Tahiti Island is the largest and most populated of the 118 islands and atolls that make up French Polynesia. Most visitors use Tahiti as a base from which to explore the region's many highlights; all the major destinations can be reached from the international airport in Faa'a.
With its ubiquitous pearl shops, lively roulottes (food trucks), and occasional traffic jams, the capital city of Papeete is the closest thing French Polynesia has to a metropolis. To truly appreciate the island’s many natural wonders, however, be sure to explore its rugged coastline, myriad historical sites, and mountainous interior.
Tahiti also affords visitors their best chance to get a taste of normal everyday Polynesian life by seeking out a beach or market (such as the Marché Papeete) crammed with friendly locals.
Tahiti via Pixabay/CC0
Only a 30 minute ferry ride from Papeete, the charming island of Moorea is less populated and developed than its famous neighbour. Visitors exploring the mountainous, mostly rural island are more likely to encounter more chickens than humans.
From an elevated perch inland (for which you'll need a 4x4 vehicle) one can view the two small, nearly symmetrical bays on the north shore where most of the island’s action takes place.
Moorea via Pixabay/CC0
Perhaps the most lauded honeymoon spot on the planet, Bora Bora benefits from its natural lagoon that’s monitored by the imposing, majestic Mount Otemanu. The clear, warm waters are filled with colorful fish and majestic rays, and most visitors spend as much time here as possible.
A handful of upscale resorts, including the family friendly Four Seasons and opulent St. Regis, are famous for their overwater bungalows. These pricey accommodations offer an exceptional, once-in-a-lifetime splurge perfect for celebs looking for some peace and privacy, as well as mere mortals celebrating a special occasion.
Bora Bora via Pixabay/CC0
Raiatea and Taha’a
The islands of Raiatea and Taha’a can be seen from Bora Bora, and like their world-famous neighbour, both offer astoundingly clear waters and a relaxing break from modern life (in other words, don't expect perfect internet access).
Prized by yachters and sailors, Raiatea is the larger and more visited of the two. The island is believed to be the site from which organised migrations to Hawaii and other parts of Polynesia were launched many centuries ago.
Smaller, quieter Taha'a is also worth a visit, especially for those interested in its two most famous products: vanilla and pearls.
Raiatea by Liz Saldaña via Flickr (CC-BY - modified)