Best of French Polynesia

We were lucky to spend a year in French Polynesia, a beautiful and widespread collection of islands and atolls. While we didn’t improve our French language skills, we loved the excellent diving, hiking, and culture. From the Marquesas to the Tuamotus and the Society Islands, these are our best of French Polynesia.

About French Polynesia

French Polynesia has several island groups, but many visitors only go to the Society Islands. You’ve probably heard of Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora. If you can, I recommend exploring the ones you haven’t heard about. The more remote archipelagos of the Marquesas and the Tuamotus are unforgettable. These island chains couldn’t be more different: the Marquesas are lush, mountainous, and full of vegetation. Conversely, the Tuamotus are arid atolls with limited land life and clear waters. We didn’t even make it to other parts of French Polynesia like The Gambiers and Australs. Read on for which locales we think offer the best of French Polynesia.

Best Hiking

Two islands in French Polynesia are our favorites for hiking. If you want to go hiking, visit Ua Pou or Moorea. Nuku Hiva also offers a good variety of hikes.

Some islands are just bad for hiking, full of private land and no paths for independent hikers, or they’re flat and featureless. In good news, most of The Marquesas islands have at least one or two hikes that are worth doing.

Ua Pou is good for hiking independantly, but for the big hike, hire a guide. All the hikes involve altitude, and everyone we know who did the cross-island hike alone got lost. The hills are high and the views are stunning, but there’s not much civilization so packing lots of water is a must for any of these treks.

Hiking in ua Pou best of French Polynesia
Stunning views hiking across Ua Pou
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Marine Encounters in French Polynesia

French Polynesia covers a vast area in the South Pacific with 5 island groups spreading over more than 2000 kilometers. People often compare it to the size of Europe. Unlike the wide diversity of land animals in Colombia and Panama, French Polynesia has only a few and they’re primarily domesticated. The real action is in the water. In our year there, we had amazing marine encounters in French Polynesia. This post features our best videos and tips of where to spot marine life from The Marquesas to the Society Islands.

Fun with Marine Animals

One of the highlights of living on a sailboat traveling around the world is getting up close with marine animals. After over four years on board, spotting these animals in their natural habitat still gives us a thrill! Turtles, sharks, and dolphins have been regular sights since the beginning, and rays and whales are more common since we’ve hit the Pacific. The South Pacific, so far, seems more untouched than much of the Caribbean. We love spotting marine life in French Polynesia just as much as everywhere else and here are some highlights.

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Fixing A Boat in French Polynesia

We spent a year in French Polynesia, exploring beautiful islands, communing with marine life, and meeting amazing people. We also dealt with lots of broken equipment. From sails to machinery, something was always broken on board Sava. Sometimes it was easy to solve, sometimes it wasn’t. Here’s what it’s like fixing a boat in French Polynesia.

Location Location Location

One of the cliches and constants of life on a cruising boat is fixing your boat in exotic locations. At least we have nice views while we’re dirty, tired, and frustrated. In French Polynesia, the views are beautiful. That’s an excuse for a scenic shot!

Fixing the boat in exotic locations, Ua Pou, Marquesas
A beautiful view in Ua Pou, Marquesas

papeete is best for fixing a boat in French polynesia

The best place to be when fixing a boat in French Polynesia is Papeete, Tahiti. Since all the stores selling marine hardware, and regular hardware, are in Papeete, you almost always have to source from there unless you get very lucky. In our three different stays in Papeete over the year, we visited every possible chandler and hardware store. Multiple times. And a machine shop. Living the glamorous yacht life!

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Huahine Highlights

We are being spoilt by French Polynesian paradise. Case in point is the island of Huahine, one of the Society islands. Located less than a day’s sail from Tahiti, Huahine offers fun on land and water. We spent a week exploring and discovering the Huahine highlights.

About Huahine

Huahine, pronounced “Hoo-a-he-nay” by locals, is part of French Polynesia’s Society islands, with Moorea, Tahiti, Raiatea, and Bora Bora, most notably. The island’s population is around 6,000, bigger than any of the Tuamotus. Since it is close to Tahiti, only 100 miles, the island is easy to visit, accessible by regular flights and ferries from Tahiti.

Sailboat moored in turquoise water, Huahine highlights, French Polynesia
Sava moored in Avea Bay, Huahine

Huahine consists of two islands, Huahine Nui (Big Huahine) and Huahine Iti (Little Huahine), surrounded by fringing coral reefs and little motus. We spent a little over a week exploring this lovely island, visiting three different bays by boat, and cycling around the big island.

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Tuamotus Favorites

We spent a few months in the Tuamotus, and would gladly return, because the water is beautiful and the living is easy. We visited several islands in the archipelago, enjoying our experiences in each. Read on for our Tuamotus favorites: where to anchor and eat and fun activities to enjoy.

Favorite Anchorages

This is for the sailors out there, and is based on our limited knowledge of only a handful of motus. We barely scratched the surface in this archipelago. Still, we can’t talk about our Tuamotus favorites without mentioning our favorite spots to stay on the boat for a while and these are definitely worth mentioning.

anchorage, sailboats, Fakarava, Tuamotus
Boats at anchor in Hirifa, Fakarava

Hirifa, Fakarava

Hirifa is paradise for liveaboards. It has almost everything a cruiser needs: good internet, calm water for swimming and paddling, nice beaches for chill time, and for the kiteboarders, a sandbar for launching and consistent winds. Friends spent so much time there, they started a cruisers net.

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