10 Best Things to do in French Polynesia for Adventurers
French Polynesia was always at the top of my list to travel to because of the fact that it’s a string of mountainous jungle islands in the middle the ocean. Islands in the middle of the ocean obviously translates to beautiful Instagram-worthy tropical destinations, but there was more than just sunny beaches that I wanted to see on these islands in Oceania.
UPDATED 2020: French Polynesia is officially one of the few countries U.S. Citizens can travel to right now. Please do you part to travel safely, and be conscious of the locals! Always wear a mask and wash hands frequently!
I’ve been to Bali, Hawaii, and even the Maldives, but there’s still just something magical about French Polynesia that I really can’t put into words to describe why I loved it so much.
There’s this mixture of authentic culture and untouched nature, that’s intertwined with the luxurious experience of beach front bungalows. Essentially, it’s a mix of the best of the Maldives and the best of Bali, but with an additional quirky little charm…
Everyone speaks French. Even in the middle of the jungle. Even when I was scuba diving and attempting to take photos of sharks. Well, technically no one was actually speaking French when I was under water, but I imagined it, and it was awesome.
But aside from the French, the sharks, and the mystical mountains and dazzling shorelines, there’s also the main reason why most people travel to French Polynesia. Maybe you’ve heard of a few of these islands; Bora Bora and Tahiti?
Both of those infamous “honeymoon islands” are located in French Polynesia, but guess what? There’s even more amazing islands to see besides those two! In fact, the islands that I went to had some of the most incredible, authentic adventures that I’ve had in a while!
So if you’re looking for a French Polynesia or Tahiti experience that’s absolutely amazing AND adventurous, check out the itinerary I experienced below!
1. Take in Tahiti, Because it’s TAHITI
I mean…who DOESN’T want to go to freaking TAHITI! Tahiti is the original iconic island in French Polynesia, and it deserves its notoriety for a good reason! But the island is not only beautiful because of its aqua waters, over-water-bungalows, and overall mysticism.
There’s also a ton of insane adventures to be had in its untouched lands that are only accessible by boat or paddle!
But let’s start with what most people want to hear about Tahiti. Yes, there’s the notorious over-water bungalows, and they’re just as awesome as they look in photos.
The water is crystal clear, and there’s tons of colorful fish (and friendly sharks!) everywhere. The food is beyond delicious; especially if you’re a fan of seafood cooked rare! Not even joking; I had sashimi for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, almost every day!
I had the pleasure of staying at the Le Meridien Tahiti, which is big enough to be its own adventure alone. The standard rooms are chic and modern, of course with some traditional French Polynesian flare. I also got the chance to stay in one of their over-water bungalows, which literally made me feel like an exotic castaway, or some sort of Tahitian princess.
Stealing center stage of the Le Meridien is a seashore-esque swimming pool, with a sand bottom, and even giant rocks scattered throughout the surface!
Of course you won’t be able to look at the pool without noticing the fairytale-like lily ponds that stretch along not only the bottom floor dining patio, but all along the roof of it as well! While you’re having breakfast, don’t be surprised if you see one of the dozens of gold koi fish jumping out of the water in search of a bread crumb!
Also take note of the beautiful purple and white lily pad flowers that you see during the day; then come back to watch them fully close up at night!
Another thing about Tahiti, is that it’s likely where you’ll be flying in and out of! You’ll find the best comfort and rates on Air Tahiti Nui, especially if you’re also thinking of flying to some of the neighboring islands!
2. Cruise to Teahupoo’s Mega Surf Wave
If you’re not a surfer, you probably haven’t really heard of Teahupoo. Essentially, it’s infamous for being the location of the second biggest (surfing) wave in the world! The reason why the waves get so high, is because there’s a coral reef ring off the shore that causes a massive swell!
The best news is that you don’t have to be a surfer to see this giant wave, or to enjoy the glorious area around it. Warm, calm, crystal clear waters sway gently before they turn into the surf-worthy barrels near the reef. The deep blue color of the ocean makes a stunning contrast against the frothy green outlines of the mountains at the shore, which are complete with a topping of wispy white fog.
3. Trek Tahiti’s Roadless Peninsula
After seeing the ginormous Teahupoo wave (if you catch it in season), you’ll continue the adventure along the peninsula of Tahiti. You’ll experience an area that’s only accessible by boat; including ocean-side waterfalls, volcanic rock hikes, and of course, cliff jumping!
There are no roads in this area, which means that the area is still very much in its natural state, and not over-run by buildings and people. There’s the occasional home every now and then, and a couple of guesthouses in the mountains for real adventures who want to completely disconnect!
You can only get to these locations by a guided tour, otherwise the area is inaccessible, and potentially dangerous. The tour I went on was absolutely fantastic, and only costs about $100 per person. If you’re interested, check out Tahiti Surf! They are a lovely daughter-father team, and are both incredibly sweet and enjoyable to hang out with!
4. Taste the Incredible French Polynesia Cuisine
As I mentioned before, if you’re a fan of fresh, raw fish, you’re going to fall in love with French Polynesia! Every meal you have will likely have fresh fish as an option, especially their traditional dish called Poisson Cru (say it with a French accent).
To give you an idea of how delicious the food was, I’ve listed a couple of recipes that I remember from our lunch with Tahiti Surf, that I remember off of the top of my head:
- Fresh tuna, raw and diced
- Shredded carrots
- Diced onions and tomatoes
- Coconut milk
- 2 bowls of pumpkin
- 1 bowl of starch
We also had coconut bread, which was so delicious that I ate most of it from both of the tables that we had. Essentially it’s bread that’s made from the growing center of a coconut!
5. Relax in Rangiroa Bungalows
Out of the three islands that I went to in French Polynesia, I have to say that my bungalow in Rangiroa was my favorite. By favorite, I mean that I could literally live in this bungalow for a week. Or a month. Or forever. It’s called Hotel Kia Ora Resort and Spa, and it’s absolutely amazing, especially if you love places that are tropical.
My bungalow had its own little pool, and an adorable outdoor sitting area complete with a shower and OUTDOOR TUB. But I mostly loved how incredibly comfy the actual cabin was in regards to AC and a smooshy, cloud-like bed. You will definitely appreciate those things when you’re out playing in the sun and water all day!
The hotel also has the option of staying in beach-front bungalows, or of course, one of their incredible over-water bungalows as well. If your bungalow doesn’t have its own private pool, you can enjoy the stunning infinity pool whose crystal blue waters literally appear to cascade into the ocean!
Rangiroa is only about an hour flight from Tahiti, and has several daily flights on Air Tahiti Nui!
6. Under Water Adventures in Mo’orea
The Kia Ora Hotel also has a plethora of water activities aside from the drool-worthy infinity pool and white coral-sand beach. It also has kayak and stand up paddle board rentals, snorkel gear, and a dive center with a really hot scuba diving instructor named Marc.
Rangiroa is an atoll within Mo’orea; which is an extinct underwater volcano whose lid has become coral-fied (I made that word up), and the top of it is now the island which you walk on. The reason why that’s important to know, is because it means all of the beaches are white, and the ocean life is great!
If you’re dive certified, you’ll enjoy a beautiful array of fish, stingrays, sharks, and even some turtles along the sea floor! If you don’t have a dive license, but you want to try diving, you can take an introductory course in Rangiroa, and even get certified if you have time! Or you can opt to snorkel at the surface, where you’ll still see tons of fish, and maybe even a shark or stingray!
7. Visit French Polynesia’s Only Winery
That’s right! There’s a winery in French Polynesia, and it’s located on the island of Rangiroa! I got a chance to meet with the owner of Vin de Tahiti winery, and learned that the reason why they chose Rangiroa, is because of the climate and chalky soil. The chalkiness comes from the coral, which is why the name of the white wine is so appropriate; Blanc de Corail (AKA “white coral”).
Right now Vin de Tahiti has the lovely white blend, and a rosé, which both pair fantastically with the many fish dishes that are served there. I didn’t go to the actual winery, but had an equally amazing experience in a rustic bungalow-hotel called Les Relais de Joséphine.
At this adorable, rustic, water-front inn, you can watch the sunset from the patio, and see the many dolphins playing in the waves of the channel. Then, you can enjoy an authentic, home cooked meal at a table that’s absolutely Pinterest-worthy, and taste the wines along with their food-pairing counterparts.
8. Get Cultured in Mo’orea
If you haven’t already heard about Mo’orea, it’s one of the most popular, up-and-coming islands in French Polynesia! If you don’t believe me, just search the hashtag on Instagram! As soon as you arrive in Mo’orea, you’ll immediately notice how different it is than any of the other popular islands in French Polynesia; mostly because there’s massive sheer cliffs covered in jungle-awesomeness on one side, and beautiful water on the other.
You can take a quick 10 minute flight to Mo’orea from Tahiti on Air Tahiti Nui, or if the seas aren’t too rough, you can take a 45 minute ferry for about $8.
In Mo’orea, you’ll have the opportunity to really embrace the “Mana” of French Polynesia, and their exotically bold culture. “Mana”, is a term I learned there that describes the connectivity that we have to the Earth, no matter what form that may come in. For me, I embrace the mana the most when I’m in jungles, so Mo’orea was definitely the perfect adventure for me!
But Mana also has a lot to do with the people, and the history of French Polynesia! To learn all about it, we went to place called Pineapple Beach, which you can easily spot while driving from the giant tattooed-man statue out front! As you can probably imagine, there were plenty of pineapple’s at Pineapple Beach, but the overall destination is a place of cultural experience.
For starters, the (very hilarious) owner or one of his comrades will show you how they cook whole pigs or other meats in pits in the ground. They’ll also show you how they cook “bread fruit”, which is something I had to hear about 20 times to make sure I was hearing it right. Then when I tasted it, I realized it was exactly as the name implies; a fruit that literally tastes like bread (or rather, mashed potatoes).
You’ll then be treated to an epic story-telling experience by a head-to-toe tattooed man who also is the main drummer in the three man drum squad. Later they’ll be your rhythm and beat to the traditional dance you’ll learn how to do! All I can say, is that it’s sexy AF!
Aside from the dancing, I also really enjoyed learning how they make flower crowns! I literally felt like that one token filter on Snapchat, except of course, with #nofilter. Last but not least of things to note about this experience, was the beautiful little local kids that were running around the whole time! They had such beautiful complexions, and although shy at first, warmed up for a few rounds of soccer!
9. Take an ATV up Mo’orea’s Mountains
What better way is there to embrace the Mana of French Polynesia than taking an ATV up into the jungles of its mountains?! Well, and what better way to have fun…amirite adventurers? Even if riding a four-wheeler isn’t your thing, there’s also the option to take a mini two-seater buggy that’s just as fun…but a little more stable! If that sounds like something you’d be into, be sure to check out the tours from Albert Transport!
Of course I was at the front of our #quadsquad, and loving every moment that we were zipping along the mountainsides. We made a stop at an actual pineapple farm to see how they’re grown, and then up the mountain for some stunning viewpoints! The first viewpoint had the perfect 360 degree angle, that offered an ongoing panorama of the mountains and the coast.
10. Stay in Your Own French Polynesia Village
Well…technically it’s the Sofitel Mo’orea Iaora, but it’s built to make you feel like you’re living in an actual French Polynesian village! Each straw-roof bungalow is spread out across the vast area of the property in a way that makes it looks like an actual village! It also helps that the backdrop is that incredible jungle covered mountain range, and the seashore is at your front steps!
You’ll also really love the immaculate menus that are offered at the Sofitel’s restaurants! Especially when they’re being served alongside live French Polynesian music!
Overall, my 10 day experience in French Polynesia was an enchanting adventure that I’d highly recommend to anyone who loves nature and beautiful surroundings. It’s seriously just so blissful and definitely doesn’t lack adventurous things to do! Whether it’s your honeymoon, or you just like a good solo adventure like me, French Polynesia and its breathtaking islands are definitely the place to be!
Disclaimer: This post was written on behalf of Tahiti Tourisme and Air Tahiti Nui, however all opinions, writing, photos, and awesome experiences are 100% my own!