French Polynesia is a French overseas collectivity in the South Pacific Ocean. It is comprised of more than 100 islands over 2000km; some of the most known include Bora Bora, Tahiti, Mo’orea, Nuku Hiva, and Mai’ao; only 67 of the islands are inhabited. Furthermore, the islands are divided into five different archipelagos, which are the Marquesas, Austral, Gambier, Society, and Tuamoto. The capital of French Polynesia is Pape’ete, on the island of Tahiti. Other cities and main towns include F’a’a’a, Punaauia, all on Tahiti.
French Polynesia (and other South Pacific Islands) were among the last bits of land to be inhabited, around 1500 BCE. Austro-Polynesians sailed to find new islands, finding first the Marquesas and later the Society islands. The archipelagos were first visited by Europeans in 1521. Modern transportation among the islands is not limited to sailing; there are 53 airports across the islands; they are served by Air Tahiti for quick and easy access. F’a’a’a International Airport, in F’a’a’a, 5km from Pape’ete, on Tahiti, is serviced by flights from the US, France, New Zealand, Japan, and Chile.
The currency is the CFP Franc. The main industries are exportation of coconuts and Tahitian black pearls, and tourism. The country also relies on assistance from France, as they are considered part of the country and vote in French elections.
The climate in French Polynesia is tropical. Hot and humid months are from November to April, while a cooler, slightly rainy season occurs from May to October. The geography is varied, from the jungle-covered mountains to the long white beaches. Pictures of French Polynesia often show the sultry sky, the vivid green forests, and the gorgeous white sand beaches. Travellers keen to relax in the sun will enjoy these while others will find the horseback riding, scuba diving, hiking, and more to be exhilarating.
Budget accommodation in French Polynesia is possible, though you may need to search harder. Traditional, European-style hostels are few and far between, if not completely nonexistent. Instead, consider guesthouses or bed and breakfasts. You may also come across the word “pension,” which also will indicate an inexpensive accommodation. They are essentially homestays, where you will get your own room but may have communal, family-style meals with other travellers. Budget travel in French Polynesia is possible, but you have to be frugal. In the remote areas of French Polynesia, guesthouses and pensions will be your best bet for inexpensive accommodation.
Once you have your accommodation sorted, set out to explore this beautiful country. Hikers should plan to ascend Mont Orohena, the highest point in the archipelago, the Fautaua waterfall, or take two days to hike Mount Aorai. Underwater lovers will enjoy the many snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities that the country allows for. Rangiroa and Fakarava (in the Tuamoto islands) are two of the most internationally well known diving spots. French Polynesia is also known for its surfing and kite surfing. Va’a, the traditional Polynesian canoeing sport, is practised on the islands; French Polynesia hosts the international Hawaiki nui va’a, which is a race between Bora Bora, Huahine, and Tahiti. It happens annually in October or November. There are also several archaeological sites; the most well known is Iipona, on Hiva Oa.
Whatever you choose to do in the French Polynesian islands, you will enjoy the peace and tranquility that they exude.
Hi, I'm Jakob Lombardi,
the Hostelz.com local expert for French Polynesia hostels. Welcome.