Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora may sound like exotic destinations, but they are well within reach for sunshine-seeking Hoosiers. French Polynesia consists of a string of about 130 islands in the South Pacific, with the beautiful Society Islands being the most popular with tourists.
Tahiti is the largest of the three islands. It is the commercial hub of French Polynesia and the stopping point for all flights from the U.S. While many tourists may overlook Tahiti and head directly to the other islands, Tahiti has many charms of its own – the lush green mountains, turquoise water and brilliant views of Moorea. The largest town on Tahiti is Papeete, and its Municipal Market is a main attraction. The lure for shoppers is the exquisite black pearl. You can find this souvenir from the Tahitian waters everywhere, ranging in price from $20 to more than $10,000 depending on the pearl’s quality and setting.
The smaller, low-key Moorea is a 30-minute ferry ride from Papeete. This island has been described by many as the most beautiful place on earth. Activities include ATV rides to a waterfall, picnics on a motu (small islet), Polynesian dance shows and snorkeling among colorful tropical reef fish. No trip to Moorea would be complete without a trek up Belvedere Lookout, with its awe-inspiring panorama of Cook’s and Opunohu Bays. (Moorea’s charms worked on Warren Beatty and Annette Benning, who fell in love here while filming Love Affair.)
Bora Bora is a one-hour flight from Papeete. The honeymoon capital of the world, Bora Bora has more resorts than any of the other islands and is known for its iconic overwater bungalows and shark expeditions.
Most residents speak Tahitian as well as French. The majority of tourists are Americans, so English will serve you well, too. From Indianapolis, the easiest route is via Los Angeles, then a flight on Air Tahiti Nui (www.airtahitinui.com). Island accommodations range from casual $90 a day Polynesian huts (www.hotelkaveka.com) to ritzy five-star resorts (www.tahiti.interconti.com). Prices and availability are best January to April.