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The largest of the 118 islands and atolls that make up French Polynesia, Tahiti is world famous for its sparkling waters, pristine beaches, and luxurious overwater bungalows. Native Tahitians believe that mana, the life force, and spirit that connects all living beings, embraces the island. Experience the unique charms and relaxation that can only come with a perfect Polynesian vacation.
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Whilst there is certainly no shortage of coconuts, lagoons, beaches and bungalows throughout French Polynesia, Tahiti and its surrounding islands come with many a pleasant surprise.
- French Polynesia is made up of A LOT of Islands
Whilst most people are only familiar with popular holiday spots like Tahiti and Bora Bora, French Polynesia is in fact home to 118 unique and diverse islands, spread out over 2,000 square kilometers in the South Pacific Ocean. This French territory is divided into 5 groups of archipelagos- Society, Austral, Gambier, Marquesas, and Tuamotu. The Society archipelagos are the most popular with holiday-makers, encompassing the romantic island of Bora Bora, the magical island of Mo’orea and of course the Queen of the Pacific- Tahiti.
- French is the official language spoken
In case the name didn’t give it away, French Polynesia is an overseas collective of France, meaning citizens actually hold French passports. Although each island in French Polynesia has its own native language, French is actually regarded as the only official language throughout the islands. Of course, everyone in hotels and tourist areas also speaks very good English.
- Bora Bora isn’t just for honeymooners
With its exclusive resorts and iconic over-water bungalows, Bora Bora is undeniably one of world’s the most desirable honeymoon locations. But if you are under the impression you need a ring on your finger before taking a holiday here, think again.
There are actually plenty of things to do in Bora Bora that don’t involve couples massages or candlelit dinners. Whether you come here on your own or with a group of friends, there is plenty to do to keep you from boredom. You’ll find a plethora of adventurous, water-based activities, including snorkeling or diving with sharks and stingrays, jet-skiing through turquoise lagoons and stand-up paddle boarding (which you can do straight off the deck of your bungalow!)
If you aren’t splashing out for your honeymoon, you can also easily find accommodation on Bora Bora that won’t drain your entire bank account in one night. Take Oa Oa Lodge for example, which offers the cheapest over-water bungalows on the island.
French Polynesia is a beautiful country made up of 118 islands and is a wonderful destination for romance, families, adventure, and relaxation. The best-known islands are Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Moorea - all of which are frequently visited by tourists from all over the world. No matter where you are coming from it's important to arrive prepared - here are the top things we feel you should know before you arrive.
The currency in Tahiti is the French Pacific Franc (CFP), however, in most resorts and tourist areas the US dollar and Euro are also widely accepted. The value of the CFP fluctuates against the US dollar and as of today, 1 CFP equals .0099 US Dollar.
In French Polynesia the official languages are Tahitian and French, however, English is spoken in all resorts as well as on the majority of the larger islands in their restaurants and shops.
A few keywords to know before you go are:
Hello said la Ora na in Tahitian and pronounced yo-rah-nah
Goodbye said Nana in Tahitian and pronounced nah-nah
Yes said E in Tahitian and pronounced ay
No said Aita in Tahitian and pronounced eye-tah
- Baggage Allowance
When traveling to French Polynesia you will want to pack strategically as baggage allowance does have some weight and size restrictions that you may not be used to, especially if you are coming from domestic USA travel.
For your carry on baggage you can take with you free of charge the following:
Maximum dimensions: 45 x 35 x 20 cm (17 x 13 x 7 in)
Maximum weight: 5 kg (11 lb)
For your checked baggage you can take the following:
Up to 3 pieces per person
Baggage dimensions:150 cm (59 in)
Baggage weight: 23kg (50 lb) per person for all pieces
When traveling to foreign countries it's important that you stay healthy and safe. In regards to French Polynesia, you will want to make sure you are up to date on your routine vaccinations which include Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tatanus-pertussis, chickenpox, polio, and your annual flu shot.
You can also take an extra step and get the Hepatitis A vaccine as well as the Typhoid vaccine as you can contract both through contaminated food or water in French Polynesia.
Many people ask us what the best time of year is to travel to French Polynesia; and the answer is...anytime! Since the Islands of French Polynesia are so close to the equator the average temperature sits at a wonderful 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The weather is ideal! The climate is tropical. The average ambient temperature is 80°F (27°C) and the waters of the lagoons average 79°F (26°C) in the winter and 84°F (29°C) in the summer. But do not worry, most resorts and hotel rooms are air-conditioned or cooled by ceiling fans.
Summer with a warmer and more humid climate is from November through April, and winter is from May to October when the climate is slightly cooler and drier. When you step out of the airplane, you'll immediately notice that the air is warm and humid. Consequently, besides your camera and your extra memory cards, do not forget to pack lightweight cotton clothes, sunscreen lotion and a baseball cap or a wide-brimmed hat. Synthetic fabrics can get hot and sticky in the tropics.
Whether you stay one night or one week, there are many great resorts in Tahiti from which to choose. Unlike the islands of Moorea and Bora Bora, overwater bungalows are not common here. Since Tahiti is mostly a stopover island, you’ll find hotels that cater more to business travelers and short-term guests than megaresorts with an array of activities.
Still, most resorts on Tahiti feature beautiful beaches and a distinct tropical allure. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the best places to stay in Tahiti.
- InterContinental Tahiti Resort and Spa
This full-service hotel is the largest luxury resort on the island. Located five minutes from the airport, it’s also the most convenient. Despite its proximity to downtown, the hotel has the feel of a Polynesian oasis and some of the best views in Tahiti. The rooms sport traditional Polynesian charm with wooden furniture and timber floors.
- Le Méridien Tahiti
This is one of the only luxury hotels on Tahiti with thatched-roof overwater bungalows (InterContinental Tahiti Resort is the other). Rooms are a blend of contemporary French-influenced style with tropical touches. Accommodations feature a private deck with incredible views of Tahiti’s sister island, Moorea.
- Manava Suite Resort Tahiti
This resort offers a modern design with contemporary furnishings. The rooms feature an in-suite kitchenette and complimentary Wi-Fi, making this a popular choice for both families and business travelers. With the largest infinity pool on Tahiti, it’s the perfect place to unwind after a long flight.
- Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort
Located on the east side of the island, Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort is situated on a gorgeous black sand beach. Although it’s slightly farther away from the airport than the other resorts, the prime setting on Lafayette Beach is a fair trade. The hotel has a more secluded feel while still offering easy access to downtown Papeete.
- Hotel Tahiti Nui
Hotel Tahiti Nui boasts a clean, modern design with a young and contemporary atmosphere. Located in the heart of downtown Papeete, it is not a shorefront hotel like the other resorts in Tahiti. Instead, this hotel puts you right in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city, providing convenient access to the shops, restaurants, nightlife, and other downtown attractions.
- The Brando
North of Tahiti on the Tetiaroa atoll, you’ll find the pristine private island paradise of The Brando, which used to belong to actor Marlon Brando and was a getaway for Tahitian royalty. A coral reef surrounds the luxurious, eco-friendly resort, which has become a sanctuary for birds and marine animals.
Tahitians emphasize the French word joie de vivre - which means “joy of life”. To ensure you experience the joy of life whilst visiting this French Polynesian country it would be beneficial to learn some cultural etiquette before you visit. It wouldn't hurt to learn some French as well!
- Lunch is the most important meal of the day.
The main meal of the day in Tahiti is generally served at lunchtime.
- The legal drinking age is 21.
So if you're going to Tahiti to celebrate your 18th - don't expect to be served alcohol in this country. Drinking alcohol in public and public drunkenness is not only frowned upon - but illegal.
- Tipping in Tahiti is not required.
The local Custom is that hospitality and Customer Service is paramount. So it goes against the Tahitian's customs for travelers to tip.
- Flowers in Tahiti have a meaning.
Tahitians love flowers and are often worn by both men and women. If you wear a flower behind the left ear, it means that love is taken. So if you're single and available wear a flower behind your right ear, as this means the heart is vacant for love.
- Going topless.
Going topless on some beaches may be acceptable in Tahiti, but be more reserved and cover up around pools at the Hotel and bar areas.
- Take your shoes off.
One item of clothing you should always take off is your shoes when entering someone's home in Tahiti. People will greet each other with a handshake or kiss on the cheek, and it is considered rude not to greet everyone in the room (unless it's a large group of people).
- Take it easy.
Another common and popular expression in French Polynesian countries is “haere maru” which means “take it easy”. So with these few tips on etiquette and some common sense, you will be able to “haere maru” and have a great trip to Tahiti.
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