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The Best Things to Do in French Polynesia

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These 118 volcanic islands, surrounded by turquoise bays and coral reefs and atolls, have long fascinated sailors, artists, writers, and musicians, as well as honeymooners and those in search of unspoiled beauty. Swim and snorkel in the lagoons, hike the lush green peaks, watch the surfers at Tahiti Iti, or simply sunbathe on the deck of your overwater bungalow: you won't forget your time in these enchanted islands.
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Teahupo'o, French Polynesia
Tahiti Iti, Tahiti's smaller sister island that's connected to the main island at the southeast coast, is home to one of the most famous surfing waves in the Pacific, Teahupoo. This powerful reef break most certainly should not be attempted...
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Bora Bora is home to one of the world's most beautiful lagoons. Numerous companies offer day-trip excursions, but Lagoon Service is recommended for its well-maintained boats, friendly ukulele-playing guides, and excellent Polynesian fare. Guests...
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Tiputa Pass is the space where the reef wall breaks, allowing marine life to stream into and out of the lagoon. Diving or snorkeling through the pass is a magnificent experience as long as you just go with the flow. (They call this "shooting the...

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This gigantic pass is one of the top dive spots in the Tuamotus. From land, Garuae looks wild, with huge waves smashing off the reef. Swimming through the deep blue water can feel intimidating, too, but you'll soon forget your...

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Avenue du Maréchal Foch, Papeete, French Polynesia
Inside Papeete's Vaima Center, the new Museum of Street Art Tahiti is dedicated to graffiti and other street art. Sarah Roopinia and Jean Ozonder curated the museum. The duo also founded Festival Ono’u, Tahiti's international street art event,...
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Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia

One of the top experiences to have on land in the Marquesas is to go exploring on horseback. Whether you are cantering along the beach or climbing up a steep dirt track that descends into a lush valley, taking in the unique beauty of Nuku Hiva...

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You'll need to join an organized tour to get there, but a trip to the Blue Lagoon is well worth the experience. Located on the western edge of the Rangiroa atoll, about an hour by boat from Avatoru, it's like stepping into a postcard from...

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Fakarava Atoll, French Polynesia

The island group Fakarava, part of the Tuamotu Archipelago, is one of the main producers of the cultured black pearls the South Seas are famed for. It's always wise to buy from the source, and there are a number of pearl retailers...

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The perfect place to shop for anything and everything from all the islands is the 155-year-old public market called Le Marché. Located two blocks from the waterfront in the heart of Papeete, the market covers two stories. The lower level is...
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To see how one family worked out their idea of living in paradise, head to the James Norman Hall Museum (La Maison de James Norman Hall). Hall was the coauthor of the book Mutiny on the Bounty, and with the book’s bounty, he bought a swath...
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Pā'ea, French Polynesia
Life across Polynesia was once defined by ritual power. In many places, chiefs were too sacred to actually look at, and if you helped bury a chief, you’d not be allowed to utilize your hands for nine months or more. The 'Ārahurahu Marae, a sacred...
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Captain James Cook set up his observatory at Point Venus, one of the loveliest spots on the island. The transit of Venus, which happens maybe once a century, lets observers here see the planet move across the sun. (That’s the official reason for...
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'Uturoa, French Polynesia
Tahaa is where more than 80 percent of French Polynesia's famous vanilla comes from, so visiting a plantation is a worthwhile experience. Vallee de la Vanille is an organic vanilla plantation (one of the few) on Tahaa that offers free tours so...
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Rue Albert Leboucher, Papeete 98714, French Polynesia
The tattoo art form was invented in the Islands of Tahiti, and today many Polynesians sport beautiful work of art tattoos as symbols of their personal identities. If you'd like to remember your trip with a tattoo of your own, there are many...
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Vallee de Papenoo, Papeno'o, French Polynesia
Also known as the Papenoo Valley, the Maroto Valley is a magical place once inhabited by ancient Polynesians. If you go with a guide -- I recommend Marama Tours -- you'll be able to learn about the history of the area as well as learn to forage...
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Teahupo'o, French Polynesia
Tahiti is the birthplace of surfing, and the island offers a few excellent beginner breaks as well as one of the world's most powerful waves, Teahupo'o. To hone your surfing skills, visit the Tura'I Mataare Surf School in Paea, which offers both...