Ia Orana, welcome to paradise! A trip to Tahiti and French Polynesia is an adventure you’ll never forget. With 118 islands stretching across the vastness of the South Pacific Ocean roughly the size of Western Europe, it’s important to pick and choose the right islands for your vibe and wishlist. 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 and have since returned on six additional visits, mostly recently for my month-long honeymoon. While no two islands are the same, avoiding trying to see too much is vital. This is paradise, after all, so leave plenty of time for relaxing.
Independent travelers to French Polynesia will discover there’s more to this destination than just luxury overwater bungalows. It all depends on you. This 10-day French Polynesia itinerary focuses on the “classic” route of Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora, plus a few additional stops that you can add to your island-hopping journey.
Heading to French Polynesia? In-depth island guides to all 5 archipelagos await you, including sample itineraries and essential travel tips & tricks.
Tahiti, Tailor Made!
The Islands of Tahiti are among the last places to be colonized by mankind, 118 islands, each with its unique personality.
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Video Tour of the Islands of Tahiti
Here’s a relatively lengthy but (I guarantee) enjoyable video that takes you across all five archipelagos in French Polynesia. You might need to disable your ad blocker for the video to load.
Part 1: Papeete, Tahiti (1 Day)
Tahiti is your gateway to paradise, and though it’s worth more than just a single day, you aren’t here for a very long time. I suggest spending the night in or around Papeete for easy access to the city, airport, and ferry terminal to neighboring Moorea. I’ll share a few options for how to spend one day in Tahiti.
Where to stay in Tahiti
As you would expect from the “big island,” Tahiti boasts a relatively wide variety of accommodations in all categories.
For a luxury stay in Tahiti, the best resorts are the newly-opened Hilton Tahiti and the InterContinental Tahiti Resort, both located not too far from the airport in Fa’a. They’re perfectly situated to offer the best sunset views in Tahiti with a breathtaking panorama of Moorea. Next door, the (currently closed) Sofitel Tahiti Ia Ora Beach Resort and the Te Moana Resort in Punaauia are good options. On the other side of Papeete, en route to the east coast, the Le Tahiti by Pearl Resorts is another solid option.
If you prefer to stay at hotels in Papeete, the recently opened Boutique Hotel Kon Tiki is right across the ferry terminal, not far from the simpler Sarah Nui Hotel. Finally, the Tahiti Nui Hotel is within a short walk of the central market.
For a pension stay, the best in Papeete is by far Fare Suisse. They offer free transfers to/from the airport or ferry terminal, the breakfast is amazing, the rooms are clean, and they even have a car to rent. Slightly out of town, along the West Coast, Pension de la Plage and Relais Fenua are recommended options.
Option 1: Shopping & sightseeing in Papeete
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.
Here’s a quick tour of the Papeete market.
In the afternoon, head on a walking tour of Papeete, checking out its colonial-style buildings, charming cathedrals, and laid-back waterfront. Head to the Robert Wan Pearl Museum and grab lunch on the new waterfront boardwalk or in the heart of the city.
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! After dinner, go for a drink in one of Papeete’s bars or check with your hosts if any traditional Polynesian dance shows are happening in one of the resorts.
Option 2: Roadtrip Around Tahiti
The second recommended way of spending one day in Tahiti is hitting the road and exploring the island. You can do this on your own by renting a car or joining a guided tour. The former option gives you more freedom to explore more sites and extend your time on the road. The island is comprised of two sections connected “at the hip”. Tahiti Nui is the larger island, home to Papeete and most of the population. Tahiti Nui is much smaller and retains a beautiful countryside vibe.
I recommend exploring Tahiti’s drier and sunnier west coast from Papeete to Teahupo’o. On the way, stop at ancient ceremonial sites, two botanical gardens, and black sand beaches. Once you reach Tahiti Iti, drive until the road ends at beautiful Teahupo’o, the surfing capital of Polynesia.
Option 3: Guided 4X4 tour of Papeno’o Valley
If you’re up for an adventure, and especially if most of your 10 days in French Polynesia will be spent relaxing by the beach or pool, book a spot on 4X4 to the heart of Tahiti. The island’s mountainous interior is wild and uninhabited, but it wasn’t always this way.
The tour enters Papenoo Valley from the east coast, and follows the contours of the longest river in French Polynesia until exiting on the west coast. During this slow-going voyage, you’ll experience Tahiti’s lush interior, see countless waterfalls, and come across evidence of the valley’s former residents. I recommend booking the full-day experience with Olivier Lenoir from Ia Ora Na Tahiti Expeditions (tell him Avi from Israel sent you).
Part 2: Moorea (3 Days)
The second part of this 10 days in French Polynesia itinerary takes us to Moorea. Tahiti’s neighbor is just 30 minutes by ferry from busy Papeete. Once you land on its shores, you’ll immediately notice the island’s calm vibe, especially when compared to Tahiti. I recommend to rent a car for your entire stay in Moorea. You certainly can sightsee using guided tours, but Moorea is a great island to explore at your own pace.
Where to Stay in Moorea
Like Tahiti, Moorea is a popular island so it’s got a range of accommodations though the best ones get snatched quickly.
The Hilton Moorea is the best resort on the island. It’s currently the only five-star resort in Moorea. It’s at the foot of Mount Rotui and offers splendid views and good snorkeling. Next up is the Sofitel Moorea, which will soon upgrade to a five-star category. It’s located on the east coast on sandy Temae Beach. After the closure of the InterContinental Moorea in 2020, the Manava Beach Resort is the remaining option. It’s conveniently located just outside Maharepa, the largest village in Moorea. At some point, the grounds of the former InterContinental will house a new resort.
There’s a large selection of pensions (bed & breakfasts) and beach lodges in the prime areas of the island. Pensions range from simple accommodation to pampering “boutique” style lodgings. My top recommendations include Moorea Beach Lodge, Moorea Island Beach, Moorea Green Lodge, Pension Poerani, and the family-friendly Linareva Resort (not actually a resort). Unlike pensions on other islands, most of Moorea’s pensions do not offer half-board stays, so you’ll need to go out for dinner.
This rare category (in French Polynesia) is somewhere between a resort and a pension regarding offered services. In Moorea, the Hotel les Tipaniers is the best choice. It’s popular with families and lies on arguably the best public beach on the island. It has a beach restaurant, a dive center, and boat rental. The twin islets (motu) are just a short kayak paddle away. The beach is great for swimming, snorkeling, and kitesurfing. Another option is Hotel Hibiscus, which offers both garden bungalows and hotel-style rooms. The recently-opened Cook’s Bay Hotel offers a different flavor, being located in the heart of one of the island’s deep bays.
Sightseeing in Moorea
Most of Moorea’s interesting sites are on the island’s dramatic north coast, dominated by a pair of deep bays that shape the island like a heart when viewed from the air. Spend your time driving to the Belvedere, Moorea’s most famous scenic lookout, explore archeological sites, and relax on one of the island’s beautiful public beaches. On the following days, explore the island’s lagoon and say hello to the resident stingrays. Alternatively, book a table at the Coco Beach Restaurant and combine lunch with some beach time.