The idyllic islands of French Polynesia are some of the most remote in the world. From the dreamy five-star resorts of Bora Bora to the black-sand beaches of Tahiti, sailing the Polynesian islands will take you into the far reaches of the South Pacific.
The 118 islands and atolls of French Polynesia lie roughly half-way between Australia and California. Spread across an area of some 1,000 miles of sea, at times these isles seem virtually untouched by time. Outside the main hub of Papeete on Tahiti, shopping malls and office blocks are few and far between. Instead, a yacht charter in French Polynesia will transport you to a place where rainforest meets the sea, local communities are reliant on natural resources and the horizon goes on for days.
One of the last places on earth to be settled, sailing in the Polynesian Islands is like a window into the past. For adventure sports, tropical luxury spas and hotels, Tahiti is comparatively cosmopolitan compared to the numerous uninhabited islands, which remain very much as nature intended.
You could spend days or weeks doing little more than drifting between the islands on a Tahiti yacht charter, gazing across illuminous blue waters from the comfort of your sun deck, dropping anchor every now and then to set up for the day on your own palm-fringed motu, to dive amid bright coral reefs, swim in lonesome lagoons or to trek deep into the interior of the island of your choice.
With near non-stop sunshine and easterly trade winds making for good sailing, a Tahiti yacht charter is enjoyable at most times of the year. The main French Polynesia charter season runs from May through to October when the weather is mainly dry but a little cooler than in the summer months (November to March) thanks to the Mara’amu (southeast trade winds), with the high season in July and August. Though January and February can experience some heavy rains, with temperatures ranging from 78°F to 80°F (26°C to 27°C) throughout the year, a Tahiti yacht charter is still very pleasant outside the main cruising season.
Tahiti is undoubtedly the buzzing heart of French Polynesia. In the capital of Papeete, you’ll find an attractive waterfront with lots of amenities, plus lively backstreets and many guests find the Blue Banana to be a cool lagoon-side hangout. For incredible sunsets and a romantic meal for two, head a little west to the over-the-water Le Lotus restaurant at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa, which offers a sandy-bottomed swimming pool, French gourmet cuisine, plus outstanding views of neighbouring Moorea.
On Bora Bora tropical luxury is the name of the game. Some of the South Pacific’s best resorts are clustered here, including the undisputed leader, the St Regis, which is somewhat more remote than the others and includes the Lagoon Restaurant by Jean-Georges, where you can sip cocktails as the sun sets behind Bora Bora’s Mount Otemanu.
Most Tahiti yacht charters take in at least one of the three main archipelagos – the Society Islands (which include Tahiti and Bora Bora), the Tuamotu Atolls to the east of Tahiti and the Marquesas islands to the north.
In the Society Islands, a visit to the the ‘Garden Island’ of Huahine, where in between the vanilla orchids, breadfruit trees and coconut plantations, many sacred temples – or marae – can be found, is a must.
On Moorea, you can ask your captain to nose into Cook’s Bay, or round the headland to Opunohu Bay, which some say is the prettiest bay in all of French Polynesia. Afterwards, indulge your body with a self‐imposed exile at the spa resorts of Bora Bora, originally where the Tahitians sent their outcasts and now one of the most luxurious islands in the world.
French Polynesia’s most famous collection of islands, the Society Islands include Tahiti and Bora Bora, two destinations known for their tantalising exoticism and romantic hideaways. As you sail between the islands there are eye-popping views in all directions: dramatic mountain peaks over 7,000 feet high, giant curls of turquoise surf breaks, reefs encircling cerulean lagoons and deserted white sand beaches and deep valleys of lush tropical rainforests.
One of the region’s most jaw-droppingly beautiful destinations, the volcanic island of Bora Bora, which is at least four-million-years-old, is home to volcanic peaks, lush tropical vegetation and numerous motus (islets) to explore at your leisure.
Kick back on your own private island as you barbecue the day’s catch on your private spit. Swim and snorkel through the lagoon’s clear turquoise waters and climb up to the main island’s towering central mountain for the best view of the myriad blues and greens that make up the lagoon.
With the aroma of vanilla following you everywhere you go, Taha’a has retained the charm of old-time Polynesia, making it perfect for a laid-back Tahiti yacht charter.
Taha’a is the only island in the Society Islands that can be completely circumnavigated by boat inside the protected lagoon and if you fancy dropping anchor for a night or two, we recommend the elegant Relais & Chateaux property, Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa. There are no demands on your time here, yet there’s plenty to do. Sail between white stretches of sand along azure waters, trek up mountains through tropical rainforest and vanilla plantations, seek out your own motu, visit one of the many pearl farms or attend a performance by local village dancers.
Said to be the birthplace of Polynesia, in Raiatea there is an air of mystique about the place. It is believed that it was from here that the first wave of ancient Polynesian emigration took place, with Polynesians reaching as far north as Hawaii and as far west as New Zealand, and relics of this time can be found in the sacred site of Taputapuatea and in the petroglyphs that can still be seen.
It’s hard for modern-day visitors to see why inhabitants would have wanted to leave in the first place, with the warm waters of the lagoon providing the perfect place for the island’s pearl farms and the lush slopes of Mt Temehani giving views many of us travel the world to find.
Idyllic, sparsely populated Huahine is actually two islands. Huahine Nui (large) and Huahine Iti (small) offer stunning azure waters, verdant forests, pristine landscape and seemingly endless icing-sugar beaches. One of the last of these islands to succumb to French rule, Huahine has managed to hold onto its traditional way of life in its handful of small villages, with communities here among the least tainted by tourism.
An island so internationally renowned for its loveliness that its name is often used to refer to the whole of French Polynesia, beautiful Tahiti is a place of towering mountains, deep valleys and cascading waterfalls, all covered with rainforest and vibrant tropical flowers.
Hit the links on the island’s championship golf course, go horse-riding along pristine white beaches, take a helicopter ride or slip into the ultra-clear water to go water skiing, snorkelling, diving or deep-sea fishing. In the capital, Papeete, you’ll find bustling markets (the municipal Le Marché is one of the best), world-class restaurants, pearl shops, museums, nightclubs and boutiques.
Only 10 nautical miles from Tahiti, but a world away in terms of its pace and development, Moorea is a spectacularly beautiful island of laid-back resorts, friendly locals, rugged mountains and endless white beaches. You’ll find the best views of Tahiti from here, as well as deep bays, magical volcanic peaks and a wide turquoise lagoon.
Hike up through rainforest and pineapple plantations to the famous Belvedere Lookout in the centre of the island, where you’ll find yourself looking out over Cook’s Bay and Oponohu Bay – possibly one of the most spectacular views in the world.
This chain of nearly 80 islands – the world’s largest chain of coral atolls – stretches across the Pacific Ocean like a string of bright pearls on a turquoise mirror. A world-class destination for scuba divers, these UNESCO-protected islands are also famous for producing Tahitian black pearls.
This is the South Pacific you’ve been searching for – the quiet, undeveloped paradise that many seek but few find.
The largest of the Tuamotu atolls, idyllic Rangiroa is probably also the most famous. Its 40-by-20-mile lagoon is the second largest in the world. At one end, you’ll find the Blue Lagoon, a mini-lagoon whose reef shark-filled waters are reputed to be the bluest in the South Pacific. The atoll is long and narrow and is mostly deserted, but for small pockets of local settlement.
Dive into the water at the two natural passes, Tiputa and Avatoru, where you’ll find some of the world’s best drift diving and some of the most spectacular marine life in the Tuamotus, including giant napoleon wrasses, hawksbill turtles, manta and eagle rays, angelfish, banner fish, parrotfish, pink soft anemones, unicornfish, groupers and soldierfish.
What is the currency in French Polynesia?
The official currency of French Polynesia is the French Pacific Franc, but US Dollars and Euros are widely accepted.
Language spoken in French Polynesia
Tahitian is the main language spoken in French Polynesia, particularly on the Society Islands, though in Marquesas, Marquesasan is spoken, and Tuamotuan is spoken in the Tuamotu Atolls. You will find English-speaking staff in all the main hotels and resorts though.
Time zone in French Polynesia
Tahiti and the other islands of French Polynesia follow Tahiti Time, which is GMT-10 hours. There is no Daylight Saving Time.
Yachts to charter in French Polynesia
With so many islands, bays and anchorages discover, our brokers can guide you to some of the best yachts to charter in French Polynesia and plan the perfect itinerary for a Tahiti yacht charter for you.