Map from Google - French_Polynesia

In French Polynesia, a vast archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, the climate is tropical, influenced by the trade winds, with a hot and humid season from November to April, and a cooler season from May to October. The hot season is also the rainiest, besides, from December to April, there's the risk of cyclones (except in the Marquesas Islands). The temperatures vary little throughout the year, they are high in the northern islands, and gradually cooler as you move to the south.


In the westernmost area of French Polynesia, we find the group of the Society Islands, divided between the Windward Islands in the west (Tahiti, Moorea, Tetiaroa, Mehetia, Maiao), and the Leeward Islands in the east (Bora Bora, Huahine, Maupiti, Raiatea, Tahaa, Manuae, Maupihaa, Motu One, Tupai). In these islands, temperatures are fairly stable during the year, varying only by a few degrees: daytime temperatures are about 30 °C (86 °F) from December to April, and about 27/28 °C (81/82 °F) from June to August.
The amount of sunshine is fairly uniform throughout the year, which means that even in the rainiest months, there's no shortage of sunshine: simply, showers and downpour are more intense and more frequent, but they don't last long. In the larger islands, which are equipped with highlands in the interior, like Tahiti, the slopes facing east and therefore exposed to the trade winds, are rainier than the western slopes, however, the islands are completely covered by forest, which means that there is not a real dry season anywhere.
Papeete, the capital, is located on the north-west coast of the island of Tahiti, and receives 1,800 millimetres (70 inches) of rain per year, with a maximum in January, and a minimum in August, however, rainfall exceeds 150 mm (6 in) per month from November to April. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Papeete
PapeeteJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
PapeeteJFMAMJJASONDY
Prec. (mm)33029016017012080604050801603001840
Prec.(in)1311.46.36.74.73.12.41.623.16.311.872.4
Days15141210108877101217130

Further to the south, on the west coast, Punaauia and Paea are slightly more sheltered and sunnier. In the island of Tahiti, in the hottest and sultriest months, during the night a breezes blow from the mountains, called Hupe, Which is capable of reducing a little the feeling of sultriness.
Here are the average temperatures of Papeete.
Average temperatures - Papeete
PapeeteJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
PapeeteJFMAMJJASOND
Min (°C)232424232322212121222323
Max (°C)303030302928272728282828
Min (°F)737575737372707070727373
Max (°F)868686868482818182828282

The sea temperature is high throughout the year in the Society Islands, as you can see in the following table, concerning the water temperature in Tahiti.
Sea temperature - Papeete
PapeeteJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
PapeeteJFMAMJJASOND
Sea (°C)282829292827272626272728
Sea (°F)828284848281817979818182

In the atoll of Bora-Bora, flatter, but also located more to the north, about 2,000 mm (79 in) of rain per year fall, and the rain pattern is similar, although the rains a bit more frequent and abundant throughout the year; however, even here there's a minimum in August, of 70 mm (2.8 in). The temperature is slightly higher than in Papeete, due to the position more to the north.
Average temperatures - Bora Bora
Bora BoraJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Bora BoraJFMAMJJASOND
Min (°C)242424242422222222232424
Max (°C)303131313029292829293030
Min (°F)757575757572727272737575
Max (°F)868888888684848284848686

The Society Islands can be hit by tropical cyclones from November to April (though less frequently than the westernmost islands of Oceania), as it has been the case with Oli, which hit Tahiti and Bora Bora in February 2010, or Hosea, which struck Bora Bora in late November 1997, a year of El Niño.

Bora Bora

The best time to visit the Society Islands goes from May to mid-October, or better, from June to September, being the coolest and the least rainy.


More to the east, the Tuamotu Islands have a climate similar to that of the Society Islands, just a little less rainy, especially in the eastern part, in fact they receive around 1,200 mm (47 in) of rain per year in the eastern part, and 1,500 mm (60 in) in the western part; also because they are flat atolls, without mountains that could enhance the condensation of moisture. The least rainy period generally runs from May to September. Here is the average precipitation in the north-western island of Takaroa.
Average precipitation - Takaroa
TakaroaJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
TakaroaJFMAMJJASONDY
Prec. (mm)260145125135901007070801301551801540
Prec.(in)10.25.74.95.33.53.92.82.83.15.16.17.160.6
Days181614141112101212151719170

Furthermore, these islands are less exposed to tropical cyclones, since they are located in the eastern edge of the area where they can form.
Here are the average temperatures of Hao.
Average temperatures - Hao
HaoJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
HaoJFMAMJJASOND
Min (°C)252525252423232323232424
Max (°C)303030302928272727282829
Min (°F)777777777573737373737575
Max (°F)868686868482818181828284

Even the temperature of the sea in the Tuamotu Islands is similar to that of the Society Islands, as can be seen in the following table.
Sea temperature - Hao
HaoJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
HaoJFMAMJJASOND
Sea (°C)282828282827262626262727
Sea (°F)828282828281797979798181

The atoll of Mururoa, now uninhabited, is located in the southern part of the Tuamotus. South of the Tuamotus lie the Gambier Islands, which are associated with them administratively, but they have a slightly different climate, because they are located more to the south, therefore we will discuss them later.


The Marquesas are the northernmost islands of French Polynesia, and therefore have a warmer climate, but above all are almost always out of the path of tropical cyclones. This means that in theory they can be visited all year round, although they are definitely muggy from December to April. Here are the average temperatures in Atuona.
Average temperatures - Atuona
AtuonaJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
AtuonaJFMAMJJASOND
Min (°C)232324242323222222222323
Max (°C)313131313029292929303131
Min (°F)737375757373727272727373
Max (°F)888888888684848484868888

Here the rains have a slightly different pattern: they are not very abundant, being below 1,500 mm (60 in) per year, and they have a peak in June and a minimum in October and November; however, the rains are quite erratic from year to year. Being equipped with elevations in inland areas, the Marquesas have different microclimates depending on slope exposure, so that some coasts are almost dry. However, considering also the rainfall records, the best time here runs from August to November. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Atuona
AtuonaJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
AtuonaJFMAMJJASONDY
Prec. (mm)90851151009519011590906555751165
Prec.(in)3.53.34.53.93.77.54.53.53.52.62.2345.9
Days1110131112161313111199139

The sea in the Marquesas is always warm, due to the location near the Equator, so that the water temperature never drops below 27 °C (81 °F).
Sea temperature - Atuona
AtuonaJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
AtuonaJFMAMJJASOND
Sea (°C)282829292828282727272828
Sea (°F)828284848282828181818282

In Atuona, in the island of Hiva Oa, the painter Paul Gauguin, which spent here the last years of his life, is buried, even though he had previously lived for years in Tahiti.

Gauguin, Nave Nave Moe


The Austral Islands are divided into two groups: the Tubuai Islands (Tubuai, Rimatara, Rurutu, Raivavae, Îles Maria), which are located around the Tropic of Capricorn, and the Bass Islands (Rapa Iti, Marotiri), which lie more to the south; for their southern location, it's useful to include in this group also the Gambier Islands, which are the southernmost archipelago of the Tuamotu-Gambier administrative group, and are located south of the Tuamotus, of which we have already spoken.
The Austral Islands are cooler throughout the year: in the Tubuais and the Gambiers, the average temperature goes from 25 °C (77 °F) in January, to 20/21 °C (68/70 °F) in August; this means that the period from December to April is warm but not excessively, while the period from June to September, when the daytime temperatures are around 24 °C (75 °F), can be a bit cool for beach life.
Average temperatures - Tubuai
TubuaiJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
TubuaiJFMAMJJASOND
Min (°C)232323222019181818192022
Max (°C)282829282624242424252627
Min (°F)737373726866646464666872
Max (°F)828284827975757575777981

Besides, in these islands the rains are frequent and relatively abundant even in the period from June to September, because in the austral winter they can be reached by disturbances brought by the flow of westerly winds. For example, in Rikitea, in September, the driest month, still 120 mm (4.7 in) of rain fall. Objectively, you cannot find a better period for these islands. Here is the average precipitation in Tubuai.
Average precipitation - Tubuai
TubuaiJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
TubuaiJFMAMJJASONDY
Prec. (mm)215220230190135901351701451101402252005
Prec.(in)8.58.79.17.55.33.55.36.75.74.35.58.978.9
Days1313121110810997811121

Even the sea temperature in the Tubuai Islands decreases in the winter months, although it remains acceptable for swimming, since the water temperature drops to 23 °C (73 °F) from July to October, as can be seen in the following table.
Sea temperature - Tubuai
TubuaiJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
TubuaiJFMAMJJASOND
Sea (°C)262727262524232323232425
Sea (°F)798181797775737373737577

The Bass Islands are located even more to the south, and south of the Tropic: here it's rare to see hot temperatures, since the daytime temperature goes on average from 25 °C (77 °F) in the period January-March, to 19/20 °C (66/68 °F) in the period from July to October. Here the rains are abundant throughout the year, and the total amount is above 2,500 mm (98 in) per year, moreover the wind is often intense. These islands do not lend themselves to beach tourism.
Average temperatures - Ahurei
AhureiJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
AhureiJFMAMJJASOND
Min (°C)222222201917161616171820
Max (°C)252525232221201920202123
Min (°F)727272686663616161636468
Max (°F)777777737270686668687073

When to go

The best time to visit the Society Islands (Tahiti, Bora-Bora) and the Tuamotus runs from June to September, while for the Marquesas Islands it runs from August to November.
For the Austral Islands there is not a more advisable season, because the hot and muggy summer of the Southern Hemisphere, with heavy rains and thunderstorms and also some risk of tropical cyclones, is followed by the austral winter, which is a little cool, and even rainy and windy in the southernmost islands.

What to pack

For the Marquesas, the Society and the Tuamotu Islands, all year round, tropics-friendly, loose fitting clothing, sun hat, a scarf for the breeze, a light sweatshirt for the evening, light raincoat or umbrella. For the reef, equipment for snorkeling, water shoes or rubber soled shoes.

For the Austral Islands, from June to September (ie in winter), light clothes for the day, a scarf for the breeze, a sweatshirt for the evening, possibly a light jacket, light raincoat or umbrella.

For the Bass Islands, from June to September (ie in winter), spring/autumn clothes, sweatshirt or sweater, jacket, raincoat or umbrella; from December to February, light clothing, a sweatshirt for the evening, light raincoat or umbrella.