The magnetic charm of the turquoise waters, the balmy Pacific breeze and colorful delicacies will leave you totally in love with the French Polynesian islands.
Many times I am asked which is my favorite spot in the world and while I have plenty of resorts/cities/attractions I would gladly return to, the image that comes to my mind that closely resembles paradise on earth is without a doubt the memory of the picturesque and exotic islands of French Polynesia- Bora-Bora, Tahiti, Raiatea and Moorea.
The best way to visit them must be by a cruise ship. They are located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and to reach the islands you have to either fly or sail from larger hubs like Hawaii or Australia, unless you are already in the area (the near-by islands). Since the airline tickets are pretty pricey, cruising comes naturally as number one choice for those who don’t have $10 K and above to spend on this trip.
The cruise ship will pick you from Hawaii (Honolulu, Oahu), or Sydney, Australia and after 5-6 sea days you will reach the tropical Eden of French Polynesia.
It’s probably best to take the ship’s tour, if you haven’t made any prior plans- there is a wide variety of snorkeling, diving, island trips and a combination of sea/land tours by bus, catamarans, etc.
Some guests make their research online and choose a private company to arrange the tours for them, as they do not want to be part of a big group or rather have a unique and private time on the islands by themselves (contact us for more information).
Whatever you decide to do though, you will have an unforgettable time : whether enjoying the neon sparking water and golden sands beaches, playing with the sting-rays and bay sharks, learning how to make a pareo (the Tahitian word for sarong) or cook local dishes, taste the local cuisine at night in a cozy waterfront restaurant, sail or drive around the most expensive resorts and private houses – all on stilts in the water with glass floors, or indulge in water sports, you will not have enough of the amazing nature around you.
You can certainly take a day by yourselves and visit some of the resorts that offer day passes (Sheraton, Hilton) and you can feel the 5 star luxury and relaxing atmosphere of these posh places.
Shopping is also pretty popular- even if you never thought you would be interested in pearls and the only people that still wear them are the Queen, models and pretentious snobs, you will catch yourself admiring the excuisite jewelry made of various in size and color pearls, while learning how the divers harvest them. I did end up getting a necklace and a pair or black pearl earrings that I fondly wear on formal occasions. You can negotiate the price and the purchase will not break your bank.
You will find that the locals are pretty friendly and while most of them do speak English, the national language is French and the native cuisine and culture have been influenced from the times the French added these islands to their territories.
There are lots of straw markets offering summer outfits in vibrant colors, unique paintings and sculptures from local artists. You will find typical souvenirs made of sea and coconut shells, as well as fresh produce and tropical fruit you will find hard to resist.
Continuing in the spirit of French Polynesia, I have to mention the Famous Tahitian oil Monoï de Tahiti, which you can find here in its purest state (it is the result of macerating the tiare flower (Tahitian gardenia) in refined coconut extract for at least 10 days, slowly infusing the oil with nutrients as well as a delicate, natural fragrance). Of course you will be lost in the variety of perfumes, soap bars, suntan oils skin and hair products infused with the Monoï de Tahiti oil and enchanted by its delicate aroma, you will end up buying a gift for everyone.
The local producers are proud of their merchandise and in gratitude for buying their product, they will give you a nice little souvenir- a star fish or sand dollar- a genuine gift from the Polynesian islands.
The best part is that the islands and the Pacific around them do not pause any life or health threat- you will find none of the poisonous or dangerous animals or insects you will worry about in Australia- you can swim for miles in the most welcoming and sparkling waters in the world and wonder if this is the same world as we know it…