French Polynesia may conjure up thoughts of relaxing in banana lounges with tropical drinks but there are plenty of adventures to get the blood pumping. Water sports are king and there many ways to enjoy the lagoons but hiking, golf and cycling are also popular.
The Society Islands all have renowned natural aquarium dive sites and scuba operators. The Tuamotus are legendary for big fish and on an ebb tide at Tiputa Pass on Rangiroa you can dive with hundreds of feeding sharks. Most atolls have a circular current for easy drift diving.
Most surf spots are reef breaks and require a fair degree of skill. If you’re a pro – or a well insured lunatic- head for Teahupo’o. Haapiti (Moorea) has a nice exposed reef break and Papenoo (Tahiti) is a grommet–friendly beach offering a rare beach break.
There are schools for kids and adults on calm lagoons and quite a few more adventurous sites too. On Tahiti, head to Hitimahana in Mahina for reef and beach waves and flat water. On Moorea, try the Beach Club near Tipanier Hotel.
See the lagoons, volcanoes, forests and motus as you freefall. Especially popular in Moorea and Bora Bora, a jump with video proof will set you back about AU$850. Then you’ll be able to drop into conversation: “So I went skydiving over Bora Bora…”
The Olivier Bréaud d'Atimaono golf course on the west side of Tahiti is PGA-accredited and home to the Tahiti Open International in July. On Moorea, spoil a good walk at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Moorea Green Pearl links course at Temae.
Shark and Ray Snorkelling Safaris
Unique to French Polynesia and the South Pacific, these are the most popular excursions in the islands. You’ll dive with harmless reef sharks, handle huge, slimy manta rays and enjoy a nice barbecue lunch.
Inner islands tours
The interior of the mountainous islands (Society, Marquesas and Austral) will introduce you to archaeological remains, lush vegetation, streams, waterfalls and cultural experiences. Guided tours – by 4WD, quad bike, bicycle or on foot – are recommended and will provide the best experience.
Pedal power is a great way to look around and most resorts have bikes. Guided tours of the main islands are available or you could just head out on your own. Moorea is the best for cycling as you can follow the flat coastal road all the way around.
Outrigger canoeing, kayaking & sailing
The calm waters of the lagoons are perfect for all manner of water craft. Most resorts and hotels supply or hire out basic watercraft or will put you in touch with yacht charters if required. Huahine, Tahaa and Raiatea are considered sailing paradises.
Tahiti has plenty of hiking trails, such as the cross-island Papenoo Valley-Lake Vaihiria route, an ascent to the top of Mount Aorai and around the remote east coast of Tahiti Iti. Trails and weather conditions are changeable so a guided tour is strongly recommended.