While luxury overwater villas are French Polynesia’s flagship attraction, countless rewarding adventures await just beyond these dreamy digs. Surf with professional athletes. Paddle the traditional Polynesian va’a canoe. Or drive ATVs from pineapple fields to mountain-top vistas, with a plethora of breathtaking excursions in between.
To enjoy the South Pacific beyond the overwater bungalow, browse our adventurer’s guide to French Polynesia. It’s packed with unique excursions and stays on four breathtaking islands: Tahiti, Moorea, Raiatea, and Bora Bora, with a French Polynesia adventure packing list at the end.
Swim in hidden waterholes in the Papenoo Valley in Tahiti
The island of Tahiti has two distinct sides: Tahiti Nui, the northwestern part near the main town of Pape’ete, and Tahiti Iti, the smaller and wilder southern end. The latter is the benchmark for adventurers, but Tahiti Nui can be just as exhilarating, especially when it comes to waterfall hunting with Tahiti Safari Islander. Vaitea, the owner of the outfitter, organizes tours in the Papenoo Valley in Tahiti Nui. Expect eel sightings, river dips, and the ultimate treat: swimming under (and jumping from) hidden waterfalls, with hardly any other tourists in sight.
Surf the waves, reefs and caves
No action-packed trip is complete without an hour’s drive southeast of Tahiti Iti, home to Teahupo’o, the future venue for the Paris 2024 Olympic surf competition. Captain Cindy of Teahupo’o Tahiti Surfari knows the wave better than anyone. Cindy comes from a well-known surfing family, and she began her âsurfariâ boat tours to help surf photographers capture the contents of the legendary Teahupo’o wave up close. These days, admiring the talented surfers of Teahupo’o is only part of the surfari experience. Cindy takes intrepid travelers to the unspoiled coast of Tahiti Iti for a full day of trekking through reefs, exploring uninhabited islands, and swimming in lava tubes to reach waterfalls, with many impromptu dive stops along the way.
Spend a night with a local family at A Hi’o To Mou’a for true adventure splendor in Tahiti. The hosts, Aimatarii, Hitinui and their two children, live in a 4,000 square meter valley, wild terrain that guests are welcome to hike and explore. The ‘backyard’ features waterfalls, horses, and fruit trees, with the front yard just steps from the ocean. These comfortable accommodations are complemented by a home-cooked family dinner each evening, with their resident dogs, cats and ducks promising endless conversation starters.