How to get there?
If you are headed to French Polynesia from any international destination, you will be first be flying into Papeete airport that is located on the main island of Tahiti. While booking tickets look for the airline code PPT. If you are flying from the US, it is closer than you think especially from the west coast – just a 7.5 hour direct flight from SF/LA/Seattle ! If you fly from :
- LAX or SEA – Air Tahiti Nui is your best option from LA or Seattle
- SFO – United is your best option ( Frenchbee also flies direct from SFO but I prefer United )
Once you get to Tahiti – you might have a few hours or an overnight to kill, if the main island of Tahiti isn’t your final destination. You may find yourself on an international flight that either arrives to Papeete late in the evening OR departs from Papeete super late at night (on your way back). Most people just stay here for a few hours or a quick overnight before flying out or taking a ferry to the to the other islands such as Bora Bora, Moorea and so on. If you are going to be in Tahiti for a few hours before or after your island hopping adventure and need a quick guide on what do in Tahiti – check out my 24 HOURS IN TAHITI travel guide for more!
Island hopping in French Polynesia :
If you are going to Moorea, you can take an easy 30 min ferry ride via Aremiti or Terevau ferry from Tahiti. But if you are going to any other islands in French Polynesia you will have to take a domestic flight via the main domestic carrier Air Tahiti (* don’t confuse this with Air Tahiti Nui). Air Tahiti is the main carrier in French Polynesia, and covers a network as vast as Europe ( thats how vast the entire islands of Tahiti are spread!)
Air Tahiti flies to 48 of the 118 islands, since not all of the islands have airports. If you are headed to islands without airports you might have to also do an additional boat transfer after the domestic flight. Depending on what islands you choose in your itinerary, you could either choose to fly between them directly or via the main airport at Papeete in Tahiti. This all depends on the Air tahiti schedule that releases every few months at a time. They also have multi island passes that they sell which work out to be very economical if you are island hopping a lot. I know it sounds complicated but its really not, and if you are staying with a hotel their concierge would be more than happy to assist you with booking transfers. Also in my experience it is very difficult to modify or change reservations so its best to book your internal flights only once you are absolutely sure of dates.
Best time to visit :
High season runs from May to October and is usually the best time to go due to less rainfall and incredible weather. High season also means expensive rooms, flights and everything else in general.
For this reason – you can also consider going in the shoulder months of April or November.
The first time we went we went in the high season and had a mix of sun and rain. For our second time we took a chance and went in the shoulder season and actually had even better weather! So it really depends on luck. But if its your first time going there, I would recommend going during the high season.
How long to spend :
I would recommend a minimum of 3-4 days per island that you are visiting. If you are going to just 1 or 2 islands, you can spend atleast 5 days per island to make it more relaxed.
Useful things to know :
- Language and Culture : The official language is French, but the indigenous languages, including Tahitian, are still widely spoken in each archipelago. English is also widely spoken, especially in tourist areas. The culture of French Polynesia is a mix of Polynesian and French influences, and traditional Polynesian dance and music are an important part of the islands’ cultural identity.
- Plugs : the power plugs are type A, B, and E. The standard voltage is 110/220 V, and the frequency is 60/50 Hz. I never travel without my trusty universal adapter !
- Currency : The main local currency of French Polynesia is the French Pacific Franc (CFP). 1 USD = 101.40 CFP. USD is widely accepted in most places, but it helps to have local CPF’s for small purchases.
- Cash/credit cards : We were fine with only our credit cards at most places ; except at the local markets in Tahiti. I would recommend the ATM at Tahiti airport ; but there are also ATMS in other islands or you can exchange cash at hotels
- Tipping : Tipping is not expected by hotel and restaurant staff, but it is still a way for the visitor to reward good service and show appreciation. There are no rules or customs as to the amount of the tip.
- Drinking water : You can drink the tap water in Papeete and throughout the island of Bora Bora. In the other islands, ask if you can drink it or not. If in doubt, use mineral water from sealed bottles.
- Most popular greetings in Tahitian : “Ia Ora Na” for hello and “Mauruuru” for thank you! I love the Tahitian language it sounds so musical! The locals are wonderful and some of the most warm, genuine and friendly people I have ever met in my life !
- Visas : Americans do not need a visa to enter Tahiti. You can use this guide to see if you need a visa. If you require a visa you will have to get a Schengen Visa from France ( specific for French Polynesia) by applying at your nearest French consulate.
Islands we have been to :
ISLAND 1 : TAHITI
Intro to Tahiti
Tahiti is the largest and most populated island in all of French Polynesia. It is also the capital of the country. If you are headed to French Polynesia from any international destination, you will be first be flying into Papette airport that is located on the main island of Tahiti. Most people just stay here for a few hours or a quick overnight before flying out or taking a ferry to the to the other islands such as Bora Bora, Moorea and so on.
Where to Stay in Tahiti
The Intercontinental Tahiti Resort and Spa is the best resort on the main island of Tahiti. It is conveniently located 10 min from the airport. You may find yourself on an international flight that either arrives to Papette late in the evening OR departs from Papette super late at night; so this resort is ideal especially for this reason. It is a beautiful resort for a complete stay in Tahiti, but also a great option if you just want a place for a few hours with clean basic rooms, a hot shower, food and other amenities if you have time.
Things to not miss in Tahiti
- Black sand beaches : The island of Tahiti is famous for its stunning black sand beaches and one of my favorite ones that we stopped at was Taharuu beach.
- Papeete market : A must visit is the Papette market! Strolling through this sensory market is such a sensory delight and you will find everything here from crafts, fresh flowers, produce, souveniers and more.
Travel guide to Tahiti
Check out my travel guide for 24 hours in Tahiti for more.
ISLAND 2 : MOOREA
Intro to Moorea
Moorea is a geographical marvel with its 8 voluminous mountain peaks that rise from its translucent lagoon, creating a distinctive and rugged silhouette visible from the western coast of Tahiti. It has the most epic Jurassic Park like vibes everywhere! The island is blessed with dreamy lagoons, volcanic mountains, lush rainforests and more ; making it one of the most popular spots for a vacation or honeymoon in Tahiti!
How to get to Moorea ?
To get to Moorea, you can either fly or take a ferry. Taking a ferry is so much more convenient and cheaper! There are 2 main companies that have ferry services between Tahiti and Moorea – Aremiti ferries and Terevau ferries. Prices are roughly just around $11 per person per way and you can buy tickets the the ferry terminal directly. There are ferries that run pretty much every hour and it takes roughly 25-45 minutes one way, depending on whether you take the fast ferry or the slower one. I highly recommend renting a car to get around in Moorea – Avis Tahiti and Europcar are right off the ferry dock area.
Where to Stay in Moorea
Here are few options in the budget category :
1 ) Tipaniers Iti
We stayed at the charming little Tipaniers Iti right on Opunohu Bay. There are a few beach bungalows here and you can use all the facilities at Les Tipaniers hotel just about a 5 minute drive away.
2 ) Les Tipaniers Hotel
Arguably the BEST beach in all of Moorea is Tipaniers beach and this hotel is located right on it! This was initially our first choice, but they were sold out for our dates so I would recommend booking in advance. There are many beach bungalows and villas to choose from here, 2 restaurants and a dive/kayak rental shop on the beach too.
If you are looking for the luxury overwater bungalow experience in Moorea – checkout Sofitel Moorea (below) or Hilton Moorea.
Things to not miss in Moorea
- A lagoon tour in the beautiful lagoon where you get to swim with sharks and sting rays! We did this tour with Moorea Miti Tours and it was so much fun.
- Belvedere lookout – The iconic view of Moorea with Belvedere mountain, Cooks Bay and Opunohu Bay.
- Swimming with whales – if you visit during whale season (Aug – Oct) this bucketlist activity is a must do! Check out Corallina Tours or Moorea Moana Tours.
Travel guide to Moorea
Checkout my budget travel guide to Moorea for more.
ISLAND 3 : BORA BORA
Intro to Bora Bora
Bora Bora was everything I had imagined and more! It completely exceeded my expectations in every way. This idyllic South Pacific gem is an epitome of a luxurious island escape and is well known for it gorgeous views of the mountains, crystal clear lagoon, luxury overwater villas and incredible marine life.
How to get to Bora Bora
Bora Bora is a short 45 minute flight from Tahiti. It is one of most scenic flights I have been on! It is open seating, so you want to get to the airport early to get in line to try to get the best seat in the house. Tip : Sit on the left side of the plane to get the best view!
Where to Stay in Bora Bora
My favorite resorts in Bora Bora in no particular order :
1 ) FOUR SEASONS BORA BORA
The Four Seasons Bora Bora is a true gem located in perhaps the best location in Bora Bora. The resort is great for couples and families too. It is definitely on the pricier side – but 100% worth it for the five star luxury and hospitality! Exceptional service, luxe overwater villas and an overall incredible experience makes this one of my favorite places we have stayed ever. Check out my full BLOG POST HERE.
2 ) INTERCONTINENTAL BORA BORA RESORT & THALASSO SPA
If you are looking for an amazing group of hotels to stay across both Tahiti and Bora, the Intercontinental French Polynesia group is your best bet. They have 1 resort in Tahiti and 2 in Bora Bora. The 2 resorts in Bora Bora are IC Thalasso ( more luxurious and located on its own motu) and IC Moana (on the mainland and slightly cheaper). We absolutely loved our stay at IC Thalasso especially cos of the beautiful views of Mount Otemanu, amazing overwater villas and the very friendly staff. IC Thalasso also is a fantastic option for families and couple alike. Check out my full BLOG POST HERE.
3 ) CONRAD BORA BORA NUI RESORT
The newest luxury resort addition to Bora Bora is the Conrad Bora Bora Nui. Roomwise especially this was our fave, cos it was newer, more updated and had a super spacious deck with an overwater pool and hammock. While it dosen’t have a direct view of Mount Otemanu from the resort (only some villas do – like the King otemanu villa that we stayed at), it totally makes up for mountain views with the best private beach in all of Bora Bora – half a mile long with soft white sands! It also has the only 2 storey villa and hillside villas in Bora Bora too, if you are looking for something different. We saw a good range of travellers from solo travellers to families to honeymooners here. Check out my full BLOG POST HERE.
Things to not miss in Bora Bora
The number 1 thing to do in Bora Bora is a lagoon excursion on the world famous lagoon – meeting stingrays and sharks up close, snorkeling with the most colorful fish, cruising some unreal blue waters, learning about Polynesian culture and also enjoying a delicious island style lunch on a private motu. If all this sounds like a dream tour – you must check out Lagoon Service in Bora Bora. Check out more in my blog post here.
Travel guide to Bora Bora
For more details check out my very detailed ultimate travel guide to Bora Bora.
ISLAND 4 : TETIAROA
Intro to Tetiaroa
With its white sand beaches, swaying coconut palms, colorful birds, and sparkling lagoon, Tetiaroa is a dreamy paradise. Its truly one of the most gorgeous places I have ever been to in my life. Beyond its breathtaking beauty, Tetiaroa is a place of rare biodiversity and a natural sanctuary for birds and marine life. Tetiaroa also has a special place in Polynesian history and culture. It was the exclusive and favored retreat of Tahitian royalty for centuries. It is also home to one of the world’s best private island resorts – The Brando.
How to get to Tetiaroa
PC : The Brando
After arriving at Tahiti International Airport in Papeete you will have to take another short domestic flight. From Tahiti it’s a short but spectacular 20-minute flight to Tetiaroa onboard Air Tetiaroa, the flight from Bora Bora takes one hour. When you book a stay with the Brando their reservation agents will arrange this portion of your trip for you. This was hands down one of the most beautiful flights I have ever taken!
Where to Stay in Tetiaroa
The Brando is a unique luxury resort on French Polynesia’s breathtakingly beautiful private island of Tetiaroa – an atoll composed of a dozen small islands surrounding a sparkling lagoon 30 miles northeast of Tahiti.
Named after actor Marlon Brando who purchased the private island of Tetiaroa, after filming ‘Mutiny on the Bounty” he described the island as “a pinch of land peeking out of the immensity of the Pacific Ocean.” After Brando passed away, The Brando was built in 2014, as an eco-resort and spa which is now one of the most exclusive and luxurious private island resorts in the world. It is handsdown our no 1 favorite luxury resort in the world! Check out more in my BLOG POST HERE.
Things to not miss in Tetiaroa
Tetiaroa is handsdown the MOST beautiful lagoon in all of French Polynesia! If you stay at The Brando I highly recommend the “Ultimate Lagoon Experience” which is their most popular excursion and an absolute must do on your visit. Along with 2 naturalist guides from Tetiaroa Society we set out to explore the beautiful Tetiaroa lagoon beyond Onetahi (the islet on which the resort sits). Our views while cruising down the unspoiled lagoon were just beyond breathtaking! We got to visit Bird Island, another island where we saw some unique flora and fauna (including rare bird species and coconut crabs!) and the iconic Queen’s Bath. As the name suggests – Tahitian royalty used to bathe here due to its mineral rich sands and pure waters! The water here is like a swimming pool – shallow, calm and warm.
ISLAND 5 : TAHA’A
Intro to Taha’a
Taha’a is blessed with lush mountains and valleys, turquoise lagoons and virgin motu islets! Its a lot less touristy than its popular neighbor Bora Bora. Personally I absolutely loved the rustic island charm and authentic Polynesian flair in Taha’a. Taha’a is also known as the “Vanilla Island.” Its fertile land and climate produce what chefs and gourmets around the world think is the tastiest, most fragrant vanilla on earth. Tahitian pearls are also produced in Taha’a. A few pearl farms take advantage of the island’s pure lagoon to grow endless variations of the famous pearl.
How to get to Taha’a
To get to Taha’a you will have to fly into Raiatea airport and take a boat shuttle over to Taha’a.
Where to Stay in Taha’a
Le Taha’a Island Resort is a stunning luxury resort, set on beautiful Motu Tautau, a private islet looking onto the lush shores of Taha’a on one side and the majestic silhouette of Bora Bora on the other. It was the first member of Relais & Chateaux in the Islands of Tahiti and is a part of the Pearl Resorts which also have other beautiful resorts around in French Polynesia. Check out more in my BLOG POST HERE.
Things to not miss in Taha’a
- An island tour of Taha’a to check out its vanilla farms, a pearl farm as well as a local rum distillery.
- The other popular tour is a lagoon tour of Taha’a which is what we opted to do! The highlight of this tour was getting to snorkel with black tip sharks and it was incredible. We have done this in a few other islands in Tahiti, but I must say it was the best in Taha’s as there aren’t too many people. Infact when Anush and I went we were the only ones in the water with the sharks, which was awesome!
ISLAND 6 : TIKEHAU
Intro to Tikehau
The only island we have visited in the Tuamotus so far and handsdown my absolute favorite islands I have ever been to in my life! Tikehau is one of the most beautiful atolls of the Tuamotu archipelago and is the coral-covered crown of an ancient, 65-million years submarine volcano. Its white and pink sand islets, fringed with coconut trees, shape a 177 square-mile lagoon that opens onto the ocean through a single pass, which is why it is one of the most marine rich atolls in the world!
How to get to Tikehau
To get to Tikehau you will have to fly into Tikehau airport and take a boat shuttle to your accommodation if necessary.
Where to Stay in Tikehau
Le Tikehau by Pearl Resorts is an authentic Polynesian sanctuary, located in an unspoiled natural setting of a private coral islet called Motu Tiano. The location of Le Tikehau is absolutely unreal – remote, untouched and so picturesque! Its easily one of the most beautiful places we have ever been to. Pink sand beach, wild coconut groves, a beautiful tropical garden and the most gorgeous lagoon at the end of the world make this an idyllic escape like no other. Read more in my BLOG POST HERE.
Things to not miss in Tikehau
A lagoon tour in Tikehau is an absolute must do! Tikehau is truly spectacular – both above and below the water. If you are an avid diver, this is paradise for you! And even if you dont dive, I highly recommend doing a lagoon tour. The only way to really get a taste of everything this unique atoll has to offer is by venturing out into the lagoon.
We did a full day lagoon tour with Hititemanava Lagoon Excursions and it was absolutely incredible! From snorkeling with manta rays, to exploring Puarua (bird island of Tikehau), to eating a delicious local lunch in a fisherman’s village, to discovering more unspoiled motus – this is a must do activity in Tikehau.
Quick Links to other blog posts :
Adding this here in case you want quick access to other French Polynesia travel guide posts. You can also check out Tahiti Tourism’s website for other helpful links in planning your trip.
Travel guide to Tahiti
Travel guide to Moorea
Travel guide to Bora Bora
Travel guide to Tetiaroa
Travel guide to Taha’a
Travel guide to Tikehau
Stay tuned as I add more more guides to this list in the future! Hope this detailed guide helps inspire you and helps you to plan your future trip to French Polynesia. Bookmark this post for the future.
Thanks for stopping by! xo