you will hear all the ancestral stories of the island. Papeete's large, teeming market is also a wonderful place to examine tropical foodstuffs as well as to buy handicrafts. It's especially busy before dawn on Sunday.

The Musée de Tahiti et Ses Isles/Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands recounts the geology, history, culture, flora, and fauna of French Polynesia. It's worth a stop just for the outstanding view of Moorea from its coconut-grove setting.

Also, the great French painter Paul Gauguin lived and worked on Tahiti's south coast from 1891 until moving to Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands. The Musée Gauguin/Gauguin Museum has a few of his original works, but is best at tracing his adventures in French Polynesia.

Outdoors & Adventure

Upon arrival you can see how the white of the ground melts with the blue of the sea until it ends gently on the horizon; with a beautiful reddish sky. And when you think it can't get any better, you dive into the sea and you find fantastic coral beds and great biodiversity, with millions of colorful fish and even sharks.

Most high islands are surrounded by fringing reefs that create a protected swimming pool of the most intense aqua imaginable. Coral atolls have this same caliber of lagoon minus the big island in the middle. Fish, dolphins, rays, sharks, turtles, and more inhabit these clear-water coral gardens that are as excellent for snorkeling as they are for diving and swimming. Surfers ride glassy wave faces at reef passes while kitesurfers fly across the water with the trade winds.

In Papeete you can take a boat excursion through the Tahiti lagoon, or perhaps visit Taehupoʻo where you will see the greatest surf waves, waterfalls and archaeological treasures. All this while surrounded by the warmth and friendliness of the islanders.

Bora Bora is the island paradise that is home to the most beautiful lake in the world. A tour of Bora Bora transports you to a dreamlike landscape that mixes the green of the vegetation, the turquoise color of the sea and the red of the sunsets. In Moorea, the most tropical island in French Polynesia and the third largest within the archipelago, you can find the most exuberant vegetation and an incredible contrast of colors.