Gambier Islands French Polynesia

Over one thousand miles southeast of Tahiti are the Gambier Islands.  Because of their location close to the Tropic of Capricorn, the islands abound with fruit trees, drawing a lush, green landscape thanks to the tropical climate tempered by the ocean’s trade winds.   The Gambiers is the region where pearl farming first developed, and Gambier pearls are renowned and valued the world over. Mangareva, the largest island of the region, is home to most of the population and the center of the region’s pearl industry.

The geology here is unique: one reef, complete with sandy motu, encircles a small archipelago of lush high islands dotting an exquisitely blue lagoon that’s as clear as air. Adding to the allure are some of the eeriest and most interesting post-European structures in the country, a legacy of the Gambier’s history as the cradle of Polynesian Catholicism. Today the archipelago is known for producing some of the finest and most colorful pearls in Polynesia.

The Gambier Islands includes Mangareva, Aukena, Taravai, Akamaru Island, Angakauitai, Manui, Tekava, Tepapuri, and Tauna.  To read more about the best beaches in the Gamier Islands and French Polynesia, click here.  Read on to get all your travel information for the Gambier Islands French Polynesia.

Gambier Islands Weather – When to Visit

The Gambier Islands enjoy milder weather than Tahiti. The best months to visit are during the cooler and drier ‘winter’ months (June-August), with the warmest and wettest months being December-January.  From July to late September, humpback whales can be spotted.

Gambier Islands Attractions

Cathedrale Saint-Michel de Rikitea, Gambier Islands, French Polynesia, best beaches of French Polynesia, Gambier Islands beaches, best beaches of the Caribbean, Mangareva, Aukena, Taravai, Akamaru Island, Angakauitai, Manui, Tekava, Tepapuri, Tauna best hotels in the Gambier Islands, best restaurants in the Gambier Islands, things to do in the Gambier Islands, Gambier Islands attractionsCathedrale Saint-Michel de Rikitea

Fully restored in 2011, the imposing Cathedral of St Michael was built between 1839 and 1848 and was Laval’s most ambitious project. It makes a colorful scene on Sunday morning, when it is bursting at the seams with a devout congregation singing moving himene (hymns).

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Couvent Rouru, Gambier Islands, French Polynesia, best beaches of French Polynesia, Gambier Islands beaches, best beaches of the Caribbean, Mangareva, Aukena, Taravai, Akamaru Island, Angakauitai, Manui, Tekava, Tepapuri, Tauna best hotels in the Gambier Islands, best restaurants in the Gambier Islands, things to do in the Gambier Islands, Gambier Islands attractionsCouvent Rouru

Arriving at the Convent of Rouru, located at the foot of Mount Duff on the island of Mangareva, the first building to be seen, to the left of the entrance porch is the Saint Agathe chapel, a 24 m Length built in 1848 in large coral stones, under the direction of Father Cyprien Liausu, of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Picpus.  On the north side, there is a large room which served as an infirmary for the sisters of the convent and for the inhabitants of Mangareva since former president Gaston Flosse was born there.

Rikitea Ruins, Gambier Islands, French Polynesia, best beaches of French Polynesia, Gambier Islands beaches, best beaches of the Caribbean, Mangareva, Aukena, Taravai, Akamaru Island, Angakauitai, Manui, Tekava, Tepapuri, Tauna best hotels in the Gambier Islands, best restaurants in the Gambier Islands, things to do in the Gambier Islands, Gambier Islands attractionsRikitea Ruins

At Mangareva’s main village visitors will find a number of ruins. Among these archeological relics are a convent, a triumphal arch, several watchtowers, a prison and a court. These abandoned remains have been noted for their dark, eerie feel.  There is no web presence for the Rikitea Ruins.

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Rikitea Rectory, Gambier Islands, French Polynesia, best beaches of French Polynesia, Gambier Islands beaches, best beaches of the Caribbean, Mangareva, Aukena, Taravai, Akamaru Island, Angakauitai, Manui, Tekava, Tepapuri, Tauna best hotels in the Gambier Islands, best restaurants in the Gambier Islands, things to do in the Gambier Islands, Gambier Islands attractionsRikitea Rectory

Across the path from St. Micheal of Rikitea Church is a well-maintained 140 year-old rectory, occupied by the parish priest.  There is no web presence for the Rikitea Rectory.

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St Pierre Chapel & Cemetery - Mangareva, Gambier Islands, French Polynesia, best beaches of French Polynesia, Gambier Islands beaches, best beaches of the Caribbean, Mangareva, Aukena, Taravai, Akamaru Island, Angakauitai, Manui, Tekava, Tepapuri, Tauna best hotels in the Gambier Islands, best restaurants in the Gambier Islands, things to do in the Gambier Islands, Gambier Islands attractionsSt Pierre Chapel & Cemetery – Mangareva

This cemetery is one of the many remains that bore witness to Mangareva’s rich historical past.  Here you will find the memorial to King Maputeao, the Rouru Convent, which previously had several watchtowers and 60 nuns.

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King Maputeoa Palace - Rikitea, Gambier Islands, French Polynesia, best beaches of French Polynesia, Gambier Islands beaches, best beaches of the Caribbean, Mangareva, Aukena, Taravai, Akamaru Island, Angakauitai, Manui, Tekava, Tepapuri, Tauna best hotels in the Gambier Islands, best restaurants in the Gambier Islands, things to do in the Gambier Islands, Gambier Islands attractionsKing Maputeoa Palace – Rikitea

Now located in the middle of the playground of Rikitea’s primary school, the palace was built for King Maputeoa in 1850. You can explore the grounds by asking permission from the principal if the school is in session. On the grounds, you’ll find the royal fish pond which once housed fish and sea turtles, a grand arch which welcomed visitors, and a number of watchtowers used to protect the palace and to communicate with other towers on neighboring islands.

Best Gambier Islands Restaurants & Bars

Snack JoJo  $11 – 30

It’s hardly haute cuisine at this modest joint, but the fine choice of sandwiches alongside the mainstream Tahitian dishes, which provide easy midday or evening fuel. The owners also rent a spacious, well-appointed bungalow  at the back of the property, right on the water’s edge (but there’s no beach). Credit cards are accepted.   Telephone:  689 87 76 36 24  Web:  Snack Jojo.

Chez Teava  $11 – 30

This is Rikitea’s best spot for lunch or dinner. Local ingredients and freshly caught seafood are the staples of the simple menu. Voluminous sandwiches too. Restaurant is near the cathedral.    Telephone:  689 40 97 82 51.

Pizza Atomic  $11 – 30

Serves glowing-hot pizzas to eat in or take away. The Rumarei, with cheese and korori (the adductor muscle of the oyster), is particularly original.  Telephone:  689 40 97 83 09

Best Hotels in the Gambier Islands

Chez Bianca & Benoit


Chez Bianca & Benoit offers impeccable service and all the essential amenities to invigorate travelers. To name a few of the hotel’s facilities, there are express check-in/check-out, luggage storage, car park, car hire, restaurant.  Hotel accommodations have been carefully appointed to the highest degree of comfort and convenience. In some of the rooms, guests can find non smoking rooms, balcony/terrace, blackout curtains, fan, television. The hotel offers an excellent variety of recreational facilities, including diving, fishing, garden, water sports (non-motorized).

Kura Inn Mangareva


With garden views, Kura inn Mangareva is located in Mangareva and has free WiFi. Each room is equipped with a terrace, a kitchen with a microwave, a dining area and a seating area with a flat-screen TV, while the private bathroom includes a shower and free toiletries. There’s also a fridge, oven and an electric tea pot.

18 Comments

  1. Joseph Barnaby

    That place looks like somewhere I could live. It sounds like there is alot of history here that would really be neat to see. You always do a great job with your descriptions of these places in paradise. If I’m looking for a place to go for vacation I know what site to come to. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thanks Joseph and glad you enjoy reading!

      Reply
  2. Joseph

    Wow what an awesome place, this is the true definition of paradise I would love to go here. This seems like a place that not many would know about. This is awesome great post.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Joseph and glad you enjoyed reading. Hopefully this prompts you to take a nice vacation to this wonderful beach destination!

      Reply
  3. Yulia

    Wowwww such a beautiful place! defently going on the bucket list for me. Beach and island vacations are my favorite and this looks like one of the spots that I must visit! thanks for all the detailed information. beautiful site!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you so much! Thanks for visiting BeachTravelDestinations.com!

      Reply
  4. Steve D'Agostino

    Aw, man. How beautiful! I’ve never heard of the Gambier Islands, but it’s hard not to add this spot to the bucket list! Thanks for the fantastic post!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are so welcome! Glad you enjoyed reading 🙂

      Reply
  5. Lance

    After reading this informative post I have definitely added this location to my list of places to visit. The images and videos you have provided are breathtaking and definitely peak my interest. Are there any places that provide the over water bungalows as this is something that really interests me?
    When my wife and I vacation we enjoy the places that are as you state “off the beaten path” and it appears that this ticks off that box as well.
    Thanks again for this informative post and I will definitely be showing this one to the wife for future trips.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You won’t find over-the-water bungalows in the Gambiers. You will need to go to the Society Islands for them. Here is the link for the Society Islands which is still part of French Polynesia: Society Islands Travel Guide. The Gambiers are off the beaten path. Not so much with the Society Islands, although it is still not as crowded as other beach destinations.

      Reply
  6. Maurice Jackson

    This and all the other destinations mentioned sound like beautiful eye-catching resorts. And from your intensive reviews, you seem to me anyway like a lady well traveled. If so I envy you and wish I was there. I wish I could visit them all. But I will get on one far away tropical beach. That is a promise to myself. Everyone who has a chance get-away to a tropical beach is living a dream.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, that is true Maurice, everyone needs that get away to a tropical beach and it is living a dream. A dream in paradise, but it is all worth while and within your reach 🙂 Thanks for visiting BeachTravelDestinations.com

      Reply
  7. Kevon

    Never heard of the Gambier Islands. But I do know of French Polynesia. As usual, your article left me longing to take a holiday. I don’t know if I’m happy I found out about the Gambier Islands or if I’m depressed because I can’t go. Are there direct flights from the US? If not, where would connecting flights land?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, you fly into Tahiti and then fly into Mangareva. So depending on where you are, I know for me I can fly directly to Tahiti from here (Florida) and then catch Air Tahiti to where ever I want to go in French Polynesia. Beautiful place and worth visiting!

      Reply
  8. BingC

    Wow, what a great site this is! I’ve been trying to find a great vacation getaway for my wife and me. As soon as our kids are out of the house and we have an empty nest, I’ll be ready. The Gambier Islands look amazing, but I have a lot more reading to do, it seems.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      It is amazing! You and your wife would love the Gambier Islands for sure, and of course it is the perfect beach vacation getaway. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

      Reply
  9. Mike

    Oh man, great post! I had never even heard of this place. I like the fact that post about places off the beaten path unlike most websites that try sending you to the same places everyone goes. I’m pretty sure I may be able to talk my wife into heading off here for our next vacation. Thanks for another great destination. Keep them coming. Quick question, are there any all inclusive resorts or did I overlook it in the post?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you and yes, definitely off the beaten path. You won’t find any all-inclusives here for sure. The pensions I listed are it for accommodations, but so well worth it for sure. I think your wife would love it here. It’s like one of those dream destinations 🙂

      Reply

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