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French Polynesia
Polynésie française
Overseas collectivity flag Coat of arms
Motto"Tahiti Nui Mare'are'a"
"Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité"
AnthemLa Marseillaise
Capital Papeete
17°34′S 149°36′W / 17.567°S 149.6°W / -17.567; -149.6
Largest city Faaa
Official language(s) French
Ethnic groups  (in 1988, last ethnic census)[1]
66.5% unmixed Polynesians;
7.1% Polynesians with light European and/or East Asian mixing;
11.9% Europeans (mostly French);
9.3% Demis (mixed European and Polynesian descent);
4.7% East Asians (mostly Chinese)
Demonym French Polynesian
Government Dependent territory
 -  President of France Nicolas Sarkozy
 -  President
of French Polynesia

Gaston Tong Sang
 -  High Commissioner
Adolphe Colrat
Overseas collectivity of France
 -  Protectorate 1842 
 -  Overseas territory 1946 
 -  Overseas collectivity 2004 
 -  Total 4,167 km2 (173rd)
1,609 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 12
 -  Jan. 1, 2009 estimate 264,000[2] (177th)
 -  Aug. 2007 census 259,596[3] (177th)
 -  Density 63/km2 (130th)
163.2/sq mi
GDP (nominal) 2006 estimate
 -  Total US$5.65 billion[4] (not ranked)
 -  Per capita US$21,999[4] (not ranked)
HDI (n/a) n/a (n/a) (n/a)
Currency CFP franc (XPF)
Time zone (UTC-10, -9:30, -9)
Internet TLD .pf
Calling code +689

French Polynesia en-us-French Polynesia.ogg [ˈfrɛntʃ pɒlɨˈniːʒə] (French: Polynésie française, Tahitian: Pōrīnetia Farāni) is a French overseas collectivity in the southern Pacific Ocean. It is made up of several groups of Polynesian islands, the most famous island being Tahiti in the Society Islands group, which is also the most populous island and the seat of the capital of the territory (Papeete). Although not an integral part of its territory, Clipperton Island was administered from French Polynesia until 2007.



The French frigate Floréal, stationed in Bora Bora lagoon.

The island groups that make up French Polynesia were not officially united until the establishment of the French protectorate in 1889. The first of these islands to be settled by indigenous Polynesians were the Marquesas Islands in AD 300 and the Society Islands in AD 800. The Polynesians were organized in loose chieftainships.[5]

European communication began in 1521 when the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan sighted Pukapuka in the Tuamotu Archipelago. Dutchman Jakob Roggeveen came across Bora Bora in the Society Islands in 1722, and the British explorer Samuel Wallis visited Tahiti in 1767. The French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville visited Tahiti in 1768, while the British explorer James Cook visited in 1769. Christian missions began with Spanish priests who stayed in Tahiti for a year from 1774; Protestants from the London Missionary Society settled permanently in Polynesia in 1797.[5][6]

King Pomare II of Tahiti was forced to flee to Moorea in 1803; he and his subjects were converted to Protestantism in 1812. French Catholic missionaries arrived on Tahiti in 1834; their expulsion in 1836 caused France to send a gunboat in 1838. In 1842, Tahiti and Tahuata were declared a French protectorate, to allow Catholic missionaries to work undisturbed. The capital of Papeete was founded in 1843. In 1880, France annexed Tahiti, changing the status from that of a protectorate to that of a colony.[7]

In the 1880s, France claimed the Tuamotu Archipelago, which formerly belonged to the Pomare dynasty, without formally annexing it. Having declared a protectorate over Tahuatu in 1842, the French regarded the entire Marquesas Islands as French. In 1885, France appointed a governor and established a general council, thus giving it the proper administration for a colony. The islands of Rimatara and Rurutu unsuccessfully lobbied for British protection in 1888, so in 1889 they were annexed by France. Postage stamps were first issued in the colony in 1892. The first official name for the colony was Établissements de l'Océanie (Settlements in Oceania); in 1903 the general council was changed to an advisory council and the colony's name was changed to Établissements Français de l'Océanie (French Settlements in Oceania).[8]

In 1940 the administration of French Polynesia recognised the Free French Forces and many Polynesians served in World War II. Unknown at the time to French and Polynesians, the Konoe Cabinet in Imperial Japan on September 16, 1940 included French Polynesia among the many territories which were to become Japanese possessions in the post-war world[9] – though in the course of the war in the Pacific the Japanese were not able to launch an actual invasion of the French islands.

In 1946, Polynesians were granted French citizenship and the islands' status was changed to an overseas territory; the islands' name was changed in 1957 to Polynésie Française (French Polynesia). In 1962, France's early nuclear testing ground of Algeria became independent and the Mururoa Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago was selected as the new testing site; tests were conducted underground after 1974.[10] In 1977, French Polynesia was granted partial internal autonomy; in 1984, the autonomy was extended. French Polynesia became a full overseas collectivity of France in 2004.[6][11]

In September 1995, France stirred up widespread protests by resuming nuclear testing at Fangataufa atoll after a three-year moratorium. The last test was on January 27, 1996. On January 29, 1996, France announced it would accede to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and no longer tests nuclear weapons.[12]


Politics of French Polynesia takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic French overseas collectivity, whereby the President of French Polynesia is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Assembly of French Polynesia (the territorial assembly).

Political life in French Polynesia has been marked by great instability since the mid-2000s. On September 14, 2007, the pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru, 63, was elected president of French Polynesia for the 3rd time in 3 years (with 27 of 44 votes cast in the territorial assembly).[13] He replaced former President Gaston Tong Sang, opposed to independence, who lost a no-confidence vote in the Assembly of French Polynesia on 31 August after the longtime former president of French Polynesia, Gaston Flosse, hitherto opposed to independence, sided with his long enemy Oscar Temaru to topple the government of Gaston Tong Sang. Oscar Temaru, however, had no stable majority in the Assembly of French Polynesia, and new territorial elections were held in February 2008 to solve the political crisis.

The party of Gaston Tong Sang won the territorial elections, but that did not solve the political crisis: the two minority parties of Oscar Temaru and Gaston Flosse, who together have one more member in the territorial assembly than the political party of Gaston Tong Sang, allied to prevent Gaston Tong Sang from becoming president of French Polynesia. Gaston Flosse was then elected president of French Polynesia by the territorial assembly on February 23, 2008 with the support of the pro-independence party led by Oscar Temaru, while Oscar Temaru was elected speaker of the territorial assembly with the support of the anti-independence party led by Gaston Flosse. Both formed a coalition cabinet. Many observers doubted that the alliance between the anti-independence Gaston Flosse and the pro-independence Oscar Temaru, designed to prevent Gaston Tong Sang from becoming president of French Polynesia, could last very long.[14]

At the French municipal elections held in March 2008, several prominent mayors who are member of the Flosse-Temaru coalition lost their offices in key municipalities of French Polynesia, which was interpreted as a disapproval of the way Gaston Tong Sang, whose party French Polynesian voters had placed first in the territorial elections the month before, had been prevented from becoming president of French Polynesia by the last minute alliance between Flosse and Temaru's parties. Eventually, on April 15, 2008 the government of Gaston Flosse was toppled by a constructive vote of no confidence in the territorial assembly when two members of the Flosse-Temaru coalition left the coalition and sided with Tong Sang's party. Gaston Tong Sang was elected president of French Polynesia as a result of this constructive vote of no confidence, but his majority in the territorial assembly is very narrow. He offered posts in his cabinet to Flosse and Temaru's parties which they both refused. Gaston Tong Sang has called all parties to help end the instability in local politics, a prerequisite to attract foreign investors needed to develop the local economy.

High Commission of the Republic

Despite a local assembly and government, French Polynesia is not in a free association with France, like the Cook Islands with New Zealand or the Federated States of Micronesia with the United States. As a French overseas collectivity, the local government has no competence in justice, education, security and defense, directly provided and administered by the French State, the Gendarmerie and the French Military. The highest representative of the State in the territory is the High Commissioner of the Republic in French Polynesia (French: Haut commissaire de la République).

French Polynesia also sends two deputies to the French National Assembly, one representing the Leeward Islands administrative subdivision, the Austral Islands administrative subdivision, the commune (municipality) of Moorea-Maiao, and the westernmost part of Tahiti (including the capital Papeete), and the other representing the central and eastern part of Tahiti, the Tuamotu-Gambier administrative division, and the Marquesas Islands administrative division. French Polynesia also sends one senator to the French Senate.

French Polynesians vote in the French presidential elections and at the 2007 French presidential election, in which the pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru openly called to vote for the Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal while the parties opposed to independence generally supported the center-right candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, the turnout in French Polynesia was 69.12% in the first round of the election and 74.67% in the second round. French Polynesians voters placed Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of Ségolène Royal in both rounds of the election (2nd round: Nicolas Sarkozy 51.9%; Ségolène Royal 48.1%).[15]


Between 1946 and 2003, French Polynesia had the status of an overseas territory (French: territoire d'outre-mer, or TOM). In 2003 it became an overseas collectivity (French: collectivité d'outre-mer, or COM). Its statutory law of 27 February 2004 gives it the particular designation of overseas country inside the Republic (French: pays d'outre-mer au sein de la République, or POM), but without legal modification of its status.


Administrative divisions

French Polynesia has five administrative subdivisions (French: subdivisions administratives):


Map of French Polynesia

The islands of French Polynesia have a total land area of 4,167 square kilometres (1,622 sq. mi) scattered over 2,500,000 square kilometres (965,255 sq. mi) of ocean. There are around 130 islands in French Polynesia.[16]

It is made up of six groups of islands, the largest and most populated of which is Tahiti.

The island groups are:

Aside from Tahiti, some other important atolls, islands, and island groups in French Polynesia are: Ahe, Bora Bora, Hiva `Oa, Huahine, Maiao, Maupiti, Mehetia, Moorea, Nuku Hiva, Raiatea, Tahaa, Tetiaroa, Tubuai, and Tupai.


The GDP of French Polynesia in 2006 was 5.65 billion US dollars at market exchange rates, the fifth-largest economy in Oceania after Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and New Caledonia.[4] The GDP per capita was 21,999 US dollars in 2006 (at market exchange rates, not at PPP), lower than in Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia, but higher than in all the independent insular states of Oceania.[4]

French Polynesia has a moderately developed economy, which is dependent on imported goods, tourism, and the financial assistance of mainland France. Tourist facilities are well developed and are available on the major islands. Also, as the noni fruit from these islands is discovered for its medicinal uses, people have been able to find jobs related to this agricultural industry.

The legal tender of French Polynesia is the CFP Franc.

Agriculture: coconuts, vanilla, vegetables, fruits.

Natural resources: timber, fish, cobalt.

In 2008 French Polynesia's imports amounted to 2.2 billion US dollars and exports amounted to 0.2 billion US dollars.[17] The major export of French Polynesia is their famous black Tahitian pearls which accounted for 55% of exports (in value) in 2008.[17]


Tahitian girls.

Total population on January 1, 2009 was 264,000 inhabitants,[2] up from 259,596 at the August 2007 census.[3] At the 2007 census, 68.6% of the population of French Polynesia lived on the island of Tahiti alone.[3] The urban area of Papeete, the capital city, has 131,695 inhabitants (2007 census).

At the 2007 census, 87.3% of people living in French Polynesia were born in French Polynesia, 9.3% were born in metropolitan France, 1.4% were born in overseas France outside of French Polynesia, and 2.0% were born in foreign countries.[18] At the 1988 census, the last census which asked questions regarding ethnicity, 66.5% of people were ethnically unmixed Polynesians, 7.1 % were Polynesians with light European and/or East Asian mixing, 11.9% were Europeans (mostly French), 9.3% were people of mixed European and Polynesian descent, the so-called Demis (literally meaning "Half"), and 4.7% were East Asians (mainly Chinese).[1] The Europeans, the Demis and the East Asians are essentially concentrated on the island of Tahiti, particularly in the urban area of Papeete, where their share of the population is thus much greater than in French Polynesia overall.[1] Race mixing has been going on for more than a century already in French Polynesia, resulting in a rather mixed society. For example Gaston Flosse, the long-time leader of French Polynesia, is a Demi (European father from Lorraine and Polynesian mother).[19] His main opponent and former president, Gaston Tong Sang is a member of the East Asian (in his case Chinese) community.[20] Oscar Temaru, the current president, is ethnically Polynesian (father from Tahiti, mother from the Cook Islands),[21] but he has admitted to also have Chinese ancestry.[22]

Despite a long tradition of race mixing, racial tensions have been growing in recent years, with politicians using a xenophobic discourse and fanning the flame of racial tensions.[22][23] The pro-independence politicians have long pointed the finger at the European community (Oscar Temaru, pro-independence leader and former president of French Polynesia, was for example found guilty of "racial discrimination" by the criminal court of Papeete in 2007 for having referred to the Europeans living in French Polynesia as "trash", "waste").[24] More recently, the Chinese community which controls many businesses in French Polynesia has been targeted in verbal attacks by the newly allied Gaston Flosse and Oscar Temaru in their political fight against Gaston Tong Sang, whose Chinese origins they emphasize in contrast with their Polynesian origins, despite the fact that they both have mixed origins (European and Polynesian for Flosse; Polynesian and Chinese for Temaru).[25] In April 2008, after the government of Gaston Flosse was toppled in the Assembly of French Polynesia and Gaston Tong Sang became the new president of French Polynesia, two French Polynesian labor union leaders made anti-Chinese remarks ("I'm not hiding from the fact that I wouldn't like our country to be ruled by someone who's not a Polynesian"; "a Chinese only thinks of the business leaders, because he is a businessman").[26] These anti-Chinese remarks caused a political furor and were widely condemned in French Polynesia.[27]

Historical population

1907 1911 1921 1926 1931 1936 1941 1946 1951 1956
30,600 31,900 31,600 35,900 40,400 44,000 51,200 58,200 63,300 76,323
1962 1971 1977 1983 1988 1996 2002 2007 2009
84,551 119,168 137,382 166,753 188,814 219,521 245,516 259,596 264,000
Official figures from past censuses.[3][2][28][29][30]


Cemetery in the Tuamotus

French is the official language of French Polynesia. An organic law of April 12, 1996 states that "French is the official language, Tahitian and other Polynesian languages can be used." At the 2007 census, among the population whose age was 15 and older, 68.5% of people reported that the language they speak the most at home is French, 29.9% reported that the language they speak the most at home is any of the Polynesian languages (four-fifth of which Tahitian), 1.0% reported a Chinese language (half of which Hakka), and 0.6% another language.[31] At the same census, 94.7% of people whose age was 15 or older reported that they could speak, read and write French, whereas only 2.0% reported that they had no knowledge of French.[31] 74.6% of people whose age was 15 or older reported that they could speak, read and write one of the Polynesian languages, whereas 13.6% reported that they had no knowledge of any of the Polynesian languages.[31]


Christianity is the main religion of the islands, a majority (54%) belonging to various Protestant churches and a large minority (30%) being Roman Catholic.


While most major roads are paved and well-maintained, many secondary roads are not. Traffic is brisk and all types of vehicles and pedestrians jockey for space on narrow streets. Crosswalks are marked and the law requires that motor vehicles stop for pedestrians; however, this is not always done. Tourists should exercise caution when driving, particularly at night.

There are 51 airports in French Polynesia, 39 are paved. [1]

Famous people of French Polynesia

  • Jacques Brel (1929–1978), Belgian musician, lived in French Polynesia near the end of his life
  • Paul Gauguin (1848–1903), French impressionist painter, spent the last years of his life in French Polynesia
  • Pouvanaa a Oopa (1895-1977), Politician and Tahitian nationalist
  • Henri Hiro (1944–1991), Film director & script writer, poet, ecologist, activist
  • Ella Koon, model (born 1979)
  • Marco Namouro, writer (1889–1968)
  • Fabrice Santoro, tennis professional (born 1972)
  • Pascal Vahirua, former French international footballer (born 1966)
  • Marama Vahirua, footballer, cousin of Pascal Vahirua (born 1980)
  • Célestine Hitiura Vaite, writer (born 1966)
  • Ernest Hemingway, writer, spent the last years of his life in Tahiti, where he eventually committed suicide.


French Polynesia came to the forefront of the world music scene in 1992, with the release of The Tahitian Choir's recordings of unaccompanied vocal Christian music called himene tārava, recorded by French musicologist Pascal Nabet-Meyer. This form of singing is common in French Polynesia and the Cook Islands, and is distinguished by a unique drop in pitch at the end of the phrases, which is a characteristic formed by several different voices; it is also accompanied by steady grunting of staccato, nonsensical syllables.

Miscellaneous topics

French Polynesia has one of the lowest crime rates within France and its territories.[citation needed] However, petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, occurs.

Medical treatment is generally good on the major islands, but is limited in areas that are more remote or less/sparsely populated. Patients with emergencies or with serious illnesses are often referred to facilities on Tahiti for treatment. In Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, two major hospitals as well as several private clinics provide 24-hour medical service. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization or medical evacuation can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.

As an overseas territory of France, defence and law-enforcement are provided by the French Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force) and Gendarmerie.

Charles Darwin visited French Polynesia on his five year trip around the world. PDF file of his journal


See also


  1. ^ a b c Frontières ethniques et redéfinition du cadre politique à Tahiti
  2. ^ a b c (French) Institut Statistique de Polynésie Française (ISPF). "Enquêtes & Répertoires > Etat Civil". Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  3. ^ a b c d (French) Institut Statistique de Polynésie Française (ISPF). "Population légale au 20 août 2007". Retrieved 2009-01-13. 
  4. ^ a b c d (French) Institut Statistique de Polynésie Française (ISPF). "La Production Intérieure Brute et le Produit Intérieur Brut". Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  5. ^ a b Ganse, Alexander. "History of Polynesia, before 1797". Retrieved 20 October 2007. 
  6. ^ a b "History of French Polynesia". History of Nations. Retrieved 20 October 2007. 
  7. ^ Ganse, Alexander. "History of French Polynesia, 1797 to 1889". Retrieved 20 October 2007. 
  8. ^ Ganse, Alexander. "History of French Polynesia, 1889 to 1918". Retrieved 20 October 2007. 
  9. ^ The Japanese claim to the French Pacific islands, along with many other vast territories, appears in the September 16, 1940, "Sphere of survival for the Establishment of a New Order in Greater East Asia by Imperial Japan", published in 1955 by Japan's Foreign Ministry as part of the two-volume "Chronology and major documents of Diplomacy of Japan 1840-1945" - here quoted from "Interview with Tetsuzo Fuwa: Japan's War: History of Expansionism", Japan Press Service, July 2007
  10. ^ Ganse, Alexander. "History of Polynesia, 1939 to 1977". Retrieved 20 October 2007. 
  11. ^ Ganse, Alexander. "History of French Polynesia, 1977 to present". Retrieved 20 October 2007. 
  12. ^ Whitney, Craig R (30 January 1996). "France Ending Nuclear Tests That Caused Broad Protests". New York Times. Retrieved 20 October 2007. 
  13. ^ BBC NEWS, French Polynesia gets new leader
  14. ^ Polynésie : Gaston Flosse présente un gouvernement d’union
  15. ^ (French) Minister of the Interior, Government of France. "POLYNESIE FRANCAISE (987) (résultats officiels)". Retrieved 2007-09-14. 
  16. ^ Kingfisher Geography Encyclopedia. ISBN 1-85613-582-9. Page 546
  17. ^ a b (French) Institut d'émission d'Outre-Mer (IEOM). "La Polynésie française en 2008" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  18. ^ (French) Institut Statistique de Polynésie Française (ISPF). "Recensement 2007 - Migrations : Chiffres clés". Retrieved 2008-11-15. 
  19. ^ Flosse s'efface après 20 ans de règne sur la Polynésie
  20. ^ Victoire de Gaston Tong Sang
  21. ^ Portrait du Président Oscar Manutahi TEMARU
  22. ^ a b Logiques « autonomiste » et « indépendantiste » en Polynésie française
  23. ^ Temaru-Flosse: le rebond du nationalisme tahitien
  24. ^ Temaru Found Guilty Of "Racial Discrimination"
  25. ^ Politique : Toujours pas de gouvernement
  26. ^ Anti-Chinese Remarks Cause A Political Furor
  27. ^ Propos "anti-chinois": les réactions se multiplient
  28. ^ 2002 census
  29. ^ 1971, 1977, 1983, 1988, and 1996 censuses
  30. ^ Censuses from 1907 to 1962 in Population, 1972, #4-5, pp. 705-706, published by INED
  31. ^ a b c (French) Institut Statistique de Polynésie Française (ISPF). "Recensement 2007 - Langues : Chiffres clés". Retrieved 2008-11-15. 


  • Danielsson, Bengt (1965). Work and Life on Raroia: An Acculturation Study from the Tuamotu Group, French Oceania. London: G. Allen & Unwin. 
  • Danielsson, Bengt; Marie-Thérèse Danielsson (1986). Poisoned Reign: French Nuclear Colonialism in the Pacific. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-140-08130-5. 
  • Hough, Richard (1995). Captain James Cook. W W Norton. ISBN 0393036804. 
  • Pollock, Nancy J.; Ron Crocombe, eds. (1988). French Polynesia: A Book of Selected Readings. Suva, Fiji: Institute of Pacific Studies of the University of the South Pacific. ISBN 9820200326. 
  • Thompson, Virginia; Richard Adloff (1971). The French Pacific Islands: French Polynesia and New Caledonia. Berkeley: University of California Press. 
  • Aldrich, Paul (1990). The French Presence in the South Pacific, 1842-1940.. Sydney. 
  • Aldrich, Paul (1993). France and the South Pacific since 1940.. Sydney. 

External links

General information

Coordinates: 17°32′S 149°34′W / 17.533°S 149.567°W / -17.533; -149.567

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Oceania : French Polynesia
Quick Facts
Capital Papeete
Government French overseas country (pays d'outre-mer)
Currency Comptoirs Francais du Pacifique- Franc Pacifique (XPF);
Area total: 4,167 km2 (118 islands and atolls)
water: 507 km2
land: 3,660 km2
Population 274,578 (July 2006 est.)
Language French (official), Tahitian (official)
Religion Protestant 54%, Roman Catholic 30%, other 10%, no religion 6%
Calling Code +689
Internet TLD .pf
Time Zone UTC-9 to UTC-10

French Polynesia (Polynésie française) is a set of islands that is an overseas country attached to France. Located in the South Pacific Ocean, it is halfway between California and Australia.

Tahiti and her islands cover four million square kilometers of ocean which is the same area as the European Union. However the land above sea level accounts for some 4,000 square kilometers consisting of 118 islands, grouped into five archipelagoes (4 volcanic, 1 coral). Makatea in French Polynesia is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Nauru.

  • Marquesas Islands - northeastern archipelago, a group of high islands near the equator, whose steep mountains are inhabited by wild horses, goats and pigs
  • Tuamotu Islands - vast central archipelago of coral reefs. It is a collection of low islands or atolls
  • Society Islands - most-inhabited western island group, a group of high tropical islands encircled by coral reefs and lagoons (divided administratively into Windward Islands and Leeward Islands)
  • Austral Islands - small southern archipelagos (includes Tubuai Islands and Bass Islands. Last inhabited islands of the South Pacific, these ancient volcanoes with soft relief are far off the beaten track
  • Gambier Islands - to the south-east, rarely visited, consisting of the high island of Mangareva and its fringe of islands which are the eroded remains of its former gigantic crater, is situated in the far eastern corner of French Polynesia.
  • Clipperton Island - far to the east, closer to Mexico, was administered by France from French Polynesia until recently
  • Rapa. A remote atoll
Map of French Polynesia


Tropical, but moderate. Natural hazards : occasional cyclonic storms in January. Very humid.

The average ambient temperature is 80°F (27°C) and the waters of the lagoons average 79°F (26°C) in the winter and 84°F in the summer. But do not worry, most resorts and hotel rooms are air conditioned or cooled by ceiling fans.

Summer is from November through April, with a warmer and more humid climate and winter is from May through October, when the climate is slightly cooler and drier. When you step out of the airplane, you'll immediately notice that the air is warm and humid. Consequently, besides your camera and your extra memory cards, do not forget to pack lightweight cotton clothes, sunscreen lotion and a baseball cap or a wide brimmed hat. Synthetic fabrics can get hot and sticky in the tropics.


Mixture of rugged high islands and low islands with reefs.

Highest point : Mont Orohena 2,241 meters (6790 feet)

Diverse landscapes:

  • Valleys cut by rivers and waterfalls
  • Crests leading to summits attaining heights of more than 2,000 meters (6,500 feet)
  • Seashore paths bordering remote creeks overshadowed by cliffs.


The Polynesians inhabited these islands for several hundred years before their discovery by western explorers. Several marae (religious sites) still exist, scattered throughout the islands as evidence of this inhabitation.

The British discovered Tahiti in the mid 1760's and Captain Cook visited there in 1769 to observe the Transit of Venus before sailing on to the south and west in search of the fabled Terra Australus Incognita with the assistance of a Polynesian navigator.

The French annexed various Polynesian island groups during the 19th century.

During the 1960's and 1970's, the French conducted atmospheric nuclear tests in the islands, primarily at Mururoa atoll. Testing later moved underground after international protests from other Pacific countries, including a flotilla of yachts and a warship from New Zealand to monitor tests in 1974. Testing continued into the early 1990's, despite attempts to disrupt them by environmental activists. In September 1995, France stirred up widespread protests by resuming nuclear testing on the Mururoa atoll after a three-year moratorium. The tests were suspended in January 1996.

In recent years the islanders have been working towards autonomy and economic independence from France. However, the process is a gradual one and is expected to take a decade or two to occur.

Get in

French Polynesia has a very remote position in the South Pacific Ocean, so unless you are already there, flying is the only option. There are cruiseships and cargo ships travelling from Hawaii or New Zealand but none on a regular schedule.

By plane

The flagcarrier of French Polynesia is Air Tahiti Nui [1] and the main airport is the Faa'a International Airport built on the lagoon, about 5 km west of Papeete near several major hotels such as InterContinental hotel [2]. Air Tahiti Nui flies internationally to Tokyo, Osaka, Los Angeles, New York, Auckland, Sydney and Paris. They cooperate with Air France, Japan Airlines and Qantas but are also partner in the American Airlines Advantage Program as well as in the Northwest Airlines program. Air New Zealand [3] also has regular flights to Tahiti. LAN Chile [4] flies twice a week to/from Easter Island, with connections on to Santiago de Chile.

Passengers arriving on international flights must collect their baggage, go through customs and then recheck-in at the domestic flight counters some 50 m to the right of the International arrivals area.

Get around

The territory of French Polynesia has about the same surface as the European Union but the combined land area (all islands and atolls) is just about the size of Mallorca. Most people live on the two islands of Tahiti and Moorea. These islands have street networks and public transport (including good touristic infrastructure). To jump from island to island there are different options:

  1. Air Tahiti [5] offers domestic flights to other destinations in French Polynesia, and Air Moorea [6] makes the short hop to Moorea several times daily. Charters flights such as Air Archipel are available on request. Helicopters are one other option
  2. Ferries (sometimes combined cargo and pax boats like the Aranui) travel between most islands. Catamarans and ferry boats cross between Tahiti and Moorea several times a day. Schooners and cargo boats serve all the inhabited islands from Papeete. Rotations vary according to the destinations: from three times a week to the Society Islands to once monthly to the Island of Mangareva.
  3. Two cruise ships/luxury liners currently ply the islands: the Paul Gauguin, which does a regular 7-day trip around the Societies, with occasional trips out to the Tuamotus, Marquesas and Cook Islands; and the Tahitian Princess which does similar itineraries. A great way to see the islands, unless you're on a tight budget. The Bora Bora Cruises is a more intimate vessel based in the Leeward Islands. Or for more adventure, embark on the Aranui III. Coming up December 2007: the Star Clippers will have the capacity of 170 passengers.
  4. Yacht charter Polynesia [7] Windward Islands, one of the worlds largest yacht charter companies, can take care of all charter requirements, from bareboat to luxury yacht in French Polynesia. Operating from different offices worldwide (UK, USA, Honk Kong, Dubai, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland).


The official languages are French and Tahitian. English is also widely spoken particularly in tourist areas.

Here are the main Tahitian words that you may pick up from a conversation:

  • Aita = no
  • E = yes
  • Fare = house
  • Ia ora na = Good Morning
  • Ma'a = food
  • Maeva = welcome
  • Maita'i? = How are you?
  • Mauruuru = Thank you
  • Nana = Goodbye
  • Pape = water
  • Tama'a = Let's eat

Tahitians have a tendency to mix up French and Tahitian words in their conversation, so don't be surprised.


Be aware that everything is very expensive in French Polynesia. Even budget accommodation is tough on the budget, as is food, even groceries. So if you visit, take lots of money, you will need it.

The following forms of payment are accepted: all legal bank notes, international credit cards and traveller's check. The international banks with foreign exchange offices on Tahiti and the most frequently visited islands are the Bank of Tahiti, the Bank of Polynesia and Socredo. International hotels also provide this service but be careful: some atolls and islands in the Austral and Gambier group have no banking facilities.

Currency Exchange/Buy rates: As of 05/21/2007

  • 1 Euro = 122.74 FCFP
  • 1 USD = 91.2 FCFP
  • 1 GBP = 179.61 FCFP
  • 1 CAND = 84 FCFP


Black pearls are the high-end purchase in this part of the world. They are beautiful, and of varied quality, so the buyer beware, and the sky's the limit. There is lots of inexpensive mother-of-pearl jewellery that make very nice gifts. Created only by the giant black-lipped oyster Pinctada Margaritifera which thrives in the lagoons of the Tuamotu Archipelago, the rare Polynesian black pearl varies in color from silver through dark grey with green and pink highlights. This Tahitian jewel makes an exquisite and unique souvenir.

For visitors who wish to discover the secrets of Tahitian pearls, a visit to one of the pearl farms on the island of Tahaa or on one of the low islands in the Tuamotu is an experience not to be missed.


Fine food in Tahiti and her Islands is typically a natural style of cooking based on fresh products exotically blended. There is a presence of European cuisine within a tropical setting. Asian cooking has also added its own tastes and textures.

Fish of all kinds, whether tuna, bonito, mahimahi or the many varieties of lagoon fish are prepared in many different ways: roasted, boiled and raw.

The top rated dishes are raw fish a la tahitienne which is marinated in lemon juice and coconut milk and the very popular Chinese ma'a tinito (which is a mixture of pork, kidney beans, chinese cabbage and macaroni.)

Family occasions and celebrations are the time for a huge tamara'a Tahiti (Tahitian-style feasts) where a meal consisting of suckling pig, fish, breadfruit, yams and fe'i bananas is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed in an earth-dug oven over layers of hot rocks.

The larger hotels organize big buffet evenings that offer a vast panorama of local culinary delights accompanied by traditional dance performances.

Do note that tipping is not a custom in Tahiti and her Islands.


Bottles of water are readily available. Being a French territory, wine is common and easy to find. As this is a tropical island, a multitude of fruit juices from pineapple juice to coconut milk are to be found everywhere. Pineapple juice from Moorea is not to be missed! It is sometimes better to crack open your own coconut yourself and drain it for lunch. Orange juice is the states favorite drink and oranges are grown all along the coastlines.

If you're a fan of beer, the Hinano Beer will definitely be one you will like to taste and bring a few cans home.


Around fifty international class hotels can be found on twelve islands covering three different archipelagoes - Society, Tuamotu and Marquesas. Although the islands of Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora provide over 80% of hotel capacity, the lesser known islands are also opening top-of-the-range establishements. Several international groups are established: InterContinental, Sofitel, Novotel, Meridien, Starwood-Sheraton, Orient Express, Club Med and Radisson. Two local chains, Maitai and South Pacific Management, complete the hotel scene. Although complying with international standards, Polynesian style has been respected in the overwater bungalows with the use of pandanus, bamboo and shell light fixtures. Some bungalows are fitted with glass-bottomed tables for watching the fishes without ever getting your feet wet.

For travelers who prefer the simplicity and authenticity of the local experience, family hotels are the ideal type of accommodation. The welcome is warm and friendly. Family hotels are divided into four categories: Bed and Breakfast, Holiday Family Homes, Family-run guest houses, Family hotels.

  • Bed and Breakfast: furnished bungalows limited to four dwelling units per home and able to accommodate twelve persons, equipped with bathrooms either private or shared.
  • Holiday family homes: furnished bungalows limited to nine dwelling units and able to accommodate twenty-seven persons, equipped with bathrooms and kitchenette.
  • Family-run guest houses: same as the above + breakfast and dinner service.
  • Family hotels: offers full board meal service and a la carte food menu.


The Gauguin Museum (Musée Gaugin), about 50km from Papeete on Tahiti Nui contains artifacts from Gauguin's time in Tahiti, including reproductions of many of his paintings. Open-air buildings and a gift shop are situated in a well-manicured lawn just next to the ocean, well away from the city and resorts. Botanical gardens are just next door.

The Museum of Tahiti and her Islands, about 15km from Papeete, contains really great displays of Polynesian history, culture and ethnology. Anyone who is interested in anthropology or the history of the Polynesian culture should see this museum.

For pearl lovers, there is also the Robert Wan Pearl Museum in Tahiti.

Stay safe

Tahiti has one of the lowest crime rates within France and its territories. However, petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching occurs.

As an overseas territory of France, defence and law enforcement are provided by the French Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force) and Gendarmerie.

No vaccines are required.

Be sure to bring jelly-type sandals for walking amidst coral in the water and along the beaches or either old sneakers so you don't cut your feet on the coral or don't step on a stonefish.

Encounters with sharks in the lagoon will be most likely when scuba diving or even snorkeling but they are harmless. So are stingrays. However, be aware of moray eels which hide deep in the corals and are generally curious. Be sure to keep your fingers to yourself or risk a painful bite.

Stay healthy

Medical treatment is generally good. Two major hospitals as well as several private clinics provide 24-hour medical service.

No vaccines are required.


Tahitians are proud of their islands and happy to share their way of life with their guests in many ways. They are really relaxed people who live according to the aita pea pea philosophy (meaning no worries.) Their culture should be respected as well as their way of life. Don't make them feel 'you're superior to them' but just be natural. They are a very welcoming and warm people.

Please also respect the land and its diversity. Activities which include approaching whales and other marine mammals are regulated and authorizations from the environmental authorities are mandatory.


Internet access in Polynesia is provided by MANA, a subsidiary of the Post and Telecommunications Office, either by modem or by ADSL. For a short stay, a subscription-free connection is best. You can make the connection with the following information: Telephone # of the server: 36-88-88 - Log-in: anonymous - Password: anonymous. This type of modem connection is available in all archipelagos.

There are cyber-spaces on Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Bora Bora, Raiatea and Rangiroa (about 250 Fcfp for a 15 minute connection.) Most of the hotels and some small hotels and pensions provide Internet access to their guests. On some islands, access is possible from post offices.

Get out

French Polynesia is one of the few places within practical sailing distance of the Pitcairn Islands.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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  • (UK) IPA: /ˈfrɛntʃ pɒl.ɪˈniː.ʒə/, /ˈfrɛntʃ pɒl.ɪˈniː.zi.ə/, /ˈfrɛntʃ pɒl.ɪˈniː.ʃə/
  • (US) IPA: /ˈfrɛntʃ pɑ.lɪˈni.ʒə/, /ˈfrɛntʃ pɑ.ləˈni.ʒə/
  •  Audio (US)help, file

Proper noun

French Polynesia


French Polynesia

  1. Overseas territory of France in Oceania. Official name: Territory of French Polynesia.


  • Bosnian: Francuska Polinezija f.
  • Breton: Polinezia c'hall
  • Bulgarian: Френска Полинезия
  • Chinese: 法属波利尼西亚 (Fashu Bolinixiya)
  • Danish: Fransk Polynesien
  • Dutch: Frans-Polynesië
  • Esperanto: Franca Polinezio
  • Finnish: Ranskan Polynesia
  • French: Polynésie française
  • German: Französisch-Polynesien
  • Greek: Γαλλική Πολυνησία
  • Hebrew: פולינזיה הצרפתית (Polinezia ha-Tzorfatit)
  • Hungarian: Francia Polinézia
  • Interlingua: Polynesia Francese
  • Italian: Polinesia francese
  • Japanese: フランス領ポリネシア (Furansu-ryō Porineshia), 仏領ポリネシア (Futsuryō Porineshia)
  • Macedonian: Француска Полинезија (Fráncuska Polinézija) f.
  • Maltese: il-Polineżja Franċiża
  • Polish: Polinezja Francuska
  • Portuguese: Polinésia Francesa
  • Romanian: Polinezia Franceză f.
  • Russian: Французская Полинезия
  • Spanish: Polinesia Francesa
  • Swedish: Franska Polynesien sv(sv)
  • Tahitian: Porinetia farani
  • Turkish: Fransız Polinezyası

See: Countries of the world

Simple English

French Polynesia
(Polynésie française, Pōrīnetia Farāni)
File:Flag of French File:French Polynesia
Official flag Coat of Arms
National information
National motto: Tahiti Nui Mare'are'a
National anthem: "La Marseillaise"
About the people
Official languages: French, Tahitian
Population: (# of people)
  - Total: 260,338 (estimate, July 2006) (ranked 180th)
  - Density: 65 per km²
Geography / Places
[[Image:|250px|none|country map]] Here is the country on a map.
Capital city: Papeete
Largest city: Papeete
  - Total: 4,167 km² (1,609 mi²) (ranked ~164th)
  - Water:? km² (12%)
Politics / Government
Established: 1946 (as territoire d'outre-mer);
2003 (as collectivité d'outre-mer)
Leaders: Oscar Temaru
Economy / Money
(Name of money)
CFP franc
International information
Time zone: -10
Telephone dialing code: 689
Internet domain: .pf

French Polynesia (French: Polynésie française, Tahitian: Porinetia Farani) is a French "overseas collectivity" (French: collectivité d'outre mer, or COM) with the particular designation of "overseas country" (French: pays d'outre-mer, or POM) in the southern Pacific Ocean.

The country is made up of several groups of Polynesian islands. The most well-known is Tahiti, the most populous island, which is located in the Society Islands group. It is also where the capital of the territory, Papeete, can be found.

Although it does not really belong in the territory, French Polynesia is in charge of affairs for Clipperton Island.

Other island groups include:

  • Austral Islands
  • Bass Islands often considered part of the Austral Islands
  • Gambier Islands often considered part of the Tuamotu Archipelago
  • Marquesas Islands
  • Society Islands (including Tahiti)
  • Tuamotu Archipelago

Aside from Tahiti, some other important atolls, islands, and island groups in French Polynesia are: Ahe, Bora Bora, Hiva `Oa, Huahine, Maiao, Maupiti, Mehetia, Moorea, Nuku Hiva, Raiatea, Tahaa, Tetiaroa, Tubuai, and Tupai.

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Moorea is a small Island that is covered in tropical plant. In Greek the word "Moorea" means little grape. Of course, a lot of what the greek said was about grapes, so they probably had many other words for "little grape". Moorea has locals on the island that cook fish in the dirt, and perform many dances. They also have little condos built over the water that have glass floors so you can see the fish swimming below on the colorful coral reef. This island has many hotels, and is a popular tourist destination. It is good for honeymoons, if you do not want the bustle of Hawaii.


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