“To move, to breath, to fly, to float. To gain all while you give. To roam the roads of lands remote. To travel is to live.”
Something I haven’t shared much on my blog is my husband and I’s deep love for traveling the world. We were married in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico in December 2017 and since then we have been taking bucket list vacations each year. We are early on our journey to traveling the world and have so many more destinations yet to see. But we have experienced some truly breathtaking places and I want to start sharing them with you!
I think we all have those bucket list destinations that we hope to visit one day. Click on the Pinterest icon on any of the images below and easily save them to your Pinterest Bucket List board. If you don’t have one already – it is time to start manifesting those dreams!
French Polynesian Islands
French Polynesia is composed of 118 geographically dispersed islands and atolls stretching over an expanse of more than 1,200 miles in the South Pacific ocean. For those of you that may be geographically challenged (ahem….like me). Here is a visual of French Polynesian islands on the map. The islands are directly south of the Hawaiian islands. So if you have ever been to Hawaii you have been pretty dang close to these beautiful islands!
Most people know of these islands as Bora Bora, which is actually just 1 of the many islands. Bora Bora is made famous (for good reason) as the honeymoon destination of the world! Think crystal clear aqua water, abundant sea life and over the water bungalows seen on post cards.
We visited 3 of the French Polynesian Islands while on our 11 night trip: Moorea, Taha’a and Bora Bora. They are all so different so which one I recommend depends what exactly you are looking for in a destination. However, I do highly recommend vising more than 1 island during your trip to the FP!
How to get there
French Polynesia is actually not too bad of a trek from the United States. When we first booked our trip – we thought the travel and time change was going to be difficult. But now after traveling to South Africa we realize that traveling to FP is a walk in the park compared!
One little tip of advice for those who swear off destinations that take hours (and several modes of transportation) to get to. My husband and I include the hours of travel as part of our bucket list vacation! We make every part of it memorable and soak in every bit of unique experience. We eat at restaurants at the airport that are completely new to us and authentic to the place that we are. We sip on cocktails and snuggle on up at the airport dreaming of all of the adventures we are about to embark on. I promise you – if you have a good outlook on the travel portion of the trip, it will actually become fun! Also – if budget allows, upgrading your seats is always an added luxury! Plus all the free drinks you could ever want!
The airports within the French Polynesian islands are some of the coolest and most unique places we have ever seen in our lives! Think….sipping on a local beer while watching chickens roam the runway.
If traveling from the United States you will travel Air Tahiti from LAX straight to Tahiti, which is approximately a 9 hour flight. If you can grab a flight that departs late at night you can even sleep through majority of the flight. You will wake up in PARADISE!
Once you arrive in Tahiti – unless Tahiti is your final destination – your trek is not quite over for the day…. I highly recommend staying in Moorea for a few nights, which is the closest island to Tahiti (which is the capital of French Polynesia). You will take a ferry from Tahiti to Moorea island. This is such a fun experience as you get to ride with many of the locals of the islands who travel from Tahiti where they work to Moorea where they live. Plus, there are views for days! The ferry ride is not too long as Moorea island and Tahiti island are only about 10 miles apart.
Once you arrive on the island of Moorea, your trek is almost complete! Depending on which resort you are staying at, you will have a bus waiting for you to take you directly to your resort! You may have a few stops on the way dropping off other travelers to their resort, but it was fun for us to see the other resorts.
You have finally arrived……in PARADISE!!!
What to pack
**Make sure to weigh your bag! We use and love this scale HERE to weigh our bags before heading out the door. Luggage allowance for Air Tahiti inter island flights if 45lbs per person and strictly enforced (due to plane size).
Sunscreen – and LOTS of it!! French Polynesian islands are near the equator meaning the sun exposure is extreme! I suggest bringing at least SPF 50 and applying it every few hours. My husband didn’t do this and was burnt to a crisp on day 1 which he paid for the rest of our trip.
Swimsuits – 3 or 4 or more!
Swimsuit cover ups – I brought several and would wear them along with a suit pretty much all day every day (except for dinner). It is casual attire so you can certainly wear swimsuit and cover up to breakfast or lunch, which I did frequently!
Lightweight clothing/Sun Dresses – here are a few adorable options
Flip Flops/Comfy sandals – you won’t need any wedges or high heels. Trust me on this one. There is lots of walking to get around the island and even biking depending on which resort you stay at.
Tennis Shoes – You will need these for Moorea (more on this later)
Snorkel & fins – Many resorts do provide this for you. We did bring our own. If you aren’t certain I would suggest checking with your resort.
Insect Repellent – We brought some although didn’t find much need for it. However, it is always great to have on hand!
Underwater camera or a waterproof case for your phone
Water float and rope
Bose Bluetooth Speaker
Portable Games and cards
Small purse – For when leaving the resort
Tumbler – If you bring your own liquor from LAX or purchase from town you can make your own drinks at your room (saves a ton of money!)
Books – You will have lots of time to relax and enjoy a good book. I brought 3-4 books and finished them all!
Travel Journal – You won’t want to forget about any of the amazing things you will see and do. Take 10 minutes of each night to document your day!
Cash – Everything you purchase while at the resort is added to your room bill. We did leave the resort quite a bit and needed cash for this. USD is accepted everywhere!
What time of year to go
Truly anytime is an amazing time to travel to the French Polynesian islands. We went in early December during their off season.
January – April
The wet season has begun! Average of 12 inches of rain per month. Warm temperatures & less crowds! You might be able to get some nice deals at the resorts during this time!
May – June
A drop in the humidity and the start of the dry season. This is one of the best times to visit as it is not quite super busy!
July – August
Peak season for tourists. You are going to find beautiful weather but likely busier resorts and higher rates.
September – October
Humidity starts to rise again. Late September marks the spring equinox meaning the sun hits the island lagoons in just the right way, making the water extremely turquoise.
November – December
Wet season and high humidity! The rain is very unpredictable, but less crowds and lower resort rates (except over the holidays where prices skyrocket).
**We went the end of November through beginning of December and the weather was absolute PERFECTION! Extremely hot – but what you would expect from an island near the equator. We had only 1 or 2 days where rain happened during the day otherwise most nights had a large rainfall while sleeping which was beautiful to listen to! The resorts were not busy at all and we got great rates (example: stay 3 nights get 4th free). WHEN (not if) I visit the French Polynesian islands again we will visit during “rainy” season again.
Purchase liquor at LAX
Food/Drinks are extremely expensive (everything needs to be imported in to the island) – so make sure to account this in your budget
There are no all inclusive packages at the resorts mentioned in this blog post. We suggest leaving the resort at least a night to experience dining at local restaurants. Read further to check out where we recommend!
You don’t need an over the water bungalow. Upgrade to an over the water bungalow at one resort and skip at the rest to save some money.
Stay at multiple islands
Moorea Island is the closest island to Tahiti (where you will fly into) and definitely worth a visit! There are a few things that set Moorea apart. First of all Moorea is known for their lush vegetation, and landscapes. It is also fairly easy to get around the island, which is fabulous because there is SO much to see and do on this island.
Where to stay: Hilton Moorea
We stayed at Hilton Moorea and opted for a villa versus an overwater bungalow. I was worried I would be disappointed we didn’t have an over the water bungalow – but not for one second did I regret that decision. The villas at Hilton Moorea are stunning and so spacious and private. We even had our own private plunge pool.
The beach at Hilton Morea is unbelievable. It was never busy as most people chill at their over the water bungalow and swim from there. There is even a bar near by so you can easily go grab a drink to continue your relaxation! There are also paddle boards everywhere that you can just scoop up and take for a ride! This was my first time paddle boarding and let me tell you it is quite an amazing experience to paddle board over the crystal clear waters on Moorea island lagoon. You can see all the fish below you and soak in the views of the landscape around you.
There are many ways to experience the entire island of Moorea including their mountain ridges and panorama views of the South Pacific. We opted to experience it on an ATV tour which I highly HIGHLY recommend!! Tip: you do have to know how to drive an ATV as the roads are quite steep and some difficult terrain if you have never driven one before.
We stopped at so many beautiful locations and our tour guide would encourage taking photos for us. Way too much fun!
Where to eat
During our 3 nights at Hilton Moorea we left the island once to eat locally. We chose Rudys, which is casual fun and delicious. They are well-loved for their crab-stuffed parrot fish. Your resort can arrange pick up which is a unique experience. An employee of the restaurant will come and pick you up from your resort and drop you back off when you are done eating. You certainly don’t get that kind of service back home!
Here we are before heading out to eat at Rudys!
Hilton Moorea also offers 3 restaurant options, which we ate at all 3!
Arii Vahine Restaraunt is an open air seaside experience overlooking the ocean. This is where you will have a delicious breakfast served daily. They are also open for dinner should you choose to eat here.
Rotui Bar and Grill is a beachside restaurant open from 11:00am – 9:00pm. This is the perfect place to grab some lunch between shifts at the beach.
Another fun option is Toatea Creperie and Bar where they serve various kinds of Crepes. This restaurant is located on one of the docks and offers a unique dining experience where you can actually watch the vast sea life beneath you while eating!
Where to stay: Le Taha’a Island Resort and Spa
We stayed at Le Taha’a Island Resort and Spa which is actually the only resort on the island. It is a 5 star luxury resort and by far our favorite of our entire travel to the French Polynesian Islands. This place is truly a hidden gem like no other! If I can suggest one single thing it is this – do not pass by Taha’a island without stopping.
THIS is the view on Le Taha’a island and you don’t ever have to leave your resort to experience these beautiful views. This photo was taken on our walk from our over water bungalow to the pool!
We stayed in an over the water bungalow while at Le Taha’a Island Resort and Spa and so glad that we chose this upgrade. The rooms are unbelievable and the water beneath you is UNREAL! My favorite day of our entire vacation was on our anniversary where we spent the day playing cribbage on our bungalow deck between taking dips directly into the water below us. We also spent hours on our floaties just relaxing and reading. Best. Day. Ever!!!
The bungalows have a end of the bed bench that you can open and feed the fish directly from inside your room! Every night before bed I would drink my wine and feed all the fishies.
Ohhhh and the sunsets on this island!??
Jet Ski/Swim with Sharks/Rum Distillery/Pearl Farm/Vanilla Plantation Tour
If you aren’t afraid of motorized water sports – then this tour is for you! This tour is jam packed with all of Taha’a island’s unique cultural experiences.
We lucked out and were the only 2 people on the tour so it was just us and our 2 guides. This is one of the many benefits of Taha’a island. The island is way less touristy (compared to Moorea and Bora Bora) so you can experience very specialized excursion opportunities.
Look at that water!
We took the jet ski to a rum distillery on the main island and got our own tour of the place and we were even able to taste test some rum!
We were also able to swim with sharks and snorkel, which is a must do French Polynesian activity!! The most beautiful coral I have ever seen!
Where to eat
Taha’a is unique to the other islands we visited in that there are no restaurants on the island. You actually never even leave the resort – but trust me – you don’t want to! Le Taha’a Island Resort and Spa has 3 different restaurant options (as well as in room dining).
Le Vanille is the main restaurant where you will have breakfast every morning and dinner most nights. They have a full buffet plus you can order whatever else you could want. Fresh fruit and mimosas every single morning was my jam! They also have a Polynesian night every Tuesday! We arrived on a Tuesday afternoon so were able to witness this once in a lifetime experience!
Another option for dining is at La Plage where you can eat with your feet directly in the sand. This restaurant is only open from noon – 3 so we would eat here for lunch most days. There was one afternoon where they had freshly caught fish where you could go up and select the exact fish you wanted!
There is also a small bar near La Plage restaraunt where we bellied up one day between snorkeling Le Taha’a amazing reef. The French Polynesian islands have an amazing local beer called Hinano Tahiti.
The Orihi is the 3rd restaraunt at Le Taha’a Resort which is more of a gourmet option located inside near Le Vanille. We ate at The Orihi only one night and while it was delicious we preferred the atmosphere at Le Vanille.
What makes Le Taha’a Island Resort and Spa so spectacular is their drift snorkeling. You walk out to a small islet and let the tide carry you from the small reef at the edge of the island right to the heart of the coral garden. You end up right back at the resort where you started. You can go back and do this as many times as you choose and it is free! You will not need to book an excursion or have a guide along with you. This drift is located right behind the La Prage beach restaraunt so you can stop for a drink between each time going through the drift! This is truly a magical experience and one that I will remember forever!
Here is a video of our walk to the small islet.
Bora Bora is the most “famous” of all the French Polynesian islands. It is the ultimate honeymoon destination of the world! There are so many luxurious resorts on this island it was tough to choose which one to stay at.
Where to stay: St Regis
We stayed at St. Regis, which is “Eden” if you have ever seen the movie Couples Retreat. Funny side note – they actually have the movie on repeat on the TVs in your room at the resort. I definitely may have watched it while there during my husband’s daily nap. LOL
Once you land on Bora Bora island a boat is waiting to bring you to St Regis resort!
This resort is by far the largest of all 3 resorts that we stayed at. They provide bikes to get around the island, which is so fun.
St. Regis also has its own lagoonarium. It is home to a wide variety of fish and can be entered by climbing down ladders from surrounding decks. This is perfect for a first time snorkeler, whi wants to develop confidence mingling with the sea life, prior to taking on the free water of the lagoon!
When we arrived at St. Regis we had already done plenty of snorkeling, so we did snorkel in the lagoonarium once, we preferred snorkeling the vast coral surrounding Bora Bora island!
Full Day Snorkeling Excursion
We did a full day snorkeling excursion and it was hands down our favorite excursion ever!! Which says a lot because our excursions on both Moorea and Taha’a island were perfection as well!
The full day snorkeling excursion includes a boat ride (along with a few other people staying at various resorts), snorkeling in the lagoon with reef sharks and sting rays as well as deep sea diving with lemon sharks. After a full day of snorkeling you will end up at the most magical little gem I have ever seen. A small hut located in the middle of no where (no resorts can be seen from any direction) and you will have an authentic Polynesian lunch!
Where to eat
There are 5 restaurants at St. Regis Bora Bora: Te Pahu (contemporary reflection of Polynesian tradition), Bam Boo (Asian dining experience), Aparima (bar with light eats), Lagoon Restaraunt by Jean – Georges (exclusive fine dining) and Far Niente Ristaronte (Italian Flare).
Of the 5 restaurants we only ate at Te Pahu, Lagoon Restaurant and Far Niente.
We did leave the resort twice for dinner at night. Just request a transfer from your room butler (fancy, right?) and they will arrange pick up for you to the main island. They will also have a transfer vehicle waiting for you on the main island to take you to the restaurant as well as take you back to the boat to get back to the resort. We never felt unsafe. Bora Bora is an extremely safe island!
We went to La Villa Mahana and La Matira Beach restaurant, both of which I HIGHLY recommend.
Any questions? Leave a comment below and I’d be happy to help you out!