The Most Secluded Islands in French Polynesia

Indulge your fantasy of playing castaway on a secluded tropical paradise in French Polynesia. From the ultra-remote Gambier Archipelago to private islands closer to Tahiti’s international airport, French Polynesia is full of islands where you can spend days without giving a thought to the passage of time. Maybe try fishing and splitting coconuts with your bare hands, in the style of Robinson Crusoe.

Tikehau, French Polynesia
This oval-shaped atoll in the Tuamotu island group strung across the South Pacific Ocean some 300 kilometers from Tahiti is covered in pink and China white sand and surrounded by a jaw-droppingly beautiful turquoise, jade, and cerulean hued lagoon and is considered to have the best beaches in all of French Polynesia. Most are empty – it has a Robinson Crusoe vibe and still remains mostly undeveloped.

Beyond the sand you’ll find excellent snorkeling and even surfing in spots where the reef breaks. For scuba you’ll want to head to the magnificent Tuheiva Pass, where you’ll likely encounter sharks and manta rays. Lagoon excursions are also popular, and allow you to snorkel in the out-of-this world hued waters.

The Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort is the most exclusive place to sleep on the island, but there are also a number of excellent small family-run guesthouses right on the beach for those wanting to experience its “paradise lost” ambiance at more affordable rates.

Air Tahiti flies to Tikehau from Tahiti daily.
Rurutu, located in the remote Austral Archipelago, is a magical land of migrating whales, abundant vegetation, limestone caves, and smiling faces. Accessed via Air Tahiti flights from Papeete five times per week, the car-free island is like no place else in French Polynesia. Comprised of a massive chunk of coral that was lifted up to form it, Rurutu has otherworldly topography – think sheer cliffs of pocked coral and giant caverns filled with ferns and stalactites. It is home to unique coral snorkeling, white-sand beaches, sacred marae, and fabulous biking (the island is very hilly). A continuous reef rings Rurutu (so there’s no lagoon), but despite the open ocean fronting it there are more beaches on Rurutu than most French Polynesia islands. The sand is also a bright white here and made from ground, bleached coral. Besides lounging on the beach, you can look for whales along the shores from roadside observation stations between July and October. Note, unlike the rest of French Polynesia, the Australs get really chilly between May and November and are best avoided during this time. From December to April you’ll find warmer temps, but it still isn’t hot enough for air-conditioning most of the year.
Maupiti, the smallest and most isolated of the Society Islands, feels like an unblemished tropical playground, where tranquility trumps everything else and romantic love stories of deserted sparkling white-sand beaches surrounded by shimmering aqua lagoons are realized. The best beaches are on the five motus, or small sandbars that also house pensions, ringing the main island. Of the five motus, Motu Tiapaa has the best beaches by far. For surfing and decent kite-boarding, you’ll want to head to Motu Tuanai, which also houses the airport.

Serving up a Robinson Crusoe version of paradise, Maupiti seduces lovers and adventurers on a quest for the heavenly Polynesia of lore, but it is not for everyone. Time moves slowly on this island, and the resort focus here is on small family run “pensions” (guesthouses), not luxury five-star resorts with multiple restaurants and Wi-Fi. If you’re the kind of traveler who’s craving a temporary separation from your Facebook account, and love watching the sun set over the lagoon while reading a book or chowing on fresh caught seafood with the family that owns the pension where you’re sleeping, Maupiti may be the perfect island for you. Oh, and if you stay at any of the guesthouses here, sign up for full-board, as it isn’t really the kind of place where many restaurants exist.
Tuamotus Islands, French Polynesia
The Tuamotu archipelago – 78 coral reef atolls spread north and east of Tahiti – are just remote enough they’ve not been spoiled by excessive tourism. There are a few high-end hotels, but just a few. Instead of tourism, the local economy is still focused on businesses that go back centuries: Fishing. Coconuts. And black pearls. Lots of black pearls.
Motu Tuvahine Hipu, 98733, French Polynesia
Technically part of Tahaa in French Polynesia, Vahine Private Island Resort is an escape from reality. The hotel features three beach bungalows, three self-contained beach suites and three overwater bungalows, all with beach views and designed using only natural materials in such a way as to make you feel like you’re in a traditional Polynesian home. Moreover, the resort is set on a 23-acre private island lush with coconut trees and white sand beach.

Snorkel in their vibrant coral gardens, kayak to nearby motus or to natural sting-ray pools, take in a coconut show, learn how to tie a pareo or weave palm leaves, paddle a traditional Polynesian outrigger canoe or take an excursion to the nearby mainland of Tahaa (the “Vanilla Island”) or a private motu. Guests love their food and beverage program, with French dishes crafted using local cuisine and cocktails infused with local fruits and juices.

Tip: Don’t leave without having a traditional massage with scented Monoi oil on your deck, where you’ll hear nothing but the billowing palms and gentle crashing of waves.
Hiva Oa, French Polynesia
There may not be much to this tiny island in the French Polynesia but it’s big on history if you have any interest in Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel. If you are looking for a secluded spot with little amenities, this is a perfect spot in paradise.
The most accessible and developed atoll in the northern Tuamotus, Manihi is another Robinson Crusoe style island that once had an international reputation for pearl production -- pearl farming started here in 1968. Shaped like an ellipse, the atoll is 28km long by 8km wide and has just one opening between its lagoon and the ocean at Tairapa Pass. Today it is a quiet place where you can swim languidly in the sapphire lagoon, crack coconuts under ruffled palms and entirely forget which century you are living in. There is no bank on the atoll, but you will find a post office and hospital.
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