Polynesia's great diversity of islands and atolls, coastlines and sea beds, and the population's incredible commitment to their cultures and arts, all contribute to offering a wide variety of activities and leisure pursuits that will leave you with lasting memories.
Scuba diving: a submerged paradise
Right in the middle of the Pacific, many leagues from the continents, is one of the most beautiful aquatic habitats on the planet. Peopled with multi-coloured coral and hundreds of different species of fish, the sea bed of Tahiti and its islands are a must for anyone who enjoys diving, whatever their skill level.
In the lagoons, the less adventurous can enjoy the aquatic gardens and the many species of coral and fish that inhabit them. In the ocean, the more intrepid can explore grandiose landscapes, peopled with often disproportionately sized creatures.
With their 12,800 km of coral reefs, the Polynesian islands offer an incalculable number of diving sites. In most of them, one encounters the marine species most sought after by scuba enthusiasts: sharks, rays, turtles, dolphins, whales, etc.
All the board sports are practised in Polynesia! The diversity of its shores, beaches, swells, lagoons and winds means that board-sports enthusiasts find numerous sites with optimum conditions for their activity. From beginners to seasoned professionals, all can satisfy their passion on the sun-soaked shores of the Polynesian islands.
- Surfing, stand-up paddle-boarding and bodyboarding: Polynesia is a paradise for surfers of all levels, from beginners to professionals. There are a whole host of surf spots, from beaches to reefs to passages, the toughest challenge. The island of Tahiti alone has over thirty sites with surfable waves, including three that are famous throughout the world: Teahupoo, Taapuna and Mara'a. During the southern summer (May to November), the finest surf breaks on the north coast, with the south coast taking over for the rest of the year. Moorea, with Tema'e on its east coast, is also a privileged location. Lastly, there are "secret spots" on the islands, frequented by small numbers of the initiated and professionals only, particularly in the Tuamotus and the Marquesas Islands.
- Kitesurfing, funboarding and windsurfing: In Tahiti and the islands, all you need is a bit of wind and sun and the water is suddenly awash with the coloured kites and sails of kiteboarders and windsurfers. These sports are very popular, and it is easy to see why: 100% environmentally friendly, they open up new horizons to those who enjoy spending their time on the water, allowing complete freedom to explore beaches and shores. What's more, Polynesia has all the ingredients for full appreciation of these sports, whatever your skill level: safe, calm waters - the lagoons - for beginners, speed pursuits and pleasure trips, waves for surfing and jumping, coupled with a mild climate, clear, warm waters and breathtaking scenery.
- Outrigger canoeing and sailing: The calm waters of the lagoons offer endless possibilities for boating and mooring. From traditional outrigger canoes to streamlined racing canoes, large yachts to simple little kayaks, all navigate on this maritime Eden. Boats can be hired in most of the islands, in particular Tahaa and Raiatea.
Dare to be original!
- Aquascopes: In Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, glass-bottomed boats and "aquascopes" (panoramic viewing room located under the boat's bridge) are a way of exploring what is hidden beneath the surface of the lagoon without getting your feet wet. An original adventure, which also provides opportunities to photograph the aquatic landscape. Meanwhile, mini-submersibles are the perfect mode of transport for descending to a depth of 50 metres (164 ft) and observing every detail of the sea bed, fully clothed.
- Helmet diving: Diving with a helmet allows you to descend to a depth of three to four metres (9.8 to 13 ft). You don't need a diving certificate or any knowledge of traditional diving equipment, since you will be wearing a diving helmet or suit that is attached to the surface. Accompanied by a qualified instructor, divers explore the sea bed at their own pace, walking through fields of coral.
- Underwater scooters: Fun and very accessible, you don't need to have any diving skills - or even be able to swim - to ride an underwater scooter. Just like their terrestrial equivalent, underwater scooters are propelled by an electric motor, at a depth of three metres (9.8 ft), and can accommodate two passengers, who are free to discuss and exchange their impressions under a shared dome. This activity is available in Bora Bora.
- Parasailing: This original concept, also known as parascending, gives you a view of the lagoon, the open sea and the shoreline, from your parachute perch 200 to 300 metres (656 to 984 ft) up. In this exhilarating activity, you are attached to a cable and towed along by a boat, alone or in pairs. Armed with a camera, you can capture on film the incredible views offered by your aerial trip. You can have a go at parasailing in Bora Bora or Moorea.
Lagoon and big-game fishing
If there is a fisherman's paradise, then it has to be Polynesia, whose waters abound in species of all sizes. In the lagoons, on the reefs, near the slopes and in the open sea, every imaginable technique is used to catch fish, from the ancient to the most modern: trident, harpoon, line and net.
In big-game fishing, the "monsters" of the deep, such as marlin (haura), tuna (aahi), mackerel (paere) and dolphinfish (mahi mahi), attract enthusiasts of this breathtaking sport. A dozen firms offer seasoned fishermen and beginners alike the chance to hunt for some of the finest fish in the Pacific, on full-day and half-day fishing trips.
Outings and nature tours
Tahiti and the high islands of the Society, Marquesas, Austral and Gambier Islands offer countless opportunities to get out and about and explore their valleys and summits, from which breathtaking panoramic views take in mountains, bays, lagoons and, on the horizon, the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean.
- Walking: Through wild valleys and woods, in the shade of mape (Tahitian chestnut) trees, in search of the mysterious marae - ancient religious sites - on the high islands, there are many trails giving access to unbroken views. Various qualified guides offer quality guided walks in complete safety.
- Horseriding: Through the spectacular landscapes of the valleys and plateaux of the Marquesas Islands, full of archeological remains, or along the beaches of white sand (Tahiti, Huahine, Moorea), with the setting sun in the background, or else upriver through dense vegetation (Raiatea, Tahaa), there are many possibilities.
- Cycling: While a standard roadster is ideal for the flat coastal belt, a mountain bike will come in handy for exploring the interior of the islands. Many hotels offer cycle hire.
- 4x4 / Quad biking: Four-wheel-drive vehicles are an effortless way to explore the interior of the mountainous islands. Cars, scooters, fun cars and quad bikes are also available for hire on some islands.
- Helicopter tours: Exploring Tahiti and Moorea from the sky is an original experience not to be missed. Looking down on the basalt peaks of the ridges, the plateaus and the canyons with their cascading torrents, reveals another side, secret and enchanting, to the Polynesian interior.
- Paragliding: In Tahiti, you can go paragliding over the island's lush valleys - an unforgettable experience in a majestic setting.
French Polynesia offers golfers the choice of two superb golf courses, in Tahiti and Moorea.
- Olivier Bréaud International Golf Course: Built in the 1970s on a former cotton plantation on Tahiti's west coast, at PK 41 in Atimaono, this 18-hole golf course is accessible both to beginners and experienced players. It is world-renowned both for the quality of its fairways and greens and for the beauty of its location. 5,950 m (3,697 mi) long and par 72, the Atimaono golf course is approved by the French Golf Federation. Every year, large numbers of international golfers come here for the Tahiti International Open, which forms part of the PGA (Professional Golfers' Association) and FPG (Polynesian Golf Federation) circuits.
- Moorea Green Pearl: Located in the commune of Temae, this 18-hole course, designed by the famous US golfer Jack Nicklaus, was built by French company Gregori International. Just minutes from Moorea airport (flights from Moorea to Tahiti take just 10 minutes), and ten minutes from the ferry quay (crossing takes around half an hour), French Polynesia's newest golf course opened in 2007 and attracts growing numbers of golfers to its 165 hectares of course, including 650 metres on the banks of the lagoon.
Major cultural events
The most famous cultural festival in French Polynesia has got to be Heiva i Tahiti, a big, traditional event which usually starts on 29 June, French Polynesia's Autonomy Day, and lasts one month, encompassing France's national commemorations of Bastille Day, on 14 July.
The events over this period are on a grand scale and include fierce competitions between the best singing and dance groups, as well as contests in traditional sports such as canoeing, javellin, coprah-making, stone-lifting and weaving.
The spirit of the Polynesian people is also to be found in the Heiva des Artisans, which runs alongside the main festival, with exhibitions and demonstrations of all kinds of traditional arts and crafts from all five groups of islands.
The rest of the year is punctuated with a variety of cultural, horticultural and craft events, organised by vibrant associations. Sport also has a central place in the Polynesian calendar, in particular canoeing (with Hawaiki Nui Va'a, a race involving over a hundred crews, which takes place in the Leeward Islands in October and November), yachting (with the Tahiti Pearl Regatta, a festive, sporting occasion which takes place every May) and, of course, surfing (Tahiti and its islands host legs of various international competitions, including the famous Billabong Pro).
Overlooking the lagoon, alone or as a couple, in the exotic, relaxing setting of the finest hotels, the spas and wellness centres of Tahiti and its islands offer the unique experience of de-stressing and recharging body and mind in enchanting surroundings.
Purifying or invigorating river baths, exotic flower baths, fragrant fruit baths or essential oil baths, rainwater showers, aromatic whirlpool baths... Textures, scents and colours explode and unite for the combined pleasure of the senses…
Paradise of the senses
Traditional Polynesian body, face and hair treatments, manicures, body scrubs and wraps using local products (coconut, coffee, avocado, fruit pulp, etc.). A whole host of beauty secrets to make your skin feel smooth, purified and soothed, fresh and sensual.
Depending on your chosen package, a relaxing massage with essential oils or hot stones adds the finishing touch to the harmony and serenity created by the atmosphere and special setting of these centres devoted to relaxation and pampering.
For an added romantic touch to a holiday for two, the spas of Tahiti and its islands are a must: havens of peace in which to treat yourselves to an unforgettable experience in the paradise of the senses...
Taurumi, the traditional massage
Polynesian massage, or taurumi, forms part of traditional medicine. Used in the day-to-day care of babies and in cures administered by tahua, or healers, it has been handed down from generation to generation. Following the body's energy lines, pressure is applied with the hands and elbows. This relaxing massage, which acts on both the body and the mind, is available at all the spas in Tahiti and its islands.