French Polynesia is one of the last paradises on earth, at the very end of this planet. Crystal-clear turquoise colored water and swaying palm trees as far as the eye can see. Incredible underwater world and mind-blowing lagoons. (Snow-)white sandy beaches and beautiful „Hula Girls“ dancing to Polynesian music during sunset. For many travellers the ultimate dream destination and the place to be for most of the honeymooners. Especially Bora Bora, known as the “Most beautiful island of the world” is high on the list of many travel enthusiasts, but only few can afford to visit this beautiful island, as it is also known as one of the most expensive places. I just published a guide about „How to travel French Polynesia on a budget“, if you can read German or use an online translater, you will find some awesome tips in there.
French Polynesia offers a large number of islands, which makes some good research necessary, before you make your long costly way to the South Pacific. You want to make your trip a blast, choose the perfect air pass and visit the best islands, as you probably come into this area only once in your lifetime.
When I travelled French Polynesia I met Manuela, a well travelled Italian, who knows French Polynesia inside out. Manuela is a travel enthusiast like me and an outstanding personality, we first ran into each other on Aitutaki, Cook Islands, before we met again in the streets of Tahiti, French Polynesia, where we took this picture, after strolling across the local fish market, checking out some fancy Polynesian souvenirs and sharing our latest travel stories about the islands.
I want to give my readers the most valueable tips about travel, thats why I contacted Manuela again, 2 years, after we met on the beautiful French Polynesian islands, to get her most handy hints, especially about how to travel the islands best, how to keep the costs affordable and to find out, which are HER favourite places as well as what activities to plan for your visit of the French Polynesian Islands.
This is a German interviewing an Italian in English, which simply means, that besides priceless insider tips and stunning pictures you will get all grammatical errors on top FOR FREE, how awesome is that? 😉 Let´s start…
1. Manuela, you are traveling French Polynesia quite on a regular basis, meanwhile you even live there. Can you explain what is so fascinating about French Polynesia?
Definitely the people! They make a difference. Polynesians are some of the nicest people of the world. The myth of the islands is based on the attitude of the people. Polynesians welcome their guests with flowers and incomparable kindness. Even knowing, that they will never see you again, they will give you lots of gifts, so that you might never forget French Polynesia and their people and keep them in your heart, which has really touched mine.
2. Which of the 5 archipelagos do you prefer? And can you explain why?
Every archipelago is different, I couldn´t choose one as my favourite, that is probably the reason, why I travel so much between islands. But I can give you a quick overview about the beauty of each archipelago.
On the Society Islands, there is the main island Tahiti and beautiful Moorea just within sight. Huahine the „wild island“ or Raiatea and Tahaa, which are two islands, sharing the same lagoon and of course you have to visit Bora Bora the „mystic island“ with it´s beautiful colours and last but not least Maupiti, where time stands still and you feel like back in time for Hundreds of years. You showed some stunning photography on the German part of your blog, I don´t mind not understanding one word, but just watching these awesome colors makes me want to go back to Maupiti Island.
In the Toamotu Archipelago you will find extremely nice atolls, 78 islands with beautiful lagoons and coconut tree plantations.
At the North are the Marquesas Islands, “The Land of Men”, strongly keeping Polynesian traditions and impresing with breath-taking scenery.
At the South are the Austral Islands. They have a cooler climate and are known for their decorative arts.
Gambier Islands has one big lagoon with several islands inside.
Each area has its own peculiarities and I am never tired to visit another new island, that I haven´t visited before and enjoy incredible sunsets, sitting at a white sanded beach, just on my own or in good company.
3. Which are your 3 most favourite islands in French Polynesia and why?
Tetiaroa is a definitely a beautiful atoll, 53km north of Tahiti and also known as Marlon Brando’s island. It is one of the most preserved islands. In the past the Royal Family spent their holidays and took refuge there, in the event of political difficulties. It was given to their doctor as a gift later and was bought by the famous actor Marlon Brando in the 60’s. You can´t go there, if you are not invited, but there will be a very exclusive hotel opening soon, charging around 3,000 EUR per night. The nature is magnificent, I especially recommend the Mermaid Bay, with its pink sand.
Maupiti is like Bora Bora 50 years back and the lagoon has the same beautiful, unique colours. It is a bit more difficult to find accommodation there though. You can´t find big hotels on this very small island, just family owned pensions. Life there is still close to old Polynesian tradition, it is all about fishing and to live according to Nature. A group of manta rays live in Maupitis lagoon and you can easily “meet” them during a dive excursion.
Hiva Oa, Gauguin´s and Jaques Brel´s favourite island, is a unique wild garden with numerous ancient Marae (religious places) and a breath-taking view, overlooking the sea. It´s literally mpossible not to fall in love with Hiva Oa.
4. Air Tahiti offers different air passes to travel French Polynesia. Which combination of islands would make the most sense for someone who explores French Polynesia the first time, but wants to see more than „just“ Bora Bora and Tahiti?
The most interesting pass, in my opinion, is the Bora Bora Touamotu Pass. You can visit all Society Islands, like Moorea, Bora Bora, Huahine, Raiatea / Tahaa, Maupiti, and some islands of the Touamotu Archipelago, namely Rangiroa, Fakarava, Manihi, Tikehau.
The cost of this full air pass is exactly the same, like a return ticket for just 1 island, but you can visit many more and you have 28 days for your entire trip. If you whish to visit more archipelagos you can add extensions for others of course.
5. Is there any typical food, French Polynesia is famous for? What do gourmet travellers have to expect?
The raw fish dishes are delicious and the best food you can find here, especially raw fish in coconut milk. You can also find sashimi, tuna tartar, hot-cold (something like Chod-fraud, hot outside, raw inside), a lot of crustaceans, like lobster and special ones from the Marquesas Islands, delicious goat and pig meat, cooked in a traditional oven, chicken with taro leaf and coconut bread. Food is an important part of Polynesian culture and usually shared with friends and family.
6. Can you give some advise about the most interesting and exciting travel activities, we should consider to do in French Polynesia.
The best you can do in French Polynesia is firstly snorkelling and secondly diving of course. During summer, from July – October, you have the unique opportunity to see whales. French Polynesia is one of the few places, where you can swim with these amazing sea mammals, which is an incredible experience!
On the Touamotus, diving between all kind of sharks is amazing! Beaches and panorama are fantastic and the sunset has amazing colours.
You can also go horse riding on the Marquesas Islands, in wild nature, or go fishing on the Austral Islands. Residents of the Austral Islands love decorative arts and produce nice tifaifai (patchwork blankets).
7. Is French Polynesia really as expensive as most people think? What if I decide to live there for a while, can I make a good living, only if I have some savings? How are the costs for rent and living for a long-term stay?
Yes it is expensive, but it also depends on your lifestyle. If you rent a house with a swimming pool, it can be very expensive, if you stay in a small flat, it is absolutely affordable. Flights are expensive, but if you have time, you can travel around by cargo boat, which is a nice experience as well!
8. You also travelled to Cook Islands, Samoa and other islands in the South Pacific. Can you give a personal resume? Especially how recommendable those other destinations are, in comparison with French Polynesia.
All the islands are very unique and every country is different for its own story and history. In Tonga you have the king, who comes from God, you are in a timeless reality. In Western Samoa, an independent country, people live in an interesting traditional way. Hawaii is truly American, you cannot find much of Polynesian traditions anymore. In New Zealand, especially the cold weather, has changed the lifestyle of the “Kiwis” very much. The Cock Islands are probably the closest to French Polynesia, the “Cooks” are especially the most beautiful and most welcoming islands of all these places. Cook Islands is a very unique place, if I would have to give just one recommendation, I would say:
You must visit the “Cooks”.
9. Would you ever consider going back to Italy or living in any other country?
No, not at the moment, I am so happy with my life here in French Polynesia! I hope I can stay here as long as possible. It is also easy to stay long-term for me, because Europeans don’t need a visa to stay.
10. If I would like to visit French Polynesia, but I don´t have much budget. Can you give some tips, how to travel the most expensive area of the world with a low budget?
That´s not a problem at all, once you are here. There are 2 camping sites in French Polynesia: One is Camping Nelson in Moorea. Moorea is one of the most beautiful islands and it is really easy to go there. It is less then 1h by ferry from Tahiti.
The other camping site is Bora Bora Camping on Bora Bora Island. This camping site is on a big motu (island) in front of the main island.
Free camping is stricly forbidden everywhere, but I have another tip for you: You might want to ask to camp on the peoples land. Sometimes they will just offer to stay overnight in their houses! Family pensions aren´t expensive too.
To save costs for plane tickets, you can travel to all the 5 archipelagos by cargo boat, which is very cheep.
Thanks Manuela, for your valueable advise! If you can read Italian, you might want to check out Manuelas Blog.
If you can read German, you will also find lots of blog posts about South Pacific here in my blog.
If you don´t speak any language, I don´t know what to say anymore, then just enjoy browsing through the articles and watching breath-taking pictures of the most beautiful islands of the world. At the latest then you gonna go for a German course, because you want to read about that stuff as well. German is one of the easiest languages of the world, btw, at least, if you are Swiss or Austrian. No worries, I will also keep on posting more and more awesome blog posts in English. Stay tuned with signing in to my English Newsletter.
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