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Beaches of French Polynesia

French Polynesia's insider take:

Many of the best beaches in French Polynesia are occupied by high-end resorts, but you shouldn't have any problem accessing them. Most of the small islets (motus) that dot the lagoons are also privately owned, but many resort concierges can arrange a "motu picnic tour," in which you'll be whisked away by boat to one of these powdery-beached jewels and treated like royalty. There are also plenty of public beaches where you can blend in with the native (as opposed to the vacationing) population. The best of the batch are listed below.

In Tahiti, take advantage of the famed black volcanic sand at Mahina Beach (PK 10.1), Point Venus Beach (PK 8.1), and Papenoo Village Beach (PK 16). Although there are no bathrooms at these beaches, for the cost of a single drink at one of the nearby hotel bars you'll have access to their facilities.

In Bora Bora, the only public strand worth seeking out is the white-sand Matira Point Beach, located near the La Moana Bora Bora Resort on the southern tip of the main island. On weekends, it's a gathering place for Tahitian families. It also has a great snack shop.

On the northeastern coast of Moorea, near the airport, Temae Beach stretches for about a mile, making it the longest uninterrupted stretch of soft, white sand on the island; it's also the best for swimming. Locals often go topless here, and so can you.

One of the best beaches in all of the Society Islands is along the southern point of Huahine: A white sandy border runs along the entire coast from the Relais Mahana Resort to Anini Beach. You can park anywhere on the side of the road (except in someone's driveway) or at the historical site of Marare Anini—an ancient stone altar where human sacrifices were once made.

Sandy beaches aren't much in evidence on Raiatea and Tahaa, but there are some dreamy little all-sand motus, including Motu Naonao and Motu Iriru off Raiatea, and Motu Tautau (home of Le Tahaa Private Island & Spa) and Motu Tuvahine on Tahaa.

Rangiroa presents beach-lovers with an embarrassment of riches: The entire island is fringed by inviting white sand. Hire a bike and ride around to choose your favorite. Gorgeous motus such as the Pink Sands Motu on the south side are also worth a peek, but be sure to pack everything you'll need for the day—food, drink, sunscreen, towels—since you won't find many vendors outside of the hotels.

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