Insider guide to French Polynesia.

Burgess charter experts discover why the idyllic islands of French Polynesia are in a league of their own, as some of the world’s finest yachts head south.

For those looking to truly escape then French Polynesia is a veritable paradise of turquoise lagoons, lush scenery and deserted beaches. More than 120 islands are scattered over five archipelagos in the three main island groups, all of which are ideal for sailing with reliable steady trade winds.

Marooned in the South Pacific Ocean, the ambience in Polynesia is one of laid-back exclusivity, blending cool French chic with warm local smiles. Cruise from enchanting atoll to atoll, or step ashore to discover unique culinary traditions, all accompanied by a superb tropical climate cooled by those ubiquitous tradewinds.

Where to cruise

Explore the timeless beauty of the volcanic Society Islands. Between reef and mountain lie glorious lagoons, home to a stunning array of marine life that swim the calm, shallow waters. From the cosmopolitan island of Tahiti, cruise to the densely vegetated mountain of Bora Bora. Famous for a reason, this paradise island is as close to the tropical ideal as it gets. Two dark green mountains, Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia, rise out of the deep, blue lagoon, their peaks reaching up into the occasional clouds which huddle over the islands. The reef around the lagoon is clustered with desert islands, known as motus. Get dropped by your tender here and you really will feel like Robinson Crusoe.

Cast yourselves away for lunch on a motu in Raiatea
Cast yourselves away for lunch on a motu in Raiatea

From Bora Bora, cruise through the Te Ava Nui Pass and Pai Pai Pass into the lagoon that surrounds the islands of Taha’a and Raiatea. Both islands boast rugged interiors equally as impressive as their surrounding beaches. After a few days exploring, venture through the Iriru pass and on to Huahine – the final island in the Society Island archipelago. Huahine is actually formed of two islands – Huahine Nui and Huahine Iti, separated by a narrow isthmus. The slopes of both islands are smothered with hibiscus, while the lower, fertile lands are cultivated for watermelon and cantaloupe.      

The 44.2m sailing catamaran HEMISPHERE anchored off a blue lagoon in the Tuamotus
The 44.2m sailing catamaran HEMISPHERE anchored off a blue lagoon in the Tuamotus

Further afield, the far-flung Tuamotu Islands are French Polynesia’s central archipelago. Comprising more than 70 low-lying islands and coral atolls, these UNESCO islands are a world-renowned scuba diving destination. Getting to the Tuamotus from the Society Islands can sometimes be difficult due to the prevailing wind and waves being dead-set against you, so it is generally better to begin your charter in the Tuamotus and then sail or cruise downwind towards Tahiti (cruising from the Tuamotus to the Society Islands is a 24-hour crossing). You can fly from Tahiti to Fakarava to discover rich ecosystems home to rare birds, plants and underwater life, with dive sites that are almost undiscovered.

A deserted bay on Rimatara, the westernmost of the Austral Islands
A deserted bay on Rimatara, the westernmost of the Austral Islands

The final two island groups in French Polynesia are the Austral Islands, which straddle the Tropic of Capricorn to the southwest of the Society Islands, and the Gambiers, which lie to the east. These islands remain very isolated and as a result they are largely uninhabited except for a few local tribes living in rural villages.

What to see

On the surface French Polynesia offers the most spectacular red sunsets, white sandy beaches and emerald-green trees, while beneath the waterline lie coloured psychedelic reefs of equal vibrancy. Diving enthusiasts and snorkelers of all abilities will be blown away by the rippling rainbow of fish, including striped snapper, parrotfish, emperor angelfish and butterfly fish.

The beaches are exquisite
The beaches are exquisite

Toau in the Tuamotu Islands is a UNESCO-classified biosphere reserve. The charming coral atoll with a wide lagoon is perfect for peaceful anchorages, snorkeling and diving. For those looking for one of the world’s great dive destinations, the atoll of Rangiroa is right up there with the best. The braver among the charter guests should head to Apataki where the waters host the largest grey reef shark population in the Tuamotus, or around the Avatoru Pass where you will find silver tip sharks.

Whether diving or snorkelling, there is so much to see
Whether diving or snorkelling, there is so much to see

For guests feeling waterlogged, your crew can transform a deserted, white-sand beach into an al fresco dining room while your chef prepares a feast worthy of gods. Think Camargue fish fresh from the lagoon, accompanied by breadfruit and taro root baked slowly in an ahimoa – a traditional Polynesian cooking put dug into the ground. And then there is also the wealth of natural and cultural sites ashore. Raiatea plays host to the Society Island’s most sacred temple dedicated to Oro, the god of war, and once the site of human sacrifices. Looming over the temple, the Tapioi mountain makes for an energetic hike with rewarding views for those who reach the top. Guests can also take a kayak up the Faaroa river into the island’s tropical interior.

Black pearls from French Polynesia
Black pearls from French Polynesia

French Polynesia is home to numerous pearl farms on which the islands’ economy is predominantly based. Step ashore to watch the cultivation process as the pearl masters remove the pearls from oysters and replace the seed for the next harvest. Select your own pearls for a unique piece of jewelry created on the spot or to take home for your own jeweller to set.

When to cruise

May to October are the best times to cruise French Polynesia. Between June and August the climate is at its direst and the weather is balmy, with the months either side of this period seeing comfortable temperatures.

Which yachts to charter

RAMBLE ON ROSE
RAMBLE ON ROSE

Cruising all manner of areas in the southern hemisphere, the 60m motoryacht (196.9ft) RAMBLE ON ROSE will be heading to the islands and motus of French Polynesia in summer 2021. Having undergone a substantial refit in 2019, she is the perfect yacht on which to explore these island idylls. Not only does she boast an extensive sun deck, but she also has a lavish beach club – ideal for accessing the outstanding selection of water toys carried on board.

LADY E
LADY E

The 74.5m (244.4ft) LADY E will emerge in September transformed by a complete winter rebuild ready to take guests on the ultimate South Pacific adventure Summer 2021. The magnificent charter yacht has been extended by 6m (19.7ft), creating space for a brand-new beach club with lounge, bar and shower as well as an extended swim platform. Now her guests can jump off the abundant watertoys and tenders onto the beach club. She also boasts a new Wajer 55s with a hydraulic swimming platform as a chase boat, and a new Super Air Nautique G23 as a ski boat. At the end of the day guests can also now relax in her extensive spa facilities, including a Turkish hammam and massage room.  

DREAM
DREAM

Promising a week, or several weeks, of adventure and the finest onboard living a superyacht can provide, you can also discover the South Pacific ocean idylls aboard the 60m (196.9ft) DREAM. Boasting an outstanding selection of watertoys and voluminous sun deck, this stunning charter yacht will provide memories to last a lifetime.

HEMISPHERE
HEMISPHERE

For those looking for something different to the standard charter this summer season, the 44.2m (145ft) HEMISPHERE is available to charter in French Polynesia this summer. As the world’s largest sailing catamaran, she has been designed to deliver incredible experiences. Not only does she boast a PADI-certified, Nitrox-capable dive centre for up to 12 guests, her captain is a qualified dive instructor with an infectious passion for marine life in this divers’ paradise.

For further information on the yachts cruising in the South Pacific please contact your Burgess charter expert.

To find out more about Burgess’ yachts for charter and yachts for sale, please contact your Burgess broker. Alternatively, get in touch with one of our offices directly: LondonMonacoNew YorkMiamiSingapore or all other locations.

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