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The islands are developing rapidly, with modern, fast-paced cities like Papeete replacing what were once sleepy backwater ports. But there are still remnants of the old South Seas days of coconut planters, beach bums, and missionaries.

  • Huahine: Of the major French Polynesian islands, Huahine has been the least affected by tourism, and its residents are still likely to give you an unprompted Tahitian greeting, "Ia orana!" Agriculture is still king on Huahine, which makes it the "Island of Fruits." There are ancient maraes (temples) to visit, and the only town, tiny Fare, is little more than a collection of Chinese shops fronting the island's wharf, which come to life when ships pull in.
  • Tahaa: With no towns and barely a village, Tahaa is still predominately a vanilla-growing island -- as sweet aromas will attest. One of French Polynesia's top resorts is on a small islet off Tahaa, but otherwise this rugged little island takes you back to the way Moorea used to be.
  • Maupiti: Not long ago, residents of Maupiti voted down a proposal to build an upscale resort on their gorgeous little island, thus leaving it as a day trip from Bora Bora or as an unspoiled retreat for those who can do without maximum luxuries -- or the English language. Maupiti looks like Bora Bora; locals boast that it's how Bora Bora used to be.
  • The Tuamotu Archipelago: Whether you choose to visit Rangiroa, Tikehau, Manihi, or Fakarava, you will find modern Polynesian life relatively undisturbed by modern ways, except for the many black-pearl farms in their lagoons.
  • The Marquesas Islands: Best visited on the cruise ship Aranui 3, the Marquesas hearken back to the early 19th century, when Herman Melville and others jumped off whaling ships and disappeared into the islands' haunting valleys.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.