Ia Orana, welcome to paradise! A trip to Tahiti and French Polynesia is something you’ll never forget. With 118 islands stretching across a chunk of the South Pacific Ocean the size of Western Europe, it’s important to pick and choose the right islands for you. Here’s a sample 10 days in French Polynesia itinerary, which offers a few combinations of islands to choose from.
I spent three months in French Polynesia while backpacking across the South Pacific Islands. While no two islands are the same, it’s key to avoid trying to see too much. This is paradise, after all, so leave plenty of time for relaxing. Independent travelers to French Polynesia will discover that there’s way more to this destination than just luxury resorts. It all depends on you.
Heading off to French Polynesia? Free travel guides to 11 islands await you, plus tailor-made services to make your vacation to paradise unforgettable!
Part 1: Papeete, Tahiti (1 Day)
Tahiti is your gateway to paradise, and though deserving more than just a single day, you aren’t here for a very long time. Spend the night at the Hotel Sarah Nui, comfortably situated in the center of Papeete and close to the ferry terminal to Moorea.
Start your morning with a visit to Papeete Market – the most colorful market in the South Pacific. Shop for anything from black pearls to sweet mangos, and enjoy the exotic vibe.
In the afternoon, head out on a walking tour of Papeete, checking out its colonial style buildings, charming cathedrals and laid back waterfront.
For dinner, head to Place Vaiete and experience the cuisine of the legendary roulottes. Tahitians love to eat out, and these food vans serve large inexpensive portions of local food, Chinese classics, and even French crepes!
Have a look at this sample itinerary for lots more information on how to spend a day in Tahiti
Part 2: Moorea (3 Days)
Moorea is just 30 minutes by ferry from busy Papeete, yet it feels like a different world. The excitement is already in the air as the ferry inches closer and closer to Moorea, and maybe a few dolphins join to escort you into port.
Moorea is shaped like a giant heart, thanks to its signature twin bays: Opunohu and Cook’s Bay. It’s the kind of island that has a little bit of everything for everybody: from high-end luxury resorts to family owned pensions, from thrilling hikes to white sand beaches and from lazy snorkeling to world class scuba diving.
Part 3: Bora Bora Or Maupiti (3 Days) / Rangiroa Or Fakarava (5 Days)
For the third leg of your journey: stay in the Society Islands and choose from laid back Maupiti or luxurious Bora Bora (Option A), or head to the coral atolls of the Tuamotus for some world class scuba diving (Option B).
Option A: Bora Bora Or Maupiti (3 Days)
One of the most famous islands in the world, a visit to Bora Bora is a sure way to make your friends jealous. Choose from simple lodging in the main island like the Sunset Hill Lodge or pamper yourself in an overwater bungalow on one of the small islets of Pearl Beach Resort, The St Regis, InterContinental or Four Seasons resorts.
Your days in Bora Bora can be as lazy or as active as you want. Don’t miss the chance to explore the beautiful lagoon as part of a full-day excursion, where you’ll be swimming with nurse sharks, feeding stingrays, snorkeling and grabbing lunch on your own private island.
As far as beaches go, all the resorts on the motu (small islets surrounding the lagoon) will have their own white sand beaches. But for those staying or exploring the main island, don’t miss Matira Beach – one of the prettiest tropical beaches you’ll ever come across.
For those seeking to explore the real Bora Bora, rent a beach bicycle and circle the island on two wheels. It’s just 32 kilometers around the island, and you’ll get to see WWII stations, ancient temples, and authentic village life. You can also join 4X4 tours and reach panoramic lookouts offering sensational views of the lagoon.
Maupiti is said to be ‘the old Bora Bora’, long before the tourist hype. It also looks like a miniature version of its big sister just a few kilometers away, and in fact, it’s so small so you can get around on foot. With no resorts or nightclubs, Maupiti is an authentic little slice of paradise.
Stay at Maupiti Residence, Pension Tereia, and Pension Tautiare Village on the main island or at Pension Papahani in one of the dream-looking motus overlooking the main island, where locals will take excellent care of you. Spend your days hiking Mount Teurafaatiu, going Robinson Crusoe on Motu Auira, and head underwater to dive with giant manta rays in ‘the cleaning station’. Not to be missed, is a day out in the Maupiti lagoon, complete with snorkeling in the enchanting coral garden and sharing the leftovers from lunch with the stingrays.
With all these activities, don’t forget to leave enough of time for relaxing. Maupiti is super pretty!
Option B: Rangiroa Or Fakarava (5 Days)
The prime reason for coming to Rangiroa is scuba diving. Most of your dives will be in the legendary Tiputa Pass, where you’ll encounter sharks, dolphins, and sea turtles, before drifting back into the lagoon if conditions are right.
If you’re diving with The Six Passengers, you can even see the mighty silvertip shark. Head to the Avatoru Pass in the early hours of the morning, when this predator likes to come out and patrol the reef. So scary yet so thrilling!
Aside from scuba diving, Rangiroa offers excellent snorkeling from just about every spot, and excursions to the ‘Blue Lagoon’ and ‘Ile Aux Recifs’.
Have a look at this sample itinerary for Rangiroa, with all the highlights to choose from.
Just like in Rangiroa, scuba diving in Fakarava is some of the best in the world! However, in Fakarava – every single dive is memorable due to the pristine coral, and there’s plenty more to do beyond just scuba diving. Stay at the Relais Marama, where you’ll surely get to know other independent travelers like you, and where a good night’s sleep is guaranteed if your bungalow faces the reef.
Book your dives with Ariane and Matias from Dive Spirit Fakarava, who’ll take you to all the secret spots in this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Cruise along the Ohutu Cliff and witness some of the finest coral in the south seas, drift into the lagoon faster than Superman, and explore the magical Alibaba Canyon – where sharks and other ‘surprises’ like to chill.
When you’re not diving, grab a bike and explore the atoll. PK9 Beach is one of the prettiest you’ll ever see, and it will likely be all yours for the day. If it’s more beaches you’re after, join a lagoon tour and visit the famous pink sand beach… that’s right – pink sand!
Part 4: Raiatea Or Huahine (3 Days)
Obviously, this part only applies if you skipped Rangiroa or Fakarava… next time. For the final leg of your 10 days in French Polynesia, choose from either Raiatea or Huahine – both in the Society Islands.
Known as the ‘sacred island’, Raiatea shares the same lagoon with neighboring Tahaa Island, offering you a great 2-for-1 opportunity. Stay at Villa Temehani or the Sunset Beach Motel, and if you really want to taste luxury – spend your last night at Le Tahaa Resort.
Raiatea is all about the outdoors, with excellent hikes on the menu. Choose from the short hike up to Mount Tapioi for gorgeous panoramic views, venturing deep into the rainforest in search of three waterfalls, or a challenging hike up to the Temehani Plateau in search of one of the rarest flowers in the world – the tiare apetahi.
Aside from hiking, hit the road and circle Raiatea. Once you exit town, you’ll have parts of the island all to yourself. Stop at Marae Taputapuatea, the most important ancient temple in the Polynesian Triangle and a newly named UNESCO World Heritage Site. On your final day, you can even take a trip to neighboring Tahaa Island, where you’ll find pristine beaches out on the surrounding islets, and some of the finest vanilla in the world.
Huahine is known as ‘the Garden of Eden’, and you can really slow things down over here. Choose from a simple Airbnb close to Fare, to upscale Maitai Lapita Village to the perfectly situated Relais Mahana.
For those seeking to spend their final days in French Polynesia on a white sand beach, head to Avea Bay and work on your tan. If you like having the entire beach for yourself, the one by the abandoned Sofitel Resort will be to your liking.
If you’re looking for a bit of action, rent a car or a scooter and simply circle the island. In fact, Huahine is made up of two islands connected by a bridge. Don’t miss visiting the dozens of ancient Polynesian temples dotting Lake Maeva and the surrounding hills, and the sacred blue-eyed eels that are said to hold the spirits of ancient islanders.
For one last taste of paradise, spend your last day exploring the Huahine lagoon. You’ll visit a floating pearl farm, have lunch on a dream of a beach and get to feed hundreds of hungry sharks!
Start planning your trip to French Polynesia with free travel guides to 11 islands, plus tailor-made services to make your vacation to paradise unforgettable!
A final word of advice: while 10 days in French Polynesia is a decent amount of time, you will still be left with a strong taste of wanting more. If time allows, aim to spend two weeks. You’ve already made the journey to the end of the world after all…