Sculpted by sky-piercing, moss-green peaks and lined with vivid turquoise lagoons, sultry French Polynesia is a place to take it slow and experience warm, laid-back island culture.

The Dream

Tahiti: just the word conjures up centuries’ worth of images: hibiscus flowers; bronzed dancers in grass skirts; a humid breeze over turquoise sea. The islands of French Polynesia became legends the minute the first European explorers reached their home shores with tales of a heaven on earth where the soil was fertile, life was simple and lust was guilt-free. While the lingering hype is outdated, French Polynesia is still about as dreamy as reality gets. The lagoons are just as blue but there are freeways, more conservative values and nine-to-five jobs. It’s not the untainted paradise of explorer lore, but at least there’s an internet connection.

Lagoon Spectacular

The slim stretches of white-, pink- and black-sand beaches in French Polynesia are really just pretty springboards into the real draw: the lagoons. Most high islands are surrounded by fringing reef that creates a protected swimming pool of the most intense aqua imaginable. Coral atolls have this same calibre of lagoon minus the big island in the middle. Fish, dolphins, rays, sharks, turtles and more inhabit these clear-water coral gardens that are as excellent for snorkelling as they are for diving and swimming. Surfers ride glassy wave faces at reef passes while kitesurfers fly across the water with the trade winds.

To Luxe or Not to Luxe

Over-the-top indulgence has become French Polynesia’s – or more specifically Bora Bora’s – signature, and often overshadows what the rest of the country has to offer. Resorts on the ‘Pearl of the Pacific’ are a honeymooner’s dream, with private overwater bungalows and spectacular views of the island’s iconic, square-topped peak. But if this isn’t your cup of coconut water, or not in your budget, don’t let that dissuade you from visiting French Polynesia. Small, family-run lodgings offer a closer-to-the-culture experience for considerably less financial output.

Why I Love French Polynesia

It’s not just because it’s the most beautiful place on Earth. No, really. I love French Polynesia for the sound of rain on a tin roof, the smell of tiare taina gardenias in November, the floral taste of a perfect mango, the silky warmth of the ocean, a sea turtle swimming peacefully below me, the gift of a flower hei (flower necklace) from a friend, the tapping of atoere (hollowed-out piece of wood) drum in the distance and simply, the way islands slow the pulse and make the world feel like a softer, better place.

Read More: Lonely Planet

Itinerary Details

Day 1 : Arrive Tahiti (Papeete)

Arrive Tahiti (Papeete) – French Polynesia’s largest and most glamorous tropical island. Meet and transfer to hotel. Full day at leisure or enjoy an optional half day city tour of Papeete which includes a visit of the marketplace, The Cathedral, Vaima Shopping Centre, the City Hall and the Black Pearl Museum. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 2 : Trip in Paradise

After breakfast, circle the island by bus or car, picnic on a black-sand beach, tour the museums around the island, take a safari by 4X4 deep into the valleys, hike with a guide up Aorai Mountain. Dine at one of the resort restaurants. Overnight at hotel.

Day 3 : Day Trip to Moorea

After breakfast, take a fast catamaran from Tahiti to Moorea, Jump in a 4x4 and explore the interior, visit a fruit tasting factory, shop for crafts made in Moorea, return to dine at one of the locals' favourites around Papeete or at one of the beautiful world-class restaurants in the resorts. Overnight in Tahiti.

Day 4 : Water World

After breakfast, snorkel in the clear waters around the resorts or in Matavai Bay, hire a dive master and learn to dive or to explore the sunken vessels and coral walls, Canoe or kayak in the lagoon, Fish the deep sea for marlin, charter a sailing catamaran, jet ski, swim in the famous grotto. Overnight at hotel.

Day 5: Depart Tahiti

Breakfast, a day at leisure. Transfer to the airport for flight back to home with lifetime warm memories.