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, in addition, from December to April, there's the risk of cyclones (except on the Marquesas Islands). The temperatures vary little throughout the year, but they are high on 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 Society Islands group, divided between the Windward Islands in the east (Tahiti, Moorea, Tetiaroa, Mehetia, and Maiao) and the Leeward Islands in the west (Bora Bora, Huahine, Maupiti, Raiatea, Tahaa, Manuae, Maupihaa, Motu One, and Tupai). On 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 as well, which means that even in the rainiest months, there's no shortage of sunshine: showers and downpour are simply more intense and more frequent, but they don't last long. On the largest islands, which host highlands in the interior, such as Tahiti, the slopes facing east (and therefore exposed to the trade winds) are rainier than the western ones, however, the islands are completely covered by forest, which means that there is no real dry season everywhere.

Bora-Bora

In Bora-Bora atoll, at 16 degrees south latitude, the daytime temperature ranges 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

In Bora-Bora, about 1,900 millimeters mm (76 inches) of rain fall per year, 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

On the island of Tahiti, the temperatures are similar to those of Bora-Bora, just slightly lower because of the position a little more to the south. However, in the interior, there are mountains, about 1,500 meters (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 Tahiti, in the hottest and sultriest months, a breeze called Hupe blows from the mountains during the night, 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 mm (72 in) of rain per year, and the rain pattern is similar, so there's a minimum in the austral winter here as well.
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

On 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 has been the case with Oli, which hit Tahiti and Bora Bora in February 2010, and Hosea, which struck Bora Bora in late November 1997, an El Niño year.

Bora Bora

The best time to visit the Society Islands is from May to mid-October, or better yet, from June to September, since it is the coolest and the least rainy of the year.

Tuamotu Islands



More to the east, on the Tuamotu Islands, which cover a large area, the climate is similar to that of the Society Islands, just a little less rainy, especially in the eastern part, also because they are flat atolls, without mountains that could enhance rain-cloud development. 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. The least rainy period generally runs from May to September. Here is the average precipitation on 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 sea temperature on 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

Mururoa atoll, 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 given that they are located more to the south and have a slightly different climate, we will talk about them later.

Marquesas Islands



The Marquesas are the northernmost islands of French Polynesia, and therefore they have a warmer climate, but above all, they are almost always out of the path of tropical cyclones. This means that, in theory, you can visit these islands 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 are not very abundant, being below 1,500 mm (60 in) per year; in addition, they follow a slightly different pattern, in fact, there's 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

On the Marquesas Islands, the sun frequently shines all year round; however, the sunshine hours decrease a little in the wettest months.
Atuona - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours888876777888

Owing to the location near the Equator, the sea in the Marquesas is always warm, and the water temperature never drops below 27 °C (81 °F).
Atuona - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)282829292828282727272828
Temp (°F)828284848282828181818282

In Atuona, on the island of Hiva Oa, the painter Paul Gauguin is buried, after having spent the last years of his life here, 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 El Niño years, rainfall increases, while during La Niña years, periods of drought occur. Being equipped with elevations in inland areas, the Marquesas have different microclimates depending on slope exposure, and 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 ranges 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 daytime temperatures are around 24 °C (75 °F), can be a bit cool for swimming and sunbathing. Here are the average temperatures in Tubuai.
Tubuai - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)232323222019181818192022
Max (°C)282829282624242424252627
Min (°F)737373726866646464666872
Max (°F)828284827975757575777981

In addition, in the austral winter, they can be reached by disturbances brought by the flow of westerly winds, so on these islands, the rains are frequent and relatively abundant even in the period from June to September. 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

On the Tubuai Islands, the sun shines less often than on the islands located closer to the Equator. Here are the hours of sunshine in Tubuai.
Tubuai - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours766555665566

The sea temperature on 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 experience hot temperatures, since the average daytime temperature ranges 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, in fact, 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 the 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, they are less frequent on these islands than on other islands of the Pacific. However, cyclones become much more likely in the more intense El Niño years, as happened in 1982-83 and 1997-98.

Best Time



The best time to visit the Society Islands (Tahiti, Bora-Bora) and the Tuamotu Islands runs from June to September, while the best time on the Marquesas Islands runs from August to November.
In contrast, it's hard to find an advisable season for the Austral Islands, in fact, the summer is hot and muggy, with heavy rains and thunderstorms as well as some risk of tropical cyclones, while the winter at this latitude is a bit cool, and even rainy and windy on the southernmost islands.

What to pack



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

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

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