French Polynesia is an autonomous overseas territory of France, consisting of 118 islands sprinkled over an area of ocean almost the size of continental Europe. Of its five archipelagoes, the Society Islands are perhaps the best known to foreigners: Bora Bora, Tahaa, Raiatea and Huahine are less than an hour by air northwest of Tahiti. Enchanting Bora Bora and its neighboring islands embody the South Pacific fantasy. The sheer physical beauty of these lush and mountainous islands is astonishing. An eight-hour flight from Los Angeles, the international airport is located on the island of Tahiti. Since most flights arrive in the middle of the night and depart early in the morning, it is often necessary to spend a night in Papeete.
An island of green volcanic spires, deep valleys and brilliantly hued lagoons, Moorea is a 10-minute shuttle flight, or a 30-minute catamaran ride, from Tahiti. Photogenic Cook’s Bay and breathtaking Belvedere Point at Opunohu Bay are the key sights. It is great fun to take a four-wheel-drive tour of the island.
I suggest combining stays at my recommended resorts with a cruise aboard the m/s Paul Gauguin. A crew of 217 takes care of a maximum of 332 passengers, ensuring a consistently high level of service, and itineraries encompass many of the loveliest islands in the archipelago. Be sure to reserve a Stateroom with a balcony.
Gauguin first sailed for Tahiti in April 1891. He set up his studio in a bamboo hut some 30 miles from Papeete in order to depict scenes of Tahitian life. Many of his finest paintings such as “Fatata te Miti” (“By the Sea”) and “La Orana Maria” (“Hail Mary”) date from this period. He died in the Marquesas Islands in May 1903.
Schedule your visit during the drier, less humid months of May to October. There is little change in temperature and humidity year-round. Rainfall is moderate to heavy December to March, with the remaining months subject to light afternoon showers.
Five hours behind New York (EST).
French Polynesian Franc (CFP). Fluctuating rate valued at about CFP107.80 = US$1.00 as of August 2019. Note: One of our suggested hotels quotes rates in euros (€); €1.00 = US$1.11 as of August 2019.
None. A U.S. consular agent is located in Punaauia, Tel. (689) 40-42-65-35.
To phone hotels in French Polynesia, dial 011 (international access) + 689 (French Polynesia code) + 40 (new additional French Polynesia code for fixed phones; 87 for mobile phones) + local numbers.