French Polynesia has a wide variety of accommodation, each type offering a different experience. From the luxury of a five-star hotel bungalow over the water, to the simplicity of a family-run guest house offering close contact with the local people, to cruises and boat charters, there are lots of possibilities.
In Polynesia, hospitality is not an empty word. Family-run accommodation is its perfect expression, right down to the name of its overarching organisation, Haere Mai, which means "Welcome". Staying in family-run accommodation is like a trip within a trip and, depending on the accommodation type you choose, it can mean total immersion in the everyday life of a Polynesian family.
It is an opportunity to see, hear, taste, experience and share in island life, as if you were a distant relative at last returning to their roots. Some will go fishing in the lagoon with their hosts; others will follow the children on their mountain walks in search of waterfalls and pools in which to bathe; others may have the chance to discover local produce and cuisine, at their host's side or following their instructions.
Staying in fare, whether they are built of traditional or modern materials, in what are often little-known yet grandiose settings, with the spontaneous, friendly warmth of Polynesian families, is a unique experience which satisfies the need for a holiday combining authenticity, conviviality and nature, tranquillity and privacy, discovery and space. It is also a means of contributing to the promotion and preservation of heritage and the environment.
A varied offering, split into four categories
Polynesian family-run accommodation, available on all the tourist islands, offers more than 1,500 accommodation options which, since 2002, have been classified to guarantee standards of comfort and quality.
- B&B (chambres d'hôtes): Bed & breakfast, or chambre d'hôte, accommodation comprises furnished rooms bungalows (4 units max.). Adjacent to the family home, they are equipped with private or shared bathroom facilities. Breakfast is included, and is served either in the room or bungalow or in a communal area, which may be the family dining room.
- Self-catering (fare d'hôte): Self-catering fare d'hôte accommodation comprises furnished bungalows (9 units max.), located close to the family home and equipped with their own bathroom, cooking and dining facilities. They have a reception and a communal area for guests, and offer an optional daily cleaning service.
- Family-run guest houses (pensions de famille): Family-run guest houses, or pensions de famille, offer furnished rooms or bungalows (9 units max.), within or adjacent to the family home, equipped with private or communal bathroom facilities, separate from those of the host family. As well as breakfast, included in the accommodation price, they offer at least half board. Meals are served in a communal area, which may be the family dining room.
- Small family-run hotels (petits hôtels familiaux): Small family-run hotels offer furnished rooms (12 units max.), in a single building or separate villas, each equipped with private bathroom facilities. They have a reception, a bar and a dining room. As well as breakfast, included in the accommodation price, they offer full board and the option of à la carte dining. They also offer a daily room-cleaning service.
Furnished holiday lets
Another option are meublés de tourisme, which are furnished and equipped houses, bungalows, apartments and studios to let. Furnished holiday accommodation may be let on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Holiday lets are rated on a scale of one to three hibiscus flowers, taking into account their quality, nearby tourist attractions, facilities and accessibility.
International hotels come in all styles and are harmoniously integrated with their environment, on the mountain slopes or beside the lagoons, meeting the strictest quality standards. In total, nearly 50 hotels, between them offering more than 3,000 rooms, are located on the islands most popular with tourists (the Society Islands, Tuamotus and Marquesas).
All are built in the Polynesian style, often using local materials (pandanus, woven coconut palm fronds, bamboo, precious woods, shell chandeliers, etc.), so that they blend into their tropical setting. Floral decorations are everywhere, both in the rooms and in the communal areas. There is a broad choice of hotels: from luxury hotels to Polynesian-style villas, each has the facilities and degree of comfort you would expect from their rating.
Whatever the hotel, the interior decoration charms by the elegance of the materials and elements used - peue (mats made of woven pandanus), decorations made from Tuamotu shells and mother-of-pearl, tifaifai (patchwork fabric wall-hangings with plant motifs) - enhanced by an abundance of multi-coloured flowers.
Some hotels offer the last word in accommodation: bungalows on stilts, accessible by a wooden walkway, overlooking the turquoise lagoon with its multi-coloured fish.
The flagship product of Tahiti and its islands, overwater bungalows, has become a symbol of the romanticism and exoticism of these remote destinations. Breakfast, delivered by outrigger canoe, is an unforgettable experience for honeymooning couples, comfortably ensconced on their terrace looking out over one of the world's most beautiful lagoons. Some bungalows have glass-bottomed tables, allowing you to watch the water ballet of the damselfish, clownfish and other lagoon species, without getting your feet wet.
Polynesian boat charters and cruises attract throngs of people.
Whether on a large cruise liner, cargo boat, luxury yacht or sailing boat, charters and cruises offer numerous advantages, such as the convenience of island-hopping without having to repack your bags every two or three days, and panoramic sea views, 24 hours a day.
Not to mention the diversity of the land- and seascapes! The Polynesian islands are unique in that they are navigable in all sizes of craft.