The French Polynesia, is located to the south of the Pacific Ocean, is made up of several groups of islands, being Tahiti ‘s most famous and populated island. The capital Papeete is located on this island, forming a French Overseas Collective.


The island groups that make up French Polynesia were not officially united until 1889, establishing the French protectorate. The first of these islands to be inhabited by Polynesian aborigines were the Marquesas Islands in AD 300 and the Society archipelago in AD 800. The Polynesians were organized into dispersed chiefdoms.

In 1521 contacts with Europeans began to be made when the Portuguese explorer Fernando de Magallanes in the service of Spain sighted Pukapuka in the Tuamotu Archipelago.

In 1722, the Dutchman Jakob Roggeveen encountered Bora Bora on the Society Islands, and the British explorer Samuel Wallis visited Tahiti in 1767.

The French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville visited Tahiti in 1768, while the British explorer James Cook visited it in 1769.

Thus began the Christian missions with the Spanish priests who stayed in Tahiti from 1774 ; Protestant Christians from the London Missionary Society settled permanently in Polynesia in 1797. In 1803, King Pomare II of Tahiti was forced to flee to Moorea and his subjects converted to Protestantism in 1812.

In 1934 they arrived in Tahiti, a group of French Catholic missionaries, being expelled in 1936, after their expulsion, caused France to send a warship in 1838. In 1842, Tahiti and Tahuata were declared a French protectorate, to allow Catholic missionaries to work undisturbed. The capital of the town was founded in 1843.

In 1880, France annexed Tahiti, changing its status from a protectorate to that of a colony; in the 1880s, France claimed the Tuamotu Archipelago, which belonged to the Pomaré dynasty, without formally annexing it. Having declared a protectorate over Tahuatu in 1842, the French considered all the Marquesas Islands as French.

In 1940 the French Polynesian government recognized the Free French Forces and many Polynesians served in World War II. In 1946, the Polynesians were granted French citizenship and the status of the islands was changed to an overseas territory, the name of the islands was changed in 1957 to French Polynesia.

As it was not possible in 1962 to continue the nuclear tests on the Algerian polygon, due to the independence of that colony, the Moruroa Atoll in the Tuamotu archipelago was selected as the test site for the new tests that were carried out underground after 1974.

In 1977, French Polynesia was granted partial internal autonomy, in 1984, autonomy was extended. French Polynesia became an overseas community of France in 2004.


According to bridgat, French Polynesia is made up of several groups of islands of volcanic or coral origin, located in an area of high seismic activity. The largest island is Tahiti. The islands that are part of French Polynesia add up to a total of 4,167 km², of which 3,265 correspond to inhabited islands and are spread over 2,500,000 km² of ocean.

Among the main islands and atolls, the following stand out:

  • Bora Bora: an area of 29.3 km²
  • Hiva’Oa: with 320 km² of total area
  • Huahine: with a total area is 74.8 km²
  • Maiao: with a total area of 10 km²
  • Maupiti: with a land area is 11 km²
  • Mehetia: with a total area is 2.3 km²
  • Moorea: with a total area is 133.5 km²
  • Nuku Hiva: with a total area of 387 km²
  • Raiatea: with a total area of 238 km²
  • Tahaa: with a total area is 88 km²
  • Tetiaroa: with a total area of 6 km²
  • Tubuai: with a total area of 45 km²
  • Tupai: with a total area of 11 km²

Administrative divition

French Polynesia is made up of five administrative divisions which are listed here:

  • The Marquesas Islands subdivision
  • The Tuamotu-Gambier subdivision
  • The Society Islands
  • Leeward Islands (of the Society) (395 km²)
  • Windward Islands (of the Society) (1195 km²)
  • The subdivision of the Austral Islands.


Between 1976 and 2004, French Polynesia maintained the status of Overseas Territory, since 2004, it is an Overseas Collectivity.


French Polynesia is a grouping of 5 archipelagos:

  • Society Islands: with an area of 1,593 km², it is formed by, (Tahiti, Raiatea, Moorea, Tahaa, Huahine, Bora Bora).
  • Marquesas Islands: with an area of 1,049 km², it is formed by, (Nuku Hiva, Hiva’Oa, Ua Pou, Fatu Hiva, Ua Huka, Tahuata, Moho Tani).
  • Tuamotu Archipelago: with an area of 885 km², it is formed by, (Fakarava, Rangiroa, Makemo, Hao, Anaa, Tikehau, Manihi).
  • Austral Islands: with an area of 152 km², it is formed by, (Tubuai, Rapa, Rurutu, Raivavae, Rimatara, Is. María).
  • Gambier Islands: with an area of 31 km², it is formed by, (Mangareva, Taravai, Akamaru, Aukena).


The economy of French Polynesia is moderately developed, it depends on the importation of productive resources, tourism and financial aid from France. The legal tender is the CFP franc (formerly the French Polynesian franc), and although some merchants accept foreign currencies, most tourists are disappointed by their refusal to receive dollars or any other currency.


French is the official language of French Polynesia. An organic law of April 12, 1996 states that: ” French is the official language, Tahitian and other Polynesian languages can be used.”


The Christianity is the religion main islands, most (54%) belongs to Protestantism and a large minority of 30% belong to the Catholic Church.


While most of the main roads are paved and well preserved, many of the secondary roads are not, there are 51 airports in French Polynesia, 39 are paved.


Education is provided by France. French Polynesia has one university, the University of Polynesia, located in Faa’a, Tahiti.

French Polynesia History

French Polynesia History and Geography
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