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These are your need-to-know basics for French Polynesia, from where to stay and what to do. It’s time to make your dream island fantasy a reality.
Tahiti, along with another 117 drop-dead gorgeous islands, are all part of French Polynesia freckling the South Pacific Ocean.
Tahiti: The main island, and the one you’ll fly into.
Moorea: Only 17 kilometres from Tahiti and easily reached by ferry or plane.
Bora Bora: The favourite for honeymooners. Everyone’s paradise fantasy looks like Bora Bora.
Lesser known islands: The three islands listed above are the most frequently visited by Kiwis. However, those such as Raiatea, Taha’a (Society Islands), Tikehau, Rangiroa (Tuamotus), Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou (Marquesas) and Rurutu (Australs) are all increasing in popularity.
The international airport is located in the capital of Papeete, Tahiti. Flights from Auckland Airport fly there direct in approx. 4hr 55m. Flights arrive late in the evening so at least one night in Tahiti is recommended.
Flights between Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora are easy and frequent. Other islands in French Polynesia may be accessible, but flying is still your best option (and sometimes only option). It's also possible to go island hopping by ferry but the choices are limited.
FLIGHT TIMES (approx.)
Tahiti to Moorea: 15 minutes
Tahiti to Bora Bora: 50 minutes
Moorea to Bora Bora: 50 minutes
Ask your consultant about island hopping passes which are sometimes promoted by local Tahitian airlines. You’ll be able to combine multiple islands for a very tempting price.
WHEN TO GO
May to October is the dry season with temperatures sitting around 27 °C. This is the best time to visit for the heat and ample sunshine.
The rainy season occurs between from November and April. Skies can be overcast and rain is likely, but the temperature remains hot, if not a little hotter.
The official currency is the French Pacific Franc (XPF). As there are only a few ATM machines on the islands, make sure you have funds before you fly.
On the islands of Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, and in all the international resorts, you can drink water straight from the tap. No vaccination shots are required, but immunisation against Tetanus is advisable if you haven't already had it.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN TAHITI
1. Go to La Plage Vaiava
With champagne sand and a blue lagoon you'll want to dive straight into.
2. Visit Papeete Market
Food, colour and crafts - clearly the magical formula at this two-story emporium. Find locally grown produce, authentic gifts, gregarious vendors and a small cafe serving refreshments upstairs.
3. Picnic at Venus Point
Poking its black sand spit out into Matavai Bay, Venus Point is an idyllic spot for a picnic. The water is almost always calm, so go and stick your toes in.
4. Take a 4WD excursion
Explore the greenest parts of the island in a Jeep. Learn about fascinating archaeological sites with a local guide, while bounding through lush vegetation and staring at beautiful blue views.
5. Shop for French food
Fine French delis will entice you in with shelves of gourmet food and wine. Being of French origin, even the supermarkets (such as Carrefour) are packed to the rafters with good food. If you're doing a substantial, pantry-sized shop, Tahiti's largest supermarket is at Punaauia, just steps from the marina.
6. Find the food trucks
Les Roulottes' food trucks front the harbour and dish out everything from Tahitian poisson cru (raw fish in coconut milk) to fresh seafood and wafer-thin French crepes.
7. Dine cheaply
La Casa Bianca serves affordable pizza, pasta and various Tahitian dishes.
8. Dine finely
If you love old-school French dining, Chez Loula & Remy is a family-run establishment in Taravao. They're a family who have mastered the simple flavours (and pleasures) of grilled meat and seafood.
Le Lotus sits inside the Intercontinental Resort Tahiti and is upmarket yet relaxed. The food is a refined fusion of French and Polynesian.
We also like Le Coco's Restaurant. Fringing the waterfront and featuring not one but three international menus. The elaborate cuisine and Tahitian views make the experience exceptional.
9. Day trip to Tetiaroa Atoll
Join a day tour and sail to Tetiaroa Island. Depart from Papeete Marina for a full 12-hours of sailing, snorkelling, bird watching and bathing. You'll have plenty of time to relax on the motu, with both breakfast and lunch included.
10. Save the Tahitian coral
In order for future generations to enjoy the beauty of French Polynesia, help re-build dwindling coral in Moorea Island by adopting a piece of it. Local 'Coral Gardeners' will replant and maintain your section, and send you a certificate to prove it’s yours.
11. Grab a snorkel
With the help of a Tahitian guide, paddle into the shallows for a dalliance with stingrays and reef sharks.
12. Say yes to traditional Tahitian pampering
You're in the land of papaya, coconut and the Tiare flower (as well as a land of luxury) so enjoy five-star spa treatments every day of the week.
Taurumi massage, is as synonymous with Tahiti as a croissant is to France, so don’t miss out. Your masseuse will use traditional Monoï Oil (a blend of Tiare flowers and coconut oil) to soothe away your stresses.
13. Find a sunset
Pop a bottle of bubbles, lie back and watch the sun turn the sea into a painter’s palette of purple, orange and gold.
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