While hopping from one island to another in French Polynesia I recommend you to book a two or three nights, three or four days on a catamaran to best discover the Rangiroa atoll. You can dive (lots of sharks), fish and BBQ your catch after that, snorkel, have romantic diners, enjoy the sun and the stunning beauty of this atoll. You might even stop by a tiny coconut farm also making local jewellery.
Moorea may win your heart. Her snaggle-tooth volcanic fangs rear from thundering Pacific surf; Arthur Frommer - of the self-named guides - says she is the most beautiful island in the world; and Marlon Brando fell for his Polynesian female lead when making Mutiny on the Bounty here (for a tryst with a twist take the yacht-trip to Tetiaroa atoll, once the Brandos’ private South Seas love-nest).
But Moorea has a love rival: one short ferry ride and suddenly you’re being seduced by Tahiti. See the Gaugin museum then go on to the small village of Mataiea where, beside the lagoon, English war poet Rupert Brooke spent some of the final weeks of a brief life with Mamua, his Polynesian lover. Here he wrote his most acclaimed poem. Called Tiare Tahiti, it was for her.
Raiatea is the second largest of the Society Islands in French Polynesia. Raiatea means approx 'bright soft sky' in Tahitian and this island was the centre of Tahitian culture and religion for more than 1000 years.
It is thought that the migrations to Hawaii, New Zealand and other parts of Polynesia started from here. The main town on Raiatea is Uturoa. The best way to have a look around is to take the Island Drive which leaves from the end of the pier in Uturoa.
Stops along the way give access to the Botanical Gardens, views to Mt Temehani (the only place in the world where the white petalled Tiare Apetahi flower grows), visits to the pearl farms, motus in the lagoon and the various marae (traditional walled meeting places).
Far less touristic than Tahiti, Raiatea is defintely worth a visit.
Great budget accommodation in typically pricey French Polynesia.
Away from the bustle of the capital Papeete, these bungalow villas are on the West Coast of Tahiti, and most have scenic views of the lagoon, ocean, or garden.
Each has kitchens for making your own food, and modern bathrooms with hot showers. Depending on which bungalow you get, you could probably fit around 2-4 in each.
The lagoon location is beautiful, and there's plenty do - from taking out the free kayaks to swimming in the pool. There is also an 18 hole golf course and great surfing nearby.
If you can't afford the luxury hotels and expensive spa retreats, these bungalows are a bargain island paradise.
Located between Cook and Opunohu Bays, the Pension is an idyllic cluster of beach bungalows, surrounded by a tropical garden. Even cheaper are the dormitories with a view of the lagoon, but we opted for the beach view bungalows - much more romantic! The rooms are cool and comfortable and typically Polynesian.
The Motu Iti restaurant is fantastic value and is on a shady deck over the lagoon. You can tuck in to fresh grilled fish for lunch, an all-American breakfast and local specialities for dinner.
The themed evenings and Ma'a Tahiti (traditional feast) were a major highlight!
Much more peaceful after the bustle of Tahiti. Moorea is astonishingly beautiful, and the best way to see it is to take a bus tour.
The Circle Island Tour takes you past pineapple fields, coffee plantations and flower-filled villages up to Belvedere Lookout, where you can see Opunohu and Cook's Bays.
One of the highlights is a stop off to see the little rectangular 'Marae', ancient structures which used to be sacred buildings, used as open-air temples and funeral sites.
(Picks up from all the main hotels)
A great way to see the exotic marine life if you aren't quite ready to take the plunge into the deep blue.
We went on a 'snorkel-safari' around the island, and stopped off at the Barrier Reef to snorkel around the coral. The water is crystal clear, and you also get to swim (safely) with sharks and manta-rays.
If you don't fancy getting your feet wet, try the glass-bottomed boat tours around a lagoon- you get the glorious mountain scenery above, and the colourful fishes and coral below.
Named 'trou du souffleur' by the locals, this is a fun natural landmark to visit, and is easy to spot from the coastal road.
If the sea's rough, water rushes into a cavern and shoots up through a hole in the rocks, like a geyser!
Watch out if the sea is extra fiesty - you could get wet on the viewing platform!
PK 22, Coastal road, Tiarei, Tahiti
A welcome spot of culture on an island paradise, the Paul Gauguin museum shows a good collection of the artist's works.
Tahiti became his adopted home after he fled Paris looking for somewhere to 'live on fish and fruit' and explore primivism.
Highlights include some of his unseen sketches and block prints, and some interesting paintings of Tahiti by English artist Constance Gordon-Cumming.
A trip to the colourful Botanical Gardens across the street shows just what inspired these artists.
PK 51, 2 Papeari, Tahiti,
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