To put it simply, the islands of French Polynesia are the embodiment of paradise. Never has a place invoked such a cinematic view of Eden. With its crystalline lagoons, pink sand beaches, dramatic volcanic peaks and swaying palm trees, these islands are on every boaters bucket list. So we’ve lined up an idyllic ten day cruise, and selected some of our favorite yachts for charter in the region.
Weather-wise, there are basically two seasons during the year in French Polynesia: The wet and warm season from November to April, with high humidity. And the dry and cool season from May to September, with higher winds. It is generally known that the best months to come sailing are between April and May and September and October.
You’ll likely fly in to Tahiti, and as your plane begins its descent, the picture perfect landscape comes into view. The moss green peaks lined with vivid turquoise lagoons, will instantly put you in the right frame of mind for the adventure ahead, and your options are many. With some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world, the range of options for surfing, from the most extreme to the mild, the hikes to some of the most dramatic waterfalls imaginable, or the jaw dropping sunsets from the aft of your yacht charter, its instantly clear that this trip will be one of the best.
The capital city of Tahiti, where you will likely fly into, is Pape’ete. This is the heart of the islands, where cultures from all of the archipelagos come together, in a messy but fun and energetic capital city. While many choose to start their cruise right away, and head for the more beautiful neighboring islands, those that choose to explore Tahiti first are well rewarded by the majestic mountainous interior – easily explored by rented 4WD. There are many mystical archaeologic sites as well. If you choose to plan your trip in July, you’ll catch the country’s most spectacular festival, Heiva, known for its traditional percussion and dance. An important part of the island culture. Either way, you’ll be pleased to embark on what’s next. And while you have near infinite options for your oceanic tour, we’ll suggest an itinerary that hits some of our favorite spots.
Tahiti to Mo’orea
Famous travel writer Arthur Frommer declared Mo’orea “the most beautiful island in the world”, with its amazing mix of lagoons and rainforest. Lying just less than 20km across the ‘Sea of the Moon’ from its big sister, Tahiti, Mo’orea accommodates its many visitors so naturally that it feels surprisingly un-touristy. The twin bays – Opunohu and Cook’s on the islands north side are a must see for those wanting to experience the exotic marine life the area is so well known for. The island itself is worth an exploration as well, with hiking trails that take you through steams in the wild jungle, at the footsteps of the 1200M high Mount Tohivea. The hike up this dormant volcano will deliver some of the best sunset views in the world, as Marlon Brando did when filming The Bounty in 1962. He loved it so much he bought the neighboring island of Tetiaroa, now the home of a five-star eco resort named Brando.
You won’t want to miss Huahine, the immaculately tropical pair of islands that are quintessentially Polynesian. With very little development, Huahine feels lush and untouched – an idyllic opportunity to relax, commune with nature and get a genuine tase of the island culture. But there’s plenty to do, from snorkeling to surfing, and exploring archaeological sites by horseback, you won’t want to leave.
The little village of Fare is the main tourist attraction, yet the rugged and isolated beaches of Huahine Iti are the best around, with azure lagoons and remote atmosphere.
Riatea means “Faraway Heaven”, yet its fortunately for you only a short hop from Huahine. This is the second largest of the Society Islands, with a modern hospital, municipal facilities, etc. – yet much of the time you’ll spend on the island feels like it’s all yours. The island offers much, but don’t miss out on a kayak ride on the Faaroa River. This is the only navigable waterway in Polynesia – a whitewater run under jungle canopy. You’ll find jaw-dropping waterfalls raining down from Mount Temahani – which you can climb by foot if you’re feeling up to it, or horseback (skip the 4×4’s). Your captain will have no difficulty guiding you to your own private beaches in dozens of small islets in the surrounding bays, or on the sandy specks on nearby motus (islands on the surrounding reefs).
This island specializes in two things: vanilla and pearls. Sounds pretty good, right? Right. As Herman Melville described it: “When the clouds floated away, and showed peaks standing like obelisks against the sky, the tears gushed from his eyes.” This is truly the place to forget the world while basking in the islands natural glory and scent of vanilla in the air. There is refreshingly little to do here, other than relax, just be, and gaze upon the beauty of Bora Bora’s volcanic peak in the near distance. If you do feel compelled to put your fruity cocktail down for a bit and explore the marine life, there is a small trail that leads from the Le Taha’a resort along the water. Bring your snorkel and mask and jump in the water near the end of the trail. The incoming tide will slowly take you back out to the lagoon, while you lazily look at some of the most beautiful creatures of the just feet below you.
Bora Bora is the stuff of dreams. With its iconic peak rising above the cerulean blue lagoons, it’s no wonder why this is such a honeymoon hotspot. The island is surprisingly quiet, even with its many luxurious resorts. The entire island is protected by a perfect barrier reef, creating calm and tranquil lagoons surrounded by coconut palms and the scent of the fragrant hibiscus growing naturally on the island. Have your captain take you to the southern shores and enjoy the near empty white sand beaches. The diving is spectacular, with blacktop reef sharks, rays and dolphins that seemingly guard the entrance to the underwater grottos of Tupitipiti Point. There is a natural aquarium just east of the main island called the Bora Bora Lagoonarium, with rainbow colored wildlife that is not to be missed.
This is the second largest atoll in the world, with over 400 motus, forming a 200km ring around the turquoise lagoon. Rangiroa is, unsurprisingly, another scuba diving hotspot, with hundreds of marine species that cruise the shallows. Have your captain hover near the Tiputa Underwater Pass for the best view, then take the tender to Dominique Auroy’s Vin de Tahiti Domaine for a South Sea wine tasting. As in the middle of nowhere as Rangiroa can feel, its actually a much needed little city for the island dwellers, with hotels, paved roads, stores and plentiful Wi-Fi. So, if you need to take care of any business on your cruise, carve out a little extra time here for that.
Fakarava is another diving Mecca, with its Unesco-protected biosphere reserve. An awe-inspiring collection of white and pink sand beaches line the protected lagoons reached by the mile-wide Garuae Pass. Ohotu reef is one spot not to miss, with steep dropoffs from which emerge gray reef sharks, tuna and rays. Pufana Reef is another world-class dive spot with much shallower waters. The atmosphere of Fakarava is supremely relaxed, and after a few days here, you’ll find it supremely difficult to leave.
Cruising French Polynesia on your private yacht charter is really just about as good as it gets. A bucket-list trip that truly must be checked off at least once, if not several times. No matter how much time you can carve out for this adventure in paradise, you’ll find yourself needing to return to see all that you couldn’t. We have selected some of our very best yachts for charter in the region for your consideration. Please contact us if we can help you realize this nautical dream.