Guide to Island Hopping in French Polynesia

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Have you ever seen photos of the overwater bungalows of Bora Bora and dreamed of visiting?

Many people have, but less people actually know about the country of French Polynesia to which Bora Bora is just one small island. In fact, French Polynesia is actually a collection of 121 islands and atolls spread over an area about the size of Europe! And if you’re coming all the way to the South Pacific then why not see more than just Bora Bora, and visit some of the other, equally beautiful, islands that French Polynesia has to offer? It’s actually easier, and likely cheaper, than you think.

Read on for a guide to island hopping around French Polynesia.

The islands of French Polynesia

French Polynesia is divided into five main island groups. These include the Society Islands archipelago which comprises of the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands, the Gambier Islands, the Tuamotu Archipelago, the Marquesas Islands and the Austral Islands.

The largest island in French Polynesia is Tahiti which is where you’ll find the international airport of Papeete. Tahiti is in the Society Islands which is also where the famous island of Bora Bora is located.

How to get between the islands

Unless you have your own sailboat to hand, then to visit the more remote islands further from Tahiti then you’ll have to fly.

Air Tahiti operates flights between pretty much all the islands of French Polynesia. You can buy a regular single or return flight, or check out their multi-island passes which are perfect for island hopping. There are passes available for each of the island groups, for example, their Marquesas Pass which flies between the islands of Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa. Or you can visit more than one island group, for example, both the Society Islands (Bora Bora, Maupiti and Raiatea) and the Tuamotu Islands (Rangiroa and Fakarava) with their Bora-Tuamotu Pass. Prices start at about €350 for the closer islands around Tahiti during low season and go up to around €800 for the further islands.

If that sounds a bit out of your price range then don’t worry. It’s totally possible to island hop in French Polynesia on a bit more of a budget. The best way to do so is by sticking to the Society Islands and taking the ferry.

Apetahi Express is a great ferry service which runs between the Society Islands as follows:

Tahiti to Huahine to Raiatea to Tahaa to Bora Bora.

It does three round trips per week departing Tahiti on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and returning from Bora Bora on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. To give you an idea of prices, for the longest journey between Tahiti and Bora Bora the ferry ticket costs ~8100 XPF, or around €68, making it a much more affordable alternative to flying. It’s also extremely comfortable, with plenty of seats inside and out, AC, toilets and a cafe onboard. Check their website apetahiexpress.pf for more details.

Visiting the island of Moorea from Tahiti is even easier and cheaper with two ferry companies – Aremiti and Terevau – running between the islands approximately every couple of hours. Terevau is the slightly cheaper option at only 1350XPF (~€11) each way.

Things to do on the islands

There are loads of things to do on the islands, most of which are totally free. That’s because the activities generally revolve around the beautiful nature and underwater life that you’ll find on all the islands of French Polynesia. Expect flourishing coral reefs and epic snorkelling just a few metres from the beach, as well as mountain hikes and waterfalls.

Tropical fishes in French Polynesia
Tropical fishes in French Polynesia – Photo © Seadam | Dreamstime.com

Below are a few of the top things to do on the Society Islands.


  • Visit the famous lighthouse and black sand beach at Plage de la Pointe Venus. This is also a great spot to catch the sunset.
  • Have dinner at one of the Roulettes (mobile food trucks) in Vaiete Square. Make sure to try the local speciality of Poisson Cru, i.e. raw fish. The classic version is made with tuna, lime and coconut milk and is delicious.
  • Hike Mont Marau for spectacular views over the whole coast.
  • Sunbathe and spend the day at Plage Vaiava, the best white sand beach in Tahiti. If you swim to the left you’ll also find an amazing coral reef for snorkelling.
  • Visit the Vaipahi Water Gardens and hike one of the 3 trails along the river to see many small waterfalls.
  • Swim with whales. If you’re visiting French Polynesia between July and November then you’re in luck, as this is the season when humpback whales visit the islands, offering you the once-in-a-lifetime experience to swim with these majestic creatures. Check out Dive and Sea Tahiti who offer a 4-hour boat tour with the chance to snorkel with humpback whales for €80.
Tahiti in French Polynesia
Tahiti in French Polynesia – Photo © Mark Skalny | Dreamstime.com


  • Visit Ta’ahiamanu beach. With palm trees and white sand it’s the most beautiful on the island.
  • Hike to the top of Magic Mountain for amazing views over the coast.
  • Go snorkelling to the north of Hauru Beach for the chance to spot turtles and rays.
  • Visit Vallée d’Opunohu and complete the 3 Coconuts Hike. Also, don’t miss the picturesque swings at the Three Pine Trees Lookout. Overlooking Mount Rotui nestled between Opunohu and Cook’s Bays, it provides an amazing photo spot.
Beach and lagoon in Moorea Island
Beach and lagoon in Moorea Island – Photo © Daboost | Dreamstime.com


  • Rent a scooter and drive around the island.
  • Go snorkelling at the aptly named coral garden outside the old Sofitel hotel. The corals here are beautiful and you’ll spot loads of small fish.
  • Relax on the pretty Avea Beach and discover more snorkelling to the south.
  • Hike to the beautiful white sand beach of Plage Hana Iti which can only be reached by foot or by boat.
  • Enjoy a sunset beer at Huahine Yacht Club. With seats right next to the ocean, visit between 5-6pm for their happy hour.
Beach on Huahine island
Beach on Huahine island – Photo © Seadam | Dreamstime.com


Landscape in Raiatea
Landscape in Raiatea – Photo © Nancy Pauwels | Dreamstime.com


  • Rent a kayak and visit one of the motus (small islands). Motu Tautau is known for its coral garden so make sure to bring your snorkel.
  • Visit a pearl farm to see how the Tahitian multi-coloured pearls are made.
  • Taste a special rum cocktail at one of the island’s rum distilleries.
  • Tahaa is known as ‘the vanilla island’ so visit a vanilla farm to discover how the island’s prime crop is grown.

Bora Bora

  • Splash out and stay at one of the over-the-water bungalows that Bora Bora is famous for.
  • Relax on the beautiful Matira Beach, the only public beach on the main island.
  • Bora Bora is surrounded by a lagoon and many small motus. Go on a lagoon tour and snorkel with black-tip reef sharks and stingrays
  • Hike Mt Ohue for beautiful views of the iconic Mt Otemanu surrounded by turquoise waters.
  • Cycle around the island. The main island of Bora Bora is only 8 km long and 5 km wide making it totally possible to cycle the whole way around.
Overwater Bungalow in Bora Bora
Overwater Bungalow in Bora Bora – Photo © Zabphotographie | Dreamstime.com


French Polynesia is an amazing and beautiful destination. Whilst Bora Bora is undoubtedly the most famous of its islands, island hopping around you’ll discover that all the islands are as beautiful as each other. The underwater life is some of the best in the world, with vibrant coral reefs scattered amongst the stunning turquoise waters. It really is a dream destination.

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Written by

Sophie Small

Sophie has been travelling around the world since September 2019. Originally from London, she lived and worked in Vietnam for 4 years before deciding to pursue her passion for full time travel. She loves exploring new destinations, adventure activities and sampling local cuisine. Sophie has travelled all over Central and South America, Asia, Europe and many other regions. She shares her pictures on her Instagram and her portfolio sophiesmall.contently.com.

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