The islands of French Polynesia invite exploration, inspire art and offer myriad pleasures. Dotted along the South Pacific, the 118 islands offer abundant opportunities for contemplation and recreation. Pristine lagoons invite swimming and snorkelling. The dormant volcanoes that shaped Tahiti and other French Polynesian islands encourage hiking.
In winter, most crowds are gone, and visitors can enjoy a more authentic escape from everyday life.
At 53 km long, Tahiti is the largest island of the Îles du Vent (also known as the Windward Islands) and is part of the Society Islands in French Polynesia. The capital of French Polynesia, Papeete, is on Tahiti’s northwestern coast.
Formed by two ancient eroded volcanic cones, the jagged and mountainous terrain of Tahiti reaches its highest peak at Mount Orohena (2,237 metres) on Tahiti Nui, with the next highest peak at Roniu (1,323 metres) on Tahiti Iti. From their heights, swift streams descend to the coast, fringed by coral reefs and lagoons. The island has plentiful vegetation, including coconut palms, pandanus, hibiscus, and tropical fruit trees.
The French artist Paul Gauguin lived on Tahiti, and you can find some of his works at the Paul Gauguin Museum, located on Tahiti’s southern coast. At the end of his life, Gaugin lived on Hiva Oa, the largest of the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia, and is buried there at Atuona.
The Intercontinental Tahiti
After a long flight to the South Pacific, you’ll welcome the proximity of this luxurious resort, only minutes from Faa'a International Airport and downtown Papeete. Even so, the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa feels remote, located on 32 acres of lush tropical gardens by an aquamarine lagoon. Guests can choose between classic rooms or overwater bungalows. The resort features two infinity pools and a lagoonarium, vibrant with colourful fish. The Deep Nature Spa offers holistic Polynesian-inspired treatments, with a fitness centre. Enjoy concerts at the Tiki Bar, traditional dance shows at Te Tiare, and epicurean delights at Le Lotus.
Moorea island is the nearest neighbouring island to Tahiti, 20 km to the northwest, and has become a much-favoured tourist location. It is also the second largest of the Îles du Vent, formed by the remains of an ancient, half-eroded volcano, graced with streams and fertile soils. The highest peak is Mount Tohivea, at 1,207 metres. On the east coast, the largest village, Afareaitu, is overlooked by mount Muaputa (830 metres). On the north coast, at the centre of the extinct volcano’s crater, you’ll find Cook Bay (Paopao) and Opunohu Bay (also known as Papetoai), divided by Mount Rotui.
The American writer Herman Melville travelled to French Polynesia in the 1840s, and the villages on the eastern coast of Moorea inspired some of the locations in his novels. Melville also travelled to Nuku Hiva, Madison Island, in the northwestern Marquesas and set his novel Typee there.
The Hilton Moorea
This eco-friendly hotel features comfortable single and double bungalows with private plunge pools and over-water bungalows. Enjoy island tours arranged by guest services, water sports, snorkelling with stingrays, swimming in the lagoon-style pool, tennis courts, and a fitness centre offering yoga classes. The Moorea Lagoon Spa offers treatments inspired by time-honoured Tahitian techniques, featuring massages with Polynesian Monoï oil, detoxifying body wraps and other services. Enjoy a buffet breakfast and fine dining evening menu at Arii Vahine with live entertainment on select days. Stop by the Rotui Bar & Grill by the lagoon for something more casual, or have a sweet or savoury French crepe at the over-water Toatea Bar & Creperie.
The volcanic island of Bora Bora is part of the Îles Sous le Vent (Leeward Islands) in the Society Islands of French Polynesia, about 265 km northwest of Tahiti. Mount Otemanu reaches a height of 727 metres, and the twin-peaked Mount Pahia rises to 658 metres. The island is surrounded by coral reefs, with a large lagoon on the west in which the smaller islands of Toopua and Toopua Iti protect a large harbour. The principal village, Vaitape, is on the west coast.
The Four Seasons Bora Bora
Located on the clear blue Bora Bora lagoon, its bungalow suites and beach villas offer breathtaking views of colourful sunsets and Mount Otemanu. Nestled at the lagoon’s edge, the Te Mahana Spa offers treatments featuring indigenous ingredients like Tahitian-black-pearl powder skin treatments, and detoxifying algae plucked from Polynesian waters. Enjoy your breakfast delivered to your private bungalow by Tahitian boat, and treat yourself to a Poisson Cru—French Polynesia's famous citrus and coconut-infused raw fish dish—at Fare Hoa Beach Bar & Grill.
Where else to stay
There are many fine five-star resorts to get lost in for a while throughout French Polynesia, and we have trouble picking just one, but Marlon Brandon’s unique Tahitian home is worth a special mention.
The Brando — Tetiaroa
Brando first set eyes on the wonders of Tahiti when filming Mutiny on the Bounty and instantly fell in love both with the place and with his leading lady, Tarita. In 1967, he settled on the atoll of Tetiaroa, 30 miles north of Tahiti, which was previously a favourite summer retreat of Tahitian royalty.
Brando was passionate about sustainability to preserve the natural beauty and biodiversity of Tetiaroa.
In 1999, he asked the long-time Tahitian resident and resort designer Richard Bailey, who shared Brando’s passion for the environment, to help him create the world’s first post-carbon resort—adopting new sustainable technologies.
The Brando is the result of that vision, a place where nature is free to be, and guests can delight in its marvels.
Marine life and colourful coral beds flourish in the reef surrounding Tetiaroa and the inner and outer lagoons. Over 160 species of fish visit the waters, from parrotfish to blacktip sharks. Whales pass by Tetiaroa during their annual migrations, and dolphins dance off the reef.
Winter time is also an excellent opportunity to witness the turtle mating season on Tetiaroa, which lasts from October to March. Large sea turtles lay their eggs on the coral sands under shady trees.
You’ll discover many tropical birds. One of the motus (reef islets) of the atoll, Tahuna Iti or “Bird Island”, is a favourite avian playground, with thousands of birds roosting there every evening.
The twelve motus are graced with 38 indigenous plants, including the Puatea, Pisonia Grandis, which rises to 65 feet in height. David Nelson, the botanist aboard the HMS Bounty, would feel very much at home on Tetiaroa.
The Brando and its villas blend into the trees, built using local, renewable or recycled materials. Deep seawater powers the air-conditioning system to reduce energy demands. The resort relies on renewable energy sources, including solar power and coconut oil biofuel, whenever possible, working towards its carbon neutral and self-sustainable goal.
You can book comfortable one, two or three-bedroom villas or stay at Brando’s roomy 3-bedroom Teremoana residence.
The Varua Te Ora Polynesian Spa nestles on a restful pond in the heart of the atoll of Tetiaroa. Guests will also find facilities for water sports, a fitness centre, an organic garden, a library, a pearl shop, and a boutique.
You can enjoy refreshments at the cafes, bars and restaurants. Menus feature Polynesian-inspired dishes, East/West fusion and classic French cuisine, all designed by Executive Chef Pierre Lecorne and made with fresh ingredients directly from the atoll’s gardens and orchards, with fresh fish supplied by Polynesian waters. Chef Kaito Nakamura serves Japanese dishes at the Nami teppanyaki restaurant.
The Brando offers 20-minute flight connections to the atoll from Tahiti through their Air Tetiaroa terminal.
How to get there
A LunaJets advisor can help you book a private jet to fly you to Faa’a International Airport in Papeete, Tahiti. This airport can accommodate all aircraft categories and offers an excellent service to private jet passengers, thanks to several comfortable VIP lounges. As this is a long journey, we recommend booking a larger jet. Your LunaJets advisor will arrange all your necessary transfers