French Polynesia is a network of five archipelagos comprised of 35 islands and 83 atolls in the South Pacific Ocean, halfway between Australia and South America. The beauty, climate and attractions of these isolated islands are impressive enough to lure travelers across the world to experience them. There are plenty of attractions to suit the modern tourist as well the naturalist.
The largest island in French Polynesia, Tahiti has been made famous by countless artists and writers who were struck by the beauty of the island. It featured as the setting that led to the infamous mutiny on HMS "Bounty" in 1789. The island paradise visited by Melville and Gauguin now teems with resorts and dance clubs as well as attractions such as the Pearl Museum (internationalcircuit.com/tahiti/tourism-1.php). The yearly "Heiva," which takes place in June and July, is the largest cultural event in Tahiti. It features traditional dance, songs and art exhibitions as well as a "Miss Tahiti" contest and traditional sports.
On Moorea, the Opunohu Valley (tropic-island.net/polynesia-tahiti-moorea/opunohu-valley.html) will draw those who appreciate natural beauty. The valley not only contains a wide variety of flora and fauna in a lush, natural setting but also many archaeological sites that reveal the rich natural and human history of the region. Moorea also has clear reefs and a long, white beach. If you are visiting in February, you can catch the International Moorea Blue Marathon in Temae, which features up to 600 participants.
Bora Bora is famous for two interesting geographic features, the blue-green lagoon around it and the remains of an extinct volcano that rise in two peaks, known as Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu. The view alone is an attraction but the most sought-after place on the island is the famous lagoon, where tourists and locals alike can spend the day snorkeling, scuba diving or swimming. Like Tahiti, the island celebrates its "Heiva" in June and July, with traditional singing, dancing and sports competitions and art demonstrations.
Raiatea, Taha'a and Huahine
The islands of Raiatea and Taha'a are located between Bora Bora and Huahine. They share a lagoon and attract a large percentage of yacht and boating enthusiasts. Raiatea is the second largest island after Tahiti and is filled with green valleys, waterfalls and pineapple plantations. It is known as the "Sacred Island" and has the most significant temple and archeological sites representing Polynesian culture. Taha'a is known as the "Vanilla Island," due to its vanilla plantations, and is considered one of the most "unspoiled" of the islands. Huahine is composed of two small islands with white sand beaches; at Maeva village are archaeological sites going back 1,000 years. In October, Huahine stages he Hawaiki Va'a Outrigger Canoe Race. This event lasts three days, with different racing events on each day. This popular event is televised and is well-attended by fans and supporters, giving the race a festive and exciting atmosphere.
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