French Polynesia is a collection of mountainous jungle islands located right in the middle of the endless ocean. Known for its picturesque tropical settings, these islands offer more than just sunny beaches, making them one of the most desirable destinations in the region.
This post will cover some of the most fun things to do in French Polynesia, across several islands, and for all budgets. Whether you are planning a luxury getaway or are on a budget, there is plenty to see and do here!
French Polynesia feels different from other tropical locales. Many of the islands feel completely untouched still, and the impossibly blue water, lush jungles, and friendly people create the perfect environment for a true getaway.
Bora Bora and Tahiti are two of the most famous islands in French Polynesia, but this article will also cover the alluring islands of Moorea and Rangiroa, too. The islands that make up this region offer some of the best, most authentic, and pristine landscapes you can find while traveling.
So if you’re looking for a French Polynesia getaway to remember, here are the top ten experiences you can find.
Snorkeling in Moorea’s Motus
Most people dream of visiting French Polynesia because of the unbelievably blue water. So, that is where this list begins.
The snorkeling in French Polynesia can’t be beat, and snorkeling in Moorea’s motus and lagoons is an absolute must. This amazing experience allows you to explore the crystal clear waters and see some unique marine life. Expect to see clownfish, parrotfish, butterflyfish, damselfish, Napoleon wrasse, triggerfish and eels. There are also sea turtles and various species of crabs that may make an appearance.
Some motus are only accessible by boat or paddle, and others are found right offshore. The experience can be as adventurous as you wish!
A visit here wouldn’t be complete without taking a dip in one of many stunning coral-filled lagoons. With so much on offer, Moorea’s ocean offers something for everyone – making it one of French Polynesia’s most beloved spots!
2. Explore Tahiti’s Waterfalls
No trip to French Polynesia would be complete without exploring the famous island of Tahiti.
Luckily, Tahiti is likely where you’ll be flying in and out of, so it is the perfect place to begin or end your trip.
To get between islands, take a look at Tahiti Nui’s inter-island flights, or for a more budget friendly option, book the Tahiti to Moorea ferry for under $30 round trip.
While some visitors skip Tahiti in favor of other islands, there is actually a lot to see here. Most notably, Tahiti is full of lush jungle and rushing waterfalls that are well worth a visit.
Tahiti’s most famous waterfall is Faarumai.It’s an impressive 300 foot plus waterfall that falls into a small swimmable pool. There is no fee to visit. However, you do need to be willing to hike a few hours in the jungle to enjoy it..
Faarumai provides gorgeous views and a chance to cool off in its natural pools after the trek.
3. Swim with Sharks in Bora Bora
Bora Bora is possibly the most dreamlike island in the region. It sits at the top of most honeymooners’ wish lists due to the clear-water lagoons and picturesque overwater bungalows.
Bora Bora offers the perfect environment for lounging, either on hammocks, on the white sand, or in your bungalow. But, it is also a great place for ocean adventure. This island is well known for its calm waters, perfect for snorkeling and swimming.
Adventurous travelers may opt to swim with sharks in Bora Bora, a well-known past-time due to the non-aggressive reef sharks in the area. Note that this should only be attempted with the guidance of a local tour operator who knows how and where to do so safely.
4. Hit the Papeete Market
The Papeete Market is the perfect place to visit for souvenirs and snacks.
Located on Tahiti, the small city of Papeete has a busy shopping hub for both locals and tourists. Here you can find everything from locally made soaps to natural sponges to straw purses to hand-dyed sarongs.
This is the perfect place to stop before you fly out of Tahiti if you need souvenirs for yourself or your loved ones back home.
The Papeete Market is also a great place to grab a local snack, as there are several small food stalls inside as well as a fruit and vegetable market next door. You’ll see lots of tourists on the souvenir side and lots of locals on the food market side. It is a great place for shopping, eating, and people-watching.
5. Relax in a Rangiroa Bungalow
Rangiroa is an island a bit off the beaten path in French Polynesia. It is the perfect place to get away from it all and relax in the natural beauty of the islands.
Rangiroa is created from an extinct underwater volcano. Rangiroa itself is technically the top of the volcano, with the rest being submerged. The beaches are pure white sand and the water is crystal clear.
There are plenty of things to do here, like snorkeling in the blue waters or taking a dip in the lagoon. But one of the absolute best things to do on Rangiroa is to stay in one of its tranquil overwater bungalows.
These luxurious lodgings offer stunning views of the ocean from your bed and private decks – perfect for watching sunsets or even stargazing at night. The bungalows come with all the amenities you’d expect from a top-tier resort, and most offer perks like infinity pools, spa treatments, snorkeling gear, and kayaks.
Notably, Hotel Kia Ora Resort and Spa offers a tropical escape on-site. The villas are reminiscent of Bali, with outdoor tubs and lots of greenery. The cabins have air conditioning to chase away the hot days and comfy beds for relaxing.
But the best part of staying in an overwater bungalow is the sound of ocean waves crashing and rolling you to sleep. Rangiroa is roughly a one-hour flight from Tahiti, and you have several flights per day to choose from.
6. Learn About Polynesian Culture at the Tiki Village
The Tiki Village in Moorea is a must-visit for anyone who wants to learn a bit more about the history and culture of this region. It is frequently listed as one of the best things to do in Moorea for travelers.
Full of ancient artifacts and stories, this on-site living museum is fascinating.
Visitors can purchase tickets that include dinner and a show, which features traditional dancing and singing in typical cultural clothing. Note that the entire show lasts several hours for both dinner and the performance, so plan for a long and entertaining evening!
There are also crafts and artworks for sale on site, perfect for those looking to bring a piece of Moorea home with them.
7. Drink Fresh Tropical Juices
Also on Moorea, the Rotui Juice Factory is an easy stop that is more than worthwhile. This famous juice factory makes some of the most popular juices on the island. Picture pineapple juice, mango juice, tropical juice blends, and more.
Most of their juices can be found all across the island in the grocery and convenience stores. But, if you visit and learn how the juice is made, you can also try the flavors of the day for free!
This factory also processes some unique alcohol and liquor blends made from coconut and pineapple. Be sure to leave room in your bags to take some home – most of the bottles they sell here are not available elsewhere!
Local smoothie shops and acai stores will use Rotui’s juice in their blends, so supporting the small local food stalls is a great way to get your daily dose of fruits, too.
8. Ride an ATV Across the Mountains
Tahiti and Moorea both offer ATV adventures for anyone craving a bit of excitement on their travels. These group tours are led by an expert guide, who will weave you through jungle trails and mountainous peaks for great views of the ocean and jungle.
Depending on your booking, you can explore the best-known sights on the islands or get more off the beaten path. Typically, you can choose from a one-seater or two, depending on if you’re with a group or traveling solo in Tahiti and Moorea.
9. Visit a French Polynesian Winery
There is only one vineyard in all of French Polynesia, and it is on Rangiroa. It is called Vin de Tahiti and it is worth a visit!
Surprising as it sounds, yes – it is possible to grow grapes here in the tropics! Rangiroa is the ideal spot, due to the geology of the collapsed volcano and subsequent coral life. The coral makes the soil more chalky than on other islands, which helps them produce some tasty island wine.
The vineyard is a 10-minute boat ride from the main Avatoru Village. Visitors are welcome every day except Sunday. On-site activities include wine tasting, rum tasting, cellar tours, and an aging room. Add this to your list for a truly unique choice of all the fun things to do in French Polynesia!
10. Visit a Black Sand Beach
Tahiti is home to some world-class beaches, but some of the most beautiful are covered in black sand.
Venus Point Beach is just 25 minutes outside of Papeete and is one of the best spots for sunset. The beach has a tall lighthouse, a rare sight on the islands, where visitors can hike and explore. And, the warm waters are perfect for swimming and snorkeling, and searching for underwater wildlife.
The lesser-visited Lafayette Beach is also covered in black volcanic sand. The dramatic blue water pops in a special way against the soft dark sand, and this is a great spot for sunbathing and swimming in peace.
Helpful Tips for Visiting French Polynesia
Since these islands are pretty remote, you may not know what to expect before visiting. Here are some top tips for visiting this region, year-round.
- Currency: The local currency in French Polynesia is the French Pacific Franc (CFP). When you book your hotel beforehand, it may be quoted in Euro or US dollars. Note that ATMs are easy to find on Tahiti and Moorea.
- Language: While fluent English is spoken in touristic establishments, the official languages in French Polynesia are Tahitian and French. If you go off the beaten path or into local villages, you will likely not find English speakers.
- Visas: Visitors staying in French Polynesia for less than 90 days do not require a travel visa. However, a passport valid for at least six months is necessary, along with proof of a return or onward flight.
- Tipping: Tipping is not customary in the region, but some hotels and restaurants may include a service charge. Nevertheless, tipping is appreciated as a gesture of gratitude for exceptional service, which you likely will run into.
- Packing: When visiting this tropical destination, some items you will need year-round include: sunscreen, insect repellent, reusable water bottles, sandals, a swimsuit, a sun hat, and lightweight clothing.
- Flights: It is highly recommended to book all inter-island flights in advance. These flights can sell out, and you don’t want to be left with a hotel booking and no way to get there!
- Tahiti is the largest of the islands in French Polynesia. Papeete, the capital city, is found here. Most of the nation’s inhabitants live on Tahiti.
- The simple yet beautiful tiare flower is the national flower of Tahiti. If you are a single woman, you wear one behind your right ear. If you’re married, wear it behind your right ear.
- Manihi, Rangiroa, Fakarava, Tikehau, and Hiva Oa in the Tuamotu islands are the most famous diving locations in French Polynesia, besides the famous Tahiti and Bora-Bora.
- Though most known for luxury hotels and five-star services, French Polynesia can cater to budget-conscious travelers, as well. Tahiti and Moorea in particular have numerous budget guest house offerings.
Conclusion: Fun Things To Do in French Polynesia
Overall, a trip to French Polynesia is likely to leave you speechless, no matter which islands you choose. Tahiti, Moorea, Rangiroa, and Bora Bora are four of the best choices for adventure and relaxation alike.
These islands are perfect for anyone who loves nature and pristine beaches. The lush jungle, the incredible waters, and the friendly locals make French Polynesia one of the best tropical locales in the world.
Whether you are planning a honeymoon, a family trip, or a solo adventure, French Polynesia and its scenery will likely surpass your wildest dreams.
Author’s Bio: This article was written by Monica of This Rare Earth, a solo female world traveler who has so far crossed six continents. She can usually be found exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations around the world.