Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea have much to offer visitors, French Polynesia is
home to many islands worth exploring. Whether you’re looking for something wild
and untamed or easily accessible, it's possible to enjoy unique experiences you
didn't know were possible. To help you plan your trip, here is a guide to
French Polynesia’s lesser-known islands worth exploring.
the fact Fakarava is only an hour and 20 minutes away by plane from Tahiti, it
still remains a lesser-visited island in French Polynesia. This is a shame, as
which is a UNESCO biosphere reserve thanks to its rare and
abundant flora and fauna
is touted as one of the best for diving in the
country. Here you’ll find the coral reef pass of Garuae, the largest of its
kind in French Polynesia and a hot spot for hammerhead sharks, grey sharks,
oceanic sharks, dolphins and rays. Kayaking, snorkeling and swimming in
Fakarava's warm turquoise waters are also popular activities. On land, spend
time touring the local pearl farms (Hinano Pearl Farm is a top choice), as
French Polynesia is known for its organic black pearls.
is a backpackers paradise, full of budget-friendly accommodation and outdoor
adventure activities like kayaking to nearby motus, snorkeling coral reefs,
mountain hiking, diving and canoeing French Polynesia’s only navigable river,
the Faaroa River. Another interesting offering of Raiatea is that it’s the only
place in the world you can find Tiare Apetahi, a rare flower that looks like an
open palm with five extended fingers. It sits atop Mt. Temehani, which can only
be visited with a guide.
Raiatea is nicknamed the “Sacred Island,” as it was the first of the islands to
be settled by the Polynesians. In fact, it's here where you’ll find
Taputapuatea, Polynesia's first royal marae (a sacred place used for religious
and social purposes), as the island has historically been a center for
religion, royalty and culture. Visitors to the island can visit the site on
their own or through a guided tour.
as the “Vanilla Island,” as soon as you step foot onto Tahaa you'll be
enveloped with the sweet scent of Tahitian vanilla. Tahaa is about 30 minutes
from Raiatea by boat, so most people fly into Raiatea first before taking a
water transfer across. Of course, touring the vanilla plantations is a must, as
over 80% of Tahitian vanilla comes from there. A top choice is La Vallee de la
Vanille one of the island's only organic operations. Here you’ll learn exactly
how Tahitian vanilla is made, sample local fruits from the property, and browse
the onsite gift shop full of vanilla-infused spirits, lotions, perfumes,
coffees, sugars, soaps and more.
with snorkeling, kayaking, cycling and hiking, Tahaa is a great place to
experience what it's like to be a VIP. For example, the idyllic Vahine Private
Island Resort sets you up with your over-water or beachfront bungalow
surrounded by coconut trees and coral gardens on a private island. A number of
activities and experiences can be enjoyed onsite free-of-charge, some of which
include windsurfing, kayaking, coconut shows, pareo demonstrations and beach
games. And at their onsite restaurant and bar, enjoy typical French fare paired
with tropical drinks.
leave Tahaa without experiencing its famous coral gardens, filled with
otherworldly corals in all shapes, colors and sizes. Tropical fish abound, and you
can even bring some bread to have the fish eat out of your hand.
of the Marquesas Islands, Hiva Oa is a majestic island featuring steep
mountains home to goats, pigs and wild horses. Unlike the Society Islands --
especially the more popular ones -- Hiva Oa showcases truly untamed beauty
that’s nearly unaffected by tourism. Along with offering great opportunities
for photographers and hikers, Hiva Oa holds a number of interesting
archeological sites, like the Tehueto petroglyphs in the Tahauku valley;
petroglyphs near village Hanatekuua; Taaoa archaeological site; and Iipona
archaeological site. As the island was where artist Paul Gauguin and poet
Jacques Brel lived and died, visitors can see their graves in Calvaire Cemetry
(there are beautiful views from here of Atuona, the former capital of the Marquesas
Islands). Moreover, the Centre Jacques Brel and Espace Culturel Paul Gaugin are
must-visits for creative minds.
most activities on Hiva Oa, like trekking and visiting archeological sites, a
guide is recommended as trails are not well marked.
touted as a less-glamorous (and less expensive) version of Bora Bora, this
small volcanic island and coral atoll is home to five beautiful motus – perfect
for kayaking to or having a secluded picnic – and archeological sites dating
from 850 AD. One of the most popular is Marae Vaiahu, a coral-constructed
temple structure made by ancient Polynesians to pray for successful fishing
(you can even see fish kings etched into the sides). Another top attraction is
Mount Teerefaatiu, the highest point on the island. From the top you’ll enjoy
unobstructed views of Bora Bora, Raiatea and Tahaa. Divers can have underwater
adventures at sites like Manta Point, known for its abundance of manta rays and
when its time to relax, Tereia Point is famous for its soft sugar sand beach
with warm, translucent waters.
Which of these islands do you want to visit the most?
Jessica Festa is a full-time travel writer who is always up for an adventure. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia and doing orphanage work in Ghana. You can follow her adventures on her travel websites, Epicure & Culture and Jessie On A Journey. You can also connect with Jessica directly on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, or follow her epicurean adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
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