With idyllic beaches, volcanic peaks lit by tangerine sunsets and bewitching blue lagoons filled with abundant marine life, Tahiti and the other 117 far-flung islands of French Polynesia offer some of the planet's most beautiful cruising grounds.
But as the archipelago covers an area the size of Europe, it’s impossible to cover the entire region on a one or two-week yacht charter. Instead, stick to Tahiti and her sister islands – collectively known as the Society Islands – and you’re bound to find an island that fulfils your definition of paradise.
Whether you’re in search of lazy beach days, jungle treks past thundering waterfalls or an authentic slice of Polynesian culture, there is something for everyone on a Tahiti yacht charter.
Tahiti - the best for adventure
Since all international flights arrive through Tahiti’s Faa’a International Airport, the island is impossible to avoid. Yet, many travellers succumb to the call of the surrounding islands leaving the soaring mountaintops, fern-lined valleys and gigantic waterfalls of Tahiti's interior untouched.
Outdoor enthusiasts, however, are urged to explore. Adventurous activities on offer include treks to the 300-metre-high Fautaua Falls, 4x4 drives to Lake Vaihiria, tours through the Hitiia lava tubes, canyoneering through the Papenoo and Papearii valleys and conquering mount Aorai.
The multicultural capital Papeete is also worth sticking around for. Its busy boulevards and bustling harbour are unique among the island-chain. Yacht-goers can spend an evening sampling a wide variety of cuisine from roulottes - or food trucks - parked up along the port for a delicious taste of city life.
Moorea – the best for watersports
Heart-shaped Moorea is located just 10 nautical miles away from Tahiti but is only one-eighth of the size. Despite its small stature, Moorea comes complete with all the classic desert island features: white-sand beaches lined by palm trees, rugged peaks and lush landscapes.
Another major draw is its translucent reef-ringed lagoon where travellers can try out their superyacht’s water toy collection. Paddleboards, kayaks, kitesurfs and jet skis are all well suited to the warm waters while there are also some brilliant snorkelling and diving sites, and whale-watching is possible from July to November.
When in Moorea, don’t miss Opunohu Bay. One of the most isolated anchorages in the entire island chain, the scenic spot is looked over by Mout Routi, which also divides it from its livelier neighbour, Cook's Bay.
Bora Bora – the best for luxury
Sapphire waters, sand-edged motu (islets) and soaring rainforest-covered peaks make Bora Bora the stuff of dreams, and no mention of the island can be made without bringing up its irresistible lagoon.
With such a blissful setting Bora Bora is unsurprisingly a top choice for honeymooners, especially as an array of luxurious offerings are on hand to complement its natural good looks.
Five-star resorts in the form of overwater bungalows line the eastern islets and are perfectly placed to catch the sunset over Mout Otemanu. Granted, if you’re travelling by superyacht, you won’t be in need of accommodation, but the gourmet dining and spa facilities are worth stepping ashore for.
Raiatea – the best for culture
Believed to be the original birthplace of Polynesia, Raiatea – translated as ‘faraway heaven’ – is rich with cultural and historical significance. Ancient myths and hidden temples pervade the island, and those who visit often report it radiates a mysterious, hard-to-pinpoint energy.
It is home to Marae Taputapuatea, once the most important traditional temple in Polynesia and many still believe it exudes power today. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the sacred attraction is located on the south-eastern edge of the island’s lagoon and a must-see on a French Polynesia yacht charter.
Raiatea is also favoured among those in search of some peace and quiet as the lack of beaches keep the tourists away. But who needs a beach when you're travelling by superyacht and can anchor against an awe-striking backdrop of foreboding mountains rising out of a glittering turquoise lagoon.
Taha’a – the best for nature
Sharing Raiatea’s vast, reef-fringed lagoon is Taha’a, an island where fertile valleys and sloping hillsides are covered with banana, watermelon and coconut groves and the warm, intoxicating scent of vanilla fills the air.
Nearly 80 percent of French Polynesia’s vanilla is grown on Taha’a and it is used in everything on the island from local cuisine to aromatherapy. It’s possible to visit a plantation, and there’s also a diverse range of flora and fauna to discover on a hike or jeep safari tour through the verdant interior.
There is much to explore below the water’s surface too. The shallow coral garden between Motu Maharare and Motu Tautau is a particular favourite among snorkelers as the current carries swimmers effortlessly through the reef. Scuba divers will also be made up with the caverns and shipwrecks nearby.
Huahine – the best for authenticity
Rarely visited by tourists, Huahine has retained an essence of early Polynesia and locals pride themselves on preserving what they genuinely believe is the most picturesque island in Tahiti.
Hidden throughout the emerald green vegetation is French Polynesia’s largest concentration of ancient marae (temples), some of which date back to 700 AD when Huahine was inhabited by the original ancestors of the Tahitians, the Lapita people.
Immaculately tropical and effortlessly Polynesian, this scarcely developed island delivers an authentic insight into local life, a get-away-from-it-all atmosphere and wildly beautiful scenery – think sun-drenched beaches, azure lagoons and jungle-swathed mountains.