There are a few places in the world that require studying a tidal chart when planning the day’s diving, but perhaps nowhere else with as much South Pacific romantic beauty as the islands of French Polynesia. High tide brings you elbow-to-fin with sharks, dolphins, tunas and other hunters when you try “pass diving,” a signature Tahitian experience. Fly like Superman through the small inlets funneling into lagoon pools. This is shark diving at its finest: Encounter gray reef, silvertip, silky, whitetip reef, blacktip reef, milk, lemon, great hammerhead and tiger sharks.
If you’re not ready for ripping currents, fear not: Diving atolls affords you other options, including inside the lagoons or outside along the walls. Choose inside for easy dives next to Moorish idols, blue-lined snappers and other reef fish. Dive the walls when tides are at a standstill to see bigger stuff — mantas, turtles and sharks — moving at a much slower pace.
When deciding where to visit among French Polynesia’s 118 islands, know that they’re divided into five archipelago groups. The Society Islands — including Tahiti, Bora Bora, Raiatea, Moorea and Huahine — are popular among divers, as are the Tuamotu islands of Rangiroa, Tikehau, Manihi and Fakarava.
With the exception of cosmopolitan capital city Papeete, most of French Polynesia is a series of quiet, postcard-perfect islands. Honeymooners target these South Pacific gems for the escapism, as well as the posh over-water bungalows. It’s not an easily forgettable destination, with its melodic music, storytelling dances and sweet-as-plumeria breezes.
Learn to paddle a va’a, or outrigger kayak, with a Tahiti Expeditions day tour at Cook’s Bay on Moorea. Guides share the cultural significance of these boats, plus the secrets of staying upright. If you’re up for it, race the locals in this timeless sport. Bonus: Stand-up paddle boarders can translate these lessons into stronger, more-efficient strokes back home.