The most visited archipelago in the French Polynesian Islands, the Society Islands lie halfway between Australia and California in the South Pacific. The islands are divided into two groups: the windward islands, which include the archipelago’s largest island, Tahiti, and the leeward group, which is home to the popular honeymoon island Bora Bora.
Settled by seafaring Polynesians before the 9th century, the Society Islands have attracted visitors ever since English explorer Captain James Cook first landed on the shores of Tahiti in 1769. The 1935 classic film “Mutiny on the Bounty” and its 1962 remake cemented the archipelago as the quintessential island holiday destination. Formed by volcanoes eons ago, the Society Islands are steeply mountainous, covered in lush jungle greenery and surrounded by crystalline beaches and turquoise lagoons. The Society Islands includes the islands of Bora Bora, Huahine, Raiatea, Taha’a, Tahiti, and Tetiaroa. To learn more about the different islands and there beaches, visit our French Polynesia Beaches page here. Continue reading our Society Islands travel guide for information to plan your next trip to this amazing beach destination.
Society Islands Weather – When to Visit
French Polynesia is at its best between June and August when the climate is the driest and the weather is still comfortable with temperatures between 68°F to 95°F. This can be busier, and the months either side of this time can still has comfortable temperatures, but lower prices. French Polynesia can be visited year-round, but between November and April there will be tropical showers passing more often than other times of the year. This is also a humid time of year, and can be uncomfortable. It is recommended to choose a hotel with air-conditioning if vacationing here during these months.
Society Islands Attractions
Matira Beach – Bora Bora
Matira Beach is the largest public access beach in Bora Bora, so its a very popular beach with visitors. The water is crystal-clear and the sand is soft and downy. Matira Beach also has lots of resorts, shops and eateries, so it’s a convenient place to spend most of a day. At Matira Beach the water is incredibly blue and is rarely ever crowded making it the perfect place for some rest and relaxation. The shallow waters aren’t the best for snorkeling, so you’ll have to go elsewhere if you want to snorkel. The sunsets are amazing!
Coral Gardens – Bora Bora
On a small islet just east of the main island and directly across from the Sofitel Bora Bora Marara Beach Resort, you’ll find a gorgeous coral reef. Most travelers hire a tour operator to guide them through the process of swimming and snorkeling among the coral, not to mention among sea life, such as sting rays, moray eels and black tip reef sharks.
Belvedere Lookout – Moorea
With uninterrupted sights of Cook’s Bay, Opunohu Bay, Mt. Totui, and the lush vegetation of Opunohu Valley, the viewpoint offers great photographic opportunities. From sunrise to sunset, the extensive panorama takes in much of the island and its coastline. Bring a picnic with you, or head to the souvenir and snack stand before heading further into the hills or making your way back down. The point is easily accessible by car or on foot, as well as being a stop-off destination for a range of tour groups.
Mount Otemanu – Bora Bora
Mount Otemanu is one of two peaks of an extinct volcano located at the center of the island. Rising 2,400-some feet above the lagoon, this volcanic remnant makes for a dramatic photo op or an adrenaline-pumping adventure. In fact, many say a trip to Bora Bora isn’t complete without a visit to the top of this breathtaking mountain. And fear not, hiking isn’t your only option; you can enjoy Mount Otemanu in all sorts of ways – a 4×4 tour, a boat tour, a helicopter tour or even some casual snapshots on the beach.
Fautaua Waterfall – Tahiti
You may actually prefer visiting Tahiti during its rainy season for the Fautaua Waterfall alone, as more rainwater makes the waterfall even more dramatic. Located in the verdant Fautaua Valley, this natural wonder’s sparkling water cascades into a large pool. To reach the waterfall, you’ll have to take a pretty arduous hike, which is probably best done with a tour group or guide (your hotel or vacation rental host should be able to provide information on local guides).
Lagoonarium – Moorea
Swim with rays, sharks, and tropical fish at Lagoonarium, a protected underwater environment off the coast of Moorea. Take a three-minute boat trip out to the reserve before plunging beneath the waters to inspect the marine life so abundant in French Polynesia. An untouched coral garden provides the backdrop for your views, and the helpful and friendly staff remain on hand to inform, entertain, and assist you. Bring your own snorkeling gear, or rent what you need.
Point Venus – Tahiti
Point Venus, with its large beach of black sand, emerald water, mythical lighthouse and a long and a great history is a charming place, which you should not miss when visiting Tahiti. Today, the Point Venus lighthouse still operates and is used for aerial navigation.
Magic Mountain – Moorea
Head up Magic Mountain for extensive views of the coastline, towns, and coral reefs of Moorea. Take an ATV tour up the mountain or hike to its peak for panoramic views of the surrounding scenery–you may even spot a whale breeching close to the shoreline. The lush vegetation covering its slopes extends into the valley, providing superb photographic opportunities, with rich greens and light blues dominating the landscape.
Bora Bora Turtle Center
The Bora Bora turtle center was created with one main objective:to protect and aid the marine turtles of French Polynesia. The Bora Bora Turtle center offers a museum, an underwater observatory for viewing marine turtles, fish and coral, educational aquariums, a touch pool, a coral nursery and a laboratory.
Temae Beach – Moorea
The best beach on the east coast, and the widest perhaps in all of French Polynesia, stretches from Teavaro round to the airport. The Sofitel Ia Ora Moorea Beach Resort occupies part of the beach, where there’s superb snorkelling in the shallow water and out on the lagoon side of the fringing reef. The public section of Temae Beach, just north of the Sofitel, usually gets crowded on weekends. Do not leave valuables in your car.
Best Society Islands Tours & Activities
Bora Bora Jet Ski Tour
Zip around the Bora Bora lagoon on a morning or afternoon Jet Ski tour past water bungalows, sailboats and the lush green slopes of Mt Otemanu. Aboard a single or double Jet Ski, you’ll cruise across sparkling aquamarine waters with an expert guide leading the way. Make several stops for swimming and a coconut husking demonstration, ensuring plenty of photo ops in this Polynesian paradise. Read more about Bora Bora Jet Ski Tour
Bora Bora Snorkeling Cruise
Bora Bora’s warm lagoon is home to hundreds of marine species, from stingrays to blacktip sharks and lemon sharks. With this guided snorkeling tour, maximize your chances of seeing these creatures in their natural habitat. Watch as your guide feeds sharks, and dive on in to explore several snorkeling spots under safe supervision. Read more about Bora Bora Snorkel Cruise Including Snorkeling with Sharks and Stingrays
Tahiti Island Tour Including Venus Point, Taharaa View Point and Vaipahi Gardens
Get an overview of Tahiti on a 5-hour sightseeing tour of island highlights with an informative guide. Walk around the black-sand beaches of Matavai Bay at Venus Point and the Arahoho blowhole, marvel at the ancient Polynesian temples of the west coast. Wander tree-lined paths past ponds and waterfalls at the botanical Vaipahi Garden and visit the Taharaa lookout known as One Tree Hill. During your afternoon coach tour, with hotel pickup in Papeete, you’ll learn about the history of French Polynesia while soaking up panoramic island views. Read more about Tahiti: Venus Point, Taharaa View Point and Vaipahi Gardens
Moorea 4WD Tour Including Belvedere Pineapple Farm and Magic Mountain
Venture beyond the resorts on this full-day tour of Moorea, which guarantees a first-hand look at all the island’s top sights and fuss-free transport between them. Get off the beaten path and venture to viewpoints such as Magic Mountain and Belvedere Lookout, see marae (Polynesian temples) and pineapple fields, and visit an island distillery. Expert narration is offered throughout. Read more about Moorea 4WD Tour
Moorea Solo or Twin Jet Ski Tour
With this Moorea Jet Ski tour, you’ll get to know the island’s jagged volcanic mountains, sandy beaches, and gorgeous bays—all with the help of a local guide. See more than you could on your own and hop on a solo or twin Jet Ski in search of native wildlife in their natural environment. You’ll even have a chance to swim with stingrays and sharks and spot turtles, dolphins, and whales (in season). Read more about Moorea Solo or Twin Jet Ski Tour
Best Bora Bora Restaurants
La Villa Mahana $31 – 60
Ten minutes from the Vaitape dock is one of the best places to dine in all of French Polynesia. Only a handful of tables are peppered throughout this quaint two-story restaurant, which means personal service and exquisitely crafted dishes are the standard. Make reservations in advance. Telephone: 689 40 67 50 63 Web: La Villa Mahana
Lagoon by Jean-Georges $31 – 60
Aside from the illuminated water on the deck, the thoughtfully designed main dining room and perfect view of Mount Otemanu, this Jean-Georges Vongerichten-helmed restaurant at The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort packs a delectable punch with its first-rate cuisine. Telephone: 689 40 60 70 88 Web: Lagoon by Jean-Georges
Fare Manuia $11 – 30
This roadside thatched-roof pit stop has more than meets the eye. A French Polynesian blend of East meets West, with its own unique island spin, results in rich flavors and a wide variety of choices. Go hungry, leave fulfilled. Telephone: 689 40 67 68 08 Web: Fare Manuia
Le Matira Beach Restaurant $11 – 30
Enjoy a casual lunch or a romantic dinner atop this unbeatable terrace overlooking the beach. Mouthwatering pan-fried foie gras followed by chocolate-covered banana cake is enough to keep you coming back night after night. Telephone: 689 40 67 07 79 Web: Le Matira Beach Restaurant
Kaina Hut $11 – 30
This sandy-floored hut is home to excellent pastas in fresh sauces, breadfruit gnocchi and New Zealand meats. You certainly won’t want to skip dessert here; the fruit panna cotta is not to be missed. Telephone: 689 40 67 54 06 Web: Kaina Hut
Best Tahiti Restaurants
L’O à la Bouche $31 – 60
L’O à la Bouche has a strong reputation for delivering top gourmet food in French Polynesia. Enjoy unique dishes made with freshly caught seafood and an extensive wine selection. The food is always beautifully presented, with a warm and romantic ambiance throughout the restaurant. Telephone: 689 40 45 29 76 Web: L’O à la Bouche
Le Coco’s $31 – 60
Considered one of the most romantic dining spots in Tahiti, Le Coco’s offers diners French cuisine with the best local French Polynesian produce and ingredients. Other dishes include influences from Spain, Portugal and Italy, as well as China and Asia. A waterfront setting with views out to Moorea, Le Coco’s is a beautiful spot to watch the sun go down over a fine meal. Telephone: 689 40 58 21 08 Web: Le Coco’s
Le Lotus $31 – 60
This restaurant is part of the InterContinental Tahiti Resort, situated over the water, looking out to the lagoon and the resort’s sandy-bottom swimming pool. Dine on freshly caught seafood as well as a selection of meat dishes, with a wide selection of French wines. Live piano helps set the mood. Telephone: 689 40 86 51 10 Web: Le Lotus
Blue Banana $11 – 30
Blue Banana is a fun and vibrant restaurant with gorgeous views out to the lagoon. Seafood is the specialty, the poisson cru is a favorite with many, but they also offer a variety of meat dishes as well. There’s seating both indoors and outside, so you can enjoy the fresh ocean air as you feast on the fruits of the sea. Telephone: 689 40 41 22 24 Web: Blue Banana
Le Carre $31 – 60
Located within Le Meridien Tahiti, Le Carre restaurant offers diners stunning views of the lagoon, as well as views out to Moorea. The restaurant’s distinguishing features from other resort dining areas is its stylish decor and low lighting, adding to the ambiance. French cuisine features heavily on the menu as well as a variety of fresh seafood dishes. Telephone: 689 40 47 07 23 Web: Le Carre
Best Huahine Restaurants
Huahine Yacht Club $11 – 30
In a great location right on the lagoon, this lively restaurant is a favorite local watering hole and the best place to eat around Fare. With polished oyster shells nailed to the walls and lights strewn from the thatched ceiling, it has a beach-bar vibe and cooks a mean shrimp curry. Telephone: 689 40 68 70 81 Web: Huahine Yacht Club
Chez Tara $11 – 30
One of Huahine’s unexpected gems, Chez Tara is easily the best place on the island to sample Tahitian specialties. Head here on Sundays for its legendary ma’a Tahiti (traditional Tahitian food, served buffet-style at noon; 3500 CFP), which should satisfy all but the hungriest of visitors. It’s in a great location, right on the lagoon. Bookings essential. Telephone: 689 40 68 78 45 Web: Chez Tara
Pizzeria Roulotte Italia Under $10
Follow the sign from the main road about 1.5km north of Fare to find this Italian-run mobile food van serving Huahine’s best pizzas plus a few extras such as saccotini (small fried pizzas) lasagne and tiramisu. Try the ‘Huahine’ pizza with fresh tuna and Roquefort cheese or the ‘lobster’, which as the name suggests, is topped with fresh, local crustacean. Telephone: 689 87 31 41 89 Web: Pizzeria Roulotte Italia
Best Society Islands Nightlife
Fare Manuia – Bora Bora
Fare Manuia likes any excuse to party so most ‘occasions’ are celebrated. Staffed by young & knowledgeable team the wooden bar with its extensive list of spirits on display is backed by a large full-screen TV – this is where Bora Bora gathers to watch major international sporting events with an owner/operator sufficiently flexible to ensure the bar is humming irrespective of the time of such events. Telephone: 689 40 67 68 08 Web: Fare Manuia
Bloody Mary’s – Bora Bora
Bloody Mary’s is Bora Bora’s most famous bar – visited by the rich & famous, by celebrities from all over the world. This is a huge traditional style fare made from local timbers with a thatched pandanus roof & its famous white sand floor. The bar is crafted from coconut, the stools on which you sit bar-side likewise made from the trunks of coconut trees. Telephone: 689 40 67 72 86 Web: Bloody Mary’s
The Piano Bar – Tahiti
The Piano Bar is the most popular of the “sexy clubs” along this street, especially for its late-night strip shows featuring female impersonators. It’s open daily from 3pm to 3am. Telephone: 689 40 42 88 24 Web: The Piano Bar
Morrison’s Cafe – Tahiti
Have a drink, watch the sunset, and check e-mail at this popular bar just across the road from the cruise dock. There’s live music on the terrace on weekends. Telephone: 689 40 42 78 71 Web: Morrison’s Cafe
Le Chaplin’s – Tahiti
You’ll find more than 50 cocktails on the bar menu at this Centre Vaima bar. There’s music and video clips to keep you entertained. Telephone: 689 40 42 73 05 Web: Le Chaplin’s
Best Society Islands Hotels
InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa
InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa is located between the two hearts of Motu Piti Aau, a coral island on the barrier reef. The Deep Ocean Spa is the centerpiece, but the resort offers lots of cultural and recreational activities to fill your days including canoeing, kayaking, snorkeling, stargazing and handicraft demonstrations.
Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora
Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora is a South Pacific paradise, combining the highest standards of service with ultramodern comforts and the natural ease and gracious hospitality of the Polynesian culture. Set upon Bora Bora’s surrounding coral atoll, the Resort is a vast tropical grove, replete with coconut palms and pandanus trees. Meandering channels of pure turquoise lead to the main beach or to smaller lagoons, waiting to be discovered. Every vista is breathtaking. The Resort offers 100 overwater bungalow suites and seven inclusive beachfront villa estates, all designed with thatched roofs and decorated with indigenous artwork.
Opoa Beach Hotel
Opoa Beach Hotel is situated on the South of the Island of Raiatea. Hidden in the middle of a dense forest, the hotel is found on the side of the lagoon with a fine sand beach and great views of the lagoon, motu, the coral reef and some fabulous sunrise over Huahine. This small hotel was hand built by French Polynesia lovers to offer to its guest’s authenticity, serenity, warmth, in one word: all you need to make your holidays a success.
The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort
The exclusive St. Regis Bora Bora Resort is 44-acre resort located in Bora Bora, French Polynesia, an island paradise. Our elite accommodation offering villas over the crystal waters of the South Pacific features the 13,000 sq ft Miri Miri spa and Lagoon Restaurant by Jean Georges.