French Polynesia: a must on your paradise travel bucket list

Enjoy an island-hopping excursion to Tahiti, Bora Bora, and beyond

Stars Insider

07/06/19 | StarsInsider

TRAVEL Geography

Imagine scattering clusters of emeralds and sapphires across a vast carpet of turquoise and you begin to get an idea of the visual spendor that is French Polynesia.

Composed of 118 geographically dispersed islands and atolls stretching over an expanse of more than 1,200 mi (2,000 km) in the South Pacific Ocean, this overseas collectivity of France spans the size of Europe.

A globally renowned destination, French Polynesia is divided into five island groups: the Society Islands archipelago, composed of the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands; the Tuamotu Archipelago; the Gambier Islands; the Marquesas Islands; and the Austral Islands.

Soaring moss-green peaks and idyllic beaches define these islands, which are lapped by warm sparkling waters filled with abundant marine life. Adding texture to the ocean are numerous atolls—rings of living coral embracing shallow, crystal-clear lagoons.

The Society Islands, believed to have been named by British explorer Captain James Cook during his first voyage in 1769, attract the majority of the region's visitors. The archipelago includes Tahiti, Mo'orea, Bora Bora, Raiatea, and Taha’a—islands that between them feature world-class luxury resorts, compelling cultural sites, and provide adrenaline-fueled watersports options.

French Polynesia is full of surprises: the most photographed isle in the South Pacific, Motu Tapu, is here; wine, (yes, wine) is produced on one of the remote atolls; and the beautiful Tahitian pearl makes up over 50% of French Polynesia's exports. 

A vivid undersea world of fish, rays, sharks, and turtles greets those exploring below the blue lagoons that circle the islands. Deeper waters reveal gracious whales and playful dolphins. On land, mysterious stone carved statues stare blankly onwards, their weathered features testament to the many gods in Polynesian mythology worshiped by an ancient indigenous population. 

Sultry French Polynesia is a place to relax and soak in a laid-back vibe on some of the most enchanting islands on the planet.

Browse through this gallery for an inspiring island-hopping excursion and some great ideas on where to go and what to see.

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