Best known by the name of its main island, Tahiti, French Polynesia is a thrilling wonderland of reef-fringed islands and lucid aqua lagoons.
Brazenly chic and seductive, it's the kind of place where the rich and celebrated come to play and hedonistic honeymoon fantasies are realized. The epitome of the Pacific dream, this is one Garden of Eden so damn beautiful it's hard to believe it really exists.
French Polynesia is more than just some soaped up, sexy honeymoon destination, however. Those seeking something stronger than a pina colada in the sand will find salvation never more than a boat ride away. Adventures are plentiful in these archipelagos scattered over an area as big as Europe.
Take an old school pirate romp through the mysterious and danger-tinged Tuamotu Islands, where the breathtaking turquoise sea is home not only to flawless black pearls, but also hundreds of toothy sharks. Travel to the ends of the earth, destination Austral Islands, a place so remote centuries slide by without anyone batting an eye. Check out the Gambier Archipelago: an armchair destination for most, it's also a must for wannabe National Geographic explorers. Those searching for a little less swashbuckling and a lot more room service will delight in Bora Bora's luxurious pampering and lush good looks; in Maupiti's picture-perfect views and old-fashioned French hospitality.
The truth is, whether you've secretly fantasized about splitting coconuts with your bare hands in a Rambo meets Robinson Crusoe scenario or daydreamed about playing heroine in a mushy Hollywood movie, French Polynesia tempts you to dream your wildest of fantasies right into punch-drunk reality.
French Polynesia comprises five main island groups - the Society Islands, the Tuamotus, the Marquesas, the Australs and the Gambier Archipelago. Tahiti is in the Society Islands.
Many people immediately hightail it out of Tahiti for the white-sand bliss of Mo’orea or Bora Bora so that ironically, the most accessible and well-known island of French Polynesia remains more off the beaten track than its far-flung sisters.
Bora Bora will seduce you into buying the Cadillac of paradises, the one loaded with all the luxury trappings you know you don't need but just can't live without. Legendary not only for its lush beauty but also its hedonistic decadence, this island is a fairy-tale creation of jagged volcanic peaks juxtaposed against crystal-clear aqua lagoons. One of the world's most famous dream destinations, Bora Bora lures honeymooners, heiresses and movie stars by the plane load with a potent potion of ostentatiously hip, oh-so-romantic, slightly naughty exotica. A wicked seductress, this island tempts with a Pandora's box of guilty pleasures: but you'll have to decide if they're worth the hefty price attached.
There's no doubt Bora Bora is overpriced - both top-end and basic accommodation cost more here than anywhere else in French Polynesia, and some say this is one paradise not worth purchasing, that it's overpriced, overdeveloped and overhyped. Others argue that the island James Cook baptised as the 'pearl of the Pacific' is worth every penny of the très cher entrance fee. If you're looking to seriously indulge, Bora Bora has plenty of five-star resorts to pamper your every whim - the kinds of places where the glass-floored bungalows hover over turquoise seas, dinner is a multicourse candle-lit affair and breakfast is served from an outrigger canoe. If money's any object, Bora Bora has plenty of quaint family pensions (guesthouses), often situated on some of the best real estate, in which to rest your head.