The archipelago of the Society Islands is the most important from an economic and demographic point of view in French Polynesia and is divided into islands of the Wind (Îles du Vent) and Leeward islands (Îles Sous-le-Vent).
The Society Islands archipelago is the most touristic in French Polynesia, here are the famous mountainous islands of Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea, known since the time of Cook’s travels as the islands of the South Seas and today the most important tourist destinations in French Polynesia.
This group of islands is located at a latitude between 15 ° and 18 ° south of the equator and between 155 ° and 147 ° west longitude.
The islands that form the archipelago of the Society Islands are largely of volcanic origin with high mountains. The highest, Mount Orohena, is located on the island of Tahiti and reaches 2,241 meters in height. However, there are also some small atolls in the archipelago.
Wind islands and Leeward islands
The island of Tahiti, the most important and populous in all of French Polynesia, is part of the islands of the Wind, where the capital, Papeete, is located. Less than 20 kilometers northwest of Tahiti is the island of Moorea. The other islands of the Wind are Mehetia (uninhabited today), Maiao (about 300 inhabitants) and the atoll of Tetiaroa, inhabited by a handful of residents.
The Leeward Islands are located to the north-west of Tahiti and are formed by the island of Raiatea, the most populous, with about 12,000 inhabitants. The latter is separated by a lagoon from the neighboring island of Tahaa (about 5,000 inhabitants). The leeward islands also include Huahine (about 6,000 inhabitants), Bora Bora (about 9,000 inhabitants), Maupiti and the semi-uninhabited atolls of Tupai, Manuae, Maupihaa or Mopelia and Bellinghausen.
Which are the most visited by nautical charters?
From a tourist point of view, the Society Islands are the main destination for those visiting French Polynesia. This archipelago collects some of the most appreciated jewels by those who visit this country such as Bora Bora, Tahiti and Moorea. It is off these islands that most of Polynesia’s charter boat trips also take place and they are also the best served islands from a logistical point of view and extra-luxury resorts.
A less touristy Polynesia is found for example on the island of Maupiti, the most remote of the group, and considered a miniature Bora Bora.
Below we offer you a brief description of each:
Scenic mountains, waterfalls and black sand beaches are the main natural attractions of Tahiti, which is also the most economically developed island. It hosts the international airport from which most visitors arrive and is the main hub from which direct connections to the other islands of the archipelago depart.
Tahiti is also home to the capital, lively and colorful Papeete, the right place to go hiking or shopping for traditional clothing, black pearls and shell jewelry. Papeete also offers points of cultural interest such as the Paul Gauguin Museum and the Museum of Tahiti.
Located just a 30-minute sail from Tahiti, Moorea boasts some of the most spectacular scenery on the Society Islands. The ancient volcano of the island, Mount Tohivea, was swept away by a catastrophic explosion centuries ago, obtaining its present shape and earning the nickname of “Shark’s Tooth”. An excursion to Belvedere Point, near the summit, offers visitors breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain peaks and the peninsula of the island characterized by two bays of an intense blue. Moorea also offers a hidden soul, full of hidden gems, including ancient Polynesian temples and small villages surrounded by blooming hibiscus.
Island whose fame precedes it, Bora Bora is one of the most famous and important destinations in the world for honeymoons, as well as for the spectacular scenery of an earthly paradise.
Bora Bora owes enormous success to its tranquil turquoise lagoon, its white sand beaches and the protective coral reef that almost completely surrounds its perimeter.
The iconic overwater bungalows perched on the lagoon stilts are the island’s highlight while snorkeling and scuba diving among the clownfish, lemon sharks, green turtles and other marine life that inhabit the reef coral are the most popular and requested activities.
The small atoll of Tetiaroa, owned in the past by the American actor Marlon Brando, now houses a fabulous luxury hotel, “The Brando”.
In 1962 Marlon Brando, while shooting some scenes of the film “Mutiny on the Bounty”, fell in love with French Polynesia and the Society Islands to the point that he wanted to buy one for himself: a 2 square mile atoll known as Tetiaroa. After Brando’s death, the island passed into the hands of a Tahitian company and after years of planning, in July 2014, the Brando Resort, an eco-friendly luxury resort with 35 luxury villas next to a private beach.
Located about 40 kilometers west of Bora Bora, cute little Maupiti is a miniature replica of Bora Bora, a coral atoll surrounding the volcanic island, but as more remote, difficult to reach and sparsely inhabited, the landscape is much more authentic, remaining almost similar to what was discovered by Europeans in the 18th century.
Most visitors stay in the few accommodations located in Vaiea, the main village of the island. Mount Hotu Parata, a volcanic cliff that rises above the village, is instead the migratory home of hundreds of different species of seabirds.
Located between the islands of Bora Bora and Huahine, Tahaa shares its surrounding coral reef with the neighboring island of Raiatea. Tahaa is known as the vanilla capital of French Polynesia and its economy is not as vitally dependent on tourism as the other Society Islands. It offers a limited number of family-run guesthouses and resorts, and lacks the wide stretches of soft sand that characterize other islands.
Raiatea shares the surrounding reef with its sister island Tahaa and is the second largest of the Society Islands and the administrative center of the Leeward group of islands. Often referred to as a “sacred island” by locals, Raiatea is believed to be the place from which migrations to Hawaii and other parts of Eastern Polynesia began. Visitors can explore ancient shrines and artifacts at Taputapuatea, the best-preserved historical site in French Polynesia.
Huahine are actually two islands placed side by side: the large Huahine and the small Huahine. They are surrounded by a coral reef and connected to each other by a short bridge. Huahine is dotted with secluded coves and features some of the Society Islands’ best surfing spots. Avea Bay, on the southwestern coast of Little Huahine, has one of the most beautiful beaches in French Polynesia, with crystal clear waters ideal for snorkeling. Huahine also has many important archaeological sites, including Faahia, a village dating back to 650 AD.
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