Tahiti & Bora Bora

French Polynesia (a.k.a. Tahiti) is composed of 118 islands, spread across an area as large as Western Europe, but with a total landmass only slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island. Some isles are crowned with jagged peaks that rise out of the ocean in an explosion of green velvet, while others appear as if gracefully tossed upon the ocean, barely floating above breaking waves.

The Tahitian islands are divided into five archipelagos within the South Pacific Ocean, located approximately halfway between California and Australia. Most travelers visit the Society Islands (Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Huahine, Raiatea, and Taha'a), the Tuamotu Atolls (Rangiroa, Manihi, Tikeahu, and Fakarava), and the Marquesas, or "The Mysterious Islands."

The two other archipelagos, the Austral Islands and the Gambier Islands, lie to the south and southeast, respectively, of the Society Islands. While very few travelers venture to these remote area, those that do won't be disappointed by the pristine natural environment.

The majority of honeymooners opt for an island-hopping circuit that takes them from Tahiti to Moorea and, finally, to Bora Bora. Each destination offers its own unique slice of paradise, but couples can expect a strong Francophile influence throughout. (Tahiti and her islands are an overseas territory of France). There are also plenty of activities to fill your days: Whether you opt to ride 4x4s up a mountain, scuba dive with sharks, or swim with giant manta rays, French Polynesia is the perfect place to kick off your new life together with memorable activities for two.

When to Go

Tahiti has a year-round tropical climate, with an average temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit. June to August is high season, when the weather is coolest and driest. Temperatures during May, September, October, and November are also mild and pleasant, and couples can take advantage of shoulder-season discounts on hotel stays during this time (if they book well enough in advance). February to April can be quite hot and muggy, so avoid traveling during those months.

Getting There and Around

Most couples visiting French Polynesia arrive via Tahiti's Faa'a Airport (PPT), which is less than an eight-hour flight from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Air Tahiti Nui is the national carrier, but many other international carriers offer nonstop or one-stop flights to French Polynesia on a daily or weekly basis. If your itinerary includes island-hopping, expect to do so by air -- the most expedient method of inter-island travel -- Air Tahiti and Air Moorea fly to 38 islands within the five archipelagos.

What to Do

Tahiti scenic hike

  • Snorkel and Scuba Dive — French Polynesia is home to some of the world's most vibrant coral reef systems. Get an up-close look on a snorkeling or scuba diving excursion among the inner reefs that encircle islands such as Moorea and Bora Bora.

  • Get a Lesson in Polynesian Music and Dance - Tahitian dance remains a central part of modern Polynesian culture, and can often be experienced during a dinner/show at tourist resorts. In ancient times, dances were used to represent all aspects of life -- to welcome a visitor, to pray to a god, to challenge an enemy, to seduce a potential mate. Dance is still accompanied by traditional musical instruments such as drums, conch shells, and flutes.

  • Visit a Marae - Once the center of power in ancient Polynesia, these open-air sanctuaries, filled with large, stone structures (akin to temples), offer an immersive look at Polynesian history. To visit one now is to travel back in time to a place which hosted important events, such as celebrations of war and peace, the launch of colonial voyages, and communal worship to the gods.

  • Cruise the Islands - If staying put on one island isn't your ideal honeymoon, consider a multi-stop cruise on lines such as Paul Gauguin Cruises or Lindblad Expeditions. Cruising allows couples not only to travel between Tahiti's most beautiful islands, but also to get off the beaten path and explore hidden beaches, remote waterfalls, and untouched landscapes.

  • Learn the Local Culture - Modern Tahitians still uphold the heritage of their Maohi ancestors through oral histories that recount the adventures of gods and warriors. Nowhere else can you experience these colorful legends, which touch on traditions such as javelin throwing (the sport of the gods), surf riding (favored by the kings), and Aito strongmen (who competed in outrigger canoe races and stone lifting competitions as a showcase of strength).

  • Shop for Handicrafts - The skills of Polynesian artistry are considered sacred, passed on by both the "mamas", the matriarchs of Tahitian society, as well as by skilled craftsmen. Traditions such as weaving, tapa carving, sculpting (often of wooden bowls and drums), and hand-dying (most commonly, of fabric for pareus, or sarongs), are all but disappearing in French Polynesia, so seek them out for a unique cultural experience -- and a one-of-a-kind souvenir.

Where to Stay

Tahiti overwater bungalow hotel rooms

  • InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa - Located on the main island of Tahiti, just a short car ride from the airport, the flagship InterContinental resort is the perfect welcome-wagon to French Polynesia. Couples can expect newly renovated rooms (slated for completion by December 2018), plus a 25-hectare tropical garden and overwater bungalows with panoramic views of neighboring Moorea.

  • Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort - Getting to the island of Moorea from papeete, Tahiti, is just a half-hour high-speed catamaran ride -- so expect to be on the deck of your overwater villa in no time if Moorea is your first stop in French Polynesia. Spend your days lounging on the sand, playing a round at the nearby Green Pearl, a Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hold golf course, or dining at K, the on-site toes-in-the-sand restaurant that ups the ante for candlelit meals.  

  • InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa - This idyllic resort, which faces the main island of Bora Bora and the majestic Mount Otemanu, is surrounded by 30 acres of tropical gardens. The eco-friendly resort provides guests not only with spectacular views, but also newly renovated overwater villas, white-sand beaches, and a wide range of water sports activities within a pristine lagoon.

  • The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort - Whether you choose one of the exclusive overwater villas or the private beachside villas, this 89-room resort -- set on a sprawling 44 acres, offers front-row views of Mount Otemanu. In addition to the white sand beaches and crystal clear water, couples can expect top-notch service and activities ranging from swimming with stingrays to romantic boat cruises. There's also a 13,000-square-foot newly rebranded CLARINS Spa -- nestled on its own private island in the resort's lagoonarium -- and an on-site gallery showcasing the work of famed photographer John Kincaid.  

  • Le Taha'a Island Resort & Spa - Since opening in 2002, this luxury resort is the place to be for couples who travel to the island of Taha'a, part of the Society Island atoll. With just 57 suites and villas, expect few other guests at the resort, which is secluded away on the Motu Tautau islet, facing the lush island of Taha'a on one side and majestic Bora Bora on the other. The resort is part of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux collection, meaning the food is top-notch and the natural environment is thoughtfully preserved for an authentic Polynesian experience.

  • The Brando - French Polynesia's most exclusive resort is set on the private island of Tetiaroa, located in an atoll composed of just a dozen small islands, approximately 30 miles northeast of Tahiti. The only way to access the 35 all-villa resort is by private plane; once you touch down, you're greeted by a chorus of Tahitian song, setting the stage for an authentic Polynesian experience. The sparkling lagoon that surrounds the island is frequented by sea turtles, manta rays, and exotic birds. Whether you dine in your villa, at the recently opened teppanyaki restaurant, or the Guy Martin-led Les Mutines French haute cuisine restaurant, The Brando offers a super-luxurious experience int he midst of pristine nature.

Where to Eat

Tahiti beachfront restaurant

  • Blue Banana - At this popular restaurant on Tahiti, you'll find a creative blend of French and Polynesian fare, such as seafood trios, freshly caught tuna, perfectly cooked steaks, and even wood-fired pizzas.

  • Snack Mohana - Set on the island of Moorea, you'll spot just as many locals as tourists at this casual waterfront spot, which serves some of the best poisson cru in French Polynesia. (The secret ingredient: ginger).

  • Bloody Mary’s Restaurant - Nearly every celebrity has visited this low-key beach shack -- just check out the photo wall as you enter the restaurant. Order the catch of the day with, of course, a house Bloody Mary, and you won't be disappointed.

  • Lagoon Restaurant by Jean-Georges - Celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten helps the menu at this restaurant at the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort. It delivers on fine-dining culinary promises with fresh, flavorful dishes such as the Crusted Black Papio.

  • Le Coco's - If you're flying out of Tahiti in the evening, save this restaurant for last (it's close to the airport). Dishes like tuna tiradito, mahi-mahi with lentils, and mushroom risotto pair perfectly with one last sunset over neighboring Moorea.