Austral Islands French Polynesia

A vacation in the Austral Islands is well suited for travelers with a spirit for adventure, who seek out untouched corners of the earth. Hundreds of miles to the south of Tahiti, this chain of five high islands is located on the Tropic of Capricorn.  The Australs are famed as much for the traditional art of weaving coconut and pandanus leaves into elaborate hats, purses, mats, and bags, as for the seasonal passage of humpback whales in its surrounding waters.

Compared to the rest of French Polynesia, accommodations in the Australs can be scarce, consisting only of a few small hotels and family pensions scattered across the islands. Still, there is plenty to see and experience in the region, known for its superb white sand beaches, rich vegetation and distinctly dramatic geological characteristics.  The Austral Islands in this guide include Raivavae, Rurutu, Tubuai, Rimatara, and Rapa.

On these islands, you’ll find some of the most authentic Polynesian culture in all of French Polynesia.  They are wonderfully varied, from limestone caverns of Rurutu and the Bora Bora-like lagoon in Raivavae to the windy bays of Tubuai and beautiful coastline of Rimatara.

What you shouldn’t expect, though, is a thriving nightlife. These are quiet islands. There are no resorts, just a smattering of welcoming family-run guesthouses where visitors can sample delicious local-style meals and genuinely interact with their hosts.

For more information on the beaches of the Austral Islands and French Polynesia beaches, click here.  Read more to learn about the Austral Islands French Polynesia, so that you can plan your next dream vacation!

Austral Islands Weather

In the Austral Islands, the month of January is characterized by essentially constant daily high temperatures, with daily highs around 87°F throughout the month, rarely exceeding 89°F or dropping below 83°F.  Daily low temperatures are around 76°F, rarely falling below 74°F or exceeding 79°F.  For reference, on March 24, the hottest day of the year, temperatures typically range from 77°F to 88°F, while on August 2, the coldest day of the year, they range from 71°F to 83°F.

Austral Islands Attractions

Motu Piscine - Raivavae, Austral Islands, French Polynesia Beaches, Austral Islands Beaches, Bass Islands beaches, Society Islands travel guide, Best Caribbean beaches, best French Polynesian beaches,  Raivavae beaches, Rurutu beaches, Tubuai beaches, Rimatara beachs, Rapa Iti beaches, Iles Maria beaches, Marotiri beaches, things to do in the Austral Islands, Austral Islands attractions, best hotels in the Austral Islands, best restaurants in the Austral IslandsMotu Piscine – Raivavae

Raivavae’s stunning lagoon, brimming with marine life and ringed by ironwood-covered motu, is one of the treasures of the South Pacific. Motu Piscine (Motu Swimming Pool; Motu Vaiamanu) is the best-known motu, fringed with white beaches and divided from its neighbour by a glassy turquoise channel that’s teeming with tropical fish. Fa-bu-lous. All pensions can arrange a lagoon tour, including a picnic, on Motu Piscine.

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Marae Raitoro, Haunarei & Harii - Tubuai, Austral Islands, French Polynesia Beaches, Austral Islands Beaches, Bass Islands beaches, Society Islands travel guide, Best Caribbean beaches, best French Polynesian beaches,  Raivavae beaches, Rurutu beaches, Tubuai beaches, Rimatara beachs, Rapa Iti beaches, Iles Maria beaches, Marotiri beaches, things to do in the Austral Islands, Austral Islands attractions, best hotels in the Austral Islands, best restaurants in the Austral IslandsMarae Raitoro, Haunarei & Harii – Tubuai

More than 200 marae have been found in Tubuai and the few that have been cleared are among the most fascinating in the country. Raitoru and Haunarei Marae are two connected marae that were for birthing and umbilical-cord-cutting ceremonies respectively. Nearby is Marae Harii, which once served as a meeting place for chiefs. It also has several upright stones. You’ll need a guide to find this archaeological site.

Tiki - Raivavae, Austral Islands, French Polynesia Beaches, Austral Islands Beaches, Bass Islands beaches, Society Islands travel guide, Best Caribbean beaches, best French Polynesian beaches,  Raivavae beaches, Rurutu beaches, Tubuai beaches, Rimatara beachs, Rapa Iti beaches, Iles Maria beaches, Marotiri beaches, things to do in the Austral Islands, Austral Islands attractions, best hotels in the Austral Islands, best restaurants in the Austral IslandsTiki – Raivavae

The only remaining tiki (carved humanlike statue) on the island stands in a private garden just to the west of the village of Mahanatoa. About 1m in height, it has highly stylised hands and chest as well as clearly outlined eyes. Its curved lips suggest a smile. It’s not signed; ask around or look for the small supermarket Magasin Florès Louise – it’s 50m to the west.

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Te One Roa - Rurutu, Austral Islands, French Polynesia Beaches, Austral Islands Beaches, Bass Islands beaches, Society Islands travel guide, Best Caribbean beaches, best French Polynesian beaches,  Raivavae beaches, Rurutu beaches, Tubuai beaches, Rimatara beachs, Rapa Iti beaches, Iles Maria beaches, Marotiri beaches, things to do in the Austral Islands, Austral Islands attractions, best hotels in the Austral Islands, best restaurants in the Austral IslandsTe One Roa – Rurutu

Beach bums in search of a place to wallow will make a beeline for this picture-perfect, white-sand beach on the western coast. Here the lagoon is deep enough for a proper swim. There’s no sign – it’s about 200 m south of the Teautamatea pension.

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Ana Tane Uapoto - Rurutu, Austral Islands, French Polynesia Beaches, Austral Islands Beaches, Bass Islands beaches, Society Islands travel guide, Best Caribbean beaches, best French Polynesian beaches,  Raivavae beaches, Rurutu beaches, Tubuai beaches, Rimatara beachs, Rapa Iti beaches, Iles Maria beaches, Marotiri beaches, things to do in the Austral Islands, Austral Islands attractions, best hotels in the Austral Islands, best restaurants in the Austral IslandsAna Tane Uapoto – Rurutu

On the eastern outskirts of the village of Moerai, near Arei Point, you’ll find this large roadside cavern with stalactites and stalagmites. Traditionally this cave was used to salt (for preservation) and divide whale meat among the islanders.

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Marae Pomaovao - Raivavae, Austral Islands, French Polynesia Beaches, Austral Islands Beaches, Bass Islands beaches, Society Islands travel guide, Best Caribbean beaches, best French Polynesian beaches,  Raivavae beaches, Rurutu beaches, Tubuai beaches, Rimatara beachs, Rapa Iti beaches, Iles Maria beaches, Marotiri beaches, things to do in the Austral Islands, Austral Islands attractions, best hotels in the Austral Islands, best restaurants in the Austral IslandsMarae Pomaovao – Raivavae

Across the road from the airport, this marae (traditional sacred site) features a large paved platform and a massive upright stone standing more than 2m high. According to legend, this stone was used to measure the height of warriors.

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Ana Aeo Rurutu, Austral Islands, French Polynesia Beaches, Austral Islands Beaches, Bass Islands beaches, Society Islands travel guide, Best Caribbean beaches, best French Polynesian beaches,  Raivavae beaches, Rurutu beaches, Tubuai beaches, Rimatara beachs, Rapa Iti beaches, Iles Maria beaches, Marotiri beaches, things to do in the Austral Islands, Austral Islands attractions, best hotels in the Austral Islands, best restaurants in the Austral IslandsAna Aeo – Rurutu

This cave, with its massive, oozy-looking stalactites and stalagmites, is the most stunning on the island. It’s 500m north of the Teautamatea pension; there’s a signposted track going to the right that leads to the cave.

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Things to Do on the Austral Islands

Rurutu

Rurutu is known as the island of whales and you can observe these fascinating mammals from July to October, when they come to breed in the waters that surround the island. The island’s crystal clear waters and over water observation platform attract photographers and visitors from all over the world wanting to capture the whales up close.

Little Rapa Island

Spend some time in the village of Aurei with its distinct hunting and fishing culture, and get into some local fare, which includes plenty of sea urchins, lobsters and salmon.  Little Rapa has many mysterious and ancient ruins. Visit one of the most impressive of such sights, Morongo Uta, which is an incredible historic fortification built atop a mountain.

Raivavae

Visit Raivavae white sandy beaches and the most breathtaking, turquoise lagoon. Enjoy the ‘joie de vivre’ and traditional hospitality of the locals.  There are 28 tiny islets surrounding the lagoon, all facing toward the striking mountain of Mount Hiro. You can even find yourself a local guide and trek up to its peak to take in the stunning views below!

Tubuai

The lagoon waters of Tubuai hide an underwater wonderland teeming with tropical fish and crustaceans like Crayfish and Clams and a myriad of aquatic flora is showcased.   Tubuai’s sand islet motus are home to thirteen different varieties of coloured sands giving you a wide choice of picnic locations!

Rimatara

Charming and authentic, the island of Rimatara is an off the beaten track paradise.  The locals don’t see many tourists and so when you arrive you are welcomed as part of the family and you will be sure to have an authentic experience like no other island can offer.  Rimatara is also home to the endangered Perruche Rouge – red parrot. Having been hunted for centuries for their magnificent colored feathers, the Perruche Rouge are now only found on this island.

Best Restaurants & Bars in the Austral Islands

Le Manotel – Island of Rurutu  $11 – 30

This restaurant/bar is in the Le Manotel hotel.  Le Manotel is renowned throughout the island for its table d’hôte, Helen, the hostess, will make you enjoy her delicious cuisine based on local products.  Telephone:  689 40 930 225  Web:  Le Manotel.

Snack Piareare – Island of Rurutu  Under $10

Unique whale watching opportunity while being served lunch.  They serve delicious fresh fish.   The decor is nonexistent at this no-frills eatery hidden behind a gate right across from the boat quay in Moerai, but the food is seriously good. The menu is limited to a couple of daily specials, but they’re a savory and sizzling hot value.  Telephone:  689 40 94 04 95  Web:  Snack Piareare.

Mara’ai – Le Spot – Island of Tubuai  Under $10

Run by French Hervé and his Tahitian wife Ina, Mara’ai – Le Spot is the only independent restaurant on Tubuai. With a sand floor and a palm-frond roof, this is a cool and rustic place for a drink or a relaxed meal.  It’s in the village of Tamatoa, southeast of the island.  Telephone:  689 40 95 08 32  Web:  Mara’ai – Le Spot.

Pension Ueue Rimatara – Island of Rimatara  $11 – 30

This is the restaurant within the hotel, Pension Ueue Rimatara.  In the restaurant, beautiful “umete” enthroned on the tables tissue recalling the grounds of “tapa”. Dishes, hearty and made ​​with local products are served, the majority of products consumed from family farms or island.  Telephone:  689 87 74 66 13  Web:  Pension Ueue Rimatara.

Best Austral Islands Accommodations

Pension Taitaa Tubuai


Pension Taitaa is a small family-run guesthouse on the island of Tubuai, within close proximity to the island’s main village of Mataura and the lagoon. Run by a husband and wife team with a rich knowledge of the surrounding island, Pension Taitaa is an authentic and intimate retreat into the French Polynesian way of life. Each room has a private bathroom, mosquito net and terrace overlooking the property’s tropical gardens. Daily food is prepared by Nathalie, the wife, and Nariiorono, the husband, organizes daily activities that include hikes, fishing, and motu picnics.

Mara ‘ai Tubuai


Mara’ai has a terrace and garden views. It has free WiFi, a garden, a private beach area and a restaurant.  Offering 1 bedroom, this air-conditioned vacation home features 1 bathroom with a shower and free toiletries. Guests wishing to travel light can make use of Towels/Sheets.

Pension Vaimano-Raivavae


Pension Vaimano-Raivavae offers authentic Polynesian accommodations with a terrace. Guests enjoy traditional, French and local cuisine on-site.  Each bungalow offers a seating area, a desk, a refrigerator and tea/coffee making facilities. All bungalows include a private bathroom with a shower and toiletries.

26 Comments

  1. AmDetermined

    Hi Leahrae, I really appreciate your post about Asutral Islands because it is very beautiful to witness places i watched in the video, you also talked about it in your post and more over i learn one thing or the other from the post about Austral Islands.

    Your research about when to visit also is very good due to their temperature, I will love to capture the whale when i visit. You have shared Moments to experience.

    To do all this accommodation is very important and am happy that you help with that in your post along with Restaurant and Bar.

    Your Post is very Helpful.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I am glad you enjoyed!  Thanks for visiting my Austral Islands French Polynesia post.

      Reply
  2. Alfio

    Great post and very informative, the scenery is wonderful, amazing pictures. Would love to get more info about wild life. I guess that you get many tourists there, do the locals only speak french. When is the best time to visit and taste that clear water. Thanks for the work put in the site to inform us, this place sounds like a dream destination, I would also like to know a little bit more about the local life and customs.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You can go any where on the Austral Islands and have no worries as long as you speak English.  That is like the second language there.  I don’t know about give the local like and customs information, seems like my already long posts would end up being a mile long, LOL 😀  Thanks for reading Austral Islands French Polynesia!

      Reply
  3. Lee

    I haven’t heard of the Austral Islands before but what an absolutely stunning location, looks like it would be a holiday of a life time. Me and my wife have been planning a trip to the Maldives for some time now and are saving for this trip. It will take some convincing her to change her mind as we have had our hearts set on the Maldives for some time but I will be sharing this with her nevertheless.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Boy, hard to compete with the Maldives, I will say that. But I do believe that the Austral Islands are comparable and just as wonderful. I do know that it will be a little less, maybe even a lot less crowded than going to the Maldives simply because most have not even heard of the Austral Islands. Thanks for visiting Austral Islands French Polynesia!

      Reply
  4. Jonathan

    Hi Leahrae

    To be honest when I first checked your website I was blown away for who mind blowing it is. Your content really sweeps you into a whole new world. As a travel a hobby of mine, I really felt I was there after reading your content and with all the additional content on activities and places to go, this really is the ultimate guide. Just wow. Also I love the media adding correct exposure to the topics too.

    Maybe I should go following your advice.

    I like you have a video to collect all your reading thoughts together soon, you have so much passion in what you do.

    Jon

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great! I am glad you have enjoyed visiting BeachTravelDestinations.com! If you need any additional information, please don’t hesitate to ask 🙂

      Reply
  5. Monica Bouteiller

    Austral Islands are on the top of my To Do List because I love adventure plus I do a lot of scuba diving. I’ve always known Humpback whales go thru there seasonally, another reason for me. Hiking is also a favorite activity and different cultures are always exciting to experience. Wow… I had no idea renting a car was that expensive. Do you know if there are places to rent golf carts?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, you will find adventure and great diving in the Austral Islands for sure.  I do not know of any golf carts for rent though.  I find that taxis or city transportation is the best.  Plus I do not like to drive in foreign countries…and that is just me though 🙂  Thanks for visiting the Austral Islands French Polynesia!

      Reply
  6. Steven

    This looks beautiful. I’ve noticed you report much about good marine life but what wildlife on land can you find here.

    Australia appeals to me for the wildlife such as kangaroos and other native creatures. So I am wondering what there is here for wildlife? Are these islands accessible for day trips or do you need a bit longer?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, you can visit the islands and do day trips. There are boat tour companies that will take you to the different islands. The wildlife is mostly going to be the birds. There are lots species of birds here. Very beautiful and in such abundance. So you could do, say a week here, and still be able to visit some of the other islands. Keep in mind that you will need to allot a day for each island you wish to visit. Thanks for reading about the Austral Islands French Polynesia.

      Reply
  7. Amazon LaShaun

    Mmm, that first picture has me ready to leave work and go on vacation right now. lol. Nice shot.

    I can’t go now because I have to wait for vacation time, but your review on the Austral Islands has moved it into my top 3 choices for vacation spots.

    I like how you even included weather, which is rare on review sites. Very insightful. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you so much and glad you enjoyed reading.  It is truly a beautiful beach destination worthy of a visit.  Glad you enjoyed reading!

      Reply
  8. Austin

    This sounds great! I am an adventurer at heart and am always looking for the most remote and distant places on earth. These islands seem like truly hidden gems. It has been a while since I have snorkeled as well so I would love to visit for that as well!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, I do believe that the Austral Islands are hidden gems and worth visiting.  Especially if you like to snorkel 🙂  Thanks for visiting Austin!

      Reply
  9. Paul

    OMG it looks amazing there, and your website looks just as beautiful. The pictures and colors just make you want to go. Do you know if there are any golf courses there? as I love my golf. It definitely looks a place to go and totally unwind. Thank you heaps I will check out your website again.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      It is amazing 🙂  I am glad you enjoyed reading!  You won’t find any golf courses here unfortunately.  But to go and unwind, then it is the perfect place.  Visit again Paul!

      Reply
  10. Scott

    Hello! First of all, your review of what I call “Heaven on Earth” is very well informed. I have always been intrigued with the Tahitian Islands, but was never aware of the islands you reviewed. I never knew that there were more further south.
    The video at the end of your page is amazing. I wish I was there now!!

    Have you ever been?

    Well done post on the Austral Islands. Makes me wanna grab my passport and go! Too bad i can’t afford it! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, I would agree that it is heaven on Earth for sure.  One of those dream destinations…and not I have not been.  I had to do a lot of research on this tiny spot of heaven.  I am glad you enjoyed reading!

      Reply
  11. Matthew Owen

    I have seen a couple of your travel destination articles now and I have to say it’s the most informative and honest holiday reports that I have ever read, keep up the good work and I’ll keep coming back, cheers

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you so much Matthew for continuing to visit my site. I am glad you enjoy reading!

      Reply
  12. kayla

    Wow what a great post! This is very informative. Even though you said that the accommodations can be scarce, the options and information provided is amazing. I appreciate the information on actually getting to the destination and also traveling while there, as well as the restaurant and hotel info. Even the ads for helpful. I honestly never thought of vacationing here but it is now on the radar. I will be taking a look through the rest of the site as well.

    Kayla

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Kayla and I am glad you enjoyed. These islands are remote, but they have so so much to offer. It really is an amazing place. You would enjoy!

      Reply
  13. Jessica

    Hi Leahrae,
    Wow, I want to go! The water is so clear and I would love to be able to go diving and see the whales. I have been lucky enough to see humpbacks in Hawaii and Mexico but I have only seen them above the water not below. I was able to hear them one time when snorkeling off Hawaii. That was amazing, but I could not see them.

    That would be amazing to be that close in clear water.

    I have been to Fanning Island (actually an atoll)in Karibati which is about 1,100 miles south of Hawaii, but only for a few hours as part of a cruise. It takes days of cruising back and forth to get there.

    I would love to see more of the real Polynesia and have time to enjoy it.

    Thanks for so much detailed information!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are so welcome Jessica. Yes, seeing the whales under the clear beautiful blue water is amazing. You would truly enjoy for sure. I am glad you visited my site and got to know the Austral Islands of French Polynesia 🙂

      Reply

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