The long journey requires you to travel all the way to the US west coast, already over 11 hours, before changing to another aircraft and a further eight hours to Paradise. As a result, these very remote islands retain their extraordinary appeal, with a diverse and different culture, and a magically untouched environment. Once you are there, you will be blown away by the stunning scenery, the friendly and welcoming people and the beautiful ocean.
We would recommend visiting the islands by small ship, and in fact more specifically, by one particular ship - the lovely intimate Paul Gauguin of Paul Gauguin Cruises. Here are our five reasons why this is your perfect choice...
French Polynesia is a huge area of 118 islands, 67 of them inhabited, and you fly into Papeete in Tahiti, where 69% of the total population live. As a result, to really enjoy the magic, and the variety, of the islands, you are going to want to travel onwards from there, which you can do by plane or ferry. Of course the downside of that is that your onward travel is time consuming, expensive, and, quite frankly, a hassle. It is so much more convenient to join a ship that will take you to a variety of islands to enjoy the contrasting scenery and cultures.
2. The ocean
Of course if you are visiting a group of islands, it is all about the ocean. These amazing islands are particularly memorable for the extraordinary contrast of their lush volcanic scenery and the jewel colours of the ocean which surrounds them, as a result of shallow reef-protected lagoons alongside deep waters. Every shade of blue is here. A purpose built shallow-drafted ship like Paul Gauguin allows access to the lagoons, so you are able to get close up to islands that larger ships cannot access.
3. Watersports and whale watching
Paul Gauguin's marina means that you can enjoy watersports right off the ship, with kayaks and stand-up paddleboards ready for your use. The programme includes snorkel and dive opportunities, whilst excursions will take you off into the deep ocean for whale, dolphin and even shark watching.
4. Folklore and culture
With dance, storytelling, music and clothing all unique to the region, the local people have much to tell you. Passing ships have little opportunity to tap into this rich culture, but on board Paul Gauguin, a team of locals (the Gauguins and Gauguines) are there specifically to help you understand all about the lives, history and ancient traditions of these South Sea islanders.
For very obvious reasons, these islands are expensive. High end hotels command a high price, and on top of this, because of their remoteness, much of the food and drink they serve is imported, at high cost. Travel between the islands is pricey too, whilst exploratory trips are hard to come by. When you add up the inclusions on your Paul Gauguin cruise (all your food, drinks, watersports and gratuities, and travel between the islands in addition to your accommodation), and then throw in the reasonably priced shore excursions, day rooms and overnights, you will see what value a Paul Gauguin cruise in Tahiti represents.
Paul Gauguin Cruises has recently been acquired by the French 'boutique chic' cruise line Ponant, so watch this space for lots of investment in refurbishment and even new ships.