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French Polynesia Travel Guide

Looking for an in-depth French Polynesia travel guide?

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When people think of the ultimate tropical paradise, they’re probably picturing French Polynesia. With lush landscapes, beautiful turquoise waters and a warm and inviting climate, the islands are as close to perfect as you can get.

French Polynesia, an overseas territory of France, consists of 118 islands in the Pacific Ocean divided into five groups:

  • the Society Islands archipelago,
  • the Tuamotu Archipelago,
  • the Gambier Islands,
  • the Marquesas Islands,
  • and the Austral Islands.

Each island offers something different to explore, from deep dives into Polynesian culture to coral reefs perfect for snorkeling. Whether you’re looking to escape reality for a romantic honeymoon or explore the natural beauty the islands have to offer, French Polynesia is the place to go.

Located in the Society Islands archipelago, Tahiti is one of French Polynesia’s largest and most populous islands.

The island is divided into two parts: Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti. This is where you’ll find some of the country’s largest and most luxurious resorts and hotels, as well as top restaurants and attractions.

It’s also the perfect place for outdoor travel adventures. Take a four-wheel-drive safari tour through the Papenoo Valley, climb up to a gorgeous waterfall, or take a horseback ride through the mountains.

And, of course, you can’t leave without doing a bit of snorkeling or diving to experience the island’s diverse marine life. There’s so much more to the island than just the beach!

Many see French Polynesia as a once-in-a-lifetime destination; a place totally out of reach for travelers on a budget. While the islands can be pricey, there are many ways to save and make your dream trip a reality.

Air Tahiti, French Polynesia’s official airline, has tons of packages that will help you save on both accommodations and flights, particularly if you want to do some island hopping. You can also save on accommodations and learn more about French Polynesian culture by staying in pensions run by local families.

And know that French Polynesia isn’t just for honeymooners and romantics! While the islands are a popular spot for couples, you can absolutely have an adventure of a lifetime as a solo traveler.

Keep reading to dive into resources that will help you with planning a trip to French Polynesia in Oceania.

Note: This ultimate guide to French Polynesia travel contains affiliate links to trusted partners!

French Polynesia Map

Use this French Polynesia travel map to begin planning your trip to these incredible islands!

French Polynesia map

Click here for an interactive Google Map version of the above graphic.

Tahiti French Polynesia Guide

Looking for the best activities to do in Tahiti? These posts can help!

Tips For Planning A Trip To French Polynesia

What to discover the best French Polynesia islands to visit and things to do? These guides can help!

Best Tours In French Polynesia

Explore local culture with a French Polynesia tour guide through these unique excursions:

  • Bora Bora Jet Ski Tour, Lunch at Bloody Mary’s & Eco Shark / Ray Snorkel Cruise
  • Papeete Inner Island Full-Day Jeep Safari from Arue
  • Sunset Cruise: Moorea Sailing on a Catamaran Named Taboo
  • The Combined Blue Lagoon and Reef Island from the Tuamotus Islands
  • Moorea Food Tour: Tama’a Street Food Tour from Maharepa

Renting A Car In Tahiti

While you won’t need a car for island hopping, many visitors to Tahiti like to rent a car as the island is expansive and a vehicle (or tour) is really the only way to see everything.

You can use Discover Cars to quickly compare your car rental options.

Their comparison tool does the homework for you, so there’s no need to have up 10+ tabs trying to figure out which company is the most affordable. Actually, you can save up to 70% using their tool!

French Polynesia Hotels

Click here to browse the best French Polynesia travel hotels!

Prefer self-contained stays?

Click here to check out unique local rentals!

You can also use this map to search for local stays:

French Polynesia Travel Insurance

It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling solo or with a group on a French Polynesia tour. When visiting French Polynesia — or any other country in the world — make sure to get travel insurance to protect your health and safety.

In my opinion, the best travel medical insurance for travelers is SafetyWing as they’ve got a large network and offer both short-term and long-term coverage — including coverage if you’re traveling for months as well as limited coverage in your home country).

Additionally, SafetyWing is budget-friendly and offers $250,000 worth of coverage with just one low overall deductible of $250.

With coverage, you’ll have peace of mind as you embark on your French Polynesia travel itinerary.

Click my referral link here to price out travel insurance for your trip in just a few clicks.

French Polynesia Travel Guide FAQ

Okay, now let’s answer some common Oceania guide questions that specifically pertain to traveling to French Polynesia.

Q: What are the best things to do in French Polynesia?

A trip to French Polynesia is all about getting out in nature and exploring the beauty of the islands. On the island of Tahiti, you’ll find tons of gardens filled with gorgeous native flowers and plants, particularly at the island’s many hotels.

The island’s most spectacular garden, though, is probably Paofai Gardens in Papeette. Paofai Gardens features 4.5 hectares (~11 acres) of lush waterfront landscapes where you can learn about the local flora and bask in the some of the most beautiful sights Tahiti has to offer.

Looking to enjoy some adventure travel? French Polynesia is home to some of the world’s best hikes! Do some exploring in Tahiti’s Maroto Valley, climb the Moorea peaks, or hike up to one of the many gorgeous Tahitian waterfalls like the 443-foot-tall Fautaua.

You can’t visit French Polynesia without spending a little time at the beach, of course! There are tons of gorgeous beaches throughout the islands featuring gorgeous turquoise waters, palm trees, and all the trappings of a tropical paradise.

If you’re really looking to get away from it all, head to Fakarava, a protected coral atoll that will make you feel like you’re in your own private paradise. Fakarava is also an incredible spot for snorkeling and diving thanks to its unique coral reef and abundance of marine life. You’re sure to see something cool when you set out on this island’s waters.

French Polynesia is also so much more than a tropical paradise for visitors; the islands also have a rich culture and history worth exploring.

On the island of Raiatea, known as the “Sacred Island”, you can visit Marae Taputapuatea, a large open-air marae complex that was once home to the central temple and religious center of Eastern Polynesia. While there, you’ll find many archaeological remains from the temple that will give you a taste of what life was like for the ancient Polynesian people.

You should also make a point to sample the local cuisine of French Polynesia, featuring traditional foods and flavors like vanilla, taro, yams, and cassava.

You can also tour a vanilla plantation to learn more about the nation’s most famous export. The islands also host tons of great festivals throughout the year showcasing the local culture. Check local news outlets to see if your trip overlaps with any of these awesome events!

Q: What is the best month to visit French Polynesia?

While you can visit French Polynesia any time of year, weather-wise, June through August tend to be the best months to visit. The weather is warm and dry and you’re less likely to have any of your plans rained out.

This is also the most popular time to visit the islands, so consider visiting during the shoulder seasons (May or September through October).

French Polynesia’s wet season runs from November through April, so you’re more likely to run into humid and rainy conditions during this time.

Q: How much does an average trip to French Polynesia cost?

Your biggest expense for a trip to French Polynesia will likely be your flights to the islands as these can cost upwards of $700 round-trip per person.

If you’re planning on doing some island-hopping, you’ll want to budget a bit extra for flights between the islands, as these can add up.

The average traveler spends about $145 per night on food, accommodations, transportation, activities, and other travel expenses while in French Polynesia.

Q: What is the cheapest way to travel to Tahiti and French Polynesia?

One of the best ways to save money on travel to Tahiti and French Polynesia is to travel during the off-season or shoulder season. Flights are generally more expensive during the high season (June through August) and you’ll probably find better deals on flights during less busy months like April or November.

The weather on the islands is still pleasant during these times but you may run into a bit more rain than you would in the dry season. You’ll find even better deals during the wet season (December through March), but you’ll have much more rain to contend with.

Another way to save on travel is to book a package deal through an airline like Air Tahiti Nui, the country’s official carrier. These packages often offer good deals on flights (including inter-island air) and accommodations. Just do your research to make sure you’re getting the best price before you book.

Q: How safe is French Polynesia?

Overall, French Polynesia is very safe for travelers. Violent crime rates are very low and even petty theft is uncommon. Still, it’s always good to stay vigilant when traveling to any new place. Be aware of your surroundings and keep any valuables close to you and out of view to avoid pickpockets.

There are some natural dangers you’ll want to be aware of when traveling to French Polynesia. It’s a good idea to wear sandals or sandshoes into the water to protect your feet from coral. If you’re going out diving or snorkeling, be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for marine life like moray eels which can bite.

Q: What should I avoid in French Polynesia?

Even if you’re offered the best deal on travel, avoid visiting French Polynesia during the height of the wet season (January). During this season, sudden heavy rainstorms form without notice and high winds are common.

While the islands are still beautiful this time of year, it may be difficult to make the most out of your trip with such unpredictable weather. And for the amount of money you’ll likely spend to get to the islands, you won’t want to be disappointed.

Some diseases are more common in French Polynesia than they are elsewhere in the world, so you’ll definitely want to avoid getting sick during your trip. Ask your doctor about getting a Typhoid vaccine before your trip, as it is an unfortunate reality on the islands. You’ll also want to pack a strong insect repellent to avoid any mosquito-borne diseases like Zika virus.

If you’re planning on buying some of those famous Tahitian pearls, make sure you get them tax-free! A 16% value-added tax (VAT) is included in the price of any pearl jewelry purchased on the islands. You can get that tax refunded by filling out a simple form at the airport after you clear immigration — ask your dealer for more information when you buy.

Q: How long can a tourist stay in French Polynesia?

Tourists from countries that are not required to obtain visas before entering French Polynesia can stay in the country for up to three months (or 90 days). Anyone wishing to stay for more than three months must apply for a long-term French Polynesian visa.

Q: Do I need a French Polynesia travel visa?

Visitors from the United States, Canada, Europe (the European Union), the United Kingdom and several other countries do not need a visa to enter French Polynesia.

It’s recommended to view your country’s French Polynesia International Travel Information page for the most up-to-date information on entry and exit requirements. You can also contact the Embassy of French Polynesia.

Q: Where is French Polynesia?

French Polynesia is a set of islands seperated into five archipelagos — including the Society Islands, Tuamotu Archipelago, Gambier Islands, Marquesas Islands, and Tubuai Islands — in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean in Oceania. Technically, it is an overseas territory of France.

Q: Are credit cards accepted in French Polynesia?

Credit cards — particularly Visa and Mastercard — are widely accepted around the main tourist islands in French Polynesia, though this is a destination where you’ll definitely want to carry cash in case.

Q: Can you drink the tap water in French Polynesia?

Typically it is safe to drink the water on Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora, though check with your hotel to be safe.

Q: What is the local currency in French Polynesia?

The local currency in French Polynesia is the French Pacific Franc, abbreviated XPF or CFP.

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