Better known by the name of its main island, Tahiti, French Polynesia (an overseas country of France) is actually made up of five island groups: the Society Islands, Austral Islands, Marquesas Islands, Tuamotu atolls and the Gambier Archipelago, also known as the Mangareva Islands.
The islands I visited: Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora. The island closest to Tahiti is Moorea, just 11 miles northwest, while Bora Bora is 140 miles northwest of Tahiti.
Accommodations throughout French Polynesia are most often found on or near the water. Outside of Papeete, Tahiti, you won’t find multi-story hotels, but instead will encounter one-story accommodations or bungalows, overlooking gardens, oceanview or oceanfront. Bora Bora is famous for its overwater bungalows, although they are also found in Tahiti and Moorea. My stay in an overwater bungalow at the Hilton Bora Bora Nui, was unforgettable. Where I stayed: Manava Suite Resort, Tahiti; Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort, Moorea; Hilton Bora Bora Nui, Bora Bora.
Diving and snorkeling, beach and watersports, shark feeding, stingray feeding, visiting pineapple plantations, touring, and shopping. Polynesian black pearls are available for purchase in all price ranges.
Except for Tahiti’s black sand beaches, including Teahupoo on Tahiti iti, where surfers congregate each May for the Billabong Pro Tahiti International surf competition, most beaches throughout French Polynesia are made up of white coral sand, surrounded by calm, blue lagoons ideal for swimming and snorkeling.
Food and Drink
Poisson cru is the national dish of Tahiti – raw fish and diced vegetables soaked in coconut milk and marinated with lime juice. You’ll find fresh fish everywhere, as well as tropical fruits, vegetables and crusty French baguettes. In Papeete, visit the food trucks (Les Roulottes) for affordable meals and snacks along the waterfront in Vai’ete Square.
Airport code: PPT (Papeete, Tahiti). Direct flights from mainland U.S.: Los Angeles (LAX); weekly flight from Honolulu (HNL).
French Polynesia is located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Los Angeles, CA, and Australia.
Tahiti’s capital, Papeete, the most populous area in French Polynesia, is home to under 135,000 in the town and surrounding area. The vibe outside this area is, as you would expect — laid back and relaxing. The French Polynesians I encountered were gracious, warm and friendly.
On Tahiti, visit Le Marché, Papeete’s public market, the best place to find local Tahitian products, from pareos and scented monoi oils to inexpensive shell and black pearl jewelry.
On Moorea, take an island tour of pineapple plantations and historic sites; feed stingrays and sharks, and marvel at its volcanic peak, thought to have inspired Michener’s fictional paradise, Bali Hai.
On Bora Bora, stay in an overwater bungalow. Swim and snorkel in the multi-hued waters of the lagoon. Dive outside the lagoon with sharks and manta rays.
BORA BORA, French Polynesia — High atop a Bora Bora hillside, overlooking the lagoon author James Michener called “the most beautiful in the world,” Roberto Martinez proposed to this year’s Bachelorette, Ali Fedotowsky.
Nearly 20 million viewers witnessed the romantic conclusion to ABC’s sixth season of The Bachelorette, which was filmed on this resort island. And now, standing on that very spot, I was mesmerized by the gemstone shades of blue water below me — aquamarine, sapphire and topaz.
I had just left the spa, where I had a full body massage, and was about to return to my overwater bungalow by golf cart, the preferred mode of
transport across the sprawling 16-acre Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort. Aerial photos of French Polynesia — Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora — with
their dramatic volcanic peaks and awe-inspiring blue lagoons had fascinated me; they represent that ultimate exotic place in the tropics, halfway around the world, almost unreachable…
Read the rest of the article, published in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram by opening a PDF here: French Polynesia Article