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Things to do in French Polynesia

Things to do in  French Polynesia

Welcome to French Polynesia

With more than 100 tropical islands to explore and plenty of things to do, French Polynesia—located in the remote South Pacific Ocean—is pretty close to paradise on earth. Days are best spent lazing on palm-lined beaches, snorkeling or diving with rays and sharks in azure lagoons, and hiking to hidden waterfalls. Travelers tend to go island-hopping to experience the laid-back way of life or splurge for the ultimate luxury island holiday. Come July, the islands come alive during the vibrant Heiva festival, when locals showcase their culture with dance performances, traditional sports, and more.

Top 15 attractions in French Polynesia

Magic Mountain

Magic Mountain is on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia. Though the mountains on Moorea are not extremely high, they are particularly rugged. Magic Mountain is one of the highest points on the island. It is located along the exterior part of the island, and it offers spectacular 360-degree views of the island and the surrounding clear blue waters of the lagoon and the ocean. On the way up the mountain, visitors will pass villages, scenic valleys, fruit trees, and pineapple plantations. Magic Mountain lets visitors experience the breathtaking scenery an ancient volcanic island.The mountain is not accessible by regular cars and can only be reached by 4WD or ATV. For this reason, the best way to experience Magic Mountain and its views is by taking a tour of the island that includes a trip up the mountain. Most tours also include Belvedere Lookout, which is located toward the center of the island and offers gorgeous views of both Cook's Bay and Opunohu Bay, ancient Polynesian sites, and the agricultural school. It is a great way to take in the wonderful sights and culture that Moorea has to offer.More

Belvedere Lookout

Belvedere Lookout is a scenic viewpoint awarding views of Cook's Bay, Opunohu Bay, Mt. Rotui and the fertile Opunohu Valley with its many pineapple plants, craggy peaks and gentle slopes. It’s a great place to visit simply to take in the views or to get a bit of outdoor exercise in.More

Coral Gardens

Encircled by a lagoon and barrier reef, the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora is known throughout the world for its marine life. A paradise for snorkelers, the Coral Gardens are a section of the reef with calm, shallow waters ideal for beginners. Look for resident creatures such as parrotfish, Japanese moray eels, and more.More

Matira Beach (Plage Matira)

Located on the southern tip of Bora Bora, the public Matira Beach (Plage Matira) is one of the island’s most popular sandy spots. With clear water ideal for swimming, and a beach backed by swaying palm trees, it is an idyllic destination for sunbathing, snorkeling, and watersports.More

Arahoho Blowhole (Trou de Souffleur de Arahoho)

Perched along the rocky coast of Tahiti and bordered by a scenic black sand beach, Arahoho Blowhole is one of the island’s most visited natural wonders. As waves crash against the shore, a powerful geyser-like eruption sends spectacular plumes of water into the air, wowing visitors and creating the opportunity for some impressive photos.More

Lycée Agricole d'Opunohu (Agriculture School)

Lycée Agricole d'Opunohu, or Agriculture School, is French Polynesia's only agricultural school, located on the island of Moorea. At the agricultural school, visitors can see pineapples, lemons, grapefruits, bananas, vanilla beans and many other fruits being grown and learn about the cultivation process. The school also makes fresh fruit juices, jams and sorbets, which are available for purchase. They also offer tastings of the fruit products they make. Visitors can hike on educational trails in the school's plantations in order to learn more about the school and its work and to enjoy the scenery. At the agricultural school, you can also learn about the different tropical plants, flowers, and fruits that are native to French Polynesia.A visit to Lycée Agricole is often included on tours around the island. Other highlights of these tours include the lookout points at Magical Mountain and Belvedere Lookout, which offer different vantage points for viewing the island, the volcanic landscape, and the surrounding water. In addition, these tours often include ancient Polynesian sites, hiking, swimming, and taking in the gorgeous island scenery.More

Faarumai Waterfalls

There are numerous waterfalls all over Tahiti, but the most popular and accessible are the three waterfalls at Faarumai, also known as the Cascades of Faarumai. The three majestic falls are surrounded by tropical vegetation and are more easily reachable than other waterfall sites in Tahiti. Although you may see visitors taking a dip in the pools, swimming here was outlawed after someone was injured.More

Notre Dame Cathedral (Cathedrale de Notre Dame)

Recognizable for its sunny yellow façade, Notre Dame Cathedral (Cathedrale de Notre Dame) is one of the oldest and largest churches in Papeete. The Gothic structure was originally built between 1844 and 1875 but has been destroyed and restored several times, most recently in 1987.More


Bora Bora’s Lagoonarium is a natural aquarium located on a small motu (or islet east of the main island. It’s well known as a great snorkeling destination.More

Marché de Pape'ete (Pape'ete Market)

The sights, sounds and smells of authentic Polynesian life are on offer at Pape'ete’s main market, the Marché de Pape'ete (Pape'ete Market). The indoor market hall is the commercial and social hub of Tahiti’s laid-back capital and the oldest surviving institution on the island.More

Mt. Otemanu

Mt. Otemanu is a jagged, green-sided mountain in the center of the island of Bora Bora. The volcanic mountain is visible from across the island. Visitors can admire the mountain from a boat, or explore the base of the mountain on a rigorous guided hike.More

Vaima Shopping Centre

The Vaima Shopping Centre is the largest shopping mall in Tahiti, French Polynesia's main island. This multilevel mall opened in 1977 and is located in the capital city of Papeete. At the Vaima Shopping Centre, visitors can shop at high end stores for clothing, jewelry, shoes, electronics, art, and much more. Some worldwide brands include Nike, Billabong, and Bose, but there are also many other local stores at the mall. It's a great place to buy souvenirs and island themed clothing. The mall is well known for its French bookstores that sell books in both English and French in many different genres and maps of the French Polynesian islands. A popular item to shop for in Tahiti is the Tahitian black pearl, and there are several shops in the Vaima Shopping Centre that specialize in black pearls.The mall has restaurants and cafes, so you can take a break from shopping to get something to eat. There are also a few travel agents, airline offices, a locksmith and shoe repair shop, salons and a bank.More

Territorial Assembly (Place Tarahoi)

Built in the 1960s on the site of Queen Pomare IV of Tahiti's residence, the Territorial Assembly (Place Tarahoi) is home to the Presidential Palace and French Polynesian Assembly. Its also surrounded by manicured gardens dotted with memorial statues.More
Robert Wan Pearl Museum (Musee de la Perle Robert Wan)

Robert Wan Pearl Museum (Musee de la Perle Robert Wan)

Established by local entrepreneur Robert Wan, Robert Wan Pearl Museum (Musee de la Perle Robert Wan) explores the role of the pearl in art, history, and literature. Exhibits reveal how pearls get from the sea to the display case and how ocean jewels were associated with religious rites and coveted as status symbols.More

Cook's Bay (Baie de Cook)

Surrounded by rugged mountain landscape that seems to reach up from the water, Cook's Bay is one of the main tourist areas in Moorea (it's here that cruise ships come to moor their boats). The area is home to restaurants, shops, and hotels, but it’s still relatively sleepy and laid-back—this is Moorea, after all!More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 3 Days in Bora Bora

How to Spend 3 Days in Bora Bora

World War II History in Bora Bora

World War II History in Bora Bora

Top activities in French Polynesia

6-hour Snorkeling & Lunch Tour - Shared Tour
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Bora Bora Jet Ski Tour, Lunch at Bloody Mary's & Eco Shark / Ray Snorkel Cruise
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Half day whale tour 4h00
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Half day whale tour 4h00

Enjoy Moorea Day Tour
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Enjoy Moorea Day Tour

Bora Bora Sunset Cruise and Dinner at the restaurant
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Bora Bora Snorkel Cruise by Polynesian Outrigger Canoe with BBQ Island Lunch
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Bora Bora Jet Ski Tour

Bora Bora Jet Ski Tour

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All about French Polynesia

When to visit

French Polynesia enjoys warm, sunny weather year-round, although the best time to visit is during the dry season from May to October. In July, islanders celebrate the month-long Heiva Festival with traditional dancing competitions, sporting events, and cultural ceremonies. Meanwhile, the Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o—a professional surfing competition held annually in August—attracts people from all over the world.

Getting around

The quickest way to island hop in French Polynesia is by plane with Air Tahiti, the local airline. Ferry services also operate in the Society Island group, between Tahiti and popular destinations such as Moorea and Bora Bora. On the main island of Tahiti (and a few others) there are public bus services but they’re generally slow and unreliable; so, depending on the size of the island, the best option is to rent a car, scooter, or bike for the duration of your stay.

Traveler tips

Head to the Papeete Central Market early on Sunday morning to grab some firi firi (coconut milk donuts), poisson cru (raw fish), baked taro, and some tropical fruits before indulging in your own traditional Sunday brunch. A boat trip or guided hike through the Fenua Aihere—Tahiti’s wild country, which is steeped in legend—is also unforgettable.

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