11 Best Islands of French Polynesia

by Billy | Updated: April 7, 2019

French Polynesia is a collective of over 100 small tropical islands, located in the South Pacific.

If you browse Instagram for long enough, you’ll probably come across overwater bungalows that sit upon crystal clear water…

And there’s a good chance that they’re located in French Polynesia.

Most people either think of Bora Bora or Tahiti, however, there are many more beautiful islands in French Polynesia.

Here are the top 11 islands in French Polynesia that you should consider visiting.

11. Raiatea

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If you’re looking for sapphire blue waters to explore, this French Polynesian island won’t disappoint. It has both cultural and historical significance to the residents, so while visiting, you’ll most likely find yourself immersed in stories of ancient Polynesia.

It’s believed that the island served as a sacred place for the ancient people and you can find evidence that still exists – the Marae Taputapuatea Temple, which is also a UNESCO world heritage site.

Raiatea is a perfect place for hiking, having many beautiful sights to look out for. Including the three waterfalls on the island, tiare apetahi (one of the rarest flowers in the world), and their hidden temples.

There’s a variety of accommodation packages that one can select from the quaint hotels on the island.

10. Tikehau

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Like the other islands of French Polynesia, it’s almost hard to belive that Tikehau is real.

Tikehau is located about 45 minutes from Tahiti. With pink and white beaches, it’s the definition of tropical paradise. The island has a population of about 500 people, making it perfect for seclusion.

The island is known to have a large amount of fish compared to all the other islands. An afternoon cruising in the lagoon can be a great way to spend your time in the area as you observe the different species of the sea animals.

Apart from the stunning natural features of the island, it also has some of the best accommodations, which are mostly visited by honeymooners.

9. Maupiti

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Small, preserved, and elegant, Maupiti is an island that any island enthusiast would die to visit. It has some of the most friendly people on earth, white sandy beaches and pristine lagoons.

Maupiti is a small island with locals who, just like those from Ahe, strive to preserve their tradition. This is, therefore, a place you wouldn’t want to miss visiting if you want to explore some great history and culture from food to housing.

The island does not have any resorts and tourists are hosted by families. Besides swimming and learning the culture of the people, you can also go hiking, swimming or even mountain climbing.

If you are looking to get immersed in the culture and beauty of Polynesia, then Maupiti should be on your bucket list.

8. Tūpai

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Situated just 10 miles from Bora Bora, Tūpai is a small, yet breathtaking atoll. With coral reefs that decorate it’s blue, shallow lagoon, visiting this island is an absolute privilege.

Tūpai is most likely an island that you’d visit for a day, but the experience would have a lasting impression on you.

It hardly has any permanent residents and all its administration is done from Bora Bora. This is why it’s such a commonplace to have an engagement party or even a wedding, then travel back to Bora Bora or another main island.

7. Hiva Oa

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Like most of the other islands in French Polynesia, Hiva Oa has a great amount of nature mixed with a rich history.

It’s so underdeveloped, that you’ll rarely see any roads or houses on this island.

If you’re interested in art, then you need to visit the Calvaire Cemetery and see the graves of poet Jacques and artist Gauguin. It’s also home to many archeological sites, one which has the largest Tiki statue (8ft).

From exploring secret beaches to the giant tiki statues, I can guarantee that visiting Hiva Oa will leave you speechless.

6. Rangiroa

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Rangiroa is unlike all the other atolls in French Polynesia. First, because it doesn’t have soaring mountain peaks and wide valleys. Secondly, because it has one of the largest lagoons in the world, making it perfect for snorkeling.

The entire Tahiti Island can actually fit into its lagoon, and there’d still be some space left. The size of this island makes it the second-largest coral atoll in the world.

If you’re looking for a great place to scuba dive and enjoy the beautiful blue lagoons of French Polynesia, this is the island to visit.

5. Huahine

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Huahine is a true reflection of what you have heard about the Garden of Eden. With exceptional green vegetation, it’s tropical jungle is dotted with coconut palms, banana groves, vanilla orchids, and even watermelon.

One of the coolest parts of this island is the sacred temples that are spread throughout. It’s actually believed that the island was once home to royal families and the royal temples still dot the coastline of L Maer. The locals have not only preserved the temples but passed the history from generation to generation.

Huahine is a perfect place for one to go on a scenic road trip along the emerald bays and later relax on the white sandy beaches as you feed the sharks.

It’s unique hotels provide a secluded experience like no other, making it one of the more popular islands of French Polynesia.

4. Taha’a

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Compared to the other islands, life is slower paced on Taha’a.

It’s a world of its own and a true botanical beauty with sloping hillsides and fertile valleys.

It’s known as a hub for vanilla products, and the vanilla scents lace the air, making the place feel as sweet as it sounds.

The deep valleys perched among the flawless tropical beaches, provide an amazing place to go hiking. Yet another beautiful island that should be visited if you have time.

3. Mo’orea

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Mo’orea is another mysterious, exotic and beautiful island, which is located quite close to Tahiti.

When you visit this place, you’ll feel like you’re in another world. It’s one of those islands that’s easy to fall in love with. Not only because it has the shape of a heart curved by deep twin bays, but also because of its laid back charm.

With a lush of jagged volcanic peaks, coral and crystal clear water, there’s almost no activity that you can’t do on this island from kayaking, scuba diving, swimming with nurse sharks, or even going for a hike.

Apart from the activities, you can also learn of the Tahitian lifestyle through their history and culture.

2. Tahiti

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There are a variety of reasons why Tahiti is referred to as ‘Queen of the Pacific.’

First, it’s the largest of all the French Polynesian islands, covering about a third of French Polynesia. Secondly, the island overlooks the Pacific Ocean like a royal queen.

Although most tourists overlook the island when visiting French Polynesia, it still has a lot to offer. Especially if you want to explore and enjoy recreational activities.

Papette, also known as the real city of French Polynesia, boasts of an exotic market, where you can shop for black pearls, and eat local meals.

The mountainous landscape has a lush coastline with black sandy beaches, tropical gardens, and big surf (which attracts many pro surfers).

With the island being the center of French Polynesia, you should make a point to visit.

1. Bora Bora

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It wouldn’t be a proper French Polynesia article without mentioning the holy grail of all the islands… Bora Bora.

Rising from the velvet blues, Bora Bora was formed from the aftermath of a volcano. It’s one of the most iconic tropical islands in the world, being featured in numerous Hollywood movies. With a lagoon that glimmers in an almost supernatural way and a lush, evergreen environment, this island needs to be on any tropical lovers’ bucket-list.

The popularity of Bora Bora traces back to World War II, where about five thousand US soldiers were stationed on the Island. Ever since then, the island has gained international fame. The recent explosion of social media is a major contributor as well.

Overwater bungalow resorts in Bora Bora set the standard for the other hotels in the world. To summarize, Bora Bora is what dreams are made of.

For experiences you’ll never forget, you can feed stingrays, swim with nurse sharks or even climb Mt. Otemanu for breathtaking views.

If there’s one island to visit first, I’d say start with Bora Bora.

Now that we’ve highlighted the top islands of French Polynesia, you should have a pretty good idea of why they’re on almost every tropical lover’s bucket list.

French Polynesia is a place that you don’t want to miss visiting.

Now, get out there and travel to French Polynesia!