Scattered across the deep blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, about 10,000 miles away from the UK, the five archipelagos of French Polynesia are nothing short of an untainted paradise. Images of wooden bungalows perched on stilts above a turquoise sea are now famous worldwide and consistently associated with this stunning holiday destination. Ideal for romantic getaways and lazy holidays, the 118 islands and atolls also offer lots of activities for sport and nature lovers such as hiking, swimming and sunset picnics. There are also lots of exotic deserted beaches to explore in complete tranquility. If you travel to French Polynesia you can explore it by boat, on horseback, on foot or by 4x4, you just need to decide where you'll head first!
Surface area : 1609.0 km2
Population : 265000 inhabitants
Time difference : GMT+11
Art galleries and 'curios' (local handicraft shops) on Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora sell high standard products. Do not miss out on Papeete's central market, which offers the most varied range in local handicraft stands.
Carved wood statuettes, copies of tiki gods or warriors, are of quintessential Polynesian inspiration. The best souvenirs here are the mother of pearl ornaments and jewels, sea shell necklaces, which reflect the tradition of Tahitian hospitability, collector's sea shells, from the most common to the most exceptional, monoi-based oils and cosmetics, or the famous woven hats made with coconut or pandanus leaves. You will be able to take home a little vanilla (about 80p for a pod) which you will find in particular at Hotutea vanilla co-operative, near the village of Afareaitu on Moorea. Finally, if you decide to treat yourself to a black pearl, mounted as a jewel or not, you should know that all budgets are catered to and that the value in Tahiti is unbeatable. Ask a specialist to help you make your choice. For a 'good deal', see the B or C category round pearls (from £100). Allow roughly £16 for a pearl of lower category.
Shops are open from 7:30am to 5:00pm from Monday to Saturday.
Raw fish, macerated in lime juice and coconut milk is the great Polynesian speciality. Other delicious meals include 'mahi mahi' or swordfish skewers, lobster flavoured with vanilla, shellfish, and giant river prawns seasoned with curry. A great gastronomic moment is the 'tamaaraa', a traditional Tahitian banquet, regularly organised by hotels. In an oven dug out of the ground, various ingredients are covered by banana leaves, hessian and sand and steamed for 3 to 4 hours. The food, which consists of suckling pig, chicken, fish, fafa (taro leaves), uru (breadfruit), fei (red bananas) and poe (baked paw-paw and coco milk dessert) is delicious and practically melts in your mouth. Exotic fruits are also plentiful and wonderful; from the flavour of the grapefruits and small limes, to the bananas, pineapples, mangos, avocados and melons. You can also try out some very refined French restaurants; not only is the meat excellent, the cheeses and wines on offer are as varied as they are in France. Meanwhile, the Chinese restaurants of Polynesia are known to be amongst the best in the world.
Besides all the different water sports and activities offered by the major hotels and resorts, don't miss out on a mini-cruise (often on a catamaran) by day or at sunset. It is the best way to observe, from the lagoon, the superb panoramas of the island. If you dream of a 100% Polynesian holiday, choose to stay with local people, in a thatched home by the lagoon - it's the best way to go straight to the heart of Tahitian lifestyle!