We LOVED French Polynesia. It is, hands-down, my favorite country we’ve been to, although David wavers between Canada (Nova Scotia) and French Polynesia (which are so different it’s like apple to oranges). It amazes me that it’s the longest we’ve been in one country but we didn’t even scratch the surface of some places (like the Tuamotus).
We arrived in Fatu Hiva on April 26th, and left Bora Bora August 4th. Starry Horizons spent 100 days in French Polynesia, and David and I spent 88 days in the country. We sailed 1,300 nm between Fatu Hiva and Bora Bora.
To any cruisers coming to experience French Polynesia, we highly recommend spending more of your time in the Marquesas and Tuamotus. We feel like we spent a good amount of time in the Marquesas, not nearly enough time in the Tuamotus, and too much time in the Societies, particularly Bora Bora. A lot of that was because of the Rendezvous that we attended in Moorea.
Looking forward, if we were to come back to French Polynesia (you know, on our next circumnavigation) we would hit the highlights in the Marquesas and the Societies, but spend a majority of our time in the Tuamotus, or even explore the Gambiers or Australs. I can see extending your visa to stay a year in French Polynesia (we’ve met many people who have).
You don’t have to be a cruiser to experience these things. Dream Yacht Charters and the Moorings have bases in Raiatea, so chartering in the Societies is easy, although traveling to French Polynesia takes longer than traveling to the Caribbean.
The biggest tip for cruising in French Polynesia that I can give is to use the Soggy Paws Compendiums. While we had purchased two cruising guides (South Pacific Anchorages and Landfalls of Paradise), we rarely ever use them and don’t think they were worth the money. The compendiums span thousands of pages over the South Pacific and are updated frequently by cruisers. Don’t bother spending your money on the hardcopy books, just donate a bit of money to Soggy Paws for helping them compile years of cruising information.
Drumroll please….here are our top 10 things we loved in French Polynesia in chronological order:
The hike was hot and muggy, but after 19 days at sea, it was a great way to stretch our legs in Fatu Hiva. The waterfall was beautiful, with a small pool to swim in. Once the hike left roads, it was shaded and cooler, with cairns and hibiscus flowers littering the path.
Manta Rays in Hakatea Bay on Nuku Hiva
This alone made our underwater lights so worth it. During the day, the manta rays’ wing tips just break the surface of the water as they swim along. The visibility is really low, but that’s what they like.
At night, the mantas swam in our lights, doing back flips over and over again as they fed.
Waterfall Hike in Hakatea Bay
This hike was long and we got rained on, muddied, and soaked while fording rivers. We had fantastic company (the crew of Blue Raven). There were ruins to walk through and the valley that contained the waterfall was something out of Journey to the Center of the Earth. The large pool gave us a good swim to cool off and the waterfall (the second tallest in the world) beat down on the water in front of us, making it hard to see.
The Southern Anchorage of Kauehi
We’ve made it clear this is our favorite anchorage to date. The water was clear, the anchorage remote, and the snorkeling fantastic. We shared this anchorage with buddy boats Blue Raven and Carthago. We also loved the experience of sailing into Kauehi, hitting the turbulence of the pass and barreling through.
South Fakarava Pass Snorkeling
The coral plateau here gave us bright, vibrant coral as far as the eye could see, with sharks and coral fish swimming all around us.
Sting Ray Feeding in Moorea
While we went to several ray feeding areas, this one was the best. The rays were calm and friendly, often touching you without provocation or even without bait. There weren’t many tourist groups here, and the ones that were there were smaller in number.
Meeting Paul in Huahine
To have a complete stranger offer you gifts and show you around his home is such a beautiful thing. It helps that this is was one of the most beautiful anchorages we had ever seen.
Hiking to Mount Taipioi
I did this hike solo, spending an hour walking up to the top of Raiatea to see the view over looking Raiatea, Taha’a, and Bora Bora. The lagoons are stunning when viewed from above.
The Southeast Anchorage in Bora Bora
Another near-perfect anchorage. Ten feet of sand, nearby snorkeling, and high speed wifi in a beautiful setting!
Manta Rays in Bora Bora
I have a thing for manta rays. They are beautiful, graceful, and other-worldly to me. Just off of Fitiiu Point on the east side of Bora Bora are mooring balls. David and I loved swimming up and down the pass, carefully keeping up with the rays and diving down to get a closer look.
While I have no doubt that other countries will be amazing too, it’s hard to see topping the diversity and beauty of French Polynesia.