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French Polynesia

French Polynesia

Trip Plan Tags: 
arts + culture,
beach + island,
diving + snorkeling,
outdoors + nature
Australia + Pacific,
Bora Bora,
French Polynesia,

First time to French Polynesia. Want to charter a crewed cat for 7-10 days and stay at a resort as well for 5. Next spring Mar 2009. Probably with the Moorings - We've had great luck with them in the BVI's. Will be traveling with the family and 2 other couples. Want to set up an itinerary and collect ideas of what are must see places.



Motu Moea Restaurant La Plage, Moorea, French Polynesia

Motu Moea, Moorea, French Polynesia
Tel: 689 565 537

A modest, open-sided motu beach kiosk, La Plage is famous for its poisson cru —raw tuna marinated in coconut and lime juice. Open for lunch only, it's a lovely place to linger and enjoy the views across the lagoon to Moorea. Though packed on weekends with locals in swim trunks, the place is off the radar for most tourists—possibly because it's only reachable by boat. Unless you're game to paddle over yourself, hop on one of the launches that leave regularly from the dock at the InterContinental Resort on the northwestern coast.


Sunset, Moorea, French Polynesia

Hotel Hibiscus, Haapiti
Hauru Point, Moorea, French Polynesia
Tel: 689 561 220

The family-owned Hotel Hibiscus is a bit worn around the edges, but its café is well worth a visit. At lunchtime, you can grab a seat at a rubber tree–shaded picnic table overlooking the lagoon and dig into simple salads and entrées inspired by the cuisines of Tahiti, France, and Italy. The standout choice is the pizza, served fresh out of a wood-fired oven.


Te Marara, Huahine, French Polynesia

The Esplanade
Fare, Huahine, French Polynesia

Known locally as Edna's—even though former owner Mme. Edna Flohr sold the property in 2004—this unassuming, ramshackle building at the end of a wharf serves up some of the best gourmet treats in South Polynesia. The house specialties include a tangy and rich poisson cru and small island lobsters (langoustines) in a chili-coconut curry.


Snack Matira, Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Matira Beach, Bora Bora, French Polynesia

French Polynesia is littered with little huts serving fast food—all with names beginning with "Snack"—that offer hearty open-air meals on the go. Snack Matira, little more than a set of whitewashed gates with a roof (you'll spot it right away with its border of red Coca-Cola flags), is conveniently located on the beach between the Hotel Bora Bora and Matira Point, and serves up especially fresh and tasty regional staples, including chop suey, rare steak, grilled fish with vanilla sauce, and ice cream.



Learning to Exhale

Is any place a better antidote to the rigors and rush of modern life than spellbinding French Polynesia? Alexandra Marshall slips into the blue, where troubles melt like lemon drops


South Pacific: Places & Prices

First step: Make your choice from remote idylls to sumptuous new resorts. Then make sure to get an agent who knows the territory

Editor's Pick


Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa, Moorea, French Polynesia

Pihaena, Moorea, French Polynesia
Tel: 689 551 111, Fax: 689 551 011

People often make comparisons between Tahiti and Hawaii; by that model, if Bora Bora has the upscale gloss of Maui and Tahiti the bustling energy of Oahu, Moorea has the verdant, rootsy soul of Kauai. The feeling is maintained by this hotel's small scale—a Hilton since January 2009, it includes 54 overwater bungalows and 52 garden and beach bungalows. Then there's the simple but luscious food: You'll never get tired of the fresh fish and vegetables in vanilla sauce at the beachside restaurant. Even the spa, where you can get a vigorous pounding by a Tahitian masseuse, feels refreshingly down to earth. Overall, the vibe here is more authentic than at other Moorea resorts; and there are quirky details, like the fat and friendly giant eel that lives under the floating bar and gets fed a regular diet of merguez sausage.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick


Sofitel Bora Bora Marara Beach & Private Island, Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Ponte Matira
, Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Tel: 689 605 500

It's not exactly budget-friendly, but this property, newly renovated in summer of 2006, has the most reasonably priced over-water bungalows on Bora Bora (high-season prices start at about $680 per night). Thirteen of the 64 units here are OWBs with all the same bells and whistles you'll find at other resorts—peek-a-boo glass floor panels, enclosed patios, outdoor showers, swim-off decks—only they cost about half what the almost-identical ones at nearby five-star resorts do. The other, landlocked units, which face either the lagoon or the tropical garden, are also very pleasant; all have mod-Indonesian decor, with cane ceilings, wood or tiled floors, and neutral-colored fabrics offset by bright-colored cushions and native flowering plants. The common areas are a bit playful, and acknowledge the hotel's rather tacky beginnings: It was built as a film set for the 1979 Dino de Laurentiis–produced film Hurricane (which was something of a box-office turkey). Black-and-white stills from the film decorate the lobby walls, and the hotel's safety orange-colored bar (also called Hurricane) serves tropical drinks with names like "Black Pearl" and "The Bounty." The fact that it was one of the first chain hotels in Bora explains the primo location, on a private beach in Matira Bay.

See + Do

Black Pearls

Black pearls are the number one souvenir for tourists in French Polynesia. In the United States, a single gem can cost upwards of $1,200, but the highest quality black pearls in Tahiti go for half that. The Robert Wan stores you'll see throughout the country are like the Tiffany's of black pearl shops—just about any other outfit is less expensive. Your best bet is to visit a pearl farm, where you can cut out the middle man by buying directly. The Manihi atoll in the Tuamotus launched black pearl tourism and is a great place to see how they're produced and harvested.

You'll likely notice that to call these pearls "black" is sort of a misnomer. When placed under the light, a pearl's true color may be steel gray, blue, pink, green, purple, brown, gold, or any combination thereof. The most expensive black pearls, or the A grade, are perfectly round, smooth, and actually black with a rainbow cast. More affordable are the slightly pear-shaped ones with small ridges called the baroques. Their beauty is in their imperfection and their pastel colors. When selecting and purchasing pearls, be sure that you can obtain a certificate of authenticity. In addition, avoid having the gems set in Tahiti as gold and silver are astronomically expensive. Loose pearls can be taken out of the country untaxed and then set by a jeweler once you get home. If you want to wear them right away, Tahiti Pearl Market in Papeete or Bora Bora will string them for you on a thin filament wire at no extra cost.


La Villa Mahana, Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Amanahune, Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Tel: 689 675 063

This exclusive restaurant—well-off the beaten path, and housed in a yellow Mediterranean-style private villa—is harder to get into than French Laundry. There are just six tables (one is located on the upper floor—try to snag it if you can), so reserve at least a month in advance or hope your concierge has a hookup. Once you're in, chef Damien Rinaldi Dovio's French cuisines—inflected with Asian and tropical flavors—doesn't disappoint. He likes to change the menu frequently (don't count on what the website says), but typical dishes include mahimahi with curried bananas, mashed potatoes with coconut cream, and roasted beef tenderloin in red wine–vanilla sauce. This is likely to be your most memorable meal in French Polynesia—especially once you get the bill. A meal for two with wine here can easily set you back $400.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.