French Polynesia comprises of 120 islands covering 1.7 million square miles. I've visited over 30 hotels there and it's fair to say that it's a bit of a minefield to get right. This is French Polynesia holidays: uncovered...
Traditional Tahitian archipelagos
The Mountainous Marquesas in the North are remote, mysterious and there is not a five-star hotel in sight - but it's perhaps the most real and traditional of Tahitian archipelagos. The Tuoamotus are next down, and consist of flat coral atolls, tailing off in the South East with the Gambier archipelago. The Society Islands (split Leeward and Windward) are next, and are a colonised, busy mix of mountains surrounded by atoll. The Australes islands furthest South, again more remote, real and genuinely Tahitian.
There is no real way to avoid Tahiti, as you will most probably have to spend your first or last night here. There's not much to recommend and the hotels are a bit ordinary. The best of the bunch, in my mind, is the Radisson, which is newer and better than the tired Intercontinental that most people stay in.
Neighbouring island to Tahiti, Moorea is easily visible across the water. It's mountainous, lush and slightly less hectic than Tahiti. There are four five-star properties but most of the places to stay are very package tourist focused. The best of the lot is the Sofitel.
The ultimate desert island
Bora Bora is often called the ultimate desert island. Nothing prepares you for the ridiculous blue of the lagoon as you step out of the airport. The mountain on the inside of lagoon is surrounded by motus and reef, it looks like a Hollywood backdrop. There are two types of hotel - those inside the lagoon (stiller water, slightly crowded but probably better quality swimming water) and those facing the ocean on top of the main island.
It's impossible to call the best hotel, as some are best for position, some spa, food, rooms etc. Neighbouring Taha'a is perhaps a better bet, as it's not half as busy and still very much in the Bora Bora vein. For me, though, it would be a toss up between the Bora Bora Lagoon Resort & Spa on Bora Bora and Hotel Le Taha'a.
White sand, turquoise water and palm trees...
The Tuamotus represent almost half the square mileage of Polynesia but represents just 7% of population - and it's far less developed. Nearly all the black pearls Polynesia is famous for come from the Tuamotus (make sure you buy them here not on the expensive Society Islands). Three quarters of Polynesia's 120 islands are here, but only three have good hotels: Tikehau, Rangiroa and Manihi, although you can cruise on the Haumana cruise boat. Tikehau is an 80km circumference coral atoll with white sand, turquoise water and palm trees. It also has a tiny population, and the best hotel option is Pearl Beach Tikehau.
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