In French Polynesia, a vast archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, the climate is tropical, influenced by the south-east 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.

Index



Society Islands



Society Islands

In the westernmost area of French Polynesia, we find the group of the Society Islands, divided between the Windward Islands in the east (Tahiti, Moorea, Tetiaroa, Mehetia, Maiao), and the Leeward Islands in the west (Bora Bora, Huahine, Maupiti, Raiatea, Tahaa, Manuae, Maupihaa, Motu One, Tupai). In these islands, temperatures are fairly stable during the year, however, they decrease slightly in the austral winter, 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 no real dry season anywhere.
In the atoll of Bora-Bora, at 16 ° south latitude, the temperature during the day varies from 30 °C (86 °F) in the warm period, to 28 °C (82 °F) in the relatively cool period. Here are the average temperatures.
Bora Bora - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)242424242323222323232324
Max (°C)303030302929282828292930
Min (°F)757575757373727373737375
Max (°F)868686868484828282848486

Bora-Bora

In Bora-Bora, about 2,000 mm (79 in) of rain per year fall, with a maximum from November to March, and a minimum from June to September. Here is the average precipitation.
Bora Bora - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)265230205160135958470701102302751935
Prec.(in)10.49.18.16.35.33.73.32.82.84.39.110.876.2
Days17161813965455612116

In Bora-Bora the sun shines for a few hours a day even in the wettest period, however the sunniest period is the least rainy, from June to September.
Bora Bora - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours678777788777

Tahiti

In the island of Tahiti the temperatures are similar to those of Bora-Bora, just slightly lower for the position a little more to the south. However, in the interior there are mountains, about 1,500 metres (5,000 feet) high, so on the west coast (see Papeete, Punaauia, Paea), more sheltered from the trade winds, the temperatures in winter are a little higher than on the eastern one. In the island of Tahiti, in the hottest and sultriest months, during the night a breeze blows from the mountains, called Hupe, which is capable of reducing a little the feeling of sultriness.
Here are the average temperatures of Papeete, the capital, located on the north-west coast of the island.
Papeete - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)242424242322222222232324
Max (°C)313132313030292929303030
Min (°F)757575757372727272737375
Max (°F)888890888686848484868686

Papeete receives 1,800 millimetres (70 inches) of rain per year, and the rain pattern is similar, so here too there's a minimum in the austral winter.
Papeete - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)33029016017012080604050801603001840
Prec.(in)1311.46.36.74.73.12.41.623.16.311.872.4
Days15141210108877101217130

In Papeete too, the amount of sunshine is decent during the hot and rainy season, however the sunniest period is the least rainy, from June to September.
Papeete - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours777877888776

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

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.

Tuamotu Islands



More to the east, the Tuamotu Islands, which cover a large area, 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.
Takaroa - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)260145125135901007070801301551801540
Prec.(in)10.25.74.95.33.53.92.82.83.15.16.17.160.6
Days181614141112101212151719170

In Takaroa the sun shines for a good number of hours all year round.
Takaroa - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours788887888887

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, located in the central part of the group.
Hao - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)252525252423232323232424
Max (°C)303030302928272727282829
Min (°F)777777777573737373737575
Max (°F)868686868482818181828284

The temperature of the sea in the Tuamotu Islands is similar to that of the Society Islands as well, as can be seen in the following table.
Hao - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)282828282827262626262727
Temp (°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.

Marquesas Islands



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.

Atuona

Here are the average temperatures of Atuona, on the island of Hiva Oa.
Atuona - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
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. Here is the average precipitation.
Atuona - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)90851151009519011590906555751165
Prec.(in)3.53.34.53.93.77.54.53.53.52.62.2345.9
Days1110131112161313111199139

In the Marquesas Islands the amount of sunshine is good all year round, however it decreases a little in the wettest months.
Atuona - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours888876777888

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).
Atuona - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)282829292828282727272828
Temp (°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 Marquesas Islands are affected by the so-called ENSO cycle: during the years of El Niño, rainfall increases, while during the years of La Niña, periods of drought occur. 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.

Austral Islands



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.
Tubuai - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
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, on the island of Mangareva (Gambier), in September, the driest month, still 120 mm (4.7 in) of rain fall. Objectively, it's difficult to find a better period for these islands. Here is the average precipitation in Tubuai.
Tubuai - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)215220230190135901351701451101402252005
Prec.(in)8.58.79.17.55.33.55.36.75.74.35.58.978.9
Days1313121110810997811121

At the Tubuais the sun shines less often than in the islands located closer to the Equator. Here are the hours of sunshine in Tubuai.
Tubuai - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours766555665566

The sea temperature in the Tubuai Islands also 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.
Tubuai - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)262727262524232323232425
Temp (°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 27 °C (80 °F) in February and March, to 21 °C (69/70 °F) in the period from July to September. 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.
Here are the average temperatures of Ahurei, on the island of Rapa.
Ahurei - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)212221201817161516171820
Max (°C)262727252322212121222324
Min (°F)707270686463615961636468
Max (°F)798181777372707070727375

Tropical cyclones



As mentioned, French Polynesia can be affected by tropical cyclones of the South Pacific. In general, tropical cyclones are formed from November to April, although they are more frequent from December to March. Since we are on the eastern edge in which cyclones are formed, in these islands they are less frequent than in other islands of the Pacific. However, cyclones become much more likely in the more intense years of El Niño, as happened in 1982-83 and 1997-98.

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 no 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.