A Tahitian Family Vacation Everyone Can Get Excited About


From the dense forests of Rarotonga and numerous bird species that make Aitutaki their home to Bora Bora’s brilliant turquoise lagoons, the Cook and Society Islands are a haven for curious young people—and an ideal destination for those looking for their next family getaway. A natural outdoor laboratory, French Polynesia puts on quite a show and offers a seemingly endless array of sites and activities that will thrill (and educate) your whole crew.

But where to start? During this 11-night journey through the Cook and Society Islands on the m/s Paul Gauguin, you’ll discover interactive learning and eye-opening inspiration at every port, including snorkeling with reef sharks and village visits. What’s more, the hands-on Moana Explorer Program, offered on select sailings in partnership with Te mana o te moana, a South Pacific marine education and conservation foundation, provides special programming for children and teens (ages 7-15) every day of the voyage. Whether the awe of stargazing and conducting water experiments that engage multiple senses or going on stimulating treasure hunts and naturalist-led beach excursions, guests of every age will leave with a stronger appreciation for French Polynesia’s natural wonders. Read on for more experiences that are nothing short of epic.


Trip Highlight

A Private Aquarium

In Bora Bora and on Motu Mahana, Paul Gauguin Cruises' private islet, enjoy a feast for your eyes through access to idyllic beaches, bright-blue lagoons, and kaleidoscopic coral reefs. Complimentary use of paddle boards, kayaks, and snorkel gear, offered throughout your cruise, provides ample opportunity to enjoy the water more deeply.

Trip Designer

Paul Gauguin Cruises

Paul Gauguin Cruises was created with the intent to provide meaningful travel experiences in Tahiti. The company cares deeply, not only for guests, but for the communities, cultures, and natural wonders that make Tahiti, French Polynesia, and the South Pacific so alluring. Discover the difference of cruising with purpose and allow Paul Gauguin Cruises to introduce you to authentic Polynesia.

Day 1Welcome to Tahiti

The largest of French Polynesia’s 118 islands, Tahiti’s vibrant capital city of Papeete is the natural place to begin your South Pacific journey. Wander along the waterfront and admire views of jagged volcanic mountains on Tahiti’s sister island, Moorea, before grabbing a hearty snack like poisson cru, a ceviche-like Tahitian specialty consisting of raw fish with coconut milk and fresh vegetables, from one of the cheap and cheerful roulottes (food trucks) in nearby Vai’ete Square. Looking for a family souvenir? Two blocks away you can browse crafts, Tahitian pearl jewelry, oils, vanilla, fruits, and flowers at the 155-year-old public market Le Marché de Papeete.

Once it’s time to depart, board The Gauguin, your home for the next 11 days. Equipped with a watersports marina for complimentary kayaking and paddleboarding, this small stylish ship travels to intimate ports that are inaccessible to larger vessels, making island exploration, shopping at local markets, hiking, and expertly curated excursions possible. At the end of each day, gather to share lifelong memories and completely relax thanks to attentive service at one of three onboard restaurants, such as Le Grill, where you can savor Polynesian flavors alfresco surrounded by the sprawling ocean.

Days 2 and 3Discover Culture on Huahine and at Sea

Kick off your unforgettable journey at the “Garden Isle” of Huahine, a secluded gem with many awe-inspiring secrets among its verdant rainforest. On an e-bike ride around the island, visit a traditional pareo (sarong) painting workshop and some of French Polynesia’s best-preserved archeological sites, including Anini, an ancient temple (or marae). Next, head to Avea Bay to play on the soft, white-sand beach, glide by kayak in the glasslike lagoon, and dig into a platter of sweet tropical fruit before returning to the ship.

Your third day of vacation will be spent at sea—but that doesn’t mean the fun has to end. In the afternoon, take a refreshing dip in the ship’s outdoor pool between leisurely spells of sunbathing on its expansive wooden deck, enjoy a game of table tennis, or perhaps listen to a fascinating lecture from one of the special guests on board during your sailing. Later, spend the evening in Le Grand Salon watching a program of spectacular family-friendly entertainment that may range from Broadway tunes to magic to a local troupe of Polynesian dancers whose dynamic performance is always a guest favorite.

Day 4Immerse Yourself in Nature on Aitutaki

Welcome to the Cook Islands! Encased in a barrier reef, Aitutaki represents a postcard-worthy picture of South Pacific paradise with the bluest of lagoons that seem designed for snorkeling and diving. If you choose to spend your time here on land, join an easy hike up to the island’s highest peak, Maunga Pu, for 360-degree views of Aitukaki’s 15 motus (islets). Or for something completely different sail out to One Foot Island in the surrounding crystal-clear water and get your passport stamped with the charming (and unofficial) foot-shaped stamp at the world’s smallest post office.


Day 5 and 6Uncover Pure Polynesia on Rarotonga and at Sea

Despite being the largest and most populous of the fabled Cook Islands, Rarotonga remains pristine. Here, you’ll see lush vegetation among the terrain’s dramatic peaks. Learn about the island’s rare flora and fauna, such as the endemic bird kakerori or Rarotonga monarch, and the history of the Cook Islands during a conservation-focused, hands-on mountain hike before cooling off in a revitalizing waterfall.

When you meet your onboard hosts, Les Gauguins and Les Gauguines, you’ll enjoy the enriching experience of getting to know the destination’s fascinating culture more deeply. And your second full day at sea is a great chance to do it. The Tahitian troupe of hosts and entertainers share their Polynesian culture through Tahitian dance lessons, demonstrations of local handicrafts, and retellings of ancestral legends. There’s truly something for all ages.


Days 7 and 8 Dive into Bora Bora

Between its vegetation-covered peaks, impossibly aqua waters, and vibrant coral reefs, it’s no wonder Bora Bora has become a top destination in French Polynesia. During your overnight stay in this port, spend a day at the beach at the eco-friendly Intercontinental Bora Bora Resort and Thalasso Spa where you can enjoy playing in the water as you paddleboard, windsurf, kayak, and snorkel around the unspoiled lagoons.

Fans of marine life will also have the option of attending a shark and stingray encounter. Cruise by the ancient crater rim of Motu Toopua before dropping anchor on a shallow sandbank where your guide will hand feed stingrays as they gracefully glide past you. Next, snorkel in a coral garden where you’ll come face-to-face with an abundance of parrotfish, butterflyfish, and harmless reef sharks.


Day 9Embrace the Robinson Crusoe Lifestyle on Motu Mahana

On Motu Mahana, Paul Gauguin Cruises’ exclusive private islet, leave the outside world behind and spend quality time with the whole family kicking back with the soft sand between your toes. Dig into a sumptuous barbecue lunch with its delectable flavors tasting all the better under swaying palm trees.

If you’re craving more than an idyllic beach day on Motu Mahana, consider venturing over to Taha’a for a wave runner and snorkeling adventure. On your way to explore an incredibly beautiful coral garden, your guide will occasionally stop at key sites and explain why Taha’a is called the Vanilla Island and how its pearl farm is its most important business for an enlightening experience along with the pleasure of being out on and in the water.


Days 10 and 11Explore Moorea’s wild side

Equal parts adventure and relaxation, gorgeous Moorea welcomes you with sparkling blue lagoons, magnificent mountains, and beaches lined with palms. Immerse yourself in nature during an inspiring dolphin-watching excursion with Dr. Michael Poole, a dolphin specialist in French Polynesia since 1987. Watch acrobatic pods of spinner dolphins play around a colorful coral reef while hearing about their fascinating life at sea.

Afterwards, embark on a scenic drive through pineapple fields to Belvedere Lookout where you can take in panoramic views of Cook’s Bay, Opunohu Bay, and Mt. Rotui from the summit. Tomorrow, you’ll return to Tahiti for some final shopping and sightseeing. Until next time!

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