At a Glance
When to Go
All international travelers must pass through the country's only international airport, Faa'a, a few miles west of the capital city of Pape'ete, on Tahiti. The airport is easy to navigate and served by all the major international carriers. Flight time from LAX is only eight hours or so. There is no departure tax within French Polynesia.
With the exception of Tahiti and Mo'orea, which are linked by high-speed ferry, travel between islands is mostly by airplane. This is more affordable than one might expect, since the French government underwrites some of the flight costs to encourage tourism between islands. Air Tahiti is the main airline and flies to 38 islands in all five of the major island groups.
Food and Drink
Family is important in French Polynesia, and the traditional Tahitian family is a fluid, open-armed force serving as the country’s backbone. Weekends are spent with family, and when strangers strike up conversations they usually begin with questions about family. The tattoo art form was also invented in Tahiti, and today many Polynesians sport beautiful work-of-art tattoos as symbols of their personal identities.
The Billabong Tahiti Pro Surfing Tournament happens over three days in May; it's an international pro-level surf contest on the big waves of Puna'auia in Tahiti. Heiva i Tahiti is a major traditional Polynesian festival held in Pape'ete throughout July. The Kawaiki Nui Canoe Race is held in November.
What the Locals Know
Becca Blond is an award winning freelance travel writer based in Denver, Colorado. She is the author of more than 30 Lonely Planet guides across five continents and contributes content to publications like USA Today, The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, AFKTravel, Cadillac Magazine and Jetsetter. She is also a Personal Travel Planner for Jetsetter. When not on the road she lives with her three dogs, Duke, Bobbi and Poppy, who assist with pet friendly hotel reviews. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @PlanetBlond or check out her blog at Totally True Adventures in Travel Writing.